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Creating an Edgy Garden

Edgy isn’t always where you want to be. You can feel mighty edgy after catching the red-eye from LaGuardia seated next to an unhappy infant. You might not want to wear that edgy outfit at a funeral. But when it comes to lawns and gardens, edgy is almost always a good thing.

Edging garden beds is an easy way to add some aesthetic punch to your landscape. This makes sense because the whole concept of edging draws on some basic artistic principles:  lines and contrast. Lines, whether they’re straight or curved, can be used to outline and define shapes and areas of interest. And the contrast edging creates—like where green grass meets dark mulch or textured ivy bed meets smooth sidewalk—directs attention to where it’s wanted.

From a design perspective, our eyes find cleanliness, organization and order pleasing and calming. See how neat and tidy this yard looks?

There are two basic ways to go in edging a garden bed:  installing a barrier or creating a trench. Bricks, natural rocks and stones, molded cement sections, interlocking pavers, landscape timbers and railroad ties are among the most familiar barrier edging materials. There are some good examples of barrier edging in a previous blog post we did on stones for landscape edging. .

There are tons of other barrier-edging options on the market, from metal to rubber to plastic, with nearly as many different opinions about their quality and effectiveness

When it comes to materials to use as barrier edging in your landscape, you’re limited only by your imagination. I’ve seen some interesting edging ideas put to use in my travels around North Georgia. One White County business used what was on hand to fashion a barrier edge delineating the “tended” land that gets mowed from the field, which doesn’t:

an orderly line of old cars and trucks!

Speaking of mowing, as this edging example shows, a common problem with the barrier method of edging when there’s grass involved is that you can’t snug a lawn mower right up to the border. To maintain the clean line, you have to mow the lawn and then go back and use a string trimmer to clean up the edge. What’s more, most edging materials can’t compete with the persistence of encroaching Bermuda and other grasses, which will just creep under the barrier or through cracks to get into the bed. And as far as solid materials like brick, stone and interlocking pavers go, if they’re not installed on a concrete base, they will eventually sag and shift and become unsightly.

Who needs all that extra maintenance?

Which brings me to the second method of edging:  trenching.

As with many things in life, sometimes it works best for the design—and maintenance—of the landscape to go the simplest and least expensive route. When that’s the case, we cut in the edges with a trenching shovel, clean them out and mulch the bed up to the edge to get the crisp line we’re looking for. Maintenance is usually just a matter of tidying up the line with a string trimmer or edger a couple of times a year.

In addition to keeping the grass from taking over the beds, trenched edging has some extra benefits. It’s natural and time proven. It can assist good drainage in the bed. It can be mowed over (two wheels in the bed, two wheels on the grass), and it can be easily expanded if you decide to enlarge your bed.

Whatever method works best with your garden, edging your planting beds is one way to give your landscape that extra edge.

Is your garden edgy?

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