Marking Out Beds and Borders

The various flower beds or borders play a very important part in the garden layout and these must be constructed as neatly as possible. This is especially important where the beds are sited in the lawn and neat outlines or edges are essential. In the smaller gardens, and the new gardens are getting much smaller these days unfortunately, good use of every available square foot of ground is important and careful marking out of the borders must be done.

It is irritating, for example, to see what is supposed to be a rectangular bed, the corners of which are not square. This can be avoided if care is taken to see that all the corners are true right angles. One of the easiest ways of ensuring this is to make yourself a device which will give the correct angle at once.

This consists of a right-angled triangle made out of wood. The timber should be about 2 in. wide and at least 1 in. thick. Three lengths are required which, when fixed together form a triangle, with sides 3, 4 and 5 ft. long.

Before assembly the wood must be thoroughly treated with a suitable wood preservative, making sure that the edges are painted also. Use screws to fix the joints together and check frequently with the tape measure as the work is carried out as an inaccurate joining together will result in incorrect marking out. In a long bed, an inaccuracy of only 4 in. on the triangle will result in several inches of inaccuracy at the end of the bed.

The device is used by first driving in a peg at one corner of the bed and, after a line has been fixed to this, the line is run out to the far end where the bed will finish. The angle marker is then placed carefully by the first peg and with one edge running against the line. The width line marker for the bed is then fixed to the first peg and run out so that it lies close up against the bottom edge of the angle measurer.

The angle thus formed by these two lines should be an accurate right angle. The same procedure is taken for the marking out of the other angle. A line is used to mark out this edge of the bed. The width of the bed is then marked off on these two short lines and the remaining long edge of the bed is marked out by a line also. A permanent marking out of the bed is then made by nicking out the soil or grass very carefully along the lines with either an edging iron or the spade.

Another method of marking out an accurate right angle is to use pieces of string. A long line is run out to the length of the bed and fixed to two stakes. At one stake a piece of string 3 ft. long is attached. Four ft. back from this stake, another stake is driven in and to it, another piece of string is fixed, this being 5 ft. long.

The 3 ft. long string and the 5 ft. string are then drawn together until their ends meet. At this point another peg or stake is driven into the ground. This will then form the right angle. This is not quite such an accurate method as the previous one suggested.

A popular shape for a flower bed is a circle. This is quite easy to mark out. All that is required is a strong stake which is driven into the ground at the exact centre of the bed to be marked out. A length of string is then attached to this stake and fixed to another pointed stake at its other end. This distance or length between the two stakes should be the radius of the circle or in other words, half the width of the finished bed.

The circle is then marked out by scratching along the outer stake, keeping the string tight all the time. The tie of the string at the central stake should be in the form of a loose loop so that the string works freely round the stake as the string is used.

Marking out an oval bed is more complicated. Two lines should be laid out between two pegs. These indicate the length and width runs of the oval bed. Two ‘focal’ points or pegs have to be determined next. This is accomplished by attaching a piece of string, half the length of the oval, to one of these pegs which is marked out the width of the bed (this will be the maximum width).

The string should then be drawn out so that it touches the longer line first on one side and then on the other side of the shorter line. Where it crosses two pegs should be inserted in the ground. A length of string or garden line should then be used which is twice the distance between one of these pegs and the furthest extremity of the bed. It is made into a secure loop and placed around the two focal pegs. With a pointed stake and keeping the string taut, an oval can then be described on the ground.

There is much to be said for the informal bed outline. This is one which curves in and out gently and is particularly attractive in an informal garden and can look very eye-catching in the lawn setting. It is especially useful for island beds of herbaceous plants.

Marking out this type of bed is quite easy. A length of hose pipe can be laid down on the site for the bed and the various curves and sweeps can be made by moving the hose as necessary. An advantage of this method is that one can constantly step away from the work, and, if necessary, readjust.

Once the shape has been achieved, the edges can be either nicked out with the spade or the edging iron or a little lime or sand can be trickled along the edge of the hose.

Many varied shapes can be achieved in this way but it is wise to resist the temptation to make too complicated an outline, especially where the bed borders onto the lawn. It will be rather difficult and tedious to manoeuvre the lawn mower around a complex outline.

14. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Garden Beds, Gardening Ideas | Tags: , | Comments Off on Marking Out Beds and Borders


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