Creating the perfect edge to your lawn

By Courtney Brown, Conservation Garden Park

It has been said that a lawn doesn’t look completely mowed until it has been edged. A ragged looking, unmaintained edge will really detract from the overall appearance of any lawn, while a crisply defined edge finishes the look of a lawn—like icing on a cake.

Types of borders or edging for lawns include concrete (mow curb), steel, wood, and plastic—but have you noticed that the best looking lawns and gardens often have no border at all? Instead of installing a product to make a border between your lawn and planter beds, you might consider the no-cost, high-end look of a crisp shovel-cut edge.

Here’s how to make it happen: Start by marking the edge with paint or some type of line that you can follow. Using a flat shovel, cut straight down into the soil 4 to 6 inches, following the line for the entire length of the edge. Slope the soil in the planter bed gradually away from the vertical edge of the lawn. Add mulch to the planter bed, but keep the level of the mulch well below the level of the lawn where it meets the vertical edge.

This type of lawn edge is very simple and it can last forever, but the key is regular maintenance. Over time, it tends to naturalize—the straight-cut vertical edge disappears and lawn gradually creeps into the planter bed. Every year or two it is necessary to rake the mulch away from the lawn edge and cut the soil again with a flat shovel so the edge stays well defined. Short-term maintenance can be done in a two-step process whenever the lawn is mowed:

Step 1: Use a string trimmer to cut the ragged top edge where it’s too close for the lawn mower to cut. Do not trim any lower than the mowed height of the lawn.

Step 2: Turn the string trimmer sideways, or use a blade edger to cut the vertical edge of the lawn following along the shovel-cut.

The reason for the two steps is to maintain a consistent height all the way to the vertical edge of the lawn. Trimming edges too short, or “scalping,” invites a host of problems including dry soil, weeds, and unhealthy lawn. If edges are consistently scalped, the grass eventually dies, leaving you with a weed-filled dirt border. It also looks more appealing when the lawn is maintained at a consistent height with a crisp, right-angle edge.

Using a shovel to maintain a vertical edge will generally prevent the lawn from spreading into the planter bed, but occasionally bits of grass will appear in the planter beds near the edge. This can be controlled by physically pulling it out or with an herbicide such as Roundup. If an herbicide is used, take extra care to spray when there is no wind, hold the wand very close to the target, and use low pressure to avoid misting.

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