Lawn Edging Part II: Gathering your resources

Previously, we discussed the purposes of Edging. If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’ve found your own reason for doing it. So, let’s jump right into it.

EDGE THEORY

Edging proposes creating a barrier or a neutral space wherein differences in type and location of growth is either defined or restricted.

negative space

negative air space

But there’s an old saying that goes something like: “nature abhors a vacuum“. What does that mean?

It means that any void will eventually fill itself in if left empty. Which kind of defeats the purpose of edging; doesn’t it? Unless you want to keep repeating your work.

So, before we start chopping up the place, I encourage you to sit down, put your thinker on and give some serious consideration to whether you’re going to use a border material or not.

My opinion? Yeah. Let’s border this fool up!

PICKETS AND PAVERS AND STONES….OH MY!

One of the things I do love about edging is the variety of materials available to outline your work. From bricks, stones, pavers, metal and PVC shields to gravel, sand or mulch – there is an endless supply of border materials to choose from.

And as long as the material chosen is non-toxic to the soil and ground water, is sturdy enough to hold up to wind, rain and the occasional bump from a lawn mower and prevents plant life from growing in the same location as the material in question, then the choice is up to you.

Here are a few interesting ideas for creative edging:

At InspriationGreen.com, we find my personal favorite; an assortment of traditional, organic wattle edging.

Here at Naturallandscapeandirrigation.com, we see a very attractive and practical use for river rock. I think the natural grays and off whites accent the color of the house quite nicely.

Large river rock stone edging - Tigard, Oregon

For the Disco Duck in you, www.lovethegarden.com offers a modern take on a classic concrete edge:

Gardendesignideas.com shows what appears to be rehabilitated bricks in a concrete foundation. There’s a little more work involved in this but it will certainly last.

www.Gardened.net offers us a lovely image of Jacks lawn. And yes…he emptied each one himself! Just kidding. But it is an interesting and “green” approach to recycling.

And not to be outdone, www.lovethegarden.com shows another use for empty wine bottles:

Finally, how can we not take a look a the master of do it yourselfers, Bob Villa. Washing dishes is overrated. I say, we plant the dirty ones and grow more.

THE LAY OF THE LAND

Before we start cutting up the place, we need to to a little recon. Knowing where you’ll need it is almost as important as knowing what you’ll need.

For this job, we recommend:
          

Graph paper and a pencil

A photographic device

A tape measure

Field marking paint

IT’S ALL ABOUT STRATEGY

If you’re edging around existing surfaces, the job just got a whole lot easier. Break out the tape measure and bring a helper.

YARD MAP

If we’re laying down new edging in open or untouched areas (paths, flowerbeds, etc) then step one is to survey the property and figure out where you want to edge.

Once again, you might find it helpful to quick sketch the lawn on some graph paper. Relax, Rembrandt. It doesn’t have to be pretty, just accurate.

Consider soil gradient and potential run off issues. If your lawn allows for natural grading, the last thing you want to do is dam up the flow.

When laying out new boundaries, it’s important to know what’s under the soil as well. And while most utilities will be too far down for an edger to reach, sprinkler systems, irrigation and water feature lines often run just below the surface. When in doubt, grab yourself a garden hoe and dig a little up.

Tree root systems can also make a simple job like laying edging border a nightmare. These are obstacles you will have to decide whether you intend to move or run around bu let me tell you. If you want to get into a land war with the root system of a tree…good luck. Cuz, those guys really “dig in”.

Get it….? (tck) Roots….dig (snicker) in… BWAAA HA HA HA.

Sorry. Let me just wipe my eyes here. Ok. Moving on.

Once you’ve determined where you want to edge, break out the grass paint and line it out. Trust me, this is a good idea. This will help to see if the finished outcome is what you envisioned.

BULLETS AND BEANS

The next step in Operation: Edger is to determine what kind and how much border material you’ll need. As we saw above, there are all kinds of options available. Let’s talk about a few considerations:

LOOSE MATERIALS

Loose organics can be purchased in bulk or in pre-packaged quantities. Bagged materials will offer an estimate as to how much goes how far, but when spec-ing out loose bordering, it’s always a good ideas to err on the side of “plenty”.

