Last Modified: May 25, 2024

How to Make Edging For a Garden

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO INSTALLING EDGING

Garden edging timber

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist

Overview

Creating a beautiful and well-defined garden filled with vibrant plants and flowers is a rewarding project for any DIY gardener or homeowner. Creating a garden border is an aspect of landscaping that can be anything from the addition of cost-effective edging, put in place more for the practical benefits of, say, edging grass to keep it in check, through to an integral part of a themed design. Either way, whether carefully arranged bricks or the installation of lawn edging strips, it is a key component of outdoor design. Edging borders serve practical purposes, defining areas and different sections of your garden, while adding a symmetry and decorative frame at the same time.

Whether you're looking to highlight your flower beds of annuals or perennial shrubs, create a tidy border around your lawn with mulch or gravel or install practical edging for gravel paths, this guide will provide you with all the information needed to install a garden edging border. The following sections about how to edge a garden or lawn are clickable so you may easily jump to any section you need.

Due to the variations in edging materials and installation, each section has a TLDR of the main points covered. This means you don't have to wade through any unnecessary information and can easily scan to find the section you need at any time throughout the process.

Oh, and don't forget to explore our 'Pebble Picker' tool, located in the menu. This allows you to effortlessly select and compare various decorative aggregates, based on their colour and type.

Gnome setting up edging.

Key Takeaways

  • Planning: Understanding your garden's layout and choosing the right materials are crucial first steps.
  • Materials: Find out the types and quantities of materials you will require to edge your garden.
  • Tools: Having the correct tools and materials on hand simplifies the installation process.
  • Installation: Our step-by-step guide on how to edge a garden.
  • Maintenance: Minimal maintenance keeps your garden edging looking great and lasting longer.
Brick and concrete edging around a polar ice driveway

Design and Planning

  1. 1
    Consider the look you want
  2. 2
    Decide on the border's start and end points
  3. 3
    Mark an outline
  1. 4
    Measure up and calculate the length of edgings required
  2. 5
    Plan out additional plantings
  3. 6
    Move on to choosing your edgings

The first step in a successful garden edging project is planning. Decide on the location and shape, considering whether it is appropriate for your garden and can accommodate your chosen plants. Make a skeleton plan on some grid paper if you are adding plants, trees or special features. Measure the length using a garden hose for curved edges and a string line for straight edges, and don't forget to consider the depth and height you want for your edging, as this will affect the appearance and functionality of your border.

If you're aiming to plant in your border, aim for an autumn or spring installation date. Winter is okay if the soil is not frozen, but avoid planting containerised plants in summer for best results. Once you have your area planned out, it's time to choose your edging materials.

Tools and equipment for planning and measuring a garden

Choosing Border Edging Materials

Hard edges made of wood, stone, brick or concrete can keep your garden looking neat while preventing plants from overlapping. They also reduce the need for maintenance, like trimming and weeding, whilst helping to retain soil on slopes. In this section we look at the different types of edging materials generally available in the UK market. We touch on them briefly here, but cover them in more detail in our primer on edging.

  1. 1
    Choosing your edging materials
  1. 2
    Choose aggregates (optional)

Steel Garden Edge Strips

There are two options: flat steel or galvanised corrugated edging. Flat steel edging comes in 6mm x 127mm and 19mm x 100mm strips of varying lengths. A galvanised steel garden edge strip may be corrugated, which will require back-filling with sand, sub-base or mortar. Brick or a durable wood edging lasts longer and generally looks better than corrugated sheet metal.

Brick or Pavers

Brick is a popular choice for construction that ages beautifully. The original clay used determines the colour of bricks, which are available in a wide range of shades and can be cut into various shapes and sizes. When used as an edging material, brick is considered superior to other options due to its natural appearance and ease of installation and repair. Even if a couple of bricks are broken and need replacing, the overall pattern remains undisturbed. Recycled bricks can also be a very cost-effective option for edging a lawn and border.

Brick pavers seperating red and silver granite chippings

Stone

Stone edging elegantly defines garden paths and beds, providing a natural and highly durable barrier that complements the surrounding landscape. It can be laid in a variety of patterns with a versatility that allows for both formal and informal designs.

