Decorating & Design

March 11, 2009

DIY Garden Row Marker

Vegetables neatly planted in straight rows or geometic patterns make a garden look skillfully planned and well organized. Years ago, gardeners achieved precise, crisp lines in their gardens with the help of a line and reel row marker tool. This handy metal device is rarely found in garden stores today, but its design can be easily replicated in wood.

You’ll find this tool indispensable at planting time and its simple design makes it easy to construct. We attached reproduction antique brass hardware to the reel and stake as a finishing touch.

To make perfectly straight rows, paths or planting lines, start by plunging the line stake into the soil. Then reel out the line to your desired length, secure the turnbuckle and plunge the reel stake into the soil. You’re now ready to plant along the line or mark the edges for an impeccably precise path or garden bed.

We made our line and reel row marker out of oak for durability and strength, but you could substitute any clear grade of wood. The style of drawer pull and turn knob can also be easily changed to suit your preference. Find a drawer pull that accepts a 10/32 threaded rod. As the reel turns, this heavier gauge is less likely to bend.

Materials and Tools

  • 2′ 1″ x 4″ oak
  • 1 3/16″ x 5″ brass tube
  • 10/32 x 7-1/4″ threaded brass rod
  • 10/32 x 2-1/4″ threaded brass rod
  • 2 brass drawer drawer pulls with 10/32 threading
  • 1 3/4″ brass turnbuckle
  • 1 3/4″ #6 flat-head brass wood screw
  • 1 3/4″ x 3/4″ oak knob
  • 1 1-1/2″ #6 round-head brass wood screw
  • 25′ nylon string
  • Oil-based wood stain
  • Waterproof wood glue
  • Jigsaw
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill with 1/8″, 1/16″ and 6″ x 7/32″ bits

Step 1

With a jigsaw, cut out a 3-1/2″ x 5″ reel (A) from the oak, using the grid pattern in the illustration.

Step 2

Using a 6″-long, 7/32″ drill bit, drill a hole through the centre of the reel to accept the brass tube. A drill guide will be necessary to ensure that the bit stays centred and straight as you drill (a doweling jig works well). Slip the reel tube (D) into the hole in the reel.

Step 3

From the oak, cut out a 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 9″ reel stake (B) and a 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 14″ line stake (C). Cut a point at one end of each stake. Round over the opposite end of the line stake with sandpaper as shown, but leave the other end of the reel stake squared off.

Step 4

Use a drill guide and a 1/8″ drill bit to drill a 2″-deep hole in the squared-off or rounded end of each stake as shown.

Step 5

Next, use a 1/16″ drill bit to make the string (L) tie-off holes in the reel and line stakes.

Step 6

Before assembling the pieces, sand and apply an exterior-grade protective finish. We used an oil-based stain on our row marker. Allow the finish to thoroughly dry.

Step 7

Put a few drops of wood glue in the reel stake hole, then screw one of the brass drawer pulls (G) onto the threaded rod (E). Insert the other end of the rod through the reel tube and begin to screw the end into the reel stake. Leave a slight gap between the reel and the drawer pull to allow the reel to spin freely.

Step 8

Screw the other drawer pull onto the shorter threaded rod (F). Put a few drops of glue in the line stake hole, then screw in the drawer pull until it is snug against the top of the stake.

Step 9

Next, install the brass turnbuckle (H) and the oak turn knob (J). The turnbuckle is attached with the small flat-head brass screw (I), while the turn knob is held in place with the longer round-head brass screw (K). Again, leave a slight gap between the head of the screw and the turn knob to allow the knob to rotate freely.

Step 10

Finally, thread one end of the string (L) through the line stake and tie it off as shown. Thread the other end through the reel and make a knot to prevent it from being pulled back through. Wind the string around the reel in a clockwise direction (looking from the top) as shown.

To use the row marker in the garden, first plunge the line stake into the ground at one end of the row. Then move the turnbuckle so it is pointing down and out of the path of the reel. Walk to the other end of your row, letting the string unwind from the reel. When you’re ready to mark the other end, move the turnbuckle to the up position to prevent the reel from turning any further and plunge the reel and stake into the ground. When the row has been planted, move the turnbuckle down and use the turn knob to wind in a counter-clockwise direction until the string is wrapped round the reel.