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Mistakes to Avoid
When Edging a Flower Bed

By Shirley Buller

Shirley volunteers as a Kansas State University Master Gardener, and is a graduate of the Kansas School of Floral Design.

I've gardened for fifty years, planting thousands of bedding plants, daylilies and veggies in neat, orderly beds only to find out later the edging materials were seriously flawed. In the early years, budgets were tight so it was important to take the cheapest route possible.

I faithfully edged around beds and borders with a sharp spade or half-moon trenching tool. Removing the sod and soil I tucked in several inches of mulch and called it good. The neat, bare edge satisfied my penchant for law and order. But as time went on, time turned into a precious commodity and my account ran low at times. Jobs and children altered gardening goals and the maintenance required to keep creeping grasses and weedy intruders from invading my well maintained edge was difficult to get done.

That is when I saw a humongous pile of railroad ties for sale...cheap! And so after several afternoons and evenings hauling and installing the heavy, square eight foot long "logs" I had a neat and stable edge to define my prized flowers and veggies. It took several years for the damage to get serious, but over time I started to lose perennials to what I thought was root rot. Plants that went to bed healthy and robust in the fall, failed to green up the next spring. They could be easily pulled from the soil, as if the roots had just disappeared.

Little trails began to show up in the lawn. I was invaded by a large community of voles, a little gray mouse-like animal with a very short tail. Hundreds of them had taken up residence under those railroad ties and set up housekeeping. There was no danger of wintertime famine, they ate well on my echinacea roots and had daisies for desert. It was a horticultural disaster. After several years and a dwindling perennial bed, the railroad ties were removed.

Through the years I had amassed a huge pile of rocks, for some project yet to be determined. I could put this collection to good use, lining them up where the railroad ties once kept strict boundaries among the posies. Since they are random sizes and shapes, the fit was not perfect, but the look lends itself to a casual cottage garden. Soil filled in the spaces between the rocks and small pockets in the rocks collected soil and weed seeds. It is a monumental job to keep the rocky edging weeded, most of the time spent inching along on hands and knees digging out the offenders with a paring knife.

Depending on the amount of time you have and money you don't have, rocks may be your delight. But my gardening minutes are measured carefully. That is why the metal edging has been the perfect answer to my edging problems. My favorite is the steel edging that comes in eight or sixteen foot lengths. Easy to install, you can pound it into the soil so it barely shows or leave most of it exposed to give a definite edge to the beds. Flat stakes come with the metal strips to secure the edging firmly to the ground. Our steel edging has been in place for over fifteen years. Although this edging is the most expensive of several edging options, the installation ease and durability makes it the best choice for the discriminating gardener.

Learn more tips to becoming a successful gardener at Do It YourSelf Gardening.

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