On the Edge

Spring in the garden is “new” in the best sense. New with no mistakes in it. If you are a reader of books on garden design you will have heard about “good bones.” This means that the structure of the garden is strong and pleasing. There is no better time to access this than early spring. A garden with good bones will give great satisfaction now before we start looking at it as a sea of tasks. All the snow has melted leaving neat rows, squares, and mounded beds in attractive patterns and textures in a palette of tans and browns. We are full of hope. This year…..

Practical doesn’t trump beautiful. A vegetable garden can be every bit as beautiful as a flower bed. Even accounting for differences is style and taste, what makes a vegetable garden beautiful is order. The design can be straight rows, raised beds, geometric patterns, or free-form. What establishes a sense of order is the clear demarcation of bed and path and garden and lawn. In a word – edging.

Many beginning gardeners think edging in wood, brick, or stone is the best way to accomplish this. While these are valid approaches and can be very attractive, it’s actually more difficult to maintain. It’s much easier to till freely and re-establish an edge with a grass path each year with touch ups as necessary. A flat spade or an edging tool is best for the job. First, clearly delineate your edge (see below) use one of these tools and use your foot to push down vertically to cut the roots of the grass then throw the soil onto the bed creating a mound. Pull free any weeds or plant roots. A garden that is well edged will look good even if you are behind in your weeding.

Ways to Mark an Edge:

Straight lines can easily be marked with a ball of mason’s string (mason’s string stretches less than standard string) between two stakes at either end of the bed. A circular bed can be made by fashioning an oversized compass. Simply tie the end of a string to stake in the middle of the bed. Extend the string to the desired radius and walk in a circle marking the perimeter as you go. Tie a bottle of garden lime to the end of the string and tap out bits as you go around the edge. Curves are easily made by using the garden hose as a “string.” This method makes gentle curves your lawnmower can cut around.

As well as edging within a garden an edge or frame around the garden is essential. The frame could be a traditional picket fence, a structural plant like the pyramid shaped Alberta spruce in each corner, or a surrounding brick path. A vegetable garden with good bones can hold its own in any overall landscape plan and doesn’t need to be hidden behind the garage. A garden that is beautiful is a magnet for the gardener and is more likely to be maintained.


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