University of Illinois Extension
Setting the Scale - Perennial Placement - Stepping Stones to Perennial Garden Design - University of Illinois Extension

Setting the Scale

A scale drawing can quickly tell you sizes and distances between important garden elements. It allows you to plan exactly where each plant in the garden will go and how many will be needed. Remember this is your garden, so whatever type of drawing is understandable to you, is fine.

Once you have determined the bed shape and size you need to transpose these measurements onto a grid. How many feet of garden space will one inch on your paper represent? The easiest way is to use graph paper. For this exercise, it is recommended that you purchase graph paper with four squares per inch. This is available at office supply stores. It is available in 11" X 8½" size paper or larger 11" X 17" paper. If your garden is small (under 10 feet in length), the smaller size paper will be fine using the scale of 1-inch on paper equals 1-foot of garden space. Each square would represent 3-inches. If your garden space is larger, you may choose to purchase the larger paper, or reduce your scale, say to one inch on paper equals two feet of garden space. This would mean each square would represent six inches.

Diagram of bed layout
Example A

Draw out the intended garden bed to scale. Pencil is recommended since you can always erase and make necessary adjustments. See example A. Highlight which way your garden faces. Usually this is done by an arrow indicating north. List the sun situation and the hours of the day the garden receives sunlight. What is the soil type? How is the drainage? By listing this on your drawing, you will have all the important information in one place. When you refer to the drawing in years to come, it will all be there.