Landscape Edgings

by Jan Cashman

Landscape edging is not the most exciting topic. But whether you are landscaping a new yard, or sprucing up your old yard, you should know what options are available to separate your flower or shrub beds from your lawn.
Why edge at all? Jerry and I prefer no edging material between our flower or shrub beds and our lawn. To us, a line made with an edging machine or a straight edged shovel looks crisp and clean. However, it takes diligence to keep grass from creeping into our beds. When trying to use the edging machine during the growing season, it can cut or run over flowers and shrubs planted too close to the edge.

Neither do we use edging materials around the trees in our yard and orchard. We keep the grass and weeds away from the trunks of our trees by weeding and cleaning up the edge of the area around the trees with a shovel a couple of times each summer and then adding 1½ inches of soil pep mulch to deter future weeds and hold moisture in the ground.

However, most homeowners prefer some kind of edging material to neaten the definition between their flower or shrub beds and their grass. Edging helps hold mulches in and keeps grass from growing into the beds. Some kinds of edging, such as rocks or bricks or the new concrete designs add a decorative touch to the ‘hardscape’ of your gardens.

When observing landscapes around town, you will see that there is plenty of choice when it comes to edging materials. What you choose will depend upon the look you are trying to achieve, ease of installation, and cost.
In our area, black vinyl is the most common material used for landscape edging. Vinyl is inexpensive and easy to install. We recommend using the heavy grade, higher quality vinyl edging, sold in 20 foot lengths. When properly installed with steel stakes to hold it down, it will last for years. Vinyl edging easily forms flowing curves; the curves are easier to create if the weather is warm when you are installing it.

Although more expensive than vinyl, metal edgings-aluminum and steel–are being used more. Aluminum edging painted black is practically invisible when installed. Steel edging comes painted green. The 16 foot lengths of steel edging do not bend into curves as easily as vinyl . But metal lasts forever and, with no top loop, has a clean appearance. Stakes come with the metal edging to hold it into the ground.

The development of a method of pouring concrete edging on the site, and new colors and stamped designs, have made concrete edging more popular the last few years. Concrete edging holds up well and is easy to mow around. The poured concrete is deep enough to keep most grasses from growing under it. Less expensive readymade cement borders or interlocking pavers can be installed yourself and are available in different colors.

Bender board, usually made of cedar, is not used so much today, but makes a natural looking, subtle edge. Old railroad ties, timbers, or 2×6 redwood can be used for straight borders. Make sure the timbers are pressure treated so they won’t rot. Round logs cut into varying heights and installed on end look western; they mimic a log house.

Bricks installed on end or on a slant give your garden a European look. For a more “Montana” look, try fieldstones laid on edge or other types of local stones. Our landscape architect, Shelly Engler, recommends installing the bricks or fieldstone in a sand trench. Invisible metal edgings can be used to hold the brick or stone in place and create an more impermeable barrier. I have edged the flower beds next to my front sidewalk with small flat, rounded stones just for looks-no edging is needed next to a sidewalk, of course.

To edge your flower and shrub beds or not to edge? Most homeowners opt for some sort of definition between their beds and their lawn to keep the grass from creeping in. Stone, wood, or concrete edgings can add an interesting look to your landscape. Whatever you decide to do, buy the best quality edging and install it correctly so it will last.