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Landscape Design Plans

Scale Drawings

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Did you take geometry in high school? Remember how obsessed that subject was with measuring spaces? Well, you'll need a similar obsession to create a scale diagram, which is Phase 1 of drawing landscape design plans. For, as I mentioned on Page 1, your drawing begins with measuring.

Just how obsessed you're willing to become, just how methodically you're willing to take measurements, will determine the degree of detail your landscape design plan acquires. There’s also the matter of how fancy you wish to get with the look of the drawing itself. If you truly strive for something approaching a professional-looking landscape design plan, you’ll need some drafting supplies, such as a drawing compass and drafting paper. A good source for the techniques involved in producing such a fancy drawing is Black and Decker’s The Complete Guide to Creative Landscapes (Help with Drawing). My article will focus on creating a plainer drawing, more in line with the do-it-yourselfer's aims.

How to Draw Landscape Design Plans, Phase 1: Scale Drawings

When you bought your property, you should have received a deed map (there are regional variations on the name of this document). If not, obtain a copy at your county’s records office. A deed map indicates the measurements of your property, where your house rests in relation to the property's borders and, if you're lucky, the location of underground utilities. If the location of underground utilities is not supplied by the deed map, you'll have to contact your local utility companies. If you do have a deed map or similar aid, it will help you in this project. You’ll still have to do some measuring and some drawing. But the deed map will provide you with the proper orientation, steering you in the right direction. For instance, you’ll see which (if any) corners of your land form a right angle – useful knowledge for your calculations, as we'll see below.

Two of the supplies you need for Phase 1 are a 100-foot steel tape measure and several sheets of graph paper. For Phases 2 and 3 you'll need tracing paper, carbon paper, blank sheets of paper and colored pencils, so you might as well pick up those supplies now, when you buy the graph paper. I also suggest having stakes and string on hand for Phase 2. The horizontal and vertical lines on graph paper are all spaced equally apart, dividing the sheet up as precisely as a checkerboard. This precision comes in very handy for scale drawings. Why? Because it allows you to say exactly where any point on the sheet is, in relation to any other point. Now, think about it: that’s exactly how you want to be able to represent your yard (remember what I said about "geometry" above). That is, in order to plan a landscape effectively, you want to know exactly where any point in your yard is, in relation to any other. That way, for instance, if you plan on fitting a new patio in between your house and the new driveway you'll be installing, you’ll know exactly how much room to allot for the patio.

"But," you may object at this juncture, "What does the graph paper have to do with making an accurate representation of my yard? The one is so small, the other so large." Yes, but this is where the concept of "scale" comes into play. You can decide that one of those little squares on the graph paper will represent, let's say, 1 square foot of space on your property, thus creating a scale drawing. Get it? You’ll do the physical measuring on your property first with your tape measure, then scale those dimensions down so that they’ll fit on the graph paper. The size of the squares available to you on graph paper varies, so you can choose the size that suits you best. A scale of 1/8 inch = 1 foot is commonly used to draw landscape design plans; for this scale, use the kind of graph paper with the grids laid out in eighth-inch scale. At this scale, you can represent a property as large as 60 feet by 80 feet on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet. For large properties, you may have to tape sheets of graph paper together, creating more squares with which to work.

This link takes you to an example showing what scale drawings look like.

Once you're squared away on how you’re going to transpose your measurements onto the graph paper, it’s time to go out and get those measurements. I'll show you how on Page 3....

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