4 Easy Ways to Mark a Garden Outline for a New Flower Bed

Set up a traditional garden box or get creative with these techniques to help you map out exactly what you want from a garden bed.

Backyard garden

Gene Johnson

Not every garden is perfect, but you can get pretty close thanks to these garden outline techniques. Begin by sketching out a plan for your garden. Include any trees, shrubs, patios, fences, or paths in your sketch that could interfere with your proposed garden bed. This sketch doesn't have to be formal; it's just something to work with once you're outside and ready to start prepping.

If you want to create a more formal-looking bed with 90-degree angled corners, use scrap wood for your garden outline. Lay two pieces of wood at each corner of your garden bed, placing the wood perpendicular to each other, and mark from there. Curved garden beds have more of a natural look. When planning, don't overdo it on the size of your bed; you can always add on later if you want your bed to be bigger.

After using one of the following techniques to outline your garden bed, don't start digging right away. Instead, examine the outline from multiple angles and perspectives to ensure you're satisfied with its appearance before you break out the spade.

Measuring garden marks

Dean Schoeppner

The Stake and String Method

Plant stakes in the ground in your desired shape for a precise garden outline. Use a tape measure if you're making your garden bed a specific size. Tightly wrap twine around the perimeter of the stakes. You can use tent pegs instead of stakes if you have them on hand. This method also works well to map out elevated elements of a garden bed, like a slope.

To create a circular garden bed:

  1. Stand a stake where you want the center point of the garden bed to be.
  2. Attach twine to the stake and measure outwards at multiple points, planting a stake at each point.
  3. Be sure that every outside stake measures equally to the center stake.
Outlining garden with hose

Kritsada Panichgul

Break Out the Garden Hose

This is perhaps the most convenient way to outline your garden bed—no need to run to the hardware store for supplies. Simply grab your garden hose and use it to outline your ideal garden bed on your lawn. This method is helpful if you're creating curves and arches in your flower beds. If no rain occurs, marks from the hose will be left in the grass, so you can easily remove the hose and start digging around the marks.

Spray painted lawn

Dean Schoeppner

Paint Your Lawn

Another technique to outline your future garden bed is to use spray paint. Simply spray your lawn with the shape of your desired bed, using measuring tape or string as a guide. With regular lawn mowing, the paint will eventually disappear, but many home and garden stores offer grass-friendly, water-based paint that is washed away by rain.

Editor's Tip: Keep the paint away from hardscape elements like pathways or driveways.=

Flour garden outline

William N. Hopkins

Powder It Down

Use a string or a hose to form your garden layout. Sprinkle sand or flour over the top to create the layout line, then remove the string or hose. The great thing about this method is that if you're unhappy with your outline, you can simply wash the sand or flour away with water. Once satisfied with your garden outline, dig along the powdered pattern to construct your bed.

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