Explore Edging Options

Fine Gardening - Issue 193

If everything is going right with your garden, no one should really notice your edging. Instead, they should notice the exquisite lines of your bed and the artful plantings it contains. But a garden without an edge is like a painting without a frame. The edging sets a visual as well as a physical boundary, focusing your attention and preventing grass from getting in or soil from getting out. The right edge should suit your look, your budget, and your maintenance level. Here are some options.

Photo: Marianne Majerus Garden Images

The trench is the fastest

Simply digging a trench is usually the fastest way to achieve an edge, and you can make it into any shape. It is often ineffective as a long-term barrier and needs refreshing yearly.

Pros: Easy; inexpensive; adaptable to any situation

Cons: Poor at stopping grass and weeds; must be maintained regularly

Photo: Steve Aitken

Stone pavers are durable

If you want an edging that you can install and forget about, stone pavers are a great option. If you are installing them next to grass, they make a great mowing edge as well. Giving them a base of sand makes leveling easier and helps mitigate frost heave.

Pros: Easy to install; long lasting; will suit almost any style

Cons: Not suited to curves

Photo: Marianne Majerus Garden Images

Corten steel is stylish

Normally rust is not desirable, but the weathered appearance of Corten steel always catches the eye in a positive way. It is more adaptable to curved beds than other metal edging. But it must be installed with much of it above ground; otherwise, what’s the point?

Pros: Attractive; durable; easily curved

Cons: Can be difficult to find; a little pricey

Photo: Richard Bloom

Wood can be easy

If you are looking to give your garden a rustic, naturalistic edge, then wood is the perfect choice. You can do almost anything you like with it, except make it last. But it decays more slowly than you might think and looks great in the process.

Pros: Cheap; easy; works in almost any design

Cons: Will eventually need replacing

Photo: Richard Bloom

Metal has clean, long-lasting lines

When it comes to separating weeds from beds or hardscape from softscape, nothing works better than metal. It lasts for a long time and doesn’t need maintenance. Bending it is tricky, so it works best in straight lines.

Pros: Clean lines; long lasting; low maintenance

Cons: Pricey; can be hard to find; doesn’t bend well

Other options: Anything can be an edge

Perhaps the only requirements a material has to meet to be an edge are the ability to stand up to the elements and the presence of enough of it to do the job.

Photo: Marianne Majerus Garden Images

Terra-cotta pipe sections add shape and texture to a small bed. They are probably best in areas where freezing temperatures are rare.

Photo: Marianne Majerus Garden Images

Rusted shovel heads aren’t as classy as Corten steel, but they still have charm. In addition, they provide an answer for those who are frequently asked, “Why do you have all these old shovels?”

Fine Gardening #193

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