As a guy who is always looking for ways to save time in the garden (without cutting corners), I’ve developed a short list of favorite tools over the years that are my go-to options season after season. The planting board is one such tool I can’t live without.
Think of the planting board as a big ruler for your garden beds. In my garden, its primary use is the perfect guide for evenly spacing seeds and seedlings when planting in my raised beds.
But it’s also a great way to keep everything you plant in one perfectly straight line. Maybe that’s not as important for you, but for an OCD guy like me, I find that to be as important as any other feature of this simple multi-use tool.
After making two of these so far (the first I made over ten years ago), I’ve found the planting board to be my go-to tool of choice for all the following garden tasks.
How I Use the Planting Board
Evenly space seeds or seedlings. The planting board is the best way I’ve found to evenly space seeds or seedlings at any interval. It’s what initially attracted me to this tool.
Notches cut into the board at three-inch increments provide all the flexibility you need for any project. Consider cutting the six-inch notches a little deeper for quick visual reference. The 12-inch notches can be cut even deeper if you really want to fine tune your board. Between the notches and the black sharpie markings, I can fly through rows of seed planting, knowing they are planted evenly, at the proper depth, and all in a straight line. OCD bliss indeed.
It’s a great furrow maker. Before those seeds or plants go in the soil, having a perfectly straight furrow at the proper depth adds to the quickness and consistency of the planting process. Use the uncut edge of the board (opposite of the notched side) to make an impression into the soil. Assuming you start with good soil, it doesn’t take much pressure to create a furrow of whatever depth you need.
Make perfectly straight lines for planting. While I admit, this may not be high on your list, I like my rows to be straight and evenly spaced apart. While there are other ways to do this, I have not found anything quicker. While you can make a board of any length, longer boards (I like six feet) allow you to cover a lot of ground quickly and neatly.
Leveling and grading. If I were listing these in order of use, this option would come first. As I prepare my beds for plating, an important step before any seeds or plants goes in the ground it to make sure the soil in the beds is level.
Taking the opposite side from the notched end and using it as a plane is another great application and easy way to move and level the oil in your bed. When the planting board is wider than the bed, you can use the bed frame edges as a physical guide to quickly plane the surface.
Evenly thin sprouts and seedlings. Another favorite feature of the planting board is when it’s time to thin seedlings out. Placing the planting board adjacent to the row of sprouts, you now have an instant guide for knowing which plants to remove to achieve exact and consistent spacing between the ones that will remain.
Measuring height. If you’re someone who is into taking fastidious records, documenting vertical growth through the growing season might be part of your regime. When turned upright, the planting board is a convenient way to make a note of the progress.
How to Make the Planting Board
- 1 – 1×4 board of any length you prefer. (I like a 6-foot length)
- Circular saw, jigsaw or similar
- Speed square (or ruler)
- Permanent marking pen such as a black Sharpie
- Tape measure or ruler
- With the 1×4 board on a flat surface, using a permanent marker and ruler, make marks on the board every three inches.
- Make “V” shaped lines on the board using the marker and speed square as your guide.
- Use your saw of choice to make the cuts along the V-shaped lines at each 3-inches interval. (Tip: I make shallow ½” V-marks and cuts at 3 and 9 inches. The six-inch marks are drawn and cut to an inch deep. The 12” marks are drawn and cut to 1½ inches deep. While not required, this gives a quick visual as you sow or plant.
That is all there was to it. The entire job took less than 30 minutes. For a couple of dollars and just a few minutes, you will have a planting board that you are sure to use often for years to come.