Guide to measuring a square garden

It is important to ensure your garden measurements are as accurate as possible, this will help you to calculate the quantity of materials you will need when you come to do the job. You should always use a good quality measuring tape – one that goes out to 30m is usually ok for most gardens and you can buy one for quite cheap in most DIY stores. Long tapes let you take running measurements and do triangulations. It’s easiest if you have somebody help you but if you can’t, then a peg or a heavy stone that you can hook the end of your tape over will do just as well.

Regardless of the garden’s shape, you always start with the house and your house should sit square onto the plan. Draw a rough sketch of the shape of the house first, including all the little corners and doorways. Only draw the side of the house which is relevant to the garden you want to design – front or rear. You don’t have include it all unless there are side gardens. With your back to the house, take a measurement from the boundary, all the way across the house. This will give you the entire width of your plot at the entrance of the house as well as the position of any house features. It’s best to use metric measurements (cm). Nowadays, all building materials are given in metric so this will make it easier for you when you come to mark in features. Once you have done the width, do the same measurements for the length.

If your garden is square or rectangle, you can go ahead and copy your measurements onto a scaled drawing. A scale of 1:100 is good for most gardens. This means that for every 1 metre you measure, you would write that on your drawing as 1 centimetre. For example 200cm on your garden would equal 2cm on your drawing. Likewise 450cm on your plot would equal 4.5cm on your drawing. Simply divide your initial measurement by 100. If you have a small garden, you can use a smaller scale of 1:50. In that case, you would divide by 50. Make sure you note on your plan what the scale is.

Make a few copies of your scaled template drawing so that you can experiment with different ideas and compare the drawings. 

But what happens if your garden isn’t square or rectangular? take a look at our guide below.

Guide to measuring an irregular shaped garden

For rounded gardens or gardens with irregular shaped features in them, such as a large tree or curved fence, you need to create a ‘baseline’ to take your measurements from.

Find a straight line in your garden, for example, a boundary fence or a house wall, and mark it on your drawing. This will act as the fixed starting point for all your measurements.

Measure the distance between the baseline and the irregular features in your garden at right angles (90°) to the baseline (see diagram) – if the features are large/wide you should take a measurements at intervals.

Large garden features should be measured in this way. Smaller garden features, such as drains or plant pots, can be ignored if you wish as long as they have been noted on your rough sketch.

For irregularly shaped features, like a pond or lawn, measure a rectangle around it and mark this on your sketch. Measure out from the rectangle to your baseline to establish its position in the garden.
Diagram 3

Using triangulation

If you have a garden feature which is proving difficult to measure from the baseline you can use the ‘triangulation’ method instead. Triangulation means measuring the feature from two fixed points – two corners of the house are ideal as shown in the diagram below.

Angled boundaries can be measured using the triangulation method in reverse. That means measure from either end of the angled boundary to one fixed point on the house.
Diagram 4