How to edge your lawn like a pro

How to edge your lawn like a pro

Creating clean edges and lines in your garden can transform a good garden into a gorgeous one. Think of the Gardens of Versailles – they wouldn’t be anywhere near as impressive if it weren’t for the neat edges that occupy the thoughts of eighty full-time gardeners.

While you may not live in a chateau, your home is your castle, and nothing says ‘proud home-owner’ quite like a polished lawn with clean edges.

In this article, we’ll look at how to get the straight lawn edge that will make your lawn the envy of the neighbourhood.

Why Should You Edge Your Lawn?

A clean edge is the ultimate finishing touch to a healthy well-manicured lawn.

It’s not just about aesthetics; there are several very good reasons for edging your lawn:

  1. It can stop your lawn, especially if you have warm season running grasses such as Kikuyu, Buffalo and Couch, from encroaching into garden beds and competing with ornamental plants, fruit or vegetables.
  2. It stops the grass from spreading over paths and driveways where it can become a tripping or slipping hazard.
  3. It reduces the likelihood of incursion by weeds and the pests they can harbour.

Edging doesn’t need to be done every time you mow, but it will be required more frequently during spring and summer when your lawn is vigorously growing.

It’s not difficult and there’s a variety of lawn edging tools, both manual and powered, available to make it even easier.

Note: Always wear safety glasses and sturdy enclosed shoes or boots and protect your hearing by using earplugs or earmuffs when operating power tools.

Preparing to Edge Your Lawn

The first step is to identify what type and shape of edge you want. Would you prefer to have your lawn stop at an area of bare soil or mulch, leave a margin around the base of large trees, or butt up against an existing flowerbed or hardscape?

Creating a boundary with a permanent edging of rubber, steel, cement, or pavers can make it easier to tame unruly edges regardless of whether they’re straight or curved.

The second step is to decide what type of edging tool best meets your needs.

If you have a small garden and don’t mind putting in a bit of elbow grease, you might opt to use a manual edger.

Those with a larger garden or less time to spare might choose a mechanical edger that will let you get around your lawn faster.

Choosing an edging tool

There are three main things to consider when deciding which lawn edging tool to use: how many metres of edging you have, how much time you have to do the edges, and how much you can afford to spend.

Manual edging tools

Manual edging tools are the cheapest option, most cost less than $100, and include specialist edging shears and long-handled grass shears.

These might take longer to use, and require more physical effort, but have the advantage of allowing you to be more precise, require very little maintenance and are easily stored with your other gardening tools. Shears are ideal for awkward small spots, such as stepping stones or garden beds.

Some manual edging tools rely on you using your body weight to push them into the ground and create a neat edge. Many are shaped like a half moon with a long handle and have a footpeg. Others have a round or star-shaped cutting wheel. 

Best results are achieved by using these tools when the ground is soft, damp and offers less resistance.

Mechanical edging  tools

There’s a large range of mechanical edging tools, some powered by petrol engines and others by battery or electricity through a power cord. They can have one or more wheels. 

Advantages can include adjustable blade height, giving you the choice of where you want the edge to sit, such as at ground level or slightly below it, and they’ll easily tackle big jobs.

Disadvantages include the upfront expense – four-stroke petrol models can cost up to $700 – plus there’s the ongoing cost of replacement blades and regular servicing. 

They can make a lot of noise, spray dirt around if not fitted with a blade guard, and some are quite heavy which makes them less practical for those who are shorter or not as strong.

Electric or battery powered edgers are usually quieter and cheaper at $90 to $300. They can be lighter but can also be less powerful and less sturdy than the petrol-powered option. 

Electric models may require a long extension cord, while cordless edgers are limited by the capacity of their battery. It can be annoying to get partway through the job, they have to wait for the battery to recharge so you can finish it off.


Some grass trimmers, also known as whipper snippers or weed whackers, have an edging mode and a head that can be rotated into a vertical position.

These edgers use a rotating nylon line to cut grass, weeds and other unwanted plants.

Some brush cutters, which are more heavy duty and traditionally fitted with blades for more challenging tasks, also can be fitted with a mowing line head. 