Wood Products

Timber or wooden edging introduces a warm, natural look to garden beds and edging lawn areas, with options in treated or natural finishes. Bamboo edging can also serve as a sustainable way to instill a tropical or Zen ambience. There are also composite edgings, which merge wood and plastic and provide greater durability, resistance to rot, and protection against insect damage.

Landscaping timber must have a ground-contact rating and be pressure-treated to resist decay. Although the subject of some controversy, convention says the use of pressure-treated timber causes no harm to the soil.

However, I would not choose to plant anything edible anywhere near this type of timber, just to be on the safe side!

Ben Parrot// Landscaper

Concrete

Concrete edging is a durable and flexible option for creating both straight and curved borders. There are two methods for installing concrete edging: using pre-cast forms that come in different finishes, or free-poured concrete that requires the construction of formwork. If the plain look of concrete edging doesn't appeal, you can enhance it by adding decorative pavers.

Synthetic Materials

Flexible and affordable, plastic edging is great for creating smooth curves and comes in a variety of styles. Garden rubber edging is similar, but made from recycled tyres. This eco-friendly option is soft and flexible, making it ideal for family gardens and playground areas. Using rubber or plastic edging for garden borders also has some downsides, as they lack durability and are prone to deterioration aesthetically.

Garden rubber edging with brick pattern

Gravel Edging

Gravel is utilised in garden borders and edging in several innovative ways. It serves as a physical barrier to prevent the encroachment of grass and weeds into flower beds, facilitating clearer distinction between different sections of a garden. Aesthetically, gravel can be used to introduce texture and colour contrasts, enhancing the appearance of your edging and garden design. There are many issues to consider, which we cover in edging for gravel.

The Colours of Decorative Aggregates

If you intend to lay gravel around your borders or edgings, the range of decorative aggregates available in the UK is quite vast. Now, thanks to Outdoor Aggregates, it has just increased enormously. Our decorative aggregate encyclopaedia provides users access to a list with just about every type and size of stone chippings and aggregates available within the UK. Every listing provides comprehensive information and includes links to DIY guides and step-by-step projects.

Outdoor Aggregates offers a convenient and comprehensive selection of different types of aggregates available in your local area. This makes it easy for you to compare prices and stock availability and choose the best option for your needs. In case you haven't clicked on the colour picker in the sidebar yet, it's a useful tool that allows you to quickly find available options based on colour and size. It's also completely free, so don't hesitate to give it a try! (feature coming very soon!)

Quartz pea decorative gravel. Jpg

Need to work out how much gravel your project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Materials

In this section, we cover the remaining essential materials required to build a lasting path and follow that up with a list of the tools required for your project.

  1. 1
    Edging materials
  2. 2
    Sand or base aggregate (for stone, bricks etc)
  3. 3
    Decorative aggregates (optional)
  1. 4
    Weed membrane and staples (for borders)
  2. 5
    Galvanised corner braces and mending plates (for timber)
  3. 6
    Galvanised screws or nails (for timber)

Sand or Base Aggregate

When using stone, brick, pavers or pre-from concrete edging, it is important to include a drainable base of crushed gravel at least 5cm ( 2 inches) deep for a well-laid and long-lasting edging.

Membrane for Borders

When you are building an edge for a border, for minimal maintenance and maximum drainage, there is no substitute for the use of a weed membraneThe pegs or staples are required for securing the membrane.

Timber Edging

If you are using timber edging, you will also need galvanised corner braces, mending plates to join straight sections, and galvanised screws to fix them. This is where a drill with a phillips head driver-bit is very useful, although optional.

Timber for Form Work

If you are reinforcing your edging or pouring a concrete edge, you will require timber for the form work, as well as nails or screws.

TIP: If you are building a path, driveway or channel border, it can be very helpful to have some pieces of timber cut at the desired width. These pieces of timber can help keep your edging in place before you secure them while laying your aggregates or soil.

Preparing tools and materials for large scale project. Jpg

List of Tools

The following is a list of tools which are mostly essential to a smooth operation. The majority are items you should have in your garden shed or can easily be borrowed.

