Realistically, if you’re looking to neaten up borders and keep your lawn separate from your flower beds, you probably don’t want to read through hundreds of half-baked ideas: instead, you’ll want to understand what it is and how to lay it proficiently, so that you can most effectively create your own.
Here’s what this guide will cover:
- What garden edging is.
- Reasons people use garden edging.
- Materials that are commonly used for edging.
- Some of the more ‘out there’ materials that people use.
- Steps to lay garden edging.
- Other things you should know.
- Places to buy garden edging.
What is garden edging?
At its most basic, garden edging refers to material that marks boundaries between different sections of your garden.
As with most gardening features, there are almost endless possibilities to choose from when selecting edging. You can choose from hundreds of materials, ranging from the traditional to the avant-garde.
You can have edging that is flush to the ground, or you can have edging that rises high above the areas that it marks. This variation in prominence means that edging can be an eye-catching feature or something barely visible that performs its function with subtlety.
Why use garden edging?
The main reason: it’s great for clearly marking different areas of your garden.
It serves a functional purpose as well as an aesthetic one. Edging is useful for preventing the spread of weeds, helping with water drainage, and keeping areas of your garden separate.
Whether you want a border between lawn and patio, between driveway and flower bed, or even a thin path running between multiple flower beds, garden edging can help.
Which materials can you use for garden edging?
There are tons of choices when it comes to choosing garden edging. You are limited only by your imagination, and you will be guided by the properties of each material.
Choosing correctly is important for garden aesthetics and for the material’s properties. Deciding whether you are using edging primarily as a feature or for practical reasons will determine the material and style you use.
Some options – like PVC – are heavily practical: it won’t fade, rot, or split over time, but it isn’t the most attractive from a design perspective.
Others – like metal fencing with filigree design – are less practical in terms of excluding weeds but can bring a certain elegance to your garden.
Some materials are more rigid, especially in the type of line they can create: stone slabs, for example, can achieve smaller angles compared to a log roll or similar. If your garden edge is likely to be very wavy, you’ll need a material that’s up to the task.
Deciding whereabouts on the spectrum of modern and traditional you want to be is important too, as is the question of neat versus rustic. A few logs laid in a row can create a garden barrier, but for many gardeners, this won’t bring the same design prowess as a carefully installed and refined metal edge.
Choosing the right material for your garden edging is about balancing all of these factors, and the first step is deciding which features are deal-breakers.
Here are a few options:
A very versatile material that can be used to bring modern or traditional lines to your garden.
Individual stones can be laid in a line (as in the image above) or you can layer them upward to achieve edging with more vertical presence.
You can also buy manufactured ‘stone’ slabs made from poured concrete or similar, to form a nice kerb.
Another way to present stone is via gabions, which are wire cages filled with stones of varying size. You may not be familiar with the word, but you’ll probably have seen gabions at the side of the motorway, beneath particularly steep verges.
Garden gabions are much more refined and attractive than their motorway counterparts, and provide a great option for garden edging: especially when marking a border between areas with slightly different elevations.
Its strength and durability lead many gardeners to choose metal for their edging. There is more flexibility than you might expect in terms of finish: you could go for a plain metal, powder-coated colouring, or something more exciting like oxidised steel.
4. Swift edge
This brand is well known for its durable aluminium barrier that will not rust, stain, rot, or require repainting. It’s easy to assemble, easy to install, and available in a wide range of colours.
A great example of a lightweight modern garden edging solution.
Another type of metal edging, this time bought in rolls of mechanically folded steel that you simply unroll along the borders in your garden.
Although it’s not as visually exciting as some of the other materials in this list, corrugated steel is easy to work with and makes very practical garden edging.
This is an eco-friendly garden edging idea, made entirely from recycled rubber. The edges are soft, and safe for children and lawnmowers: features that make flexi-border a popular choice for garden borders.
Thanks to the modern material, flexi-border is easy to expand and install. Installation is made via spikes that you hammer into the ground; expansion is achieved with rods that fit into pre-drilled holes.
Here we move onto more rustic materials that are strongly favoured by some gardeners. Timber is usually cheaper than metal and stone edging, although it does come with some trade-offs in terms of flexibility.
Metal and stone edging can conform to the contours of land effectively, but wood is less able to do this, meaning more care must be taken when preparing the land for installation.
8. Log rolls
This edging solution lends a bit more flexibility to wood. Similar to corrugated steel that comes in rolls, installing log rolls is just a case of unrolling them along your garden borders and hammering in the stakes.
9. Pebbles or rock in a wooden cavity
For a combination of wood and stone design, some people choose to create a wooden trough and fill it with pebbles or small rocks.
