Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Edging borders: why do I love it so much?

Oh, I love edging flower borders.

I know, I know, everyone hates doing the edges: I don't, I love it, it makes such a difference and it really takes so little effort.

Firstly, I have to get up on my soapbox about creating what I call cliff edges on lawns: I'm not a big fan of metal lawn edgings, as they make horrible screeching noises when whoever is mowing goes too far: and I particularly dislike that green plastic corrugated edging stuff, so beloved of the 70s, as the modern flymo shatters it, and spits the bits all over the place.

No, I am quite happy with merely cutting the lawn edge with my long-handled edgers, and the reason I like the Cliff Edge - an abrupt vertical chop of at least 2" - is that couch grass, the enemy of the flower border, spreads itself sideways but very shallowly.

So if you make a good Cliff Edge, the shoots grow out into the air, and get chopped off every time you edge the lawn, instead of infiltrating the borders.

And the  improvement is quite astonishing -  here's a common or garden long thin border, nothing special, and looks, well, let's be honest, it looks a complete mess.

Ten minutes with the edgers:

This is the same border but looking back on it from the other direction, once it has a nice crisp edge to it.

There, it's now a pleasure to look at, and a pleasure to mow - because whoever is pushing the mower round can just run quickly along the edge, with no fear of toppling into the bed and leaving one of those unlovely, round, scalped patches.

Even better, now that we can see where the lawn stops and the bed begins, there are some opportunities for additional underplanting, and we all love planting!

And there is another advantage to clipping the lawn edges: it gives the gardener a chance to actually look at every item in the border, rather like that conveyor belt in the TV game show, where we all shouted "Cuddly Toy!" at the end. 

In this case, we are more likely to shout "Bindweed!" or "Time to tie the roses in!" but the principle is similar: the trick is to remember to go back and sort out all the various items that you spotted on the way!

Many people don't understand how clipping the lawn edge actually works: I've had Clients come out to speak to me, all worried, saying "Please don't clip the edges, we don't want the beds to get any bigger."

(*snorts through nose*)

So I explain, gently and tactfully, that long-handled edgers are SHEARS, they are not like half-moon edgers: you don't chop into the ground with them, you just clip off the free, loose edges of the grass. 

Just like cutting your fingernails. Your fingers don't get any shorter, and the nail grows back constantly.

And I explain that foot traffic such as people walking, and people mowing, tends to "squash" the lawn edges into the borders, so if anything, the beds get smaller over time. 

So what's the real reason, then, that I love to clip edges?

It's two-fold: it's a fairly mindless job, once you get the hang of it, so that gives me some mental play-time: I am usually thinking about the current "new" book which I am writing (check out a list of the ones I've already published here on my Author Page at Amazon - and if there's a group of plants which you struggle with, and there isn't already a book to cover it, let me know!), or I'm plotting a new training course, or thinking of the next jobs to tackle with my Trainee, or wondering about why plants do certain things... never a dull moment, inside my head!

And the other reason? It makes a huge difference to the appearance of the garden, for relatively little effort.

If you clip the edges every week, then for much of the season, the clippings are so small that you don't even have to go round and pick them up afterwards, and that's definitely a win.

Sometimes, if you don't have time to cut the grass but can run round with the edging shears, it gives an instant lift to the garden - rather like trimming your fringe, which makes people think you've had a full haircut.

On the other hand, if you cut the grass but don't clip the edges, it never looks that neat.... so there you go, several good reasons to clip the edges of your lawns!

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