How to Install Lawn Edging Pavers to Make a Mowing Strip

  • 01 of 10

    How to Install Lawn Edging Pavers With a Mowing Strip

    Pavers being used as a mower strip or lawn edging.
    At the very least, consider edging the area between lawn and garden with a mowing strip. David Beaulieu

    Before discussing how to install lawn edging pavers, let's address the basic question, What is "edging?" On an aesthetic level, it could be said to "define a border" within your yard, namely, between a lawn and a mulched garden bed. The simplest type of edge is a shallow trench cut along a lawn's border. But trenches must be re-cut periodically, and most homeowners prefer a type that doesn't require so much maintenance.

    Enter the various garden or lawn edging products...MORE that are sold commercially. Be they metal or plastic, wood or brick, the idea behind most of them is the same: Installed in the ground between lawn and garden, they'll give you the look of a clean edge.

    Should you still consider installing lawn edging even if you don't care about having a clean edge? Yes, because to appreciate the full scope of lawn edging's potential contribution to the landscape, we must go beyond aesthetics to a more practical level. Yes, most people prefer the finished look that a clean edge lends to a landscape design, but, as is generally the case in aesthetics, that's just an opinion.

    Opinions aside, however, there are practical reasons for separating a lawn from a planting bed with edging:

    1. Many grasses spread via stolons. Without lawn edging, you'll be constantly pulling grass out of your planting beds.
    2. If you don't contain the mulch in your planting bed, it will spill over into your lawn (and you'll end up distributing it even further afield when you mow).
    3. One form of lawn edging is a "mowing strip" (or "mower strip"; see photo above). When mowing, you run the wheels on one side of your mower right on top of the mowing strip. This allows you to mow borders up-close, so as to avoid having to use string trimmers.

    First we will take a look at the materials and tools needed to install garden or lawn edging, as well as explaining what the "mowing strip" concept is all about.

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  • 02 of 10

    Mowing Strips Made With Precast Concrete Pavers

    This is a precast concrete paver product called, "Edgestone™ Lawn Edging". David Beaulieu

    There's no "rule" that says you must install lawn edging between a lawn and a garden, nor are mowing strips obligatory (see below). Some people dispense with edging altogether, partly because they hate tripping over it. You have to reach your own conclusions on the necessity of this feature for your own yard.

    Your decisions aren't over with when you decide in favor of lawn edging; you'll have to sift through a number of options prior to installation. Edging is not...MORE one-size-fits-all. To determine the type right for you, you'll have to take stock of your landscaping goals.

    For instance, some homeowners choose to incorporate mowing strips into their edging. Mowing strips potentially reduce maintenance and are often used in conjunction with brick borders (i.e., bricks stood up on end, "shoulder to shoulder," to form a classy lawn edging). Others, for whom cost is a priority, forgo mowing strips and simply install a vertical barrier between lawn and garden, often of plastic.

    Such a barrier will keep mulch from deserting your garden while preventing grass stolons from invading it. The following tools and materials list assumes you want both a mowing strip and plastic lawn edging:

    Lawn Edging Tools & Materials

    • Plastic lawn edging (substitute with another material, as desired)
    • Precast concrete pavers
    • Mulch
    • Landscape fabric (optional)
    • Sand
    • Level
    • Tape measure
    • Spade or edger
    • Spray paint
    • Hose
    • Shovel
    • Trowel and mallet

    Precast concrete pavers are an excellent choice for a mowing strip: As an example for this project, a product called, "Edgestone™," which boasts an interlocking end connection system, was used. Although people often speak of "brick" pavers used for mowing strips, note that regular bricks would break down too quickly to be used in this manner. "Bricks" intended for paving are made of tougher stuff.

    For plastic lawn edging, a product called, "QuickEdge™" was employed in this tutorial.