As is the case with mechanical edgers, grass trimmers are available in electric, battery and petrol-powered models. Electric and battery trimmers are more suited to small areas and those powered by petrol are better for big jobs.

The trick is to make sure the string is vertical along driveways and paths and at an angle to taper grass along fences and retaining walls.

To ensure clean cuts, always start the trimmer clear of the grass and work your way into the edge from the outside.

Edging materials

Different edging materials will bring different characteristics to your garden, depending on the look you’re going for.

For a more rustic look, consider using bricks or timber sleepers for your lawn edge, while more modern options include concreating, or treated steel.

If you’re on a budget, plastic edging may provide an affordable solution.

Guide to edging your lawn

If you’ve never edged your lawn, it can seem a daunting task. The initial project might take some effort, but with practice, you’ll get faster, the result will be better, and it won’t take as long to stay on top of it.

Here is a step-by-step guide:

  • Step 1 – Using a half-moon edging tool, cut the edges of your lawn. Follow the lines of your lawn, or if you are after perfect straight lines, cut against a plank of wood.
  • Step 2 – After mowing, use long handled shears or your line trimmer to finish the edge. For a truly polished look, don’t forget to remove the cuttings.
  • Step 3 – If your grass has spread onto the path, you may need to get onto your hands and knees to remove rampant turf. Use a sharp knife to cut these pieces away.
  • Step 4 – For edges that are flush with a path, you may find that grass shears provide the right solution for snipping a clean edge.

While most people leave both trimming and edging until after they mow, there’s no hard and fast rule.

In some cases, it makes more sense to do it first – propelling the trimmed and edged grass back onto the lawn allows it to be chopped up when you mow. You can then spread the clippings across the lawn as mulch or collect and dispose of them in one hit.

Trimming around obstacles and doing the edges first helps make mowing faster because you’re not trying to get in as close. You’re also less likely to damage trees, hardscaping, mailboxes, and fences.

If you love the look of a clean edge all year round, you might also consider installing metal garden edging for a neat, modern finish.

Tips for maintaining your lawn

  • Trim first. If you use a string trimmer, use it before mowing. Establish a grass-free mulched area around trees so you don’t have to trim as closely and risk damaging them.
  • Stick to edging the lawn – keep off the footpath and concrete when using a power edger. This will ensure your trimmer lasts longer and prevents damage to your hard surfaces
  • Work slowly. Edging can be time consuming, but worth it if you focus on the outcome, rather than speeding through.
  • Check the direction of spin. Avoid obscuring your trim path by making sure the clippings land away from where you’re cutting. If your trimmer is moving counterclockwise, keep the right side close to the edge.
  • Trim regularly. While you don’t have to edge your lawn every time you mow, the more often you do it, the less time it will take.
  • Depending on where you’re working, it might make more sense for you to taper the lawn, rather than create a straight edge. For paths, driveways, and other parallel surfaces, hold your trimmer so the string is vertical along the edge, giving you a crisp, straight edge. Near fences and walls, hold your trimmer on a slight angle to give a more blended, tapered effect.
  • Mow at the right height for your lawn type and follow the one-third rule. Remove only one-third of the grass height when you mow to prevent damage and stress to your lawn.
  • Keep the blades sharp to avoid ragged cuts that turn brown and invite disease.
  • Mow grass when it’s dry. Wet grass will cut unevenly, and the clippings can become matted. Cutting wet grass also promotes the development and spread of disease.
  • Alternate the direction you mow to help keep grass growing upright and prevent soil compaction.
  • Leave small, finely chopped clippings on the lawn where they will decompose and improve the soil but rake up clumps that can smother your grass.
  • Always read the safety directions and instructions on the product label before use.

The secret to a beautiful, polished lawn is to take the time to trim your edges. A professional finish requires the right tools, so you will need to invest in manual or power trimming tools to do the job. The trick to a perfect edge is to plan your path, and trim regularly to keep your lawn in tip-top shape.

Always read the safety directions and instructions on the product label before use.

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