Unless you’re using recycled rubber mulch, most organic materials like wood mulch, sand, rock, etc can settle (especially after a little rainfall leaves you running to the store for more). So, it’s always a good idea to just pick up a little extra the first go around.

When using organics, consider how long before exposure to the elements will degrade the materials. Untreated wood mulch will last as long as any other fallen wood debris, but it can make a heck of a mess once it starts to break down. Just ask folks in Portland what old, wet wood turns into after a while.

White granite is lovely, unless it’s piled around your house in Tempe Arizona. Then you’re living inside of the worlds biggest EZ Bake oven.

Do you have a riding mower? Plastic edging may end up as sixty feet of mower chow.

Like using your 48cc Combat weed trimmer? In the name of all that is holy, don’t bring it near pea gravel. I’m gonna say “claymore anti-personnel mine” and leave it at that.

Not sure what would be the best choice for your lawn? Don’t be afraid to consult with your local landscaper. The right material now means less material you have to replace later.

Or…go ahead and line your patio with four feet of buttered popcorn. You’re lawn’s gonna smell great, until the birds get done and then it’s gonna smell like bird sh-

(Editors Note: Our apologies. Bill got a little off topic there. But we’ve had our nap, a snack and a little chat and he is going to be just fine.)

SOLIDS AND PERMANENT BORDERS

Barriers and borders will come in either pre-manufactured or pre-cut lengths. Consider breakage and manufacturing flaws when picking up your barrier materials. It never helps to take a few minutes to inspect the product before loading it up.

Coiled, plastic barriers can be a royal pain in the butt to install but they’re fairly rugged at first. If you’ve gone with that, get an assistant to help you install it. Some come angled at the bottom and rely on compacted soil to keep them in place. These (in my opinion) sell because they’re cheap. Cheap to purchase and cheap to replace. But they’re still a pain in the stinker to  install and they pop out of the ground in record time.

Landscaping timbers or wood planks are a popular choice and can be a good one provided they’re treated. Untreated wood may be less expensive, but let me point out what is the unavoidable reality: you’re going to end up with a soggy, slick, warped termite buffet.

But if you’re wanting a nice, raw wood grain appearance; consider looking into a resin based substitution. They’ll never warp, swell or degrade from moisture. They’re as easy to work with at natural wood and many can be painted or stained.

Whatever you choose, there may be some tool usage to install. Often just a mallet, but some may require a box knife as well. Do we need to talk about gloves and safety glasses and stuff again? Cause I can do that all day long!

Just sayin.

picketPickets used to be all over the place. The little metal wire frames or molded plastic arches. You couldn’t go anywhere without finding these eyesores bent up or shattered all over the lawn.

Cheap is cheap, kids.

Thin plastic barriers break easily. Molded clothing hangers (whether painted white or not) bend and rust. If a squirrel can fold it over, it’s cheap.

Avoid them. They look like garbage. You’re gonna scream when your trimmer line spews shattered pieces of barrier across the lawn and if one of them gets wound around your blade spindle…you’re gonna be hot. Plus, if it breaks, you’ll lay awake at night thinking about how that one break is screwing up your landscaping zen.

Metal or pre-fab polymer border plates are another matter. They’re sturdy, wear resistant, light and easy to install. They’re not the cheapest but they’re durable as heck. And there are places out there who will cook up custom tiles as well. Check online.

Brick or pre fabricated retaining blocks: More expensive and more time consuming to install but significantly more durable than most. Barring an M-1 Abrams tank ripping across your lawn, bricks in a concrete foundation will most likely last for the life of the home.

Want to edge once and be done with it, consider stone for a border. Stone doesn’t erode at a rate you’ll ever notice. It’ll cost a bit more, but let’s face it. You’re doing this to make your property look nice, so you’ll be more than happy to pony up the cash.

Finally, when considering permanent edging (concrete for example), it may sound crazy, but are there permits involved? It’s gonna stink to have to pull it all up because you assumed (and I would too, to be honest) that it was your property and you could do what you want to it.

Ok, so there’s a little bit on edging and border options. Next time, we’ll talk about edging techniques and equipment options.

-Bill

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Bill Brown

Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.