I love edging because its one of the best bangs for your buck you can get in terms of ROI on labor/equipment. Meaning edging isn’t exactly easy to do (but few things in the garden are!), but for the amount of effort it does take to get this job done, the results are truly impactful. You can easily take your garden beds from nice to professional looking with a clean, crisp edge.
In terms of when to tackle this project, you can really do it at any point in the season, but I would recommend early to mid spring. It won’t be as hot/humid, there will be less bugs, and then you’ll be able to enjoy your edging work the longest. If it all all possible, I’d highly recommend tackling this project right after it rains – the ground will be a little softer and easier to work with (easier on your arms!).
Pro tip: if this is your first time edging, you may want to pick a spot that’s less visible (perhaps in your backyard) as you’ll definitely get better as you go along.
The goal of edging is make those really clean, crisp lines where the mulch (or whatever you use in your garden bed) meets the grass. To do this, all you need to do it make 2 cuts with the shovel – one straight one down, and then a second one at a 45 degree angle.
Step No. 1: Figure Out Your Line
First, you’ll want to figure out how you want the lines of your edge to look. My personal preference is to have those big, wide rounded edges, so that’s what I’m working on here. If you have a very modern house with straight lines, a straight, clean edge may be more fitting. If you’re having a hard time visualizing the line, this is where the garden hose (or anything else that’s long and can hold its shape on the ground) comes in handy. You’ll want to lay it out the ground to get a feel for how you want the edge to look. Trust me – it’s a lot easier to move the hose then re-dig the edge! If you don’t have a hose or the ground is already edged and you’re just cleaning it up, you can skip this step.
Step No. 2: First Cut, Straight Done
Next, you’ll want to take your flat shovel to trace the path you want your line to go. This is your 1st cut straight down. If you used the hose in step one, be careful not to break it with your shovel! If you have an edger and you’re tracing a complicated line, this is where that may come in handy, but the shovel is really the quickest and most effective way to do this. I like to rock it back and forth and just follow the line with my foot.
Step No. 3: Second Cut, 45°Angle
Now that the first line is done, you’re going to make that second cut at a 45 degree angle. I personally think this is the easier of the two cuts. Stand in the bed and make the cut from the bed to the grass going down.
Another pro tip – the first time I edged my garden, I did it backwards – I made my 45 degree cut from my lawn into my bed. So if it looks funny, make sure its not backwards! Also – you’re going to want to make sure you’re wearing pants and long sleeves. As you’re working on this part & standing in the garden bed – you probably have some prickly friends in here. They bite back!
Challenges You May Hit:
If you hit a root – if its small and not part of the root ball of the plant (the small area underneath the center of the plant), you can use your lopper to cut it out. Or it its a huge root, you’re afraid cutting it could cause damage, and/or you don’t have a lopper, its perfectly fine to leave it. Remember you’re going to have mulch here, so it will be covered, and you definitely don’t want to cause any damage to your plants or trees.
Step No. 4: Clean Up
Once that’s done, pick up the waste and any grass/weeds that may be in your newly defined garden bed edge. Make sure you don’t throw back into your beds what you just pulled out. You definitely don’t want those weeds or grass growing back in your beds. Get rid of that stuff!
Step No. 5: Clean Up Part 2
Finally, if you have a small hand shovel, this is where that can come in handy to help clean up any rough parts or really define your edge. The large flat shovel also works great here. I’d highly recommend you take a step back, view the bed from a few different angles and make sure you like the way it looks from further away.
Now you’re done and its time to mulch!
Time Commitment: This entire project took me roughly ~1.5 hours total. Roughly ~45 mins for the edging itself, and another ~45 mins to pull up all of the weeds that were now in my garden beds. Next year should be much easier!