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Good Edging Makes Good Neighbors

Where does the lawn end, and the flower bed begin? Defining the edge makes it easier to know where to mow, where to pull out the grass. Or sometimes it’s the ornamental plants that invade; my dirt paths get narrower and narrower as the beauties on each side take over.

Most of my garden beds are edged with natural granite rocks, that emerged from the earth nearby. In one area I partly sunk some tree trunks, fresh cut with the bark on them; then they aged beautifully. But they were harder to move than rocks. (Beware: treated wood — including railroad ties — poisons the soil.)

To keep roots of ‘Silver King’ Artemisia out of the lawn, I unrolled a 15-foot long, 12-inch wide roll of aluminum roof flashing and buried its width vertically along the bed. For taller plants, ornamental fence can define an edge prettily; I’d like to see my ‘Stanwell Perpetual’ rose draping on one. But my biggest edge problem is at ground level: grass creeping between the rocks.

To save the labor of all that trimming, now I prefer a flat-surfaced edging, one the lawnmower wheels can run on. My first attempt at this was bricks, which I set with their width buried in the ground for stability. But their edge was too narrow for the wheels, and was quickly overgrown by plants. An effective brick mowing edge needs to be at least six bricks deep.

Inexpensive concrete pavers — 7.5 inches by 15.5 inches by 1.5 inches — work well on straight edges. When I first put some in, they seemed stark and utilitarian, but plants leaning onto them softened the look. Prettier granite “cobblestone” — available at rock dealers — is split to standard sizes; you can get it “new” or tumbled for an aged appearance. I’d still have gaps on curves, unless I cut some blocks on an angle.

“Edge border ... made of durable, recycled-tire rubber with the look of bark mulch,” the advertisement said. Supposed to bend around gentle curves. But I hate the smell of rubber in the sun. And what chemicals will leach from it into the soil? I wrote the store; they didn’t answer.

Next I’m going to try plain, firm, wheel-friendly bare dirt between the lawn and the ornamentals. It has to be kept sharply sculpted, to look good — but the tool is a lightweight, long-handled one I can step on — no bending over, no power-tool arm exhaustion. A minimalist solution.

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 13 August 2004

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