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How to Create Natural Edging

This one chore has a huge impact in the garden: creating edges to your borders that are nice  to look at – either straight lines or gently curving ones, depending on your taste – and a barrier to turfgrass and border plants encroaching on each other’s space.   And we all know how that encroachment looks by mid-summer, right?

Stone edging looks great but…

So creating and maintaining clean edges is a big topic among gardeners, one I’m asked about frequently.  Usually the asker is trying to avoid the expense of bricks or stone, like the lovely ones you see above, not to mention the extra work required after mowing.  Yes, this pretty edge IS high-maintenance, requiring the gardener to use clippers of some type to trim the grass along it because mowers can’t get close enough to those stones.

Some people have had success with plastic or metal edging that’s pounded into the soil, allowing the mower to trim right over it, and I say whatever works.  But if you don’t like that look or don’t want to have to buy it, there’s another, totally natural way to edge, the way I recommend and used in my own garden when I had a lawn.

Those Victorians got it Right

Behold the “Victorian trench,” and I’ll never know why it’s called that because we don’t usually associate the word “Victorian” with anything naturalistic.   It does what edging needs to do — holds back the lawn from the garden and the garden from the lawn — without being an eyesore in the garden.

How to Do It

It’s easy. Just take a flat-edged shovel and dig straight down 3 inches along the outer edge of the lawn. Then dig a second slice that’s at a 45-degree in the direction of the border or bed. So you’ll end up with a trench that’s straight downward on the lawn side and angled up to the border. Remove the extra soil. Then mulch the border, allowing some mulch to cover the slope of your new edge, and voila — you’ve got an edge that looks spiffy but natural.

How to Maintain It

Okay, here’s the downside. It needs to be spruced up at least once a year. That means removing any grass on the border side, border plants on the grass side, and re-digging the edge as needed. But hey, even hard plastic edges allow for the occasional movement of plants in the wrong direction, and they’re known to pop up and need maintenance to keep them in place.

Also, think of all the maintenance saved by not having to hand-trim grass along the edge, since the mower wheels can be directed into the edge or along the top of the border to ensure mowing of the whole lawn.

Another pretty example of natural edging.

Posted by Susan Harris.


Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Love the natural edging, but labor is not free! I’m too old to do this kind of work myself without injury any more (esp. on the large scale demanded by my garden) so it costs annually to get it renewed. If you can do it yourself, it is free, if you count your own labor as free exercise. That said, once a year will do the trick and it looks really good.

  2. Good point, Yvonne, and I hear ya. At my age I’m all about reducing grunt work or contracting it out.

  3. This doesn’t appear to be that labor intensive. If you have a garden and you mow your lawn, you can do this.

  4. Its not that labor intensive, Im older too but I do a little a time.
    Say 10 feet a day. Within a month Ive got it done.

  5. Maybe they call it Victorian because it’s shaped like a fancy cursive “V.” That’s what the diagram looks like, especially if you flip it to the mirror image.

  6. My “age” is not the only reason I have a hard time edging my yard and sidewalks. Holding the dard electric cord and edger and being steady is just hopeless. My neighborhood has lawns which look someone took a razor blade and edging looks gorgeous – straight down and sharp. My “wire cutter” jumps all over and it looks like I had the hick-ups. What can you recommend to get this straight line for edging?

    1. In order to get a perfectly shaped straight line is to use a sturdy stiff straight shovel, not anything electric. Takes time, especially if never properly edged, but easy to maintain once completed. I tend to touch up as i wander about the garden, bed at a time.

  7. I am looking for hydrangeas that can stand the sun. I am told lime light. Is this correct? If so do you have any in stock? Please help.

  8. Hi Patricia,

    Several Hydrangeas can tolerate (or prefer) direct sun in summer. The best are the Panicle Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata), of which ‘Limelight’ is one of the most recognizeable. We have some in stock now, but our selection was much better when they were blooming in summer. All are either greenish-white or white aging to pink, and do not change color with soil acidity the way Bigleaf Hydrangeas can.
    Oakleaf Hydrangeas can take full sun as well, though they would prefer a break in the hottest part of the day with some dappled shade. Smooth Hydrangea, of which ‘Annabelle’ is the most famous member, can also take full sun but probably look their best in dappled midday shade, as they are found in woodlands in the wild.

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