Use free software to design a garden

Andrew Stucken / 18 February 2015

We take a look at some of the free computer software that allows you to plan and design a new garden.

My Garden

My Garden from Gardena allows you to drop an extensive range of objects onto a blank lawn to design your garden.

Graphics are basic - but once registered, the menu is simplicity itself. The six categories - including landscape, flower and vegetables, and water features - include over 150 objects. You can show/hide items you have placed, and save your design.

PROS: User-friendly, effortless interface; wide variety of features; provides templates; not time-limited.

CONS: Rather basic graphics; cannot upload a photo.

Read our ideas for small garden designs

Marshalls Garden Visualiser

More sophisticated than many rivals, Marshalls Garden Visualiser tool is 3D, and allows you to upload a photo of your garden.

After setting your garden's dimensions, you select from ranges of objects such as walls, hedges and fences. This tool is more about "hard landscaping" than plants, but a limited range can be added to your design.

You will need Adobe Shockwave installed on your computer to use the visualiser.

PROS: Great 3D visualiser; can upload own photo; helpful videos.

CONS: More complex than some tools; limited range of plants.

How you can use colour in your garden design

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My Garden Planner

Shoot's My Garden Planner offers a time-limited free trial - just 48 hours after registration - to create a garden design. You are then invited to pay £3 per month for use of the product, with access to unlimited designs. If you'd rather not pay, set aside a free weekend and make use of the free trial period.

Essentially a design tool customised for gardeners, you can upload a photo of your own garden, and choose objects from 14 categories in a drop-down menu. These range from vegetables to pools and ponds. Plants are often generic, rather than an actual species.

PROS: User-friendly interface; can upload own photo.

CONS: Very limited free trial; sometimes basic graphics.

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Plan-a-Garden's Plan-a-Garden tool guides you to choose from an easy-to-navigate menu bar. You select from a diverse set of photos of houses and gardens, and progress to structures, followed by surfaces, and finally plants.

You can opt to simply log in via your social media account.

PROS: Easy to navigate interface; wide choice of plants and other objects; effortless log-in.

CONS: American origins sometimes reflected in plant species and names.

Find out how to make a rockery


SketchUp, Google's free design software needs to be installed on your computer. Not purely for garden design, it nevertheless includes landscape templates.

Rather more fully-featured than some online tools, SketchUp lets you upload a photo, as well as create objects from scratch. How useful you find that could depend on your creativity and willingness to learn this generic design programme for beginners.

PROS: Can upload your own photo; plenty of features.

CONS: Possibly harder work, and more complex, than some garden design tools.

Next article: How to design a herbaceous border >>>

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