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  • 03 of 10

    How to Edge a Lawn: Define Borders for the Planting Beds

    Laying out a garden hose to define borders for lawn edging.
    Lay out a garden hose to define borders. David Beaulieu

    Is a portion of your yard due for a makeover? Perhaps there is too much lawn to take care of, and you want to convert some of the space to planting beds, while leaving some grass behind in an adjacent area. Great. The only problem is, the planting-bed area and the grass area are going to be somewhat at odds with each other. You don't want:

    1. Mulch spilling out of the planting bed and onto the lawn.
    2. Grass from the lawn invading the planting beds.

    Enter the concept of "edging," as a...MORE solution to such problems. As was said on Page 1, when you edge a lawn, you're defining borders. So let's start defining! Here's where we determine the shape the planting beds will eventually assume.

    First Step to Edge a Lawn: Define Borders

    If you want curved planting beds, a simple way to define borders is to lay out a flexible garden hose, following the lines your mind's eye envisions (see photo above). Just keep maneuvering the garden hose until it defines the borders of the planting beds in a way that you can live with. Step back and take a good long look -- from different angles -- before defining the borders for keeps.

    When you're satisfied, mark the course of the garden hose with spray paint or chalk, to leave behind a line that you can work with.

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  • 04 of 10

    Mowing Strips With Interlocking Concrete Pavers

    Mowing strip pavers laid out on a lawn.
    Mowing strip pavers laid out, so that their exact position can be marked. David Beaulieu

    Laying out the garden hose (Page 3) gives us the rough line that our mowing strip of interlocking concrete pavers will follow. A shallow trench will be dug for the interlocking concrete pavers, following this line. But first we must determine the dimensions of the trench more exactly.

    To this end, simply lay down the interlocking concrete pavers temporarily, centering them over your spray-painted line. A nice feature of the type of interlocking concrete pavers pictured here is that they could...MORE easily be joined so as to form a curve if you wanted a rounded planting bed (we just happen to be using a straight edge in this project).

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  • 05 of 10

    Begin Excavating Mower Strip With Garden Spade, Lawn Edger

    Lawn edger being used to mark a border in an edging project.
    A spade, lawn edger or knife can be used to mark where the trench must be dug. Here a lawn edger is used. David Beaulieu

    Dial the Call Before You Dig number prior to excavation, for safety's sake.

    The first step in excavating for the mower strip is to plunge a spade, lawn edger or knife down into the ground, right along the sides of the concrete pavers. A garden spade probably works best for this. But lacking a garden spade, any sharp blade with a straight edge will do. Just go down a few inches (you don't have to establish a precise depth yet).

    Now that the exact course for your mower strip is marked and...MORE the excavation has begun, you can set the concrete pavers aside again.

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  • 06 of 10

    Trench Depth for the Concrete Paving

    Mallet and trowel being used to remove dirt to make a trench for edging.
    Scoop out the trench using a mallet and a garden trowel. David Beaulieu

    It's time now to determine the trench depth for the concrete paving mower strip. Take into account that the Edgestone™ instructions call for 1 or 2 inches of sand to be laid in the trench, as a base; we'll go with the larger figure (about 2 inches of sand).

    To begin planning the trench, take into account the fact that the depth of the concrete paving product itself is 2 1/2 inches. Furthermore, since we're using the concrete paving as a mower strip, we'll want the blocks to stick...MORE up about 1/2 inch out of the ground (they will eventually, settle, anyway, and become about even with the ground).

    Consequently, we'll want to excavate 4 inches, lay down about 2 inches of sand (packed down), then lay the concrete paving on top of the sand base.

    Having figured out the trench depth needed for the concrete paving, go ahead and excavate those 4 inches. The easiest way to do this is with a wide garden trowel and a rubber mallet, as shown in the photo above (this project was conducted in a sandy soil; for heavier soils, a mattock might work better). You can use them like a hammer and chisel to scoop out the trench, as the width of the garden trowel will be close to that of the trench itself.

