One of the exciting stages of garden construction is the marking out of beds. The sites for the flower displays are marked out in the garden in the form of beds or borders. These may be of various shapes and sizes and much will depend on the character of the garden as to the exact shape which is used. Formal beds are those which have straight, defined edges whereas the informal types have irregular or natural edges. It is a good idea to draw up scale plans on paper before any marking out is begun. This will enable the gardener to design and measure the beds accurately especially where it is necessary to accommodate collections of plants such as shrubs and herbaceous plants.
Marking out formal beds Square or rectangular designs require right-angled corners. A permanent marker can be made up from three pieces of scrap wood if a triangle is made having sides measuring on the outside 1, 1.3 and 1.6m (3, 4 and 5ft) respectively. Placed at each corner of a bed, accurate marking is assured. A circular bed is easily drawn out if a peg is driven into the approximate center of the bed and a line attached, half the diameter of the required bed. A sharp stick fastened to the other end will mark out an accurate circle if the line is kept taut as the stick is drawn through the soil, using the peg as a pivot.
To mark out an oval bed two pegs are inserted a short distance apart (the closer together the more circular the bed will be drawn out) and a line is measured out three times longer than the measurement between the two pegs. The line is fastened into a loop and placed around the two pegs. A marking stick is used to describe the oval in the soil as it is pulled so that the slack is taken up in the looped cord.
Marking out informal beds The irregular outline is first marked out in the soil with a pointed stick and a semi-permanent outline is achieved if a light trickle of lime or sand is used to cover the original marks afterwards. Another useful method is to use a length of hosepipe to define the edge of the irregular bed. This is easily moved about until a satisfactory result is achieved.
Gentle sweeps and curves should be made especially if a bed is to be alongside a lawn so that the mower can be guided around the edges easily. If beds are to be made in an existing lawn, the outlines can be nicked out with a spade or edging iron.