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What to consider when Landscape Designing (DIY)

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

A few days ago my mom's friend contacted me and wanted some advice on improving the plot of land that she could make use of as well as her home garden. She wanted it to involve edible vegetables and many flowers at the same time. She also already had some 3-4 bitter gourd and many flowering Adeniums.

When she showed me the photo of the area, the first thing that came into my mind was the feasibility of creating the things that she wanted with the limitations that she had. And in Singapore, sadly but truthfully, everything is really mostly about money. But of course i was really excited for the idea! I love doing projects, though i'm not the best at designing. Anyway, when it comes to beautiful things, it's really normal for people to want what they want without considering essential factors. More often than not we have to be practical about what we want to have, especially if we have a budget in hand. Nevertheless, i was really excited and determine to help build something she like. She wasn't in a hurry and didn't mind me being new.

I have had multiple experiences with completing ~$300k worth projects, but i have minimum experience in being a grower. I mean I understand. In general, we always expect "experts" or "professionals" or at least people with horticulture background to answer "What happened to my plants?", "What does this specific plant need?", "How come I don't have green fingers?". It's normal and kind of "obliged" for us to know "basic plants", but in my case, i really don't know which edible plants are most suitable, simply because i don't actually practise growing. But i do have a guideline to follow. I mean, there are books out there! It should be easy with my fundamentals.

There were literally a lot of questions in my head when she sent me a photo of her plot:

[I'm not going to show the real photo here for privacy]

1) Mmm looks too shady for vegetables in photo

2) Mmm looks like there may be a roof on top and the impact of rain may be an issue idk

3) The soil looks really compacted?

4) Oh lord what kind of EDIBLE plants love semi shade?

5) Is she considering building structures?

6) Is she expecting to invest a lot in this plot of land considering it is not her own after all?

7) Does she need help or does she want to do it herself?

8) Does she want an instant effect after investment or does she have all the time in the world?

9) Where shall we shop for all the materials for her ideal garden?

10) I need to be there to see the environment!

While i explained the questions I ask, i felt good. So i decided to do a blog post to share of the considerations to be made when designing your plot of land, no matter what garden you are trying to do.

I went over to her house eventually had all my questions answered.

1) It's actually doable with morning sun!

2) No roof issue at all!

3) Soil does need tilling and much topping up

4) She already has some edible plants with her

5) She is definitely able and interested to spend a bit as long as it looks nice

6) As long as it is beautiful, money isn't too big of an issue

7) Ohyea she needs lots of help LOL

8) I think instant effect suits her better as she doesn't spend much time to maintain

9) No problemo with the shoppings

10) So glad i went over to clarify everything.

We had a very hearty conversation and i am confident that she wanted something simple yet beautiful to look at. I asked her, does a Zen Garden sound good to you? "Oh yes, I like it. The simpler the better. We can add more stones to reduce maintenance.", She laughed. Now we have a better understanding and clearer direction to follow. A zen garden with harvests? How cute! I could incorporate them together? Maybe we can separate them to look neat? Works either way! And for a fact, what you see in public or even exhibitions are not 100% true to its name. What i meant is, let's say you go into an "Orchid Garden", it doesn't mean that 100% of the plants are orchids. Most of the plants are actually filler plants that look similar or compliment the main features. Omg, what if i can make a zen garden really homey? Google and pinterest shall be my inspiring best friends here.

I have requested for her to measure the area (I forgot lmao) and took a picture of her surroundings. I should make my second visit soon after proposing a design in mind!

I'm really nervous because this time I am not assisting a company; i am going to be my own contractor (at this point i am not requesting for any commissions because i don't feel confident enough) and make it happen with my bare hands. Honestly, i'm also really excited.

If you are interested to know the outcome, follow my blog or subscribe to my mailing list! I try not to take too long for an update. I will also try to take a good video time lapse. <3

To summarize my story and points above, here are some of the essential considerables I look at when designing in Singapore

(Panana's layman version):

  • Usage/Objective of the greenery - (E.g. For privacy, for aesthetics, for harvesting)

  • Developer's interest, budget, timeline and expectations - reality check

  • Essentials availability (Sunlight, water, aeration)

  • Existing soil and plant conditions

  • Existing plants, structures and usables (E.g. Water taps, drains, floor tiles, concrete, drainpipes, statue, view..)

  • Maintenance expectations - high/low/no

  • Maintenance pathways

  • Maintenance expectations - high/low/no

  • Types of plants to use - if there are kids around, you wouldn't want to build a thorny cactus garden! You also don't want to have a large tree with an area filled with concrete!

  • BCA, NPARKS, PUB, LTA's rules and regulations - depending on your estate

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