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  • 07 of 10

    Lay Down the Mower Strip on a Firm Sand Base

    Using a carpenter's level to check that edging pavers are level.
    Now install the pavers in the trench, checking to make sure they're level. David Beaulieu

    With the excavating done, line the trench with the 2-inch sand base. Tamp down the sand base, to make it firm.

    Now begin laying the mower strip, inserting the interlocking concrete pavers into the trench. As you proceed, check with a carpenter's level (see photo) to make sure the course of the mowing strip remains level (assuming you're working on level ground to begin with, of course). To make adjustments in height, tap down on the interlocking concrete pavers with your rubber mallet or...MORE add sand, as needed.

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  • 08 of 10

    Opening Up the Garden Beds

    Removing sod from a future planting bed using a shovel.
    Now remove the sod from your future planting bed. David Beaulieu

    The next steps involve working on the other side of your "defined border": the garden-bed side.

    You can proceed at this point to remove the sod and loosen the soil with a shovel (see picture above). Alternatively, you could put off the extra work and just start killing the grass, for now, by smothering it with newspaper, as follows:

    1. Lay down the newspaper, several sheets thick (overlap).
    2. Spray the newspaper with water, to wet it.
    3. Spread a few inches of bark mulch on top of the newspaper, to...MORE hold it down.

    Read this FAQ if you're wondering whether newspaper mulch is safe. In addition to the newspaper method, several others are discussed in this article on how to get rid of grass, presenting the pros and cons of each along the way.

    Of course, it will take a while to kill the grass, using this method. Do you wish to install shrubs in the garden beds immediately? Then it is better to undertake the extra work of opening up the garden beds with a shovel.

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  • 09 of 10

    Installing Plastic Garden Edging

    Pounding in plastic garden edging.
    Pound in plastic garden edging to contain the mulch. David Beaulieu

    Plastic garden edging, while not attractive, can be relatively inexpensive and was designed to be installed with ease. Beginning at one end of your planting bed, pound a segment of it into the ground, using a rubber mallet. How high you leave the plastic edging is up to you. Ask yourself:

    • "How high does the plastic garden edging have to be to contain the mulch that will fill my planting bed?"
    • "Am I perhaps willing to sacrifice a bit of that height, so as not to be constantly...MORE tripping over the plastic garden edging?"

    The segments of plastic garden edging have grooves, so that they interlock with each other. In comparing the product used in this sample project, QuickEdge™, with another, Emerald Edge™, note that the latter costs more. The reason? Well, for one thing, the segments of QuickEdge™ are shorter, meaning it does not install quite as quickly: You save money, but you lose a bit of time.

    One thing to like about the QuickEdge™, though, is the color: Being black, it blends in pretty well if you use a black mulch behind it. The Emerald Edge™, being green, would be harder to hide.

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  • 10 of 10

    How to Hide Plastic Garden Edging

    Black mulch with black plastic garden edging.
    If you use a black mulch with black plastic garden edging, the edging isn't very noticeable. David Beaulieu

    Don't like the look of plastic garden edging? Fortunately, there's more than one way to hide it. One way is with groundcovers: i.e., grow a groundcover in your planting bed, and let it trail right over the plastic edging, thereby hiding it. But you can also hide it by selecting the right color for mulch.

    The latter option was chosen in the project illustrated in the present tutorial, and you can see the results in the photo above. Note that this is a close-up photo; from a distance, you...MORE can barely see the plastic garden edging, thanks to the black mulch behind it. In fact, that's precisely why a close-up photo had to be used here: one can't make out the plastic garden edging at all from a distance.

    If you'd still rather not use any plastic garden edging, there is an alternative. Go back to the photo on Page 1, showing the same project with just a mowing strip. Simply lay down some landscape fabric on the planting-bed side of the mowing strip, before adding mulch. But on the part of the planting bed adjacent to the concrete pavers, limit yourself to just a thin layer of mulch, since you don't have much of a barrier with which to contain it. Don't worry: the landscape fabric will suppress the weeds.