- Using the mallet, pound a stake into the ground at one end of the hedge, on one side of the hedge.
- Repeat at the other end of the hedge (same side).
- Tie a string to one of these stakes, a few inches off the ground.
- Measure how high off the ground the string is, where you've tied it to the stake (so that you can match this height at the other end).
- Walk the string over to the stake at the other end and tie it off there, at the same height as for the first stake.
The picture above shows what the result should look like (we'll call this the "lower string").
How deeply into the foliage of the shrubs should the string penetrate? Well, the idea is that any foliage outside the string will be trimmed off. In other words, what you're creating with the string is a line that will eventually become the edge of the hedge. It's up to you where that edge will be. But how severely you trim also depends on the type of shrubs with which you're dealing. Boxwood shrubs are meant to be shaped into hedges, so my trimming will be severe.
There will be four strings, in all: a lower string and an upper string for each side. That number is somewhat arbitrary: I judged it to be sufficient for a hedge as small as my own.
Initially, you shouldn't tighten the strings too much, because you'll have to adjust them as you proceed. For instance, as mentioned on the prior page, some of the shrubs' branches will be in the way, initially: you'll have to prune them off, so that you can get in deeper with your string. Only after all such obstacles have been removed should you tighten your strings. Ultimately, you do want a nice, taut string.
In Step 5 we turn to the upper string....