How to Edge a Lawn

Edging dug between grass and flower bed.

PaulMaguire/Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $30

Grass represents different things to different people. For those more interested in gardening, it can be a ground cover where gardening isn't feasible. In households where the lawn is used for play, it furnishes an indispensable clean, open surface. For the highly practical, it's simply a place to walk from point A to point B.

But for lawn aficionados, a lawn is a masterpiece, and edging it is the final step in setting it apart from your run-of-the-mill lawn. Providing your lawn with a sharp edge gives it definition that makes it pop. Problem is, the grass won't cooperate with you: It rebels against being defined. If you desire a clean edge to your lawn where it abuts a flower bed, your grass will fight you every step of the way by putting out rhizomes that invade the bed.

This rebellious behavior won't deter you if you want to have the nicest lawn on the block: You'll put in the necessary work. Here's how to do it, including what tools you'll need.

What Is Edge vs. Edging for Lawns?

For clarity, let's draw a distinction: The noun, "edging" refers to low-lying hardscape used to separate the lawn from another part of the landscape. Meanwhile, to "edge" (verb) a lawn refers to the act of digging a V-shaped trench for separation; the resultant separator can also be referred to as an "edge" (noun).

Do You Have to Edge Your Lawn?

No. Whether or not you edge it has no impact on lawn health; from the perspective of lawn care, it's purely an aesthetic practice. Most homeowners don't edge their lawns; where the lawn abuts a driveway, flower bed, etc., they're content to trim grass that the lawnmower can't reach using a string trimmer.

To edge a lawn requires a lot of work (although, for lovers of well-manicured grass, the task is worth the work), even though the process, itself is easy. It isn't a job you can do once and then forget about: Once you've established an edge, you must maintain it. Homeowners who prefer low-maintenance will seek alternatives. A compromise is to lay hardscape edging: It provides definition but must be done only once.

While creating an edge doesn't improve lawn health, it does have practical benefits. Not only does it keep rhizomes from invading mulched beds, but it also works the other way: It keeps the mulch from spilling out onto your lawn.

When to Edge Your Lawn

To establish an edge between a lawn and flower bed, late spring is a great time for the job (although the operation can be performed any time the ground isn't frozen) because the ground will have dried out by then, making the soil easier to work with, and many people like to get their beds mulched before summer, when weeds grow most vigorously. Once you get your trench dug, you can apply mulch to the bed and achieve a clean look. If you reverse the process, you'll inevitably spill some soil onto your mulch.

Rhizomes will bridge the trench and invade your bed at some point during the summer. At this point, you'll have to remove the rhizomes and "touch up" your edge. Because doing so is messy, it's hard to avoid getting some soil on your mulch, but try not to.

Before Getting Started

Check on any utility lines, etc. that may exist where you'll be digging. Put on standard garden wear: heavy work boots, garden gloves, etc.

For equipment, first choose between power and manual tools. While there are power tools called "edgers" that some may prefer to use for big jobs, in this project, we'll be using a manual tool. For manual tools, choose between a spade and a half-moon edger. We picked the latter because it's specifically designed for the task: A flange called a "depth guard" runs perpendicular to the unit's cutting blade and facilitates creating a uniform trench. Sharpen the blade before using it.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Half-moon edger

Materials

  • 1 string
  • 2 stakes

Instructions

In this project, we'll establish a straight edge between an existing lawn area and flower bed. The edge will run the entire length of the bed. The result will be a V-shaped trench.

  1. Mark the Edge

    It's easier to create a straight edge if you mark it first to have a guide to go by. At one end of the bed, drive a stake into the ground. Do the same at the opposite end. Tie a string to first one stake, then the other. The string should run level at about 1 inch from the ground.

  2. Begin Using Edger

    With edger in hand, stand on what will be the lawn side of the trench (you'll be facing the bed). Starting at either of the two stakes, plunge the edger straight down into the turf, lining the blade up with the string. The depth guard should be facing toward you. Wiggle the edger forward and backward, left and right. Keeping it straight and bringing it back up, remove it from the ground. You aren't extracting any sod yet, you're simply forming one side of the V.

  3. Complete Side 1 of Trench

    Repeat the process until you arrive at the other stake.

  4. Make Side 2 of Trench

    Move over to the other (bed) side of the trench so that you're facing the lawn. Starting at either end, plunge the edger down at a 45-degree angle, such that you meet the bottom of the cut you made on side 1. Side 2 won't be as precise as side 1, but that's all right because it will be hidden with mulch afterward. Repeat the process until you arrive at the other end. In this step, you can be removing the sod as you go. Set it aside; if it's in good condition, use it to repair damaged lawn areas.

  5. Apply Fresh Mulch

    If your entire bed needs to be re-mulched, this is the time to do it. Otherwise, just apply fresh mulch to the area of the bed that abuts the trench. Don't fill the trench with mulch, but let mulch cover the bed side of the trench, thereby hiding any imperfections and suppressing weeds.