Garden Bed Borders, Edging Ideas for Vegetable and Flower Gardens

There is an old expression: ’The Edge maketh the Garden’. This is true both for enhancing the appearance of the garden, and making the garden easier to manage and organise.

Garden edges and borders act as boundaries between the garden and paths, lawns and various landscaping features such as sculpture, fountains, ponds and adjacent garden beds.

The edging for a garden is often an afterthought. The borders are retro-fitted after the garden has been established. It is far better to include the edging in the garden design and install it when the garden is established.

However, it is relatively easy to add an edge or change the border of an existing garden. You should spend some time deciding what edge or border suits your garden style and your budget.

This article examines the pros and cons for the many types of garden edges and borders that are available focusing on the organic ones you can do yourself, with minimal equipment.

There are huge range of options for garden edges and borders
There are huge range of options for garden edges and borders | Source

Horizontal Brick Landscape Edging

Bricks are a popular choice for landscaping gardens and providing edge. They can be cemented in place or simply dug into the soil.

Usually the bricks are lain flat so that a mower can run along them when cutting the grass.

Otherwise the bricks are cemented in place so they form a raised line one brick high along the garden edge. Position the bricks together firmly to eliminate any spaces between them. This will stop dirt slip through the gaps which can be unsightly.

To prevent unevenness in settling and movement, set the bricks in a bed of sand.

Pros

  • attractive classic look, especially when bricks are used elsewhere in the yard
  • widely available
  • inexpensive

Cons

  • Bricks can get discolored by dirt, moss and algae
  • Can become uneven if no foundation of sand or gravel is provided
  • Bricks can be dislodge if stood on and they are not cemented together
  • Weeds and grass can grow between and over the bricks

Diagonal Brick Edging

Bricks can be lain on the diagonal for an attractive border. Dig a trench and add several inches of coarse sand for drainage.

Position the bricks at an angle of about 45 degrees in the trench, half exposed. Place the bricks so that they lean tightly one against the other. Then fill in the trench with soil and pack down firmly. Make sure all the bricks in adjoin beds lean the same way.

Pros

  • Looks very attractive especially with older brick full of color and character
  • Easy to lay if no concreting is involved
  • Assists with drainage during heavy rainfall events
  • The unevenness is part of the charm

Cons

  • Bricks can be displaced if stood on
  • Hard to control weeds
  • Does not provide a border of consistent height for mowing
  • Can damage skin if fallen against

Cast Concrete Edging

Concrete edging eases mowing, and the curved shape can be used to create lovely winding paths through the garden. The edge can have a raised portion for containing a garden and a flat border for running a mower along. These borders can be done yourself (if experienced and very hardy) or professionally. The edges have a harsh look but are very practical

Pros

  • Very strong
  • Not affected by weeds or mold
  • Provides an edge for mowing

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires expert knowledge and experience
  • Formal appearance, unsuitable for some gardens

Flagstone and Cobblestone Edging

Using decorative flagstones or cobblestones for edging your garden beds creates a classic look that suits cottage gardens and country properties. Some of the flagstones are very attractive. Flagstones are available in a number of thicknesses, shapes, patterns and colors. You can choose them to match the stonework in you yard, your house design or the style and landscaping of your garden.You can install them on sand or embed them in concrete. They can also be position to below the level of the grass to help with the mowing or raised above the grass so the mower wheel can pass along the edge.

Pros

  • Very attractive
  • Easy to install
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • May become uneven after settling
  • Weeds and grass can grow in the uneven gaps between the flagstones
  • May get dirty or stained by mold or algae.

Using Retainer Wall Blocks for Edging

Cement blocks designed for container walls that have a lip protruding down at the rear so they lock together make excellent edges for raised garden beds. The wall need to be at least two blocks high. This produces a stepped look which can be very attractive and is easy to do. Once built, the border wall is very stable as all the block lock together.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Stable as the block lock together
  • Creates an attractive stepped border

Cons

  • Has to be at least two blocks high
  • Create a wide border than may not suit small gardens

Rock Edging

Rocks make delightful uneven borders that suit many gardens. The disadvantage is that soil can spill through the gaps and water may drain through the gaps causing erosion. This can be overcome by carefully matching the rocks so that they fit tightly together or using cement.

Pros

  • Very attractive for some gardens
  • Inexpensive
  • Lovely natural pattern and surface coverings
  • Easy to do

Cons

  • Soil leakage between the gaps
  • Stones may be dislodged if they are steeped on
  • Hard to control weeds and grass

Edging with Plants

A low line of tough plants can make a fantastic natural edge or border. Some plants are ideally suited to this as they provide dense cover that stops weeds. These borders have a soft and natural look.

Pros

  • Creates a soft and very attractive natural edge
  • Easy to maintain once the border has been fully established

Cons

  • Hard to control weeds and grass
  • Difficult to mow along the edge

Logs and Sleepers

Logs and sleepers may excellent edges and borders for raised vegetable gardens, cottage gardens, rock gardens and many informal garden designs.

Pros

  • Creates a very attractive natural edge that is soft and blends in with a rustic garden design
  • Easy to maintain and the larger thicker logs will be stable

Cons

  • Wood gradually breaks down and rots away in time
  • Hard to control weeds and grass
  • May be slippery when wet
  • May impede drainage from the garden bed

Half Round Log Roll Edging (treated pine or hardwood)

There is a huge variety of these that comes in convenient rolls up to 2 yards (1.8m) long.

Pros

  • Very easy to install
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • The chemicals used to treat the timber are generally toxic
  • The timber breaks down quickly, especially in not treated
  • Unstable and likely to com apart
  • Irregular shape makes it had to control weed and grass
  • Has an unnatural and artificial look that does not suit some gardens

Metal and Plastic edges

There are a number of metal edging options which are beyond the scope of this article which focuses on organic materials.

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 1 comment

KerryAnita profile image

KerryAnita 4 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

Great Ideas!

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