Plastic/vinyl edging products are used to prevent invasion by grass; here it separates crushed limestone mulch from the lawn. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Concrete curbing products make attractive edges but grass will travel under the curbing and grass blades that grow over the curbing will have to be clipped to keep the line clean and crisp between turf and curb. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
Bricks are used here effectively as an edging. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
The line between the turf and vegetable patch is neatly edged. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
A grass path looks much more attractive if its edges are crisp and clean. (ALBERT PARSONS/FOR THE SUN)
When I start this column by referring to the term edges, some of you might think that I have really veered off course and have started to write about figure skating. That is not likely as I know nothing about figure skating although I have heard the term used in connection with that sport.
Of course, I am still writing about gardening and today the topic is you guessed it edges! No other part of garden maintenance, with the possible exception of weeding but that is another column is as important in my mind as edges.
Whenever I am having special visitors to the garden and want it to look its best, one of the first things that I do is get at the edging. Edging simply means cleaning up the line between turf and non-turf areas of the landscape.
This might be around island flowerbeds, along the edge of the vegetable garden where turf meets garden soil, along the edges of shrub beds, or anywhere else in the landscape where there is an "edge" of turf. These edges require regular maintenance to keep them clean and crisp.
There are two reasons that edging must be done regularly. The first is that roots of grass quicky invade nearby cultivated areas and soon grass is growing within the boundaries of the cultivated areas, making the line between grass and soil uneven and unkempt.
The second thing that occurs is that blades of grass begin to grow sideways along the edge of the turf and this means that the lawn mower does not cut them off. Over time, this can also mean the edge of the turf becomes irregular and shaggy looking.
I am afraid I do many things in my garden the old-fashioned way and edging is but one of them. I edge by getting on my knees with a pair of scissors and a sharp hand trowel.
I snip along the edge line with the scissors and gather up the cut off grass. Then I can easily observe where the grass has invaded the cultivated soil and with my trowel, remove the offending roots.
At the same time I use a hand tool that has claws on it and rake the soil to level it and to make the soil surface look more attractive. This is also an opportune time to reach into the cultivated area usually among plants and remove any weeds, damaged branches, or other debris.
There are lots of edging tools on the market and many people think that I am crazy to edge in this fashion. However, I take the opportunity while I am up close and personal (or is it down close?) with the plants to observe how they are doing and to catch any problems that might go unnoticed if I was standing erect.
To avoid much of this edging chore, there are edging materials that can be installed along turf edges. Bricks, cement curbing, plastic edging material and landscape boards are just a few of the options available.
I much prefer the clean line produced by just having the turf meet the cultivated soil - this more natural approach seems to suit my style of gardening best and I am willing to put forth the extra effort required to keep such edges looking attractive. Creating a bit of a gully between the turf and the grass edge also helps to impede the grass from growing into the cultivated soil.
For those who wish to go for a less labour-intensive approach, be aware that all edges will require some maintenance. The more solid the material used, the less work that will be required.
For example, bricks look nice but grass and weeds soon grow between the bricks. Often it is necessary to lift the bricks in order to remove the weeds, grass and accompanying roots that have grown between the bricks.
Solid cement curbing does not have this problem but it is usually not installed deeply enough to inhibit grass roots from growing underneath it. Over time, the grass will spring up on the wrong side of the curbing and will have to be dealt with.
I am not a big fan of lining an edge with stones or rocks. Grass and weeds invariably find their way among the stones and edging then becomes even more difficult than it would have been had the edge been left natural.
So, if you want your garden to look neat and tidy, get out the kneeling pad, scissors and trowel and get to work. Edging is not that bad a job I look at it as just another opportunity to spend time outdoors enjoying the sunshine in my garden.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 9, 2012