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ATV
08-04-2010, 11:07 AM
Hi Everyone,

I've been reading for hours but haven't really found the answers to my questions. I'd appreciate your advice!

We have about 3 acres of yard that needs landscaping. We have a lot of trees and some wrought iron fencing. We want to edge and create mulch beds around everything to make mowing with our ZTR easier. The plan is to mulch around single trees and mulch around groups of trees/shrubs.

We're in Minnesota. Mostly sand. Have a lot of crab grass put plan to kill off the yard and re-seed in September.

I'm trying to decide how best to edge. If we cut edges using a rented bed edger or by hand, I'm assuming the edges won't hold well in sand and would also need to be re-edged every few weeks, correct?

I would prefer whatever is going to be as close to maintenance free as possible. I know I'll have to replace mulch every few years.

What would you recommend I do for edging beds in my situation?

When you create new mulch beds, is the proper order to first cut the edge, then inside of that edge run a sod cutter to remove the sod, then either put your edging material down if using edging or if not then simply fill the bed with mulch?

If you recommend using an edging material, what would be your recommended material to use? We don't want anything that looks cheap. Its a nice house and I'd like to do it right.

Thanks!

ATV
08-04-2010, 11:29 AM
Would you put down a weed barrier fabric before putting down the mulch?

White Gardens
08-04-2010, 08:59 PM
If you are doing wood mulch,

No fabric,

Use a string trimmer to scalp the areas you plan to mulch,

Spray the scalped areas with roundup, just don't go too heavy in order to make sure not to damage the trees.

Use a bed edger such as a brown bed edger with the paddle, not the taper bit.

Cut a trench with the edger, or just use a shovel. I use a shovel in order to make sure my rings are perfect by using a string around the tree to get an equal distance all the way around.

