Issue 50 Making a Markerboard

Making a markerboard

Planting seeds directly into the soil can be a satisfying experience. But who wants to spend any more time than necessary on hands and knees, even in the garden? This markerboard is a great tool for planting seeds quickly and efficiently and getting you back up on your feet.

1  6-ft. 2 x 4 board
Tape measure
Metal carpenter’s square
Pencil or marker
Jig saw

On edge, it can cut a long, straight furrow in cultivated soil. Then, it can be turned on its side and used to get the right spacing between seeds. Here’s how to make a markerboard for your own garden:

Measure board. Step one — Find the board. Use a straight piece of 2 x 4. Cedar or redwood will resist moisture, but any kind of wood will do. Here I’m using ordinary pine. Cut the wood to a length that’s comfortable for you to use. I found 6 feet to be a good compromise between a board that’s easy to handle and one that’s long enough to be useful.

MarkerboardStep two — Measure off increments along the length of the board. Six inches is a good spacing for most of the large seeds I plant. If you’re planting smaller seeds, add increments for 2- and 3-inch spacing as well.

Mark the notches.Step three — Mark the notches. With a metal carpenter’s square, mark out 45-degree angles with the point centered on the increment lines. I made the triangle cut-outs different depths. This way if I need multiples of the spacing, say 12 inches instead of 6, it’s easier to see which notch to skip to. Measure out 1-1/2 inches from the board’s edge for the deeper notches and 1 inch for the small notches. Adjust the carpenter’s square so the 45-degree angle falls on the line at the right distance from the edge.

Cut out notches. Step four — With a jig saw, cut out the triangle notches. Keep the cutting area of the work piece close to the edge of your work surface so it doesn’t bounce.

When you’re out in the garden, use the smooth edge of the markerboard to make furrows in cultivated soil. Then turn the board to the cut side and sow seeds at each correctly spaced notch. Instead of filling a whole row with seed and then thinning most of the young plants out to get proper spacing, the seeds can be concentrated at the correct distance when they first go into the ground.