Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2001
Regional Report

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Cobblestone make an attractive and permanent border for a perennial garden.

Edges and Borders

With the fall planting season upon us, it's a good time to add more planting beds to your garden. Carving new planting beds from existing lawns is exciting, but there's work to be done before you get out the rototiller. One important consideration is how to edge the new bed.

The Right Edge

The advantages of edging are many. Edging cleanly defines the borders of your garden plots. Edging materials keep the soil and mulch where they belong and grass or gravel out of your flower beds. If you need to prevent grass or invasive plants from invading your flower beds, it's important to install your border edging properly. Make sure the border extends at least 2 inches below the surface of the soil.

Edging Materials

The selection of edging materials is vast. You'll need a material that is functional, yet attractive and appropriate for your bed. Here are a few materials to consider. Railroad ties are reasonably priced, last forever, and make a bold statement, but are very heavy and difficult to handle. I like using old ties. They look nicer, are less expensive, and the creosote is mostly leached out from the wood.

Lumber for Edging

Conventional lumber such as redwood, cypress, and cedar also make good choices for border edging. Although they last a long time, they can be expensive. You can save money by using pressure treated wood rated for soil contact. The chemical used to preserve these woods is safe for your soil and plants. It's recommended you wear a dust mask to protect yourself when handling and cutting these woods. This type of border is fine for creating straight edges, but what about a curved bed?

Curved Edges

There are premade wood edging materials available in curved sections. Install these pieces to fit your curved border. If you have irregular curvy lines try plastic or metal edging materials.

Plastic has been the edging material of choice for years and is easy to install as long as the day is warm and plastic pliable. Metal edging is preferred by professional landscapers. It's pliable, can be painted, and lasts forever. However, the cost may be a deterrent for home gardeners. If your soil is soft, install metal edging by laying it along the border of your garden bed and, using a piece of board to cushion the blow, tap it in place with a hammer. If you soil is hard, dig a shallow trench first, laying the edging in the trench and filling with soil.

Stone and Brick Edges

Borders of stone, concrete, or brick are the most expensive, but also the most long lasting and some think most attractive. These types of materials offer more design choices. However, unless the stones are fit together with mortar, weeds and turf grasses will quickly grow between the cracks.

Cement or brick pavers are reasonably inexpensive. Bricks are more attractive and versatile than concrete because you can use them on their side, end to end, or laid on a diagonal pattern. There are also many types of precast border stones available at garden supply stores.

Border Installation

To install a new border edging in your garden, begin by marking the design with sand, chalk, or sawdust on the ground so you know exactly where to place the edging material. Dig a shallow trench using a pick or a shovel along the line if the soil is hard. When you finish laying the border, back fill the trench, tamping it down with a shovel handle or a trowel to hold the edging in place.

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