Edging a Bed

Ask an experienced gardener what the first thing he or she does when expecting a visit from fellow gardeners and time is short, and you’ll probably get the answer, “Edge the beds.” And with good reason, for no other garden task—not weeding, not deadheading, not even mowing the lawn—contributes so much to sprucing up the garden’s appearance as the making of a crisp line to demarcate bed and lawn. As every gardener discovers sooner or later, turfgrass doesn’t stay put. Most turfgrass varieties spread by creeping stems—either aboveground stolons or underground rhizomes—and unfortunately, they don’t seem to realize where the lawn ends and the flowerbeds begin. Of course, you can circumvent the problem by installing a permanent edging of brick or stone; failing that, however, you’ll have to reconcile yourself to edging your beds about twice a year, depending on rainfall/irrigation, rate of growth, and your own neatnik tendencies. But it isn’t an overwhelming task, provided you undertake it methodically. And when you see the result, you’ll be astounded by the difference it makes.

1. Mark where you want to cut.  Use a rubber hose to indicate exactly where you want the edge of the bed to be. Don’t make the edge so close to the bed that you risk damaging the plants; conversely, don’t create too large a gap of bare soil. This part of the job may require a bit of finagling to get the curve smooth and the position just right.

2. Begin to cut.  Arm yourself with a sharp spade. Starting at one edge of the bed, angle the spade back slightly and cut into the grass on the inside edge of the hose to a depth of about four inches. This forms a gap that the grass roots cannot easily cross. Moving down the bed, repeat the process, forming a smooth, continuous cut.

3. Remove the sod and shake out the soil.  Put away the hose. Pull up manageable pieces of the cut sod and shake out the topsoil. either directly onto the bed or into a wheelbarrow, if that seems too messy. Whacking two pieces of sod together is often the most effective method of doing this. Return the soil to the bed with a shovel. Add the shaken-out sod to the compost pile.

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