If you want to keep your Howard County lawn, flowerbeds, and groundcover areas looking clean, attractive, and professional, landscape edging is vital. It can be as simple as a shallow trench (a “natural edge”) or as solid as a concrete barrier. But whichever landscape edging option you choose, it’s important to know the pros and cons, availability, installation methods, and any special considerations when working with that type of edging.
In this article, we cover all that, and more, for the most common types of lawn or landscape edging used in residential and commercial properties throughout Howard County, Maryland. Keep reading for details about:
- Spaded or natural edging
- Metal edging
- Wood edging
- Plastic or poly edging
- Brick or paver edging
- Natural stone edging
About Lawn & Landscape Edging
The main purpose of edging is to define or separate different types of landscape areas. It can be made from a nearly unlimited number of materials; if it’s strong, solid, and holds up well to weather, foot traffic, and lawn care equipment, it can probably be used as landscape edging. We’ve seen everything from glass bottles to hubcaps used to edge lawns and flowerbeds!
Benefits of Landscape Edging
A clean lawn edge is much easier to mow than a “soft” or undefined edge. Its perimeter remains clear and visible for a lawnmower to follow and keeps mulch and plants away from the mower’s blades.
Well-installed, high-quality edging also beautifies your landscape. For example, a lush lawn will immediately look well maintained (and be easier to maintain) when it has a clean, crisp edge.
Landscape edging makes your lawns, beds, and borders stand out by:
- Keeping their shapes clear and defined
- Keeping mulch and soil in the planting areas where they’re needed (and not on your lawn)
- Deterring turf grassroots from spreading into planting areas.
Maryland is known for its hot summer weather. When you apply a thick layer of mulch to your planting beds you’re helping keep moisture in the soil. Quality landscape edging keeps mulch in place to do its job, by preventing heavy rain from washing it away or mingling it with turfgrass.
If you’ve ever looked at a landscape plan drawing, each different area is clear and distinct. And it’s usually a border or edge that keeps it looking clean and keeps the visual look of the design in place.
Types of Landscape Edging
With so many edging options to choose from, it can be difficult to know which is the best choice for your landscape. Below, we describe the most common types of lawn or landscape edging materials and the pros and cons of each.
Spaded or Natural Landscape Edges
The simplest method for edging lawns or planting areas is to use a spade or flat shovel to cut out a clean edge. While this method creates a clean look at first, the natural tendency of soil to subside or slump and the tendency of turf grass to spread by its roots means that you’ll have to spade regularly to keep a sharp edge. For small edging lengths or naturalistic gardens, this method works well, but for larger properties, a natural edge will require frequent (and potentially costly) upkeep.
Metal Landscape Edging
Metal is one of the longest-lasting types of landscape edging and is naturally durable and strong.
It has many benefits, including:
- Can be installed by pros or DIY-ers
- Long lifespan
- Resistance to wear and damage
- Availability of different styles
- Recyclable at the end of its lifespan, with no waste
This type of lawn edging can be as visible or invisible as you like, depending on the style you choose and the way you install it.
Steel is the strongest type of metal edging, is the most long-lasting, and is available in painted colors or in a natural, weathering finish.
Strong, milled steel is usually known by the brand name “Cor-ten”, but it’s also referred to “weathering steel” because it naturally develops a weather-resistant finish. Weathering steel’s finish ranges in color from dark bronze to a rich, rusty orange or brown, and is striking when set against green planting or bright flowers.
The natural strength of steel also means that it won’t bend or crack if you step on it or run equipment over it.
Aluminum edging is another popular choice. It is softer than steel, but it is also long-lasting and easy to install. Aluminum won’t rust the way steel will, and you can find it in a range of painted colors. Sure-loc is a common, good-quality brand of aluminum landscape edging that can also be installed by homeowners.
Corrugated, Galvanized Edging
If you plan to install metal edging yourself, you may be tempted by corrugated galvanized edging because of its lower price and flexibility. However, we don’t recommend it because it bends very easily (including when you step on it or run over the edging with a mower) and inexpensive versions often have a rough or raw edge that can easily cut you.
PRO TIP: We don’t recommend metal edging that doesn’t have a finished edge, because a ragged, sharp edge can be a hazard to both people and equipment.
Installing Metal Landscape Edging
The finished edges on most metal edging products are rigid enough to let you install them with a mallet and 2×4. Usually, it’s as simple as pounding the lengths of the metal into place with a mallet or hammer, using a piece of wood between the metal and hammer to protect the edging and absorb the blows.
