Laying Out the Beds

You want to start at one end of the garden and work your way towards the other end. Lay the stick on the ground and measure out three feet, using the large notches that represent a foot. Place one end of your stick and line at the 3-foot measure. Go to the other side of the plot and repeat. (I have a large garden so I usually have someone helping me but if you walk back and forth you can also do it yourself.)

Once you have the two sticks placed, tighten the string and walk along the string back and forth until the ground becomes flattened and you have created a path. Because you start on the end, the first row will only be on the inside. As you work your way across the garden you will make the paths on both sides of each row.

You do the whole garden this way. The only exception is if you are growing plants that need larger growing areas, such as squash (summer and winter) and melons. For these plants you want to make a 6-foot wide row, which you can also measure with your measuring stake.

Planting In the Rows

When you go to put in your plants, place a row about 3 inches in on one side and 3 inches in on the other. This gives you about a foot in between the rows of plants. This means that the plants have a good foot of space on either side, including the path area on the outside, and have plenty of room to grow. The rows are also easier to cultivate and get in to weed with a shuffle hoe or other weeding tool.

This is how I lay out my garden and you will not go wrong by doing it yourself.


No matter how small or how large your garden area is you have to lay it out in rows. The rows allow you to do several essential garden tasks, including planting rows of plants with proper distances between and around them; easier weeding; and walking between the plants without disturbing them.

The garden starts as a bare piece of ground, a plot of soil, either a rectangle or a square. To do this properly you need to start with two important items, a piece of ground with Southern exposure and a plan. I plot my entire garden on a piece of ruled paper so that I do not forget to allocate the best spaces for all of my plants. In the plan you should also take into consideration the sun. What I like to do is orient all of my rows from North to South to allow for maximum sun exposure.

The tools for laying out the garden are very low tech, a measuring stake and a line and stick tool (2 small stakes and a line). The indispensable tool is a 4-foot grading stake. I put notches along one side of the stake  - a large notch every foot and a smaller notch every 6 inches. This gives me a 4-foot span to lay out the beds.

I know from experience that a 3 foot bed will give you about a 24 inch planting area which is just perfect for planting and weeding most plants.

Laying Out the Garden
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