02 May 2011

On The Edge

And it continues....

After bringing in good soil and fine-tuning the grading, and before putting in the sprinkler system, we needed to lay out the planting beds, areas to be sodded, etc. And that's how I became a bit of an expert in the captivating world of metal edging.

In exploring our options, I found that the same green metal edging was available at Home Depot or Lowe's in 8-foot lengths for $10 or at Whittlesey, our local landscaping supply shop, in 10-foot lengths for a little over $11. I had counted about 300 feet of edging that I thought we were going to need (although we ended up putting in more), so I bought 25 pieces at Whittlesey, with plans to buy additional 8-foot pieces at Lowe's so we would have some flexibility with length. When we went to Lowe's, we found that they also had 4-foot pieces, which at $8 definitely weren't as good a value as the other lengths, but again gave us more options. With 4-, 8-, and 10-foot pieces at our disposal, we were able to make any length from 8 feet up, in increments of two feet. (When we got them home, we learned that the length of each piece included the tabs on each end, and since they overlap with the next piece, we lost six inches per piece in overall length, so I'm rounding.) Piecing together different lengths in different locations worked out fabulously.

But back to the beginning.

We tried all the tricks when it came to preliminary layout of the beds: hose, spray paint, flags, and even two tape measures to see where the fountain will go:

The common advice to use a hose to lay out the beds failed us -- it wouldn't straighten out enough to make either a nice curve or totally straight line. We ended up measuring several points on the plan and then transferring those points to the yard with flags or paint sticks. Then I would connect the dots freehand with marking paint:

I can't draw worth anything, but I turned out to be pretty good at "drawing" on the ground with this can of spray paint. Inverted marking paint has a special nozzle so that the paint comes straight out of the top (or bottom, once you point the can at the ground), so it was more like a P.E. exercise to follow the markers while holding the can as steady as possible.

Once the lines were drawn, we laid pieces of edging right over them to figure out which sizes would work best in each space.

Creatively laying out the pieces (especially the curves, where we had some wiggle-room anyway) using the different sizes enabled us to maximize our efficiency and make the best possible use of each piece -- and with three sizes to choose from, we didn't end up having to cut a single piece.

There's nothing pretty about this metal edging. We've seen it out in the world and don't like when it sticks up above the grass, so we dug a trench everywhere it would go so that we could set it down halfway into the ground, with the goal that it will be virtually invisible once sod, gravel, mulch, and patio pavers are in place.

We had to guess a bit at how deep to make the trench, but once we pushed the dirt back into place, we were happy to find just about two inches poking up out of the ground:

We actually started the installation with the hardest part -- the back patio. We have a specific size in mind for the patio that we will one day get to laying, so for now, we wanted to install edging in those dimensions to establish the contours of the various areas that butt up to it (planting bed, grass, gravel).

The patio was extra-tricky because of the turns. The manufacturer's website suggested scoring pieces before bending them, so we used our hacksaw and miter box to do just that...

...which worked okay, although it was still really hard to bend the pieces (maybe our cuts weren't deep enough?).

The whole experience was one of those things where we got a lot more comfortable (and efficient) as we went, although we hope never to have to put that comfort and efficiency to use because we never want to install edging again. It wasn't that fun. (Can you tell that we're exhausted from all of this yard work?) But seeing the result reminds us why we've given up so many of our weekends:

(The boulder, which we want to sit along the border between the planting bed and the lawn, was pretty easy to work with, once we figured out that we could just bring edging to it from each side and skip the edging under it. It's pretty much in exactly the spot where we want it; we will work out the final placement later.)

(The front walkway will be made out of custom (DIY) cement pavers in different sizes and shapes, with gravel between the pavers.)

It's not quite the welcoming entrance we're going for -- yet -- but it's a lot closer than it was just a few weeks ago.

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