  1. 1
    Shovel and/or square-edged spade
  2. 2
    Hammer or mallet
  3. 3
    Rope, garden hose or string
  4. 4
    Garden gloves
  5. 5
    Boots or safety shoes
  6. 6
    Drill with screwdriver bit
  7. 7
    Tape measure
  1. 8
    Lawn edger
  2. 9
    Garden rake
  3. 10
    Spirit level or laser level
  4. 11
    Handsaw or drop saw
  5. 12
    Drill with screwdriver bit
  6. 13
    Trowel
  7. 14
    Scissors
Gardening tools lined up against a shed. Jpg

Step-By-Step Guide

Now that you have selected and ordered and gathered your materials and required tools, it's time to start constructing the project.

1. Preparing the Site

  1. 1
    Clear weeds and roots
  1. 2
    Cut out the trench for your edging

Start by clearing the border area of any weeds, stones or other debris. If you're using a string line and stakes, set these up now to ensure straight lines or lay out a garden hose for curved edges. Use a spade or flat edger to cut a clean line along the edge of your garden bed or lawn. This line will guide where you install your edging. If you have them, place the specific plants out in their pots to envisage the layout more formally.

Next, you should dig the edger or spade into the ground to a depth of 15 to 20cm (6 to 8 inches) and remove a wedge of sod. Continue with the process along the edge of the bed or the paved area to prevent the roots of the turf from spreading into the bed. It is recommended to cut through the sod sharply and vertically, as it will discourage the roots of the turf from growing into your border.

Edging tool and a wheelbarrow full of tools

2. Trench Height and Drainage (for Masonry)

  1. 1
    Base for proper drainage
  1. 2
    Set the correct depth for edging

Flatten the soil, along the length, ensuring that the remaining depth would house your edging at the desired height, above the level of the soil surface, which should be 1 cm or higher.

This section is optional, but highly recommended where you are using stone, brick, pavers or concrete preformed edging. In the trench, lay drainage aggregate at ~5cm depth, which can be 10mm gravel or 20mm gravel. Flatten the gravel in the trench to level, and follow as above.

Soil flattened with sub base and suitable trench height left

3. How to Install Garden Edging

  1. 1
    Compact for stability
  2. 2
    Minimum 5cm compacted depth
  1. 3
    Level each section of edging
  2. 4
    Install flush with the ground

For masonry edging, place the blocks in the trench the way you want them appear. You should install any edging material against the cut edge to further discourage the spread of grass roots into your borders. This also helps to retain a sharp turf line along borders, pathways and drives. Secure the edging by tamping the soil, compost or aggregates up against the back of the materials.

Due to the range of edgings we are covering, where a material has its own unique installation considerations, they follow:

Metal or Synthetic

It is not necessary to reinforce simple plastic or metal edgings or heavy-timber edgings. To hold your edging, use a straight-edged shovel to cut a narrow trench under the string line to the width and depth required. Tamp soil around your edging for support, and place it in the trench.

Soldier Course for Bricks and Pavers

For a firm walkway, drive or patio border, use bricks in a soldier course pattern. For sand-laid brick paving, put bricks in a trench with edges butting and fill joints with sand or dry mortar. Soldiers hold the edge and are set in the ground on end. For added stability, use a soldier course set in mortar or concrete if the paving is in mortar or the winters are cold and the ground prone to freezing.

Red bricks in soldier course pattern around panda gravel path

Concrete

For how to install concrete edging with poured cement, dig a trench to the desired width and ensure it is level. Install forms on each side of the trench as described above. Pour concrete to the top of the forms, strike off and float the concrete. Let it cure for a week.

Timber

For wooden edging, cut the timber to the right lengths, with a 45 degree angle for corners. Lay the lengths along the trench and connect them using galvanised corner braces or mending plates backfill. Place them in the trench and backfill with the soil, tamping it down firmly. If using stakes, hammer them into the ground at intervals and attach the wood using screws or nails. For sturdier anchoring of timbers to the ground, drive number three rebar into the ground and slot timber through holes drilled to fit the rebar flush.

On the Edge of Completion

With that, you have now installed your edging and your project is nearly complete. Well done! Now it's time to transplant any plants, if you planned to add new vegetation. If not, it's time to your rake your soils level and go have a cup of hot tea! However, if you are building the edging of a border garden, and you are putting down a gravel mulch or decorative bark, you still have some more work to do, which is next.

1slate garden with brick surround and palms. Jpg

4. Adding the Gravel (optional)

  1. 1
    Check gravel distribution is level.
  1. 2
    Minimum 3-5cm depth.

