Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
May, 2001
Regional Report

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A rickrack of bricks is a traditional edging. Here it is being installed by burying in a base of sand.

The Garden Edge

Edging can sometimes be as important as the plants in your garden. By defining space, edging around beds, borders, and paths makes the garden look complete and beautiful. There are utilitarian purposes to edging as well. They encourage visitors to stay on pathways, confine mulch or gravel to designated areas, and slow the progress of grass growing in space set aside for garden plants.

Types of Edging

With all these good reasons to use some types of edging around your garden, choosing and maintaining the garden edge is very important. There is no one perfect edging, but there are lots of options. Within my own yard, I'm currently using three different kinds, based on the use and effect I want.

Cut Edging

The simplest, and most classic, edging is one cut into a lawn with a flat-bladed spade, half-moon-shaped edging spade, or a power edger. With square or rectangular beds, it's best to set up a string line to maintain a straight edge. For curved beds, the simplest technique is to lay down a garden hose as a flexible cutting guide. Use the spade to make cuts along the line. Then, turn the spade 90 degrees and cut the turf that extends into the bed in easy to remove chunks. With this technique, you'll end up with a v-shaped trench around the bed. To maintain a clean edge, it's best to recut the trench monthly.

Barrier Edging

Physical barriers between lawn and garden bed or path may be as simple as a row of bricks laid on the soil surface. Brick, wood, terracotta, plastic, or metal that are fully or partially buried will restrain the lawn from encroaching on your beds. Barriers that are partially buried and partially aboveground work particularly well along paths to contain loose surfacing materials, such as wood chips or pebbles. Physical barriers installed at ground level allow a lawn mower to go right up to the edge of the bed. The best way to install brick or stone edgings is to dig out 6 from the edge of the bed, line the area with weed-blocking fabric, top the fabric with several inches of sand, lay the stone or brick on top, and then fill in around them with more sand.

Although these physical barriers work great, there are downsides. Some barriers, such as sheet metal, may be unattractive; others, such as wood, disintegrate over time; still others, such as bricks, may heave from freezing and thawing. I have yet to find an edging that doesn't require some maintenance.

Elaborate Edging

There are also ornamental edgings to consider. Medieval wattle fences, bamboo or wrought iron arches, and miniature picket fences attractively define space but don't act as a barrier. This type of edging allows for more creativity and enhances the character and style of the garden.

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