A well-edged lawn makes the grass looks kempt and well-loved. Photograph: Stephen Sykes /Alamy
Every now and then I like to indulge my inner Hyacinth Bucket and edge my lawn. This is one of those faintly ridiculous pastimes, something akin to the stuffing of a mushroom. Who has time for this stuff in our busy lives? We could be learning the harpsichord, writing a novella, gazing at sunsets. But I’m kind of fond of it, and as my garden mostly bumbles on with very little input from me, I am partial to spending the odd hour on this one seriously uptight task.
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The thing I really like about edging the lawn is the redefining of boundaries. You’ll have to indulge me for a minute here, but I think it is a good metaphor for this whole gardening malarkey. What is it that we are up to when we garden? We are stamping our humanness on the landscape, domesticating it, making it recognisably patterned and shaped. I have a circular lawn with a straight path running through the middle of it. I like the formality of this, the flat, (almost) perfect circle contrasting with the wilder borders. When I don’t edge, all of this starts to blur. The grass runs in between the lumpy cloud-pruned box plants that circle the lawn and makes a bid for the border, flowering spikes of it even popping up out of the tops of the box mounds. Nature is reasserting itself.
I think a gardener often needs an edge. Where I have proper, wooden edges at the allotment it doesn’t actually stop the couch grass from stealing into beds, but it does give me something to work back to, a definite line in the sand, or, in my case, the clay. It stops the creep that sees unedged beds slowly shrinking over time, becoming more path than bed. In short, I like an edge. Give me boundaries.
There is a half-hearted sort of edging that is quite quick, snipping around my lawn circle with long-handled shears to beat back the overlong bits. But that is not the sort of edging that interests me. After a lengthy period of neglect I needed to go about this with serious intent. I do own a half-moon edger, one of those wonderfully specific tools that truly only does one thing. Its rounded-blade-on-a-stick slices into the straying turf, but then can slide along through the soil to the next slicing point. On the few straight bits I stretched a piece of string between two sticks to truly straighten things up, but on the curve I worked by eye, cutting, kicking up the offending bit of turf, weeding behind and under the box hedging, and then giving the whole newly bare area a luscious mulch (which helps keep the box hedge happy too).
If mowing the lawn is like giving the garden a good haircut, then edging is the full facelift. It makes the lawn look kempt and well-loved even if it isn’t, and the garden look intended, domesticated and under control, even if it barely is.