A good garden is never finished. One element you may have neglected is the edging. A properly edged garden plot looks more well-tended than one that merely merges into the lawn, or is separated from lawn only by a strip of barren dirt. Even an informal garden makes a better impression if it has an unobtrusive edging.
Edging provides more than mere aesthetic appeal. It also keep grass from invading the garden; keeps garden mulch from invading the lawn; crowds weeds out of the dirt strip between lawn and garden; and provides a mower strip -- an area for your mower wheels to ride upon so you can mow right up to the edge of your lawn without having to follow up with a trimmer.
Using found materials creatively can bring down the cost. You can also buy kits from garden centers or home improvement stores. The reliable and easy-to-use brick or paver, on the other hand, won't try to steal the show from the garden.
You can also use plants for edging to give a soft outline to your garden. This works well in less formal garden. Plant low-growing ground-covers to edge a bed of taller plants.
Planning and Planting
Begin with a clear vision of your finished landscape design. Analyze every section of your property for drainage, soil type and the amount of sunlight or shade it gets throughout your growing season. Decide how much lawn you want to leave. Figure out where you'll put herbs, vegetables and flowers. Plot it out on graph paper, then draw in the borders. Then, plant your vegetables, flowers, turf and other landscape elements first; borders come last. Outline the borders with stakes and twine 10 to 12 inches from the edge of your garden plot, then dig a shallow trench 3 to 6 inches deep, inside the line marked by the stakes. Then, set out your seeds or seedlings.
Best Plants for Edging
Try alyssum, bur, marguerite, rockcress, ground ivy, Alpine geraniums, dwarf wallflower, baby's breath, baby tears, brass buttons, toadflax, marigolds, cinquefoil, stonecrop, thyme, clover, mosses or violets. Choose plants that suit your climate and those with shapes and colors to complement your other plants.
Eliminate the need to mow between beds at all by letting ground-cover plants be the paths. Using perennials will tend to increase the luxuriance and tightness of your borders year by year, without much further work on your part.
While it shares many of the characteristics of good edging plants, do not be tempted to use mint in for garden edging. All mints are extremely invasive and will gallop all over your yard. Other useful plants that might be problematical in this way are comfrey and bee balm.