Using the tape measure, determine the length of each of your four property boundaries, then measure the length and width of your house. It’s important to establish precisely where your house sits in relation to your property’s boundaries. This is where those boundary corners that form right angles will come in handy. Let’s say there’s such a corner at the southwestern extreme of your land. Go to the corner of your house nearest to this corner boundary. Run the tape measure from the corner of the house to western boundary line and record the measurement. Now run the tape measure from the same house corner to the southern boundary line, recording that measurement. If you’ve been careful to keep the tape measure straight, you’ve just defined a perfectly rectangular area. Repeat the process for the other three corners, even where no right angle exists.
Once you’ve established the boundary lines and where the house sits in relation to them, you’re ready to determine the exact locations of other elements on your land (e.g., patios, driveways, gardens and plants that you’ll be keeping, as well as utilities), and indicate their positions, in scale, on the graph paper. Their positions are measured in relation to the points that you’ve already established (i.e., boundaries and house, so far). Get at least two points of reference for each element that you’re measuring. The further you proceed in this project, the easier it gets, because you acquire more and more fixed points to use as points of reference.
“But how the heck do I measure things that curve, like curved planting beds?” you ask. Well, to measure a curved area, you need a straight line as a point of reference. Again, build on the calculations you’ve already made in this project. For instance, use the side of the house facing the curved planting bed as a point of reference. If the planting bed is located at a great distance – say, about 100 feet -- from the house, you can make your task easier as follows:
Measure out 99 feet from one corner of the house on that side, and drive a stake into the ground at that point; then do the same from the other corner. Run a string between the two stakes. Now you have a straight line to use as a point of reference, and it’s located just off the near edge of the curved planting bed. Beginning at one end of the bed, on the side nearest the string, run the tape measure from the string to the outer edge of the bed. Move down 3 feet and measure again. Repeat every 3 feet, until you reach the other end of the bed, jotting down all your measurements. Repeat the process to measure the far side of the bed. When you’re done, you record all the points you just measured on the graph paper, maintaining the same scale we discussed earlier. It will look like a series of dots. You then simply connect the dots. The result is an accurate measurement, in scale, of the curved planting bed.
When you feel that you’re done with Phase 1, make copies of your drawing. We're ready to move on to the next phase, on Page 4....