Landscaping software allows you to create a landscape and watch it grow without leaving your chair, much less picking up a shovel and digging the holes.
There's a wide variety of landscape-design software programs offering a wide range of options to help you trade your pencil and graph paper for a mouse and computer screen. Remember, though, that you'll still need to measure and inventory the property, as well as decide what you want to accomplish.
Get tips for evaluating your yard.
Most landscape-design programs are built with do-it-yourselfers in mind. Many software packages allow you to scan a photo of your yard and drag-and-drop plants and hardscape features on a digital version of it. Other programs let you create an electronic base map and make infinite changes as you choose plants and features and move them around.
Look for a program that guides you through a survey of your property and lets you define and map the site. An accompanying tutorial helps with this process.
The software you choose might also include a growth feature that enables you to see what plants look like as they mature, and a shadow caster that shows where tree and building shadows will fall any time of day throughout the year. Growth and shadow affect the placement of gardens, decks, and swimming pools. Three-dimensional viewing gives you a real-life view of the landscape and even takes you on a virtual tour.
A cost-estimating feature helps you plan and track costs at every stage. A sprinkler system installation feature simplifies this project by formulating a workable plan, complete with flow rates and a shopping list of pipes and emitters.
Other software features include plant encyclopedias with photos, botanical names, and plant-care guides; a search feature that helps you identify plants appropriate for your region's climate; demonstrations of common gardening and building tasks; and troubleshooting guides.
New software packages come out regularly and old versions get updated. Keep current by reading online reviews of the packages you're considering -- and look to see if any offer a free trial period.
You can also search the Internet for an ever-growing world of gardening resources. You'll find websites that offer everything you need, from expert advice to garden-planning options. Order plants and products to arrive on your doorstep, or get the information you need within minutes.
Right here on BHG.com, for example, you'll find a free landscape-design program that allows you to sketch out flowerbeds and landscape plans. Plan-a-Garden includes a library of trees, shrubs, and structures, and can be arranged on a computer screen, then saved for future reference or printed out.