A neat edge on beds and borders does something inexplicable to a garden. Suddenly, what looked a little shaggy looks neat; what was a bit ragged looks sharp. A crisp edge to your garden not only is visually appealing, but also makes your gardening easier.
Well-installed edging makes mowing easier—no more accidentally mowing off parts of your flowers because you weren’t sure where the lawn ended and the flower bed started. Edging also helps prevent lawn grasses and weeds from invading your flower beds. And it prevents aggressive plants in garden beds from spreading into the lawn.
Think about your edging goals
There’s a wide variety of edging materials out there—including no edging at all. A classic turf edge, simply cut into the soil, is one of the most popular (and least expensive) edges around.
But turf and other flat edgings do nothing to keep plantings and mulch on one side and lawn or loose path materials on the other side. If this is your goal, look for an edging that can serve as a barrier. If you want to take edging one step further, raise it a little higher and make a slight raised bed, allowing you to add more compost and improve the soil.
Go for as natural a look as possible. Unless you’re trying to make an artistic statement with, say, bright purple edging, it should be as invisible as possible or made from a material found in nature.
Install it right
How well you install the edging will greatly determine how well it stays in place. Mowers, children, pets, or even a badly placed footstep can knock it around. In cold-winter areas, the ground freezes and thaws and heaves it out of place.
A row of bricks or pavers shallowly buried end on end will need to be rearranged and weeded around several times during the growing season. But a row set solider style, side by side, almost fully buried and set atop a bed of sand to facilitate drainage, will last for several years.
Take the time to install edging as deeply and as straight as possible—this will pay off over the years as you save time trying to put it back in place. Brick, paver, or other edging set into concrete will last for a decade or more. The downside, however, is that permanent edging makes it difficult to change your mind about garden design without tearing out some fairly expensive edging.
If the edging is up against turf, position the edging so that you can mow over it easily. If it’s raised, make sure you can weed whack or trim easily. If you use smooth or soft materials, such as all but the toughest wood, a weed whacker will damage the edging over time.
Although it’s tempting to mix and match edgings, this can create a hodge-podge look. Instead, experiment a little—try out an edging for a year or two in a small area of your garden. Then, if it’s what you want, invest in enough for your entire garden.
Once you find the right edging for you, you’ll enjoy how much easier it makes your gardening and how much more attractive it makes your landscape.
Advantages: Easy to stack to create low raised beds. Designs are often interlocking, preventing brick’s problem of dislodging over time.
Disadvantages: Not as natural-looking as brick.
Price: $1 to $3 a foot, depending on the design and supplier.
Advantages: Whether you opt for fieldstone, small boulders, or cut stone, the material weathers beautifully over time.
Disadvantages: Fieldstone doesn’t do a very good job of keeping out grass. If not skillfully installed, stone looks sloppy rather than casual. Cut stone is expensive.
Price: Fieldstone and boulders can be free if collected from your or a friend’s property. Otherwise, small boulders can run up to $10 each; cut limestone sections cost about $6
Advantages: Fairly easy to install—sections snap in place with special clips.
Disadvantages: Expensive and hard to find. Can rust, though painted types are
Price: Approximately $4 a foot.
Wood push-in types
Advantages: Available at most garden centers. Conveniently packaged and natural-looking.
Disadvantages: Usually flimsy. They get knocked out of place easily and start to decay after a few years. Cost-effective only for small areas.
Price: $1 to $3 a foot
Advantages: Not expensive. Readily available. Work fairly well in conjunction with matching concrete paving slabs.
Disadvantages: Not tall enough to bury well, making them susceptible to getting knocked over. Most designs don’t interlock, so it’s difficult to align pieces perfectly.
Price: 50 cents to $1 a foot.
Advantages: Looks natural once weathered. Ideal for creating raised beds to improve the soil.
Disadvantages: Harder to install than other types of edging. Difficult to create curves.
Price: Pressure-treated 1-inch by 6-inch boards cost 30 to 50 cents a foot. Treated landscape timbers cost about 50 to 70 cents a foot.
Advantages: Plastic strips that tap into place are easy to install and good for small projects. (They’re also great to contain individual invasive plants in a larger bed.)
If they get dislodged, just tap them back into place. Almost invisible if buried deep enough.
Disadvantages: Some plastic edging is difficult to install well enough to withstand winter frost heaving. The look of plastic isn’t to everyone’s taste.
Price: Tap-in type is about $1 to $1.50 a foot. Pinlike anchor type is about 50 to 90 cents a foot.
Advantages: Natural-looking, inexpensive, and fairly easy to install. Easy to mix and match various types of brick.
Disadvantages: Unless set into concrete, becomes dislodged easily, especially in cold regions where frost heave is an issue. If permanently set into concrete, makes it difficult to redesign beds. Harder to find as more retailers carry only concrete pavers.
Price: Salvaged brick is free. Otherwise, 40 to 75 cents a brick.
Veronica Lorson Fowler is a garden writer in Ames, Iowa.