How Lawn Edging Works

You'd be surprised how important lawn edging is to the beauty of your front yard.

You've mowed, weeded and raked -- but you're not finished yet. No matter how perfectly cropped your lawn may be, it will end up looking sloppy if you don't pay attention to the edges. That thin strip of grass that lines your driveway and walkways and surrounds your flowerbeds and patios is every bit as important as the large expanse of grass inside it.

When it comes to edging your lawn, your garden-variety mower just isn't going to cut it. It's far too wide to handle the delicacy needed to give the areas around your mailbox, light poles and trees nice sharp edges. No, you need to get yourself a good lawn edger, and learn how to use it properly. Or, if you're willing to spend a little extra cash, you can hire a professional landscaper to do the work for you (edging should be included in your regular package of lawn care services).


You can also create defined borders using bricks, stones or other materials. These edges aren't only for decoration. In fact, they shouldn't stand out or draw attention away from your lush lawn. They're more functional than aesthetic -- a way to separate one section of your landscape from another. The goal is to improve the look of your lawn, and make it easier to maintain.

Edging -- no matter how you do it -- is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to give your lawn a well-manicured look, add value to your property, and give you a clean line for mowing and trimming. Read on for some tips on how to edge like the pros.


How to Use a Lawn Edger

Before you can learn how to use a lawn edger, you need to choose one. This is one situation where landscape-savvy neighbors and the salesperson at your local home improvement store can come in very handy.

You can use an edger or a string trimmer. Edgers come in wheeled and stick (or pole) varieties. You can also choose between gasoline and electric, or get a manual hand edger that you power yourself. (Keep in mind, however, that this can be time-consuming if you've got a large expanse of lawn.) Gas tends to be heavier and noisier than electric, but it's better for cutting through heavy tangles of weeds and brush. Prices can range from about $20 to $200 or more, depending on the number of bells and whistles you choose. You don't need an expensive edger unless you're a pro or you need to do some heavy-duty trimming.


Before you power up your edger, make sure you're being safe. Wear long pants and glasses or goggles to protect yourself from injury, and earplugs or other protection to cover your ears. Some edgers can produce 85 decibels of sound -- loud enough to damage your hearing [source: Consumer Reports].

When you edge, point the blade between the edge of your sidewalk or driveway and the grass. Watch out for trees, mailboxes, flowerbed edging and other obstacles. Not only can you damage these objects if you hit them, but the contact can also wear down your edger blade. Dig a slight trench as you go, to give your lawn a nice sharp edge. Discard the grass and weeds you've removed in a garbage can or lawn bag.


Lawn Edging Ideas

Lawn edging is harder than it looks. When in doubt, hire a pro

Edging your flowerbeds and trees yourself can take more time than hiring a landscaper, but it also can cut your costs -- and the time it takes to edge -- in half or more [source:].

If you want to give your lawn a professional finishing touch, without spending the money to hire a landscaper, you might want to do a little research. When choosing an edging material, consider its price, durability, how well it fits with your existing landscape design, and how easy it will be to install and maintain. You can choose from a variety of materials, including natural stone, plastic, gravel, metal, concrete pavers or brick. Here are some other materials to consider:


  • Wood creates a natural look. The downside to wood is that it doesn't last more than 10 years--even when treated.
  • For greater durability, concrete or brick pavers are better. They also will give your edging a more formal, professional appearance. You will pay more for concrete and brick though, and plants can grow through the spaces between bricks as they shift over time.
  • Steel or aluminum paving will hold up well so you won't have to replace them often. Steel comes in many different colors, but it does have sharp edges. Flying pieces of sharp steel can be a real hazard if you accidently nick the edging with your mower or trimmer. Steel will also eventually rust. Aluminum is lighter and easier to work with, and it won't rust.
  • Plastic edging comes in rolls or fence styles. Because plastic is flexible, it will bend to fit the shape of your flowerbed or path. It comes in a variety of thicknesses. The heavier the plastic edging is, the more durable it will be and the less likely to lose its shape over time.
  • You don't need to use conventional materials to create your edge. Seashells, bottles--even roofing tiles can work if you arrange them creatively. Visit yard sales and junkyards to look for inexpensive inspiration.

When designing your edging, remember that edges don't have to be straight and square. Experiment with curved borders -- whatever shape fits your landscape. With brick edging, you lay the bricks end-to-end. With plastic or metal, you can choose from edging that snaps together, individual pieces that you stake into the ground or shaped forms that fit around flowerbeds and the bases of trees. Edging that has to be staked into the ground will stay in place longer, so you won't have to change it out every couple of months.

To really save money, you can create natural edging (also called spading or trenching). Using a flat-edged shovel, you dig a V-shaped trench between the grass and flowerbed that you can then fill with mulch. You'll need to redefine a natural edge about once every year.


Lawn Edging Installation Tips

The key when installing lawn edging is to reduce your work over the long run. You want to do it right the first time so you don't have to fix or replace your lawn edging every season. Choose the right material for your climate and lawn, and then carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing it.

Before you install any edging, cut a clean edge between your lawn and flowerbeds (or any other area you're edging) to delineate the border. You can use a marker, such as a flat piece of wood, string, or garden hose to map out the borders of your flowerbeds (or whatever area you're edging). If any grass or weeds have already snuck in, pull them and spray with weed killer before you start edging.


Probably the easiest way to install edging is to simply place it where you need it and pound it into the ground with a hammer. Just know that if you do it this way, it will eventually pop out. A better option is to dig a trench about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) deep using your marked line as a guide. Then install your edging material -- bricks, pavers and everything else you'll need -- inside the trench. Your edging will remain in place even longer if you anchor it with stakes pounded into the ground at a 45-degree angle.

Make sure the tops of the edging are even with one another and aren't too high. You don't want your edging to be the first thing people see when they look at your lawn. About a half-inch (1.27 centimeters) above the soil will separate your edging without highlighting it. Then you can still mow right over the top of it. When you're done edging, use the extra soil from digging your trench (or mulch) to fill in around the edging.

Finally, step back and look at your handiwork. You'll see how beautiful borders can make your yard a real standout.

For lots more information on lawn care, see the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Aymie, Clayton. "On the Edge." Ground Maintenance, October 2006, pgs. C12-C16.
  • Consumer Reports. "String Trimmer Guide from Consumer Reports." (Accessed April 1, 2011)
  • "Edge a Garden Bed." (Accessed April 2, 2011)
  • "Lawn Edging Tools." (Accessed April 2, 2011)
  • Goodspeed, Jerry L. "Edit Your Lawn with Edging." Utah State University Cooperative Extension. (Accessed April 2, 2011.)
  • Heidbreder, Kelly. "Edging makes landscaping more attractive." The Blade, May 2, 2007.
  • Lynch, Meghan. "Installing Simple Edging." Horticulture, May 2007, Vol. 104, Issue 4.
  • The Family Handyman. "The Best Garden Edging Tips Ever." (Accessed April 2, 2011.)
  • Woods, Phil. "Giving your lawn the edge." The Seattle Times, March 17, 2007.