The finishing touches

Features - Maintenance

Use the right tools for your landscape’s smaller details to make the design stand out.

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June 6, 2019

© Iriana Shiyan | Adobe Stock

A variety of tools can be used to keep edges of beds and hardscapes trimmed neatly. From working alongside beds and hardscapes to dealing with maintaining those designs, there are plenty of options to make sure you apply the right finishing touches.

Hand edgers for beds.

Joe Perricone, landscape designer for Perricone Brothers Landscaping based in Volo, Illinois, recommends a hand edging tool for bed lines and planting beds. The company provides commercial and residential landscape maintenance and design. During peak season approximately 90 to 100 workers are employed by the company.

“To get a nice defined edge, use an edging tool, preferably handheld,” Perricone says. “You want to do that at least a few times during the year. I would say for the best edge, at least once a month to get a really clean edge. Keep it nice and clean throughout the whole year.”

Weather elements can play a role in how well the edging goes when done by hand.

“Definitely (edge) when it’s not soaking wet, but also if it’s too dry, the soil might be too hard and you might not get a clean edge,” Perricone says. “That’s why the spring is crucial because the soil’s usually a little bit moist so you can get the edge done pretty easily.”

When using the tool, Perricone says it’s important to put enough strength into it in order to get a good dig into the ground. Without enough pressure, the edge won’t be deep enough. Perricone typically only uses a machine to create new bed lines.

“If you have new property and you’re creating some edging, it helps you... if you have a lot of edging to do, that helps with getting it done quicker,” Perricone says.

By hand is more precise, he says. “Mostly just your hand placement has got to be right because you want a firm hold and depending on where you want to hold it to get the best force,” Perricone says.

Hand edgers are relatively low maintenance, but the blades need to be sharpened often.

“Keep the edge sharp,” Perricone says. “Especially in the spring when you’re doing a lot of edging, which we do, they’re sharpening them maybe at least once or twice a week. That’s crucial. It’s going to make the job easier, and it’s going to make the edge look much nicer when it’s sharp.”

Perricone uses a bench grinder to sharpen the edge. A power tool with a grinder attachment can also work. If the handle is cracked or broken, the tool may need to be replaced.

“Other than that, it’s pretty low maintenance,” Perricone says.

String trimmers for beds.

William Bumgardner, owner of Bumgardners Landscape Management, a full-service landscape management company based in Medford, Oregon, says his company uses a string trimmer for bed edges. The company serves professional offices, homeowners associations, retirement communities and more.

“We (like string trimmers) just because you could get kind of more surgical with things,” Bumgardner says. “Most bed edges aren’t all straight, so they’re kind of curved and different things, and it could be close to flowers, or landscape lighting, or just different things that a weed eater you could just kind of get into cleanly without being kind of off target.”

Similar to the straight shaft edger, Bumgardner recommends PPE first and watching for flying debris, especially around windows, vehicles or any structure.

“Watch the trajectory of your weed eater because, depending on your string length, they can throw things very far and it can... hurt somebody or hurt something,” Bumgardner says. “And that same thing, that’s incorporated with our training that we do, physical training and then our online training as well.”

In terms of maintenance, string trimmers should be cleaned off regularly, kept free of debris and mud and fuel filters should be frequently checked.

Knowing the right pressure to use when edging can create clean lines along beds and near hardscaped areas.
Photo courtesy of Perricone Brothers Landscaping

Hardscape maintenance.

When trimming along hardscapes such as driveways or sidewalks, Perricone uses a walk-behind sidewalk edger.

“Don’t go too fast because you want to make sure that the blades get in-between the sidewalk and the grass, the sod area, and then you want to make sure to stay in a straight line,” Perricone says. “Then make sure those blades are not broken or cracked or anything. You might need to change them out from time to time because they will get worn.”

Around hardscapes, Bumgardner uses handheld equipment with a hard edger blade.

“We do that because weed eaters on hard edges, the string is moving whether you can see it or not and there’s some room for error, so it can cause grass to be pulled back from the edges,” he says.

If the grass is cut too far back with a string, it will leave an unsightly gap over time.

“When you have a fixed hard edge or blade, it’s straight,” Bumgardner says. “You’re just running it right along the curbing and it’s a fixed blade, so it just cuts straight. We primarily do ours on an every other week occurrence.. One week we are going to do hard edging hard hardscapes, and then the alternate week we would do string trimming of the beds.”

In terms of best practices for use, personal protective equipment is first, Bumgardner says.

“Eyes and ears protected, pants or some sort of shin guards to protect against it because it does launch debris, they can travel,” Bumgardner says. “We’re working in mostly commercial applications so we remind staff to watch out for pedestrians, stop the piece of equipment if pedestrians are near, or you’re having to do it near cars be especially careful about the RPMs being too high that you might send projectiles.”

When it comes to maintenance, Bumgardner suggests checking the blade routinely because they do wear out like mower blades.

“Once they get more than (approximately) an inch to an inch and a half off the blades, we look at replacing the blade because it doesn’t cut as clean,” Bumgardner says. “Our field managers check up on that. They can tell pretty quickly if a lawn is not being cut very cleanly by how it looks.”

Mud, grass clippings and debris should be removed and cleaned from the guard weekly, Bumgardner says. This can accumulate even more if the soil or grass is damp.

Block edging.

Neither Bumgardner nor Perricone use any plastic or metal edging for beds, but Perricone says his team will sometimes install block edging.

“As far as block goes, we will do it someone wants it, we’ll do a corner of the house,” Perricone says. “We’ll do some edging around the bed. If it’s on a hill, we’ll do a little retaining wall. The blocks can be used for steps and stoops and the edges of those, and they could be used in fire pits as well as seat walls.”