Staking out the layout

Staking out the layout refers to marking the food forest/orchard rows on the site.

After you cleared the site you can start translating the desired design layout onto the terrain. The process is slightly different whether you are working with a flat or a sloped terrain. On a flat terrain, staking out the layout is simpler and you could do everything without survey tools and on your own.

However on a sloped terrain staking out is a bit more difficult because you are working with contours and curved lines, so you’ll need survey tools and ideally one more person to help you out. This implementation guide outlines how to stake out the layout in both cases.

Once you physically mark the rows on the site, you’ll be able to clearly plan your next steps in the initial soil works.

What you’ll need?


  • Carpenter’s level
  • A-frame or Rotary level laser


  • Wooden stakes, survey pegs or flags.
  • String line


Staking layout on a flat terrain


Staking layout on a sloped terrain


STEP 1: Mark out the reference row

  • Start by marking out the reference row – a contour line that’s mid-way up the slope.
  • Use A-frame or laser level and mark the contour with a stake, survey peg or flag.
  • Once you’re done, even out the contour line. Adjust or move any stakes that are abruptly out of line, and overall even out the whole line to the desired row outline.

Now you’ve got the reference row.

STEP 1: Mark out the reference row

On a flat terrain a reference row is a flat line that’s usually offset from an adjacent fence or property boundary.

  • If this is the case, pace out the desired distance from the fence/boundary and put a stake at the very beginning of the row, and do the same at the row’s end.
  • Once in place make sure that the stakes are vertical, use a small carpenter level to check and adjust the stakes.
  • Next, take a string line that’s sufficiently long to reach across the whole site and stretch it between the stakes on opposite sides. In case that the row is very long and string line can’t reach, add additional stakes in between.
  • Now stake out the whole row layout, put stakes every 3 – 6 feet (1 – 2m) so that you can clearly see the outline.

Note: in case that row’s orientation is freely negotiable, simply start by putting a stake at the very beginning of the row, and depending on the desired orientation, one at the row’s end. Follow the same instructions afterwards.

STEP 2: Mark the remaining rows

Now, mark the remaining rows by copying the layout of the reference row.

  • Stand on the beginning of the reference row and pace out the desired row distance or use a tape measure. Mark the appropriate spot with a stake.
  • Next go to the end of the reference row, and do the same. Check if the stakes are vertical and stretch a string line so that you can mark the whole row layout.

Repeat the process for all the remaining rows.

STEP 2: Mark the remaining rows

Now copy the reference row across the whole area. To do this you don’t need any survey tools or specialised knowledge just your body.

  • Start at one end of the reference row to begin with the copying process.
  • Stand on the reference line and face forward, now open your arms and put them into a horizontal position. Adjust and rotate your body so that the arms are in line with the reference line marked on the ground.
  • Once you’ve locked in the correct position, looking directly forward start walking and pacing the desired distance between the rows. Mark the appropriate spot with a stake, survey peg or flag.
  • Come back to the reference line, move forward across it and repeat the process until you have copied it completely to the new row.
  • Alternatively if you got help, one person can be standing on the reference row, face forward, and with the help of tape measure, other person can mark where the next row should be.

Repeat the process for all the remaining rows.

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