At regular intervals, you’ll drive metal stakes into the soil to connect overlapping edging sections and support their upright position. These connectors may click the metal sections together, or they may be spot welded.
If you choose aluminum edging, make sure it’s thick enough if you plan to install it with a mallet and 2x4s. If you use a lighter-weight aluminum, you may want to first dig a shallow trench to position the edging and attach its stakes, then backfill with the soil you excavated.
Wood Edging for Lawns & Planting Beds
Wood is strong and flexible, easy to buy, and looks right in outdoor settings with other natural materials. It has been a traditional landscape material for a long time.
Examples of wooden landscape edging include:
- Large timbers that resemble railroad ties (but don’t use actual railroad ties as they’re treated with toxic chemicals)
- Thin, flexible boards (or “bender boards”)
- Palisades, or upright wooden edging pieces that are often wired together in lengths
The main shortcoming of using wood for landscape edging is moisture. Wood decays naturally and contact with moisture speeds up its decay. The typical, budget-friendly wood edging options are made with sapwood, which has no natural rot resistance and tends to decay quickly. More expensive options, such as redwood, cypress, and cedar, have naturally rot-resistant heartwood although they’re less readily available.
A base course of drain rock to wick away moisture below timber edging helps improve longevity but increases the time and cost of installation.
Wood edging is easily damaged by landscape maintenance equipment. And although it’s easy to dig out and replace, that can be time-consuming and messy work.
Plastic or Poly Landscape Edging
Plastic (or polyethylene) is probably the most commonly available landscape edging material (you’ll find it in most big box stores and garden centers). It’s relatively cheap to buy and lightweight so it’s easier to transport and carry to the job site, and it’s simple to install.
But before you think you’ll be saving money, consider the shortcomings of plastic lawn edging:
- Plastic has no natural rigidity
- Plastic edging does not last as long as metal edging
- It’s easily damaged by lawn care equipment, leaving sharp edges (which can easily cut someone) and an unattractive landscape
- Plastic edging can’t be recycled at the end of its life
- Plastic, like wood, can burn, but plastic will melt and contaminate soil
While it’s inexpensive, plastic is not used by most professional landscape designers and installers for these reasons.
Plastic edging is also the most likely material to need repair due to frost heave. Plastic edging won’t resist deformation by frost heaving the way metal or stone will, and plastic relies on nails or stakes driven into the soil to hold it steady. These nails are likely to heave along with the plastic they’re driven through.
Brick or Paver Edging
Masonry bricks and landscape pavers can also be used to edge pathways, landscape beds, play areas, and more. They’re available in a range of sizes, colors, textures, and materials. There are even wood-look bricks that can be used in place of natural wood!
These types of materials are usually used to create a mow-strip, rather than a vertical edge. But, with the right size or willingness to stack the bricks or pavers, you can easily create a short wall to separate the lawn from flowerbeds or line a walkway.
For installation, pavers and bricks can be set in concrete or laid atop a compacted gravel and sand base. This is a project that many homeowners can manage on a weekend (perhaps with some help from friends) and the materials are readily available at big box stores. However, dry-laid brick and pavers will tend to settle and/or heave over time and will need to be regularly repaired to maintain a neat and appealing look.
Natural Stone Landscape Edging
Stone is among the most beautiful landscape edging options. It comes in an almost endless array of colors and textures and will last forever (with occasional upkeep). Stone can be expensive and should be professionally installed, but the results are elegant and striking.
You can have a stone landscape edge in almost any style, such as:
- Rows of large rocks or boulders naturally shaped and dry stacked
- An edge or retaining wall made with “dressed” or shaped stones
- A stone veneer edge mortared to a concrete base.
No matter the style you prefer, there’s a stone (and a style) that will match it. We take pride in our stonework, and have experience designing and installing many types of masonry projects.
Need a Hand with Landscape Edging Design or Installation?
If you’re overwhelmed by all the landscape edging options, want something that will help make your property more attractive and/or easier to maintain, or simply want some help installing a long-lasting, high-quality edge for your landscape beds, give us a call!
Our talented landscape architects and designers are experienced in selecting the best landscape edging options to meet your needs and budget. They’ll design the shape of landscape beds to best showcase (or hide, if desired) the edging and make mowing and landscape maintenance as simple as possible. For example, curved bed edging should be designed to allow a mower to easily mow right up to the edge (curves that are too tight are not only more challenging to install, they also make mowing more difficult than it needs to be). And our exceptional installation teams will ensure that your new edging is perfect, whether it’s a gorgeous natural stone, naturally weathered metal, or something more organic.