Te Kura Horticulture
Horticulture Home
Course Information
Course Information
Horticulture 1000
HT1081 - Landscaping - Site plans
Design tools Concept plans

Site plans

When designing a garden you must begin by getting to know as much as possible about the site and its surroundings.

A site plan is drawn to scale and considers the following features:

Existing features

What is already in the garden? You need to know this so you can make decisions about what to leave and what to remove. Some items such as smaller plants can be relocated and transplanted within the garden.


Name the soil type of the site on the plan. The soil may need some maintenance to make it suitable for growing plants successfully.

You may need to know the soil type so that you can add materials such as compost, topsoil or lime to improve soil fertility.

You need to find out the soil pH. This shows whether a soil is acid or alkaline and will help you plan appropriate planting. Soil pH can be changed.

You may also need to install drainage, depending on the soil type and the slope of the land.


The main entrance to a house needs to be obvious and welcoming. The entrance pathway should guide visitors to the door. Show all the entrances on the site plan.

Creating a site plan takes into account the location of doors and windows from any buildings, and which rooms they’re coming off is important. A door from the kitchen, dining or living area is a good place for a patio or deck.


Any views need to be shown on the site plan. When you develop your final plan you can improve larger views by planting to each side or below them. Views into the house can be treated the same way with plants or interest features.


Show on the site plan where any neighbours are located. You may need to screen the house or garden with plants or fences for privacy. On the final plan you will then know where to screen bathrooms, bedrooms, outdoor entertainment areas and places where neighbours could overlook.

Climate and microclimate

Climate influences:

  • the type and variety of plants you can grow
  • how much outdoor living you can do
  • how much shelter and shade you need.

The microclimate of a particular garden is also important as it may be different from the average climate of the region as a whole. You may also be able to create a microclimate for particular plants.

Microclimates depend on:

  • orientation to the sun
  • slope of the site
  • where north is
  • prevailing winds
  • shelter created by existing buildings or plants
  • type of ground surface affecting temperatures
  • whether water is present, as it reflects light and also stabilises the air temperature around it.

Microclimatic zones created by a house and garden

Major changes to ground level

On your site plan add notes of levels and slopes in the garden because you may need to: 

  • level irregular land
  • put in steps
  • cut into a slope to make a flat space
  • build a deck on a slope
  • add drainage to low-level parts of the garden, or the bottom of slopes.

Site services

When drawing a site plan, you need to clearly mark all services going into or out of the site, in order to prevent accidents or plants with invasive roots being planted too close.

These services could include:

  • water pipes
  • gas pipes
  • foul sewer
  • storm water sewer
  • power overhead or underground
  • phone overhead or underground
  • irrigation pipes
  • outdoor lighting cables.

Here is a site plan drawn for you.
Here is a site plan drawn for you.

Complete Activity 8A in your workbook

Key points   Key points

  • When designing a garden you must begin by getting to know as much as possible about the site and its surroundings.
  • The key things to look at are existing features, soil type, pH and drainage, access, views, privacy, climate and microclimate and major variations in ground level. From these a site plan can be drawn.
  • The climate and microclimate largely determines what plants can be used.

What's next?

Go to: 9 Concept plans.

Design tools Concept plans