When you see an attractively landscaped home, one of the first things you notice is the neatness and symmetry. Landscape edging—whether simple plastic or elaborately carved and colored stone—is what creates that clean line between planting areas and lawn or ground covers, maintaining the manicured look of a high-quality landscape design. Edging also provides a clearer mowing and trimming line, keeps mulch in place, and saves on trimming and weeding time.
Edging Material for Landscape Design
Plastic Landscape Edging
Plastic edging comes in three basic types: 1) plastic stones anchored with spikes, 2) fencing, and 3) rolled. The thinner types sold at garden supply centers are susceptible to frost heave, so you’ll save money and hassle in the long run by choosing a quality, commercial-grade edging right from the beginning. The better types will be at least 5 1/2 inches wide and usually comes in twenty-foot lengths. For ease of installation, the round top of the edging should be at least .095 inches thick. If possible, choose polyethylene, which won’t stiffen and crack from exposure, and when treated with an ultraviolet blocker, will stand up well to the rays of the sun.
One of the most common mistakes made when installing landscape edging is fitting it in either upside down or backwards. Edging should be installed with the curled-up lip at the bottom of the trough facing in towards the planting bed, not out towards the lawn. Plastic edging, as well as metal edging, should be even with the surface so that it becomes virtually invisible. This not only creates a cleaner look, it lets you mow over the edging without damaging your mower blades or the edging.
Metal Landscape Edging
Steel and aluminum are the two most frequently used metals in landscape edging.
Although steel is strong, durable, and easy to form straight lines with, it’s also expensive and labor-intensive to install, and can suffer from frost heave and rusting problems. Aluminum is more flexible and lighter than steel, making it easy-to-work-with alternative to steel landscape edging. It also doesn’t rust and is available in silver, painted or anodized black for more variety.
Wooden Landscape Edging
Wooden edging is some of the most versatile around and styles range from natural-finish “logs” to decorative picket fence versions. Some of the easiest to use are ready-made sections that can be placed around beds like a fence. For large areas, landscape timbers and railroad cross-ties work well. To edge curves, try bender board, a redwood board of 1/4 inch thick that can bend easily into fairly tight curves. Because all wood is subject to rot, look for edging in naturally rot-resistant redwood, cypress or cedar.
This type of edging is perfect for separating walkways from garden beds as the added height prevents any accidental trampling of your flowers. However, because it can be almost impossible to get close to with a lawn mower, it’s best avoided for lawn areas unless you don’t might trimming by hand. In addition, treated wood should never be used where edible plants are grown. Poisonous chemicals used in the treatment process seep into the ground where they’re picked up by the plants.
Concrete, Stone, or Brick Landscape Edging
Stone and brick add a stately elegance to the landscape and are simple to install. Precast concrete, standard rectangular brick, and interlocking brick pavers come in a variety of colors. While concrete and bricks can simply be set into dirt in a zigzag pattern, interlocking pavers can be used to build everything from simple borders to raised beds and garden walls. Keep in mind, though, that unless the stones are mortared together, grass from the lawn will quickly find its way into the crevices between the stones. For a reasonably tight fit without mortar, try interlocking pavers.
One of the easiest materials to install is rock, and depending on where you live, you may even be able to accumulate enough of them on-site. After determining how high you want your border to be, look for rocks that are roughly twice that size (because half will be buried). Selecting rocks that are close to one another in size will give a more formal look, while random sizes will be more casual. All you have to do to install the stones is dig a trench to half the hight of the stones, set them into the dirt with the sides pressed together, fill the trench around them in with in dirt and then pack the dirt down firmly.
If plastic, metal, and stone sound a little too dull for you, edging plants provide color and variety to liven up the lines of the garden. The ideal edging plant will be low-maintenance, dependable for continuous bloom and compact in growth. For simple maintenance, seasonal annuals work best. Some good edging plants are dusty miller or lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), lobelia, ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), dwarf marigolds (Tagetes tenqufolia) and portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora). Taller plants like mondo grass (Ophiopogon) and lavender also work well.
If you haven’t got the time or budget to install permanent edging, you can still get create the appearance. With a garden spade, cut a v-shape into the sod to create a clean edge between the lawn and the garden bed. Although this method provides a well-manicured look, it requires weekly maintanence. If you’d prefer something that’s less trouble, opt for plastic, metal, or brick landscape edging instead.
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