Edging An Overgrown Lawn

photo by SriMesh
I'm going to be honest. For a long time I didn't even know edging a lawn was a thing! There's a lot of things you don't learn growing up in an apartment.

Edging your lawn isn't that difficult but if its been many months or years since your lawn has been edged it's going to be a little harder than usual.

If you haven't edged your lawn where it meets a hard surface like a driveway, it's going to be very tough to get a clean edge. I ran into that problem recently and this is how I tackled it.

Grass Growing On Sidewalk

The grass, roots and soil over time will creep onto the hard surface. If it's been months or years (or never?) you might find yourself with an edge that looks like the (crude) illustration below.

What you want is an edge that looks like this:
In a situation like this, a string trimmer won't cut it, you'll need an edger as I discussed in my trimmer vs edger post. But that's just going to make things easier, it's not going to make it easy.

Edgers Are More Powerful Than String Trimmers

This is the general rule. I'm sure there's some cheap lawn edger out there somewhere made entirely out of plastic and gumdrops but for the most part, an edger will work better.

The edger is going to cut the grass and roots and define an edge. It's not a magical tool that will get rid of the grass and soil on the cut side. You're going to have to get out the cut side somehow.

Sometimes you can pull the overgrown grass out. That may not always work so sometimes a hoe will help, sometimes you'll have to try using tools, your hands and your feet.

 don't try edging for a few days after it's rained
Going around the edge from the outside with the trimmer in the trimming position will help loosen it. You want to cut on top of the hard surface in between the concrete and the overgrowth. It will make things easier if the soil is dry, so don't try edging for a few days after it's rained.

Where's the Edge?

They physical challenges of cutting through the roots and getting all that extra dirt off your walks and drive way aren't even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is... How do you find the edge?

You can't see it. You know it's there somewhere. An edger like the Black and Decker Electric Edger (click photo for more details) has an edge guide that will ride along the side of the hard surface so you can make sure you create a tight edge, but where do you even start?

Hitting the concrete can dull or damage your edger and there are likely safety concerns as well. Finding the edge is important.

There are a number of ways you can find your edge so you can start using your edger.
  • Poke your finger in to see where the hard surface ends.
  • Use a square spade to start defining the edge.
  • Try kicking it with the side of your foot if it's not too bad.
  • Use a string trimmer in the trimming position (parallel with the ground) to eat away at a 1-2' area so you can see the edge and get the edger in. It's a waste of string gas or battery power to try and do the whole edge this way.
  • Use a hoe parallel to the edge to chip away at a bit of the overgrown area.
After you've gone through with your edger you need to clean up as described above. If your soil is dry you can use a blower to blow the debris back into the lawn where it will break down. If it's not that dry, leave it out in the sun for a bit until it dries out then blow it or sweep it.

And remember, it's important to follow the safety guidelines outlined in your owner's manual when using these tools. Safety glasses are very important because these tools will kick up dirt, stones and anything else they find. For years now, manufacturers have been making cool looking safety glasses that look like sunglasses so you don't have to worry about looking dorky.
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  1. Excellent article. Thank you for addressing how to find the edge!

  2. THANK YOU!!! I just got an edger and don't want to mess things up. My lawn hasn't been edged since December! This was very helpful!!!

  3. It's actually much easier to do this AFTER it has rained. The ground is soft and easier to penetrate than when it's hard and dried out. Having just edged the sidewalk that leads to my front door (after 15 years of never doing it), I know what I'm talking about.