This garden edging solution is especially helpful with garden drainage, as it provides a channel for water to drain through.
You can bring your edging to life – literally – by using plants to mark borders between sections of your garden. Although this requires more upkeep than a solid material, it maintains the natural feel and can bring a lovely fragrance to your garden.
Whether you go for a hedge as per the image below, or something a little bit more unusual, this is a great option for the creative gardener.
One use of plants that we prefer is a row of succulents spaced out along an edge made of loose stone. This riffs on the trend of having a succulent garden, while still clearly marking the lines between different areas.
This is just a small sample of garden edging ideas, but it represents some of the most popular choices. Other ideas we’ve come across include:
- Breezeblocks, with flowers planted in compost filling the gaps inside each one.
- Glass bottles: if you want to do your bit to keep bottles out of landfill, this is a great opportunity to upcycle them. The bottles are placed with the bottom inch or so visible above the ground.
- Flower pots: as above, and a reminder that pretty much anything can be used if your imagination is up to the task!
- Herbs: a more fragrant variation on the succulent garden idea, some people go for narrow herb gardens to mark their borders.
We also saw shells, bicycle wheels, hubcaps, bowling balls, chicken wire, roof tiles, and more. As we said earlier, the options are pretty much endless!
How to lay garden edging
The difficulty of this job will vary depending on the type of edging you’ve chosen. Some options come with spikes that just need to be hammered into the ground, while others require more advanced landscaping.
The exact method of installation will vary as well. Instructions below are indicative of the process, but it may be the case that not all steps apply to you. It’s worth checking the specific installation instructions for the garden edging material you have chosen.
Step 1: Mark and measure
In this step, you outline the shape the edging will eventually take. It’s time to decide whether you want rigid lines or curves.
To mark, hammer a stake at one end of the border with a mason line attached, then walk to the other end, pull the line taut, and hammer in the next spike. Measure this line to confirm how much you’ll need.
You can also use rope laid along the ground – or around the area – you are marking, if you are happy with something slightly less precise.
Step 2: Remove grass
The next step is to dig a small trench under the mason line (or along the line marked by your rope).
Your trench should be a couple of inches wider than the edging you’ll be using, just to give you a bit of leeway and flexibility when installing it.
When removing soil you can either relocate it elsewhere in your garden or add it to your compost pile.
Step 3: Clear out any roots
While you’re here, it’s a good idea to cut back any roots that poke out into the trench. This is helpful for preventing weeds crossing the edging, and for keeping your plants on the right side.
If you see any thick tree roots it’s usually better to cut a hole in the edging for these to go through, rather than vice versa.
Step 4: Place the edging
Once you’ve got a trench dug with all roots removed, you can begin placing the edging inside it.
If your edging needs fixing and does not come with spikes built-in, you can use fixing pegs to keep it in place.
Step 5: Fill the trench back in
At this stage, you’ll most likely have empty space in your trench between the edging and the lawn. To keep the edging in place, fill the trench back in with the soil you dug up earlier. You’ll want the top half of the edging to be visible above the topsoil.
Step 6: Walk along the top of the soil
To compact the soil and keep the edging firmly in place, walk along the surface. The weight of your body will pack it down thoroughly.
Depending on how much the soil compacts you may need to add another layer: if you do, walk on this one too.
Step 7: Water the new soil
To give the edging the best chance of staying in place, water the soil you’ve just compacted.
Other things to know about garden edging
If you’re wondering how wide your garden edging should be, the consensus seems to be above 14cm. This is a suitable width to minimise the chance of lawn weeds creeping into the flower beds they are separated from.
To keep brick edging in place, install it on compacted hardcore with an inch of sand on top. This will stop it moving around with the soil.
Edging can be combined with lighting to create an atmosphere in your garden, and to bring another dimension to the barrier between sections.
Where can you get garden edging?
Many popular gardening retailers sell edging. Places like Homebase, Wilko, Wickes, B&Q, and the Range, for example.
It’s a very popular product present in lots of gardens across the country, so it’s unlikely you’ll struggle to find it.
You can also recycle things you already have, too. So it may be the case that you don’t need to shop for garden edging at all!
And there you have it…
Garden edging is a time-tested way to mark off different areas of your garden, and as with many aspects of garden landscaping, you can enjoy the fruits of years of innovation.
There are tons of materials to choose from, each with their own relative strengths and weaknesses. Your decision will be made based on the balance of many factors: form or function? Modern or traditional? And so on.
When you’ve decided on the garden edging you like, installation is a relatively painless job. The exact process will vary depending on the material you’ve chosen.
Edging will bring a new dimension to your garden.