Plan Your Garden with These Tips from Better Homes and Gardens

Spring is the time to spruce up your backyard and start new plantings in the garden. Here are two great-looking plans for your yard this year. Use the whole plan as shown or pick you favorite section for even a little pop of color this season.

Woodland Shade Garden Plan

This collection of plants is perfect for under trees and other shady spots in your landscaping.

Garden Bed Plan Mockup

Plant List

  1. A. 
3 Black Mondograss (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’): Zones 6–10
    B. 1
 Variegated Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’): Zones 3–8
    C. 1 
Lily (Lilium hybrids): Zones 3–9
Astilbe × Arendsii ‘Fanal’: Zones 4–8
    D. 6
 Hosta ‘Frances Williams’: Zones 3–8
    E. 1 
Siebold Hosta (Hosta sieboldiana var. elegans): Zones 3–10
    F. 1
 Hosta ‘Halcyon’: Zones 3–10
    G. 1 
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pennsylvanica): Zones 2–9
    H. 5 
Impatiens Walleriana: Annual


woodland shade garden plan


Low-Water Sunny Garden Plan

Count on this no-fuss garden to stay looking good through summer’s dry spells.


Low-Water Sunny Garden Plan


Plant List

  1. 4 Crested Iris (Iris cristata): Zones 4–10
    3 Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima): Annual
    C. 3 Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’: Zones 3–10
    D. 2 Feather Reedgrass (Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’): Zones 5–9
    E. 1 Variegated Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’): Zones 2–9
    F. 3 New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Pötschke’): Zones 4–8
    G. 1 Spurge (Euphorbia characias): Zones 7–11
    H. 1 Money Plant (Lunaria annua): Zones 5–9; biennial*
    I. 3 Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis): Zones 4–7
    J. 1 Spotted Deadnettle (Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’): Zones 3–8
    K. 2 Shrubby Dusty Miller (Brachyglottis compacta): Zones 8–11
    L. 3 Stonecrop (Sedum cauticola ‘Ruby Glow’): Zones 5–9
    M. 1 Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’): Zones 4–8
    N. 3 Michaelmas Daisy (Aster novae-belgii ‘Lassie’): Zones 4–8
    O. 1 Silver Carpet Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’): Zones 4–8


*A biennial grows only foliage the first year, flowers the second year, then dies after developing seeds.


Low Water Sunny Garden Plan Mockup


Building Your Garden Bed


Before You Begin Your Garden Bed

Preparation is the key to creating a garden that will offer a lifetime of beauty. Before you head to the nursery, review all garden plan materials. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a suitable spot for this plan? The layout diagram shows the dimensions for the plan. In general, you can enlarge or reduce the size of the garden by adding or eliminating plants, although the character of the garden may change if you alter the size dramatically.
  • Do I have the right growing conditions? Check the plant list to see if the plan will do best in sun, part shade, or full shade. Be sure the plants are suited to your USDA Zone. Tip: when the above plant listed says “zone”, this plant is a perennial and will grow year after year.
  • Do I need to amend my soil? Most plants thrive in moist but well-drained soil. If you have soil with lots of sand or clay, amend it liberally with lots of organic matter, such as compost.
  • Is my soil’s pH and fertility okay? If you’re unsure, inquire about testing at your county’s extension service office. Follow the recommendations that come with your test results if you need to correct the soil’s pH (how acidic or alkaline the soil is) or fertility.

Create the Bed

To lay out your bed, use a garden hose to mark the outline (tip: sprinkle flour along the hose for a temporary mark). Using a sharp spade, dig along the marked line to set the edge of your bed.

If the spot is currently covered by lawn, remove the sod using a straight-edged shovel or sod cutter. To make this easier, wet the area thoroughly, then use the shovel to cut the lawn into strips that are the width of the shovel and about 3 feet long. (Sharpen the edge of your shovel frequently with a file.) Use the shovel to pry up and roll back the strips of sod. Once the sod is removed, loosen the underlying soil with a shovel or a power tiller.

Regardless of how you prepare your bed, use this opportunity to mix in organic matter (such as compost, peat moss, or rotted manure) and loosen the soil at least 6 inches deep. Don’t mix in fertilizer unless your soil test shows a need; in general, excessive amounts of fertilizer will do more harm than good.

After your bed is prepared, water it thoroughly and wait a week. This will allow weed seeds to germinate. Pull these seedlings or dig them back into the soil. Or spray them with an herbicide. Follow the instructions on the packaging, including the time to wait after application before planting.


If you have all of your plants on hand, keep them in their pots and set them out on the planting bed. This will give you a preview of how the bed will look, and allow you to make adjustments before digging any holes.

When you are satisfied with the placement, plant your garden from largest to smallest container (usually trees first, then shrubs, perennials, and annuals).


Beds and borders are easier to maintain if they’re edged to keep surrounding grass or weeds from growing in. Choose plastic, metal, stone, or brick—whatever you prefer. If you have lawn around your bed, consider adding a 6- to 12 inch-wide swath of masonry or stone set even with the surrounding soil to act as a mowing strip.


Mulch your garden after planting. Mulch conserves moisture, cools the soil, and protects against water runoff and erosion. Organic mulches such as shredded bark need to be topped off every couple of years as the mulch decays. Mulches such as crushed stone are more permanent, but they do not improve your soil over time.


The first season of growth is the most critical. Water thoroughly every other day for the first two weeks, then give your garden about an inch of water a week for the rest of the season. The following year, you can let nature take its course, supplementing dry periods with deep watering.

You also should be diligent about weeding your bed during the first year.

As the plants mature and fill in, there will be fewer opportunities for weeds to grow. A thick layer of mulch will also help keep weeds in check.


Meredith Corporation. Copyright 2015.