English Style Lawn Edging

Written by maryann kay
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English Style Lawn Edging
A well-edged lawn is manicured perfection. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

English lawns set the style for manicured perfection with their crisp edging. Wealthy 17th century English landowners began to have lawns as a residential feature. Nineteenth century landscape designers in England and the U.S. perfected lawn maintenance routines. The techniques they developed for maintaining a perfect edging are still used today. There are many ways to edge a lawn, but the classic English methods are perfect for a smaller yard and for ornamental gardens that are closest to a home. For large properties, modern power tools may be appropriate.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Flexible garden hose
  • Retractable metal measuring tape
  • Square-end shovel with sharp edge
  • Large steel file for sharpening
  • Round-bottom straight edger tool
  • Garden gloves
  • Plastic tub with nylon rope handle

Show MoreHide


    The English Spade Method

  1. 1

    Use a garden hose to lay out bed lines. Circle the hose around tree specimens or curve it around flower or shrub plantings. Avoid laying out sharp angles or curves. Keep the lines broad and sweeping. Use a retractable metal tape to measure the width and length of areas that need to be symmetrical or mirror images of each other. Wider curves are easier to maintain and far less work to manage. You will be mowing close to the curves of beds, so make sure your lawnmower can handle the turns easily.

    English Style Lawn Edging
    Use a hose to outline edging. (hose on lawn image by Coralie Palmeri from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Sharpen the edge of the square-end shovel or spade with the steel file. A shovel's blade must be very sharp to edge properly. Follow the outline you made with the hose. Dig down to cut a deep trench 4 to 6 inches deep but only as wide as necessary to remove a thin strip of grass from the trench. Make clean cuts with each shovel width stroke, cutting though grass roots. Continue to cut the trench around the bed along the hose line.

  3. 3

    Remove excess grass and dirt from the length of the trench. Clear out any rocks, roots and lawn debris. Wear gloves if desired. Use grass plugs in good shape to repair worn spots elsewhere in the lawn. In the spring, renew the mulch for the entire bed you have edged. At other times, use fresh mulch around the lip of the trench to give definition.

    English Style Lawn Edging
    Use a sharp bladed square-end shovel (outils de jardin image by Claudio Calcagno from Fotolia.com)

    The Round Tool Edge Method

  1. 1

    Use a long-handled lawn edger with a round blade to create a tailored look between beds and lawn. Also known as an edging iron, this implement is more fragile than the square-end shovel. The classic design allows you to step on top of either side of the tool. A modern improvement has a centre tread design that allows the foot to be placed in the centre providing more force for each stroke. Take care to pick up rocks, clippings and other debris before you begin as a safety precaution and also to allow for the cleanest cuts.

    English Style Lawn Edging
    A long-handled edger is versatile and easy to use. (lawn edger image by MichMac from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Step on the blunt top of the half-moon-shaped edger blade as you would a shovel. Because of the long handle, bending is not required. The blade is very versatile and thinner than most shovels. It may be used at the edge of a paved area. Insert the edger blade next to bricks or a stone path to cleanly slice off a sharp piece of turf. The blade's rounded bottom makes it easy to manipulate along curved lines.

    English Style Lawn Edging
    The edger's thin blade is easy to use next to stone or paving. (cup on the lawn image by Elena from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Cut ring edging around trees with the long-handled iron. Start by tying string around the trunk of the tree to be edged. Be sure to allow at least 1 foot wider than the branches grow all around. Pay out enough string for the radius of the circle, then walk around the tree. You can use spray paint to mark the circle. It will be gone with the next mowing.

    English Hardscape Edging

  1. 1

    Use hardscape materials as edging to create mowable transitions between areas of lawn and other features. English lawns are often interrupted by landscape features such as fountains, walkways or flower beds. The hard materials are set flush into the lawn as an edging. They also serve as a mowing strip. Since the lawnmower can roll right over them, no other trimming is necessary.

    English Style Lawn Edging
    Stone is a traditional bed edging. (purple flower bed image by Steve Mann from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Select natural stone pieces of equal thickness to border a walkway or edge between a lawn and a flower bed. This is a very traditional English look used in many manor houses and display gardens in England. Sometimes larger stones are selected so that the edging becomes a narrow path. Materials can include limestone, field stone or slate. If the stone is cut to uniform thickness, an area the size of each piece is dug out to a depth slightly greater than the stone, then covered with a layer of green sand. The stone is set into the sand and protrudes slightly above the surface. Within days or a week, the stones will sink into the earth level with the surface. Stones with greater depth can be set in trenches made with the square-end shovel.

  3. 3

    Choose man-made bed edgings for a more economical alternative to natural stone. Interlocking ceramic pavers and bricks are flat and easy to manipulate as edgings and transitions. Both bricks and pavers make excellent mowing strips and bed edging. Choose the edging material that complements the style and colour scheme of your home. The trick to using brick to get an English look is to research and use traditional patterns and to vary the width of edging as one, two or three bricks may be used.

    English Style Lawn Edging
    Bricks are versatile and go with many home styles. (red used street bricks randomly placed on a lawn image by Steve Johnson from Fotolia.com)

Tips and warnings

  • Wear gloves to remove debris from narrow trenches.
  • Use a plastic tub container to collect unwanted rocks and debris.
  • Edge during the cooler hours of the day.
  • Wear long trousers and eye protection to avoid flying pebbles and rocks.
  • Keep other people and pets away while edging for their safety.
  • Never use edgers on gravel surfaces.

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