Laying Out Garden Beds

With a little bit of prep work, you can create a perfectly contoured planting area that’s just about any size or shape. Plan out your planting area and separate the edges into segments made up of straight lines, corners, free curves, and arcs, then use the steps below to get started. 




Step 1: Laying out straight edges

Layout Straight Edges Build batterboards with 2x4 stakes and crosspieces that are about 2-feet long. Nail the crosspieces a few inches below the top of the stakes with 10d (3-inch) common nails.

Step 2: Position batterboards

Position batterboards Drive in a batterboard about 2-feet past each end of the bed. Run a mason's line between the batterboards along the bed's edge and tie it to the crosspieces. Level the line with a line level.

Step 3: Mark corners with plumb bob and chalk

Mark corners using plumb bob and chalk Mark the end of each edge on the mason's line with tape. Transfer the endpoint to the ground with a plumb bob and mark it with powdered chalk.

Step 4: Plot edges of bed

Use masons line to plot edges of bed Drive a 2x2 stake into the ground at each of the marked endpoints. Run a mason's line along the ground between the stakes. To mark the bed's edge on the ground, sprinkle powdered chalk over the line.

Step 1: Laying out square corners

Plot corners Lay out one edge of the bed with batterboards. The batterboard edges should extend 18 – 24-inches past the planned corner. Drive in a stake where you want the corner. Lay out the second edge with batterboards and stretch a mason's line between them across the corner stake.

Step 2: Check corner dimensions

Check corner for square With a tape measure, check that the corner is square by making a 3-4-5 foot triangle. Adjust the mason's line as needed until the distance between two points equals 3-feet the other edge equals 4-feet and the edge opposite from the corner stake is exactly 5-feet.

Step 3: Mark the corners with chalk

Mark corners with chalk Mark the endpoints with tape and transfer them to the ground with a plumb bob. Drive in stakes to mark the endpoints and stretch a mason's line along the ground between them. Sprinkle powdered chalk over the line to mark the rough outline of the bed.

Step 1: Laying out free-form curves

Use garden hose to layout curves Outline free-form edges on the ground with a garden hose. Gentle, sweeping curves result naturally as long as you avoid kinking the hose. Charging the hose -- capping the end and filling it with water -- makes it easy to form smooth curves.

Step 2: Trace outline on the ground with chalk

Outline hose path with chalk When satisfied with the edge outlined by the hose, trace it onto the ground with powdered lime or chalk.

Step 1: Laying Out Arcs

Stake each end of resulting arcs Drive 2x2 stakes into the ground at each end of the arc and run a mason's line between them. With a line level, adjust the line on the stakes until it is level.

Step 2: Mark midpoint with stake

Drive stake at midpoint of arc Find the midpoint between the stakes and mark it on the line with tape. Transfer the midpoint to the ground with a plumb bob and chalk, and then mark it with a stake.

Step 3: Use nail as pivot

Use a nail as a pivot Drive a nail partway into the center stake to use as a pivot. Tie a mason's line to the nail and stretch it a few inches past one of the end stakes, then cut it. Tie the line to a bottle of powdered chalk so that when the line is taut, the bottle just reaches the stake.

Step 4: Mark the arc with chalk

Use chalk to mark arc Keep the mason's line taut and mark an arc with the powdered chalk on the ground between the end stakes.