Your home is divided into designated living areas that define the purpose of each space. A little “outdoor space designation” will create the unified environment that draws your family and friends into the special world that is your backyard. Creating crisp clean edges and borders to direct traffic, focus attention, and indicate specific activities (play areas, gardens, outdoor cooking, etc…) will make everyone feel at home and enhance the outdoor lifestyle.
The key to designing a good outdoor environment is understanding your space. The lay of the land will direct certain aspects of your design. Slope and drainage should be the first concern. You don’t want the kids play area in the mud puddle at the bottom of the hill. Prevailing weather and solar patterns might dictate where certain plants will thrive, or where features such as a fire pit may be safely installed.
It is always a good idea to make sure that there are no laws, covenants, or HOA restrictions and that no utility lines are buried in areas where you intend to dig.
Use marking paint or chalk to mark your lines on the ground, after you have established the intended design. Give yourself a few days to decide if the plan suits your needs or if modifications are in order. It is much easier to rinse off the color and redraw lines than to re-landscape the entire yard. Your backyard living room should offer sanctuary for years to come. Appropriate consideration beforehand will help the dream become your reality.
Choose your borders. Edging your designated spaces may be as simple as digging an earthen perimeter. You may include the use of hardscape materials such as brick, stone, wood, or plastic materials, or you might prefer a living borderline of plants and flowers. Regardless of your choice of edging, it all starts with a shovel.
A crisp line of soil at the edge of a well kept lawn creates a handsomely simple border that channels excess water. It can be accomplished by the use of a sharp flat spade and a strong back. Start by cutting into the soil at a 20 degree angle away from the blades of grass. Rocking the spade back and forth cuts the roots, loosens the soil, and marks the line for the next shovel full. When the line is completed, the bare soil can be raked smooth to achieve the clean border you desire. This type of edge will require maintenance to keep it weed free and crisp.
Commercial edging materials are widely available. Plastic or metal rolled edging of various depths can be pressed into the ground, eliminating root crossover from one area to another. Low wooden, plastic, or metal fencing can be strung along edges and anchored by integrated spikes. Bricks, blocks, and stones may be placed in single rows or stacked into low walls to provide a more solid edge. Tree trunks, large branches, or timbers can be used to make borders for raised beds.
Decorative edges are limited only by your imagination. Anything that can survive the elements can be turned into an eye catching border, from old wood to old china, from glass bottles to bicycle rims, from sea shells to furnace grates. Up-cycling your interesting finds adds personality to your borderlines.
There are hundreds of low growing plants that can be used to edge your gardens and pathways. They may be evergreen, blooming, or even fruiting plants that provide color, interest, or food. Your local nursery can direct you toward plants that will thrive in your private micro-climate at home.
Clean, hard lines give a feeling of order and organization. Eclectic materials offer a sense of playful mischief. Living borders create an organic connection between spaces.
Whatever edge you choose, it should be a reflection the atmosphere you want to present and an expression of your personal flair.
Outside of writing for I love to spend all the time I can outdoors and find every excuse to leave my house. I write about everything from backyard DIY projects to gardening. If you can’t get a hold of me I am probably on a trail or a boat.