FREE ONLINE HOME GARDEN DESIGN COURSE FROM GARDENZINE.CO.UK

PART FOUR: WORKING WITH THE IDEAS BOARD

By now, you are probably itching to get started on your plan. But, don't be tempted to put pen to paper yet. Before you start on your plan, you should use the ideas board to settle on what will be the final elements of your design.

Right now, your ideas board probably looks great and there may be nothing you dislike about it but you should live with it for a few days before you make your final decision. Pinning the board to the wall is a good idea. Study it from time to time and ask yourself if everything really does fit together. Keep doing the research - there may be something you have missed or something you like better.

Show the ideas board to members of your household and ask them if there is anything they would like you to include. Think of the practicalities of building each of the features you have identified.

Ask a friend to look at the ideas board and give you their honest opinion of it. They may have some good suggestions or they may see problems in construction that you haven't thought of.

Is there anything on your ideas board that seems to stand out because it doesn't fit in with your design style? Maybe you have chosen traditional paving for a contemporary garden and you will have to consider picking something else.

Now, look at each of the features you have chosen in turn. Have you fallen in love with a particular image of a feature you just can't source? You might have to use something similar instead. In that case, you should change your ideas board to suit. If you haven't already done so, you should try to get a rough idea of the cost of each of the features so that you can discard anything that is just too expensive.

Live with your ideas board for at least a week before you make your final decision. This is an important step. After all, you will have to live with your completed garden for a lot longer than that and you need to get it right.

Finally, add all your estimated costs together to see if your design ideas fit in with your budget. Using your ideas board and your wish list, add up the major cost of all your elements. If you intend to do the labour yourself, budget in an approximate cost for skip hire and tool hire and also building materials like sand, cement, etc. Try to think of absolutely everything - then add 10% just to be sure. If you plan to have someone else build your garden for you, it is a bit more difficult at this stage to approximate the cost. Labour costs vary considerably and most times, you get what you pay for. You should always be wary of a contractor who appears to be too cheap so don't budget for cheap labour because you will, in all likliehood, get a cheap job. Cost the garden for material costs and then add around 100% - 120% for the labour. That should put you in the right ball park.

Do your plans fit in with your budget? If not, it's time to be ruthless. Cross the indulgent non-essentials off your wish list until you arrive at a budget you can afford. Alter the ideas board to suit.

Before you tear up that picture of the hot tub, think about whether you might be able to afford to have one in the future. If you can't afford it this year but maybe you'll afford it in a year or so, it should still be included in the plan. In the first instance, you can lay the patio or decking that your hot tub will eventually sit on or you could gravel over an area in anticipation of its arrival in the future. You don't have to build your dream garden all at once. For many people, it will be a staged process and having a design to work to will help you to plan this better.

Now that you know what you will include in your plan, it's time to measure up your plot and prepare for drawing the plan. This is discussed in part five of the course: measuring your plot.