You Don't Need Plastic Edging

I don't know what came over me but a few years ago I got it stuck in my head that I had to have plastic lawn edging. For some reason that little tube of black separating the green lawn from the mulch just looked right to me. It made sense, it would keep the grass from growing in the beds and it would keep the mulch from spilling over into the lawn. Sounds good right? Wrong!

The problem with almost any type of landscape edging in areas that experience cold winters is that it can pull up if not properly installed. While that little black strip looked good to me, seeing a big black, grey, brown, torn strip of plastic sticking out from the lawn after the frost heaved it up doesn't quite have the same appeal.

I'm a bit compulsive when it comes to buying and installing things that are meant to be in place for years so I read everything I could about landscape edging, went out to look at different brands and models and learned how to properly install it.

If You Insist On Installing Landscape Edging

If there's no talking you out of it this is what I learned

  • You need a landscape edging that has a flange to help prevent it from lifting up. 
  • The edging should be at least 5" tall. 
  • You also want to use the 8-Inch Metal Garden Stakes not the plastic ones. The 
  • edging should be stiff not floppy. It should be the type that needs to sit out in the sun for a little bit to warm it up so that you can manage it easier.

The three landscape edgings I felt would be the best choice were Black Diamond EdgingValley View PRO-20 and Master Mark Deep Edge.

I got lured down this path when I saw some cheap edging for $20 for 50'. Figured I could do the project cheap in a few hours. Not as cheap as I thought if I wanted to do it right, but not that expensive either if you really like the look.

How To Edge Landscape Beds

You know, I really feel stupid for even considering installing landscape edging in the first place. My flower beds and shrub beds never had a problem with my grass growing into it. For years I didn't even mulch the beds but I got tired of weeding as much. I was nervous about adding mulch to the beds without edging but the cedar mulch I use does a good job of staying in place and I don't have any problems.< br/>
They way I edge my lawns is to make a V-shaped groove at the edge as shown below.

Step 1: Preparation

If you already have mulch in your beds use a rake to push it back away from the edge to help keep it clean and allow you to see what you're doing.

If this is a new edge, plan out where you want your edge to be and mark the lines to be cut.

Step 2: Vertical Cut

First you make the vertical cut which should be around 4-5" deep into the soil. Past the grass and thatch layer. This cut defines your lawn edge and is the important bit that keeps your lawn from growing into your flower beds.

To make this cut I used to use a garden spade. I'm partial to the Fiskars 9667 Garden Spade or the Ames True Temper Pony Garden Spade if you plan on using a spade frequently and are willing to pay a little more.

Now that I have a Black and Decker LE 750 edger I use that. The curb guide lifts up into the body and allows me to cut slits into the grass. Very handy.

Step 3: The Angled Cut

Now you need to create an air gap. If all you did was create a slit, it would heal over time and the grass would spread.

To remove the cut side of the grass and dirt I use a hoe like the one pictured to the right. It has a mattock head on one side and a two prong weeder on the other.

I just slowly walk backwards and scrape up the cut side leaving a bit of an angle going up to the beds. The angle of the slope isn't that important and you're probably not going to be able to get a precise angle no matter how hard you try.

If you have a lot of room to work with and have large beds planned you can create dramatic looking beds with long slopes that are higher than the lawn.

Step 4: Clean Up

Clean up the area you just edged. Go over it to make sure the edge looks straight and is deep enough in all areas. Find a suitable location to  move the dirt and cuttings to.

Step 5: Mulch

Now with your edge complete it's time to add the mulch. You want to add mulch right up to the vertical cut line to prevent weeds from growing in the exposed soil near the edge from invading your lawn. The mulch should at least come up to the thatch layer.

Before adding the mulch you can use a landscape fabric to help block weeds further or you can do what I did and just lay cardboard down before you put the mulch.

When the mulch is even with the thatch layer it gives the wheels of your mower a nice area to ride on but I also like the look when the mulch is almost even with the grass height. Do whatever looks best to you in your garden.
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