You’ve probably seen it before, but not paid much attention to it. That thin metal strip running around the perimeter of a lawn. That is what is known as metal landscape edging – and it plays an important part in the orderliness of a lawn.
It is sometimes also used to separate gravel areas from plant beds. It may also be used to cordon off a tree. In fact, it has many applications.
This post delves more into exactly what metal landscape edging is, the different types , how to install it and what its pros & cons are.
What is metal landscape edging?
Metal landscape edging is used to create a clean boundary between two sections of an outdoor area. When placed around a lawn, it can prevent the grass from growing outwards beyond its perimeter, helping to maintain neat borders. When placed alongside a gravel section, it can help keep the stones confined to where they belong.
Different materials like wood and stone can also be used as landscape edging. Metal is sometimes preferred for its strength and subtlety. There are other strengths to using metal (as well as some drawbacks), which are discussed later on.
What types of metal are used for landscape edging?
There are two main types of metal that are used in landscape edging:
- Steel: This is the most common metal of the two. Steel is able to be molded into very thin strips while remaining very strong. This makes it a good choice along a gravel driveway where it won’t be bent out of shape if someone accidentally runs they’re tire over it. It will also withstand ground movement and form a solid barrier against rogue tree roots. Just be wary that most forms of steels will eventually rust and corrode. Corten steel is a common choice that rusts but doesn’t really wear away – instead hardening up.
- Aluminum: Some people prefer aluminum to steel because it does not rust. Aluminum is also softer than steel which allows it to be bent into more elegant curves. It is not as strong as aluminum, but this may not matter if it’s placed in an area where it’s unlikely to receive a hard knock.
What are some of the different styles of metal landscape edging?
Metal landscape edging comes in a variety of different heights, lengths, thicknesses and patterns. It is worth exploring the various different styles to find the right one for your application. Some of the key style factors to consider include:
- Height: Most metal landscape edging is about 6 to 7 inches tall. This allows about 4 inches to go into the ground. There are some metal edging strips that are much taller, allowing them to protrude above the ground much higher or extend below the ground much deeper. These can be useful for applications such as raised beds or retaining walls.
- Thickness: Some forms of metal landscape edging are very thin so that they can form a practically invisible barrier between two sections. Others are much thicker in order to serve as more of a statement feature. The latter can be useful for retaining walls and raised beds where you may need added strength to hold in soil.
- Shape: Metal landscape edging often comes in the form of long flat strips – sometimes with a slight lip. However, curved edging is also an option if you’re willing to buy from custom manufacturers. Corrugated thin metal edging is an option and sometimes comes in cheap rolls that are easy to lay. On the opposite end of the spectrum are more expensive and ornate cast iron edging options for a more sophisticated look.
- Color/texture: There are smooth and shiny options, and more rough and ready options. Some come with copper coatings, while others can be painted. It’s worth considering not just what the texture will look like brand new, but also when aged. The likes of corten steel are known for their even reddish patina, which can have a charming earthy look to some people.
How do you install metal landscape edging?
Installation of metal landscape edging depends very much on the style. However, most forms are fairly easy to install oneself.
Roll-out corrugated metal edging is typically the easiest to install and can be purchased in different length rolls. Other forms of edging come in certain length strips and may have connectors for slotting together.
In soft soil, edging can usually be easily hammered in with a wooden block until it reaches the desired depth. For harder soil, you may need to first dig out a slim trench to slot the edging into, which can be slightly more work. Some edging has spikes to hold it into the soil. Other types of edging may come with stakes that can be hammered in.
To keep your edging looking neat, it’s essential that it’s placed at the right angle and that each section is the same height. You may want to use an angle finder to ensure accuracy.
What are the metal landscape edging pros and cons?
Metal landscape edging has many benefits that make it a popular choice over other forms of edging. There are also some drawbacks to this material that may make it less suitable for certain applications. This post delves into some of these pros and cons to help you decide whether metal landscape edging is the right type of edging for you
Metal is renowned for having excellent strength. This is particularly the case with steel – which is able to withstand a lot of ground movement and is unlikely to lose its shape when knocked. Steel edging is great for retaining walls and equally great for subtle driveway borders due to its strength. Aluminum is known for being a bit softer. However, it will still hold its shape for a long time in many cases.
Because metal edging can be manufactured to be very thin while still retaining its strength, it can possess a subtlety that other forms of edging lack. A slightly protruding metal edge separating a lawn and gravel path could have an almost invisible effect, while simultaneously maintaining a clean straight line between the grass and gravel. Of course, metal edging doesn’t have to be subtle and there are ways to turn it into a statement (such as decorative cast iron), however those who want a minimal look will find that metal is the best solution.
Unlike wood and some forms of brick, metal does not soak up water. It will not rot or spall and will keep its shape. Yes, most types of metal do corrode in the water. But generally the types of metal used for landscape edging won’t wear away, instead simply developing a patina. This weatherproof quality makes metal a popular option.
Although it depends on the quality of the metal, both steel and aluminum edging can typically be expected to last over 20 years. This is a lot longer than wooden edging, which usually lasts 5 to 10 years. If well maintained, metal edging can last for decades. Many warranties cover metal edging for 10 to 15 years.
While some forms of metal edging can be quite intricate and therefore fiddly to install, most forms of metal edging are easy to put in the ground. As mentioned already, some have spikes or stakes to help secure them in. You’ll find plenty of videos online teaching you how to install them.
Most forms of metal do corrode over time. Applying finishes and regularly reapplying them may prevent this, provided that you’re willing to keep on top of this maintenance. Steel edging will typically start to rust after 6 months. Fortunately, most types of steel used for edging such as corten steel rust but don’t wear away. Instead, they develop a red hard patina. Some people don’t like this rusted look, but for others it can actually be one of the main visual attractors of corten steel, helping to give it a naturally aged and earthy look. Aluminum meanwhile does not rust, but can still develop a cloudy gray patina.
Metal edging can come at a higher cost than other types of landscape edging. This is particularly the case when buying large panels or decorative cast iron edging. There are cheaper versions of metal edging on the market, but they are usually less durable.
Tricky to manufacture oneself
While it’s possible to make your own DIY wooden edging using some scrap wood and a saw, DIY metalworking is a lot harder. You will usually have no choice but to buy metal edging off the shelf.
While you can buy decorative cast iron options, the majority of metal edging is not designed to be a statement feature. The likes of wooden edging and stone edging may be better for this purpose.
Should I choose metal landscape edging?
Metal landscape edging is a good option if you want something durable, minimal and easy to install. Those who are on a tight budget and do not like its rusted look may want to avoid it. Make sure weigh up the pros and cons between steel and aluminum if you do decide to opt for metal.