How To Install Plastic Landscape Edging

How To Install Plastic Landscape Edging

I know what you’re think­ing– why in the world would I want tacky plas­tic edg­ing? Well, because it’s only tacky if it is improp­erly installed, and it is almost ALWAYS improp­erly installed!  Done right, inex­pen­sive edg­ing will keep grass in it’s place while also serv­ing as a swale ( a rounded depres­sion) to col­lect excess water and a catch-all to pre­vent run away mulch from end­ing up on the lawn.

Ini­tial trench being dug for land­scape edging.

Sean Jones and the crew of Solscapes (a Salt Lake City based Land­scape Con­struc­tion firm) are going to show us how to install inex­pen­sive edg­ing in a way that looks great (or more impor­tantly– looks invis­i­ble!).  First, we start with a good-quality edg­ing.  For home­own­ers, Sean rec­om­mends the contractor-gradevari­ety avail­able at Home Depot or Lowes or other big box store. While you are there, pick up a large box of land­scape sta­ples– you can find these near the weed bar­rier mat prod­ucts.  Do not buy any of the land­scape stakes made to go with the edg­ing — you won’t need them.

Sean demon­strates the needed hardware

Wrong way: The prob­lem with the ‘rec­om­mended’ instal­la­tion is three-fold:

  • Edg­ing with soil packed in on both sides can eas­ily “frost heave” which means it is pushed up out of the ground with the freez­ing and thaw­ing cycle of soils.
  • More impor­tantly, the stan­dard install gives you LITTLE bar­rier against invad­ing grass.
  • Loose mulch is likely to slip right on past the edge and into your lawn.

The WRONG way to install and­scape edg­ing. Don’t fol­low box instructions!

Done the RIGHT way, inex­pen­sive plas­tic edg­ing will:

  1. It will col­lect any mulch or bark which sloughs off your plant­ing area and ‘hold’ it until you can rake it back where it belongs rather than clut­ter­ing up the lawn.
  2. The most IMPORTANT func­tion is that the swale makes it very dif­fi­cult for any grass root run­ners to hop the edg­ing and get into your gar­den bed.  Roots which find their way around your plas­tic edge will only find air on the other side– not soil– and thus there is nowhere to dig those roots in and RUN.  This is why it must be deep and wide– to ensure that it out­wits encroach­ment by  our very deter­mined lawns.
  3. It pro­vides an area for excess water to col­lect and per­co­late into the ground.
  4. It cre­ates the visual illu­sion of bermed (mounded) planting beds.
  5. It cre­ates a crisp tran­si­tion line from lawn to bed that is all but invis­i­ble from the lawn side (the most com­mon viewpoint).

Land­scape edg­ing done my way (which makes it right!)

Now, let’s install it!

To begin, lay out the rolls of edg­ing on the lawn to warm in the sun which will help them become more pli­able. While that’s going on, dig down the edge of your bor­der.  And I mean dig down– a good 4–6 inches! This is the first place peo­ple mess up the instal­la­tion.  You should have a crisp, straight edge.  Now go back over it and make sure there are no lumpy spots on the lawn side of the edge you’ve created.

You want to cre­ate a swale that is at least 4–6 inches WIDE before you slope back up to your land­scape bed.  This cre­ates the illu­sion of bermed beds (or makes the berm appear taller than it is– thus sav­ing on the amount of soil needed to cre­ate them).  The open swale is there for three reasons:

Note– you can­not make a swale as shown above with con­crete edg­ing.  It will under­cut and desta­bi­lize the con­crete, even­tu­ally caus­ing it to fall into the swale and break. Just one of MANY rea­sons I per­son­ally do not like con­crete edg­ing (gasp!).  The tech­nique described here CAN be used with alu­minum or steel edg­ing if you have the bud­get to buy the expen­sive stuff!

Now, the instal­la­tion. Lay your edg­ing in the swale and cre­ate any joints needed to con­nect the pieces.  The edg­ing comes with small plas­tic rods that you are told to insert end to end to con­nect the pieces.  Don’t do it that way! Instead, you are going to use a sharp knife to cut about a foot of the round bead off the top of piece one and a foot of the flat plas­tic edge (but not the bead) off piece two.  Place the rod in beaded ends and con­nect with the pieces over­lap­ping. This will cre­ate a MUCH stronger joint that will not come apart easily.

Top of edg­ing is just above soil line on the grass side.

The edg­ing should be placed so it is about 1/2 inch above the soil line on the grass side.  Most of the edg­ing will be vis­i­ble from the bed side– even after the soil is packed in place and the bed is mulched. Use 2 sta­ples to secure the end against the edge.  Ham­mer them in with a rub­ber mal­let or heavy duty ham­mer. The sta­ples should go in hor­i­zon­tal or with a very slight down­ward angle.  If you cre­ated your swale prop­erly, it’s easy to ham­mer these in because you’ll have good access.  You will note that there is still and inch or so of soil below the edg­ing– that’s fine.  Apply more land­scape sta­ples as needed along the edge about every 12 inches or so– use your judgment.

Once the edg­ing is in, use dis­carded soil dug from the trench to fill any gaps between the edg­ing and the lawn and pack it down well.  Make sure you walk the bot­tom of the swale and pack that down well too.

Now sculpt the bed edge to make the swale nice and gen­tle from that side, mak­ing sure to leave the bot­tom in tact.  Apply mulch or rock to the beds and you’re done!  Installed this way, the edg­ing will be invis­i­ble from the lawn side, cre­at­ing a crisp visual tran­si­tion, and it will STAY installed for many years to come!

If you’re still read­ing this– great! This topic may be a lit­tle dry but it is one of the main ques­tions I am asked by DIY Home­own­ers.  And now you know how to install it too!

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  1. Jen says:

    Awe­some! Now where was this arti­cle when I installed mine WRONG last sum­mer? I finally ripped it up. Thanks for the guide­lines and I love how you have the pho­tos to demon­strate. Great job!

  2. garden edging Ideas Wood says:

    WOW just what I was search­ing for. Came here by search­ing for diy land­scape edge

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