Hooray, you have nearly completed your edging. Now that your base is ready and edgings are in place, it's time to add your gravel. Using a wheelbarrow or large buckets, transfer the chippings into multiple piles spread throughout the path to reduce the distance needed for the first layer to be raked. Make sure to distribute the gravels evenly, being careful to leave a good distance between the mulch and the stems of your prized plants! Finally, with the aim of achieving a depth of 3-5cm (1-2 inches), use a garden rake to create a smooth and uniform surface. Congratulations, you have successfully completed the task!

1laying gravel blend

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. 1
    Skipping the planning phase
  2. 2
    Miscalculating material requirements
  3. 3
    Purchasing unsuitable materials
  1. 4
    Drainage
  2. 5
    Securing edging insufficiently

There are quite a few common mistakes that should be avoided wherever possible. Again, some apply to certain types of materials and not to others so we have tried to summarise them in this next section for your convenience:

Skipping the Planning Phase: Not measuring your space accurately or overlooking the need for curves and corners can lead to over-spending on materials.

Ignoring Drainage: Failing to consider how your edging will affect garden drainage which could lead to water pooling or other issues.

Untreated Wood: Untreated wood can quickly rot and attract pests. Always use pressure-treated wood or apply a wood preservative.

Poor Soil Contact: Failing to ensure that the edging has sufficient contact with the base can lead to instability and shifting.

Sharp Edges Exposure: Metal edging can have sharp edges. Ensure these are properly buried or covered to avoid injuries.

Not Allowing for Expansion: Plastic expands and contracts with temperature changes. Not leaving space for expansion can cause buckling.

1weeding slate chips by hand. Jpg

Maintenance

  1. 1
    Occasional raking and inspection required
  2. 2
    Keep surface level and weed-free
  1. 3
    Replenish gravel over time

To keep your garden edging looking its best, perform regular checks for any signs of wear or damage. For the best performance, wooden edging should be treated every year or so with a wood preservative. Metal edging may occasionally need to be cleared of rust and repainted. Plastic and rubber will deteriorate over time and may need replacing. Masonry. edging, including concrete, requires minimal maintenance to keep things in their place and looking good, with a power hose the most common task.

If you have a gravel border, click here if you want to read more about how to clean garden stones.

1close up of flamingo stones with concrete path edging. Jpg

Summary

Installing garden edging is a practical way to enhance the beauty and clarity of your garden. By following these steps, you can achieve a neat, professional finish that defines your garden beds, simplifies maintenance, and boosts your garden's aesthetic appeal. Remember, the key to successful garden edging lies in careful planning, choosing the right materials, and regular maintenance. Happy gardening!

1gravel garden with rustic edging and plants. Jpg

FAQs

How do you lay garden edging?

To lay garden edging, choose durable materials like plastic or metal. Dig a trench around the desired area with a taut string line as a guide. Add a bedding layer, compact and top it up to prepare the bed for edging. Place the stone edging carefully to align with its neighbours for a seamless finish.

What is the easiest lawn edging for gravel to install?

Plastic or metal lawn edging for gravel is the easiest to install and requires minimal maintenance. It comes in various finishes, such as polished steel or rusted iron and creates a crisp boundary for lawns, flower beds or borders. It's an excellent choice for novice and experienced gardeners alike. Bricks can also be laid fairly easily, although they are potentially trickier to level than metal or plastic, which may or may not matter to you.

How do you install landscape edging?

To install landscape edging, measure the garden beds and dig a trench around them. Cut the edging to fit and place it in the trench. Back fill and anchor it firmly. Finally, compact the soil around the edging for a neat appearance.

How do you anchor garden border edging?

One way to anchor garden border edging effectively is to embed rebar, or use metal garden-edging stakes which are designed to secure edging materials firmly into the ground. To stabilise the edging and prevent movement, stakes should be placed every few feet. After positioning the edging, back fill the trench with the excavated soil and press it firmly against the backside of the edging to anchor it and create a defined boundary for the garden.

How do I keep my garden border straight?

For a neat and professional garden design, it's crucial to keep the border edging straight. Use a string line to create a clear line between two points (A and B), and mark the ground with spray paint before installing the edging. This will ensure that you stay aligned with your initial plan and achieve a straight and aesthetically pleasing garden boundary.

We have every type of gravel available to choose from in the UK. Check them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.