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The Lawn Guide
Keep it neat & tidy

By Kate Wall

'New Content'

Part of mowing a lawn to keep it neat and tidy, is to whipper snip the edges. It is often an unpopular job, but unless the edges are also cut, a newly mown lawn will not look neat. Typically lawns need some sort of barrier between them and the garden beds. The role of lawn edging is primarily functional – it prevents the grass from spreading into the garden beds and becoming a weed there. It can also work to retain soil and mulch in the garden without spilling onto the lawn and looking unsightly. Edging can however be much more than simply a physical barrier. It can play a role in the design of the garden through its decorative value.

In its simplest form, a lawn edge can be a spade cut along the edge of the lawn. This method leaves no physical barrier, simply a narrow empty space between lawn and garden. It can become a small trench but need not be. All types of edging will need some degree of whipper snipping to keep them neat. Without a physical barrier, a spade cut edge will need very regular whipper snipping to ensure the grass does not get away into the garden. It will probably also need to be re-cut at least annually with the spade. One huge advantage of this style of edge is that there are no limitations to the shapes that can be achieved in the lawn and garden beds. Whilst this is the cheapest form of edging as there are no materials involved, it is the most laborious type of edge to maintain.

The alternative is to purchase materials to create a physical barrier between the grass and garden beds. Numerous products and styles are available and each offer different advantages and disadvantages in terms of price, how easy they may be to mow or whipper snip, how easy they are to install, and how flexible they are in terms of shape of the lawn/ garden area.

All lawn edging products should penetrate the soil by at least 5 - 10cm to contain grass roots and prevent them from spreading under the edge and into the garden. Turfs with aggressive rhizomes such as couch may need a barrier up to 15cm deep. If grass does get past your edging and become a problematic weed in your garden beds, a product called Fusilade will help – it is a selective grass poison which will not harm your non-grass ornamental plants. Once the grass is back under control, and out of the garden beds, it will be time to re-think your edging to prevent future invasions.


Some styles of edging are designed to sit flush with the height of the grass, making them almost unseen. This style is designed to be mown directly over without damage to the edge or the mower if installed correctly. This can greatly reduce the amount of whipper snipping needed to edge a lawn, but will not be effective if the lawn is allowed to get long as it will simply grow over the top of the edging.

Some of the more popular edges include:


Concrete – concrete garden edging can take a variety of different forms, from pre-moulded pieces available from a landscape yard which you can install yourself, to custom created edges which are concreted in situ and usually require the services of a concrete edging company or qualified landscaper. The pre-moulded pieces will give you limited flexibility of shape but will be easy to rearrange should you wish to change the design in future. Concrete laid in situ will give shape flexibility and should be considered permanent. Concrete offers a smooth edge which is easy to cut along.

Rock – rock can be sourced from a landscape yard in many shapes and sizes to suit your garden style, or you may be fortunate enough to have a supply of it on your property. Be aware that it is not legal to collect rock directly from the bush without a license. Whilst rock can be very heavy to work with initially, if offers flexibility in shape and style, retains the garden bed as well as blocking the grass and usually does not require cementing in, which allows for future changes if desired. Rock does however create an irregular edge which can be fiddly to whipper snip.


Timber sleepers – timber sleepers are cost effective and are relatively easy to work with. Hardwood is always recommended for garden use, and when timber is used in a garden, lifespan needs to be considered. Under good conditions, treated hardwood should last approximately 20- 25 years. Untreated wood may be attractive to termites, in addition to rotting more quickly than treated timber will. Timber sleepers create straight edges which whilst easy to edge against, can cause harsh angles which are tight to mow through.

Block raised garden wall – there is an enormous variety of styles of landscaping blocks available these days which are relatively easy to install. The garden edge can be 1 block high through to many blocks high allowing for neat and easy height changes on sloping land, or to create small retaining walls. (Retaining walls over 1m high need council approval in many areas).


Pavers – pavers or even old bricks are a popular choice for edging and can be very flexible in the design features they add to the garden. Greater stability will be achieved if the pavers are cemented in, but this is not always necessary. Pavers which are laid perpendicular to the lawn, or large square pavers, will create a wide edge, which if set flush with the lawn can be mown directly over, reducing the amount of whipper snipping required.

Recycled Plastic edging – made from UV stabilised recycled plastic it is a highly durable product available in a range of colours and styles including an imitation timber look. It is flexible in shape but needs to be well pegged down to prevent it moving and is easily pushed out of shape.

Aluminium and Galvanised Steel edging – both are relatively easy to install, flexible, and long lasting. They can create very subtle edges that are designed to be mown over with very little need for whipper snipping. As they sit fairly deep in the soil, they are excellent for turf with aggressive rhizomes such as couch. They can however be very tricky to install on uneven or sloping ground, as can the plastic edging.

Your choice of edging will be based on many factors including, your garden design and the style which appeals to you, suiting your site and your budget. The degree of whipper snipping involved may also be a key factor in the choice you make. Whichever choice you make, a beautiful neat edge will greatly enhance your lawn.


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