Annual edging of gardens, landscape beds and mulch circles around trees is an essential part of spring grooming in your landscape. Bed edging is the restoration of a clean, sharp line between your landscape beds and the surrounding lawn, removing lawn grass that has crept into your landscaping during the past year.
Bed edging is a three-step process. First, it’s helpful to mark the bed edges. Next, use a sharp, clean spade to cut straight down along the bed edge, three or four inches deep. Next, remove the strip of sod inside your cut, along with any grass or weeds that have gotten established inside the bed line. You should now have a “gutter” three inches deep all around you landscape beds. Third, spread new mulch three inches thick all along the edges, feathering it out toward the center of the bed under established plants.
Lawn grasses (and the weeds in your lawn) are eager to invade your landscape beds. One reason is that there’s less competition there, and chances are the soil conditions are better. Meanwhile the shrubs, perennials and trees in your landscaping are actively expanding. Without bed edging, you’ll wind up with lawn underneath your foundation shrubs and invading your perennial border. If you allow this invasion, you’ll have a very difficult time controlling it once the grass, weeds and desirable plants are all mixed together.
Mulch circles around trees make mowing easier and eliminate competition from lawn grass in the tree root zone. This simple practice will double the speed of growth of young trees, because grasses steal food and water from trees. As the tree canopy expands, the root zone expands underneath it and so the mulch circle should be expanded each year as well. Foundation shrubs have a way of expanding beyond the original bed edges, so enlarging the mulched area may be necessary as well.
We like to say that “the best weed control is complete darkness.” That’s why we use three inches of mulch right up to the edge of beds. Bed edges typically get the most sun and so are the most weed-friendly part of your landscaping. Making the “gutter” along the edges allows the proper mulch thickness, and allows you to mow close to the beds without disturbing the mulch.
You should make a similar gutter where beds are bordered by pavement, or you’ll have weeds along your walks, patios and driveway. Before spreading mulch, remember to scatter fertilizer around your plants. Wood mulches actually steal nitrogen from the soil in order to decompose, which can starve plants. Plants need a steady supply of food, and without it, they will eventually exhaust the soil.
We see many cases where people use Roundup along bed edges and pavement to control weeds. This destroys the lawn grasses along with the weeds, resulting in a sloppy appearance with dead vegetation and bare soil, inviting yet more weeds. We take pride in our clean, sharp bed edges and the shapely curves around our landscape beds. The lawn around colorful landscape beds has the same function as the mat around a professionally framed painting. Blurring the line with Roundup destroys the look we’ve worked so hard to create. Instead, try encouraging healthy lawn grasses. Well-established lawn out-competes weeds, which prefer bare sunny places.
You can give your landscaping a professional look by bed edging this spring before you mulch. It takes patience and hard work, but you’ll be proud of it when you’re finished.
Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers.” He can be reached at 937-587-7021 or firstname.lastname@example.org.