Garden design software used to be the province of professional gardeners and landscapers but such is the ferocious march of technology that excellent packages are now within easy reach. An ordinary modern PC is perfectly capable of handling the load of 3D renditions and the price of garden design software has plummeted. In fact there is now even free garden design software so the only thing you lose, if you decide not to use it, it the time you’ve spent playing with it.
Top End Software
There are a number of different types of garden design software. Traditional packages are sold on CD or DVD in a package at a shop or online. Some of the more expensive packages are still sold this way, including those aimed at professional gardeners.
These can run to hundreds of pounds and you will need a high-end PC and probably a graphics tablet to get the best out of them. You will get realistic 3D images, walk-throughs of your garden design and comprehensive reports including cost estimation. Most amateur gardeners will be fine with a free or very cheap package, but note that a cheap package might work out cheaper than a free one in the long run.
Enter Your Garden Dimensions
The first thing you will have to do is enter the dimensions and angles of your garden. This may be harder than it looks, particularly if your garden isn’t square. Once that’s done you enter the sort of boundaries (fence, stone wall etc) and other semi-permanent features like sheds and paths.
Assuming you’re doing quite a thorough revamp of your garden you should then save this basic plan. Most software will allow you to keep various different versions of your garden design on the computer, although the way this is done will vary from software to software. But somehow you need to save this basic plan and copy it to a floppy, CD or USB stick for safe-keeping. No matter how much you muck up the garden design you can always go back to this starting point, you won’t have to re-enter all the basic dimensions.
What you do next depends on how radical your garden design is going to be. If you’re only redoing the part near the house because you want to put in decking or a patio, for example, then you can enter the lawn areas, borders, beds and plants that you are keeping. Then save this version in different places as well, so that you can go back to this point if you go wrong.
Build Your Dream Landscape
After that the sky is the limit. Change the landscape to your heart’s content, try different plants in different positions, move sheds and other garden hardware around. All the packages have libraries of items, both plants and non-plant items, to pick from and drag around your virtual garden.
A cheap package will come with a limited library of plants and features to pick from. Many of the free packages are very limited in this regard and to unlock the libraries you join their service on the internet. This is the way that they make their money, as they are giving the software away.
3D and 2D Plans
The way you can view your plans varies a great deal. More expensive programs will give you 3D images, although 3D is now coming to even the cheapest packages. You will definitely get a 2D plan and some packages will print off lists of plants to buy once you’ve decided on your final plan.
Others will give you an annual list of things to do based on the plants you have chosen. Some packages will show views of the garden at different times of the year so that you can assess the year-round impact of your planting. It’s important to look at all the various features for each package and decide what you really need before making a purchase. For this reason it makes sense to try before you buy if you can.
Watch Gardening Magazine Covers
It’s worth keeping an eye on gardening magazines as quite often they will give away a CD or DVD on the front cover. When companies are launching a new version of their garden design software they give the previous one away to try to get people to try it. People can then upgrade, often with a discount, to the new version if they like it.
Of course, if the older version gives you everything you need, then you don’t have to upgrade and you’ve got garden design software for nothing. If not you at least get a chance to see if you like the package before paying for the upgrade.