Designing your own garden is great to do but you must be careful that you don’t fall fowl of one of the most important aspects of garden planning

There is a worrying condition that threatens to thwart good garden design…

The condition is called tapemeasureaphobia. A bit of a mouthful to say, but it’s no laughing matter, there are some fairly serious consequences to the condition that doesn’t always become apparent immediately…

In layman’s terms this affliction, is simply known as an extreme fear of tape measures, results in sufferers being unable to measure their garden. I once suffered from the affliction myself. The first garden I ever designed BEFORE I was properly trained (my parents garden) I didn’t measure… I did put a LOT of time and effort into the design though… shame it didn’t fit when we came to build it! Now before you start thinking bad things about me, I was only 19 and I had read, nearly, one whole book, on garden design and had skipped the bit about measuring as it looked really dull, boring and not that important!

I wasn’t wrong with the dull and boring part – it is. BUT I was WRONG about it not being important!

Why is measuring the garden so important? Won’t an educated guess do?

In a really well designed garden,  the design works as a whole entity – every aspect is interlinked, even if it is divided into different sections. If you change one part of the design it has a knock on effect with everything else. A bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle – you can’t fiddle with one bit and have it not effect everything around it!

So what have jigsaws got to do with measuring a garden?!

I’m getting to that bit now. Imagine you are building your jigsaw in a frame – the frame is solid and has fixed dimensions (pretty much like your garden fence or boundary). Now for argument’s sake, you have guessed that the frame is square and of a certain size… bear with me… and you have made a jigsaw according to the size you THINK the frame is… Now imagine trying to get that jigsaw to fit in that existing frame…

Even if you are REALLY good at guessing, what do you think the odds are that your jigsaw will fit perfectly into that frame are? Obviously you can’t alter the frame to make the jigsaw fit, so your only option is to make the jigsaw fit the frame….and that of course will affect the overall look, shape and feel of it.

How easy do you think that will be?

The honest answer is it depends on the design, some designs are more robust than others and can take a bit of altering without any major casualties. But you will most likely find (like I did with my first garden design) that the garden wasn’t quite the shape and size you thought it was. Therefore your design and all that TIME you spent on it has to be re-done, on site. NO easy task, not even for a professional garden designer!

If you are going to spend the time and effort designing your garden (and I really hope you are)… Trust me, trust me, trust me on this one – you really do need to measure the garden properly BEFORE you design it! If you want to learn exactly how to survey there is a free garden video tutorial on measuring which is ideal for easy shape gardens or there is a full survey course.

And if you’ve had any measuring disasters you’re brave enough to share – please tell us about your experiences in the comments!

If you would like the Successful Garden Design cheat sheet and video on how to add the WOW factor to your garden please add your email address below (don’t worry we don’t spam and will NOT pass on your address to anyone else!).



Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    13 replies to "Do you suffer from the phobia that affects new gardeners?"

    • Carole

      This is very sad, yet very funny at the same time. Having been called upon many times to fix gardens from those who suffer from tapemeasurephobia, I can greatly attest to the benefits of measuring BEFORE planting. Not doing so is definitely a waste of time and money.

      Great tip, Rachel!

    • Rachel Mathews

      Thanks Carole! It is a problem with tackling a project and not really knowing how it should be done – it’s all too easy to make mistakes! Getting the right measurements are vital – think that will be a good topic for future blog posts – I’ve certainly found in my career that measuring gardens isn’t always as easy as it looks! ;o)


    • […] design? Rachel Mathews at Successful Garden Design gives you all you need to recover from this in Do You Suffer From the Phobia that Effects New Garden Designers? Follow […]

    • Alison Kerr

      Yup, Yup, I don’t like the measuring part. It’s tricky and not terribly fun. Thanks for the hint.

    • Rachel Mathews

      Tell me about it! It’s the one part of the job I really dislike! I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s rained whilst surveying someone’s garden. Not to mention looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards when I’ve finished! ;o)

      ps for those of you wondering if you missed the hint/tip – well sort of – newsletter subscribers get an extra tip in the newsletter that doesn’t appear on the blog. To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up now (the form is just above the comments, under the main post).

    • […] So far we’ve discussed how people often confuse the planting of the garden with garden design (the one with the lovely cake pic!) why planning the garden is SO important (the brick one) and how vital measuring is to successful garden design (the jigsaw one) […]

    • […] The reason additions don’t usually work is because if you had planned for something, you work everything else around it and it works with everything else a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. […]

    • […] Do you suffer from a condition that affects new gardeners? […]

    • […] is why you mustn’t guess what shape and size your garden is! If you haven’t already, read the tapemeasureaphobia post, you will see why this is SO important to […]

    • […] do so many people avoid this part? Well tapemeasureaphobia is usually to blame for that. But there is another factor. Let’s be honest, striding round […]

    • […] show you exactly how to do it. If you can’t be bothered to measure your garden, then read this enlightening article and then decide if that’s quite such a good game […]

    • Irene Miller

      Fortunately my partner is a builder and INSISTED that I measured my garden to make things fit. Thank goodness he did because I had to change a few things after measuring.

      • Rachel Mathews

        Good man! I’m so glad you were persuaded – I’ve seen too many ideas fail through guesswork. Great that you are doing the Great Garden Formula Course Irene – looking forward to seeing what you come up with (that’s if you’re happy to show me the end result!).

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