I bought my first pair of gumboots (aka wellies) when I embarked on the task of convalescing my backyard several years ago. One of the missions I undertook was to create a brick edging for my lawn, and flower beds using interlocking bricks.
If the truth be told, the wearisome job of manicuring a tidy lawn edge each spring is not for sissies. Take it from me (someone who has jumped up and down mercilessly on a shovel blade without an inch of victory); it’s not an effortless chore! In my last edging attempt a few years ago, I finally concluded that there needed to be a better way for an undersized girl to have an attractive oversized lawn. Thus began my journey as bricklayer.
Let me share what I learned from my adventures in landscaping, so that you will not be too shy in getting a little dirt under your fingernails for the purpose of creating a practical and improved look to your garden or lawn. Here’s a girl’s guide to DIY brick edging for grass and flower beds. It’s not for dummies—but it is for girls….with gum boots!
Count the costs: Apply this principle to any new endeavour. Estimate the cost and purchase your bricks accordingly! Use rope or string to design and plot your garden bed borders, in addition to the lawn edges, and then measure the perimeters.
A play date with your bricks: Play around with your bricks and lay them on top of the existing grass or flower beds before shovelling any grass or dirt away! Your bricks might not interlock in the shape you intended, so this is an essential first step.
Heading for the border: In order to lay your bricks, you will first need to create a trench that is the width of your bricks, allowing for 1 additional inch on either side. If you intend to edge an existing lawn or flower bed, this may require you to cut back some of the live grass— or this may necessitate extending the size of your flowerbeds. Mark your border with precision. To begin this process, start by running a rope (or even a garden hose) along the inside of the brick border that you have plotted on your grass. Alternatively, you can also use spray paint to mark the area of grass that needs to be cut. (Just be careful not to spray your new bricks!)
Shovel it: The end goal is to create a brick border that lay flush with your lawn. Therefore your trench should be dug out as deep as your bricks, plus an additional 6 inches. This means that if your bricks are 5 inches high, you must dig your trench 11 inches deep in total. Adjust this measurement if you plan to have your bricks sticking above the lawn slightly. (Just remember that by doing so, your lawn mower won’t be able to roll over your bricks with ease.)
Fill trench with crushed rock or road base: We fill the trench with 6-7 inches of crushed rock, so that our bricks will be placed on a solid foundation; we do not want the bricks to later sink or slide and become uneven. It helps to run water into your trench, in order to soak and compact the rocks, creating a firm base to lay your bricks. Stomping around (with your gumboots on) in your trench will also pack in the rocks.
Placing the bricks: A ruler and a levelling tool will help you to determine if your trench base is at the correct height before you begin insertion of your bricks.
Although we want all the bricks to be level with the surrounding ground, it’s okay if the bricks initially sit slightly above the ground (if by less than an inch), so that you can afterwards firmly push or tap them into the rock base to secure them.
The verdict is: Use a mallet or hammer (in combination with something soft like an old towel) to cushion the blows! Tap each brick into the firm rock base. As you progress, you may need to shuffle, add or remove some of the crushed rock, here and there. Continue to verify that the tops of the bricks are level as you go. Don’t worry about the 1 inch extra allowance which results in gaps on either side of your border—we will eventually fill these spaces with soil. Do however ensure that your row of bricks is tightly placed against each other.
If you’ve made it this far, you are a woman of great courage—congratulations! We’ve completed a job well done. Simply fill the 1-inch (or so) gaps on either side of your bricks with soil. To beautify your project, seed this bare soil with grass (if the bricks border your lawn), or rake soil up to the edge of the bricks on the side that blends into existing flower beds). Oh, and one more thing—remove your gumboots, shake out the dirt; it’s definitely time for a hot bath!
Adding brick edging to your garden is going to take a little commitment and definitely some perspiration. But if you persevere, the end result will allow you to maintain a lovely finished yard, year round, without the ongoing hassle of edging your lawn each season. If I can do it, then so can you! Enjoy your garden and a new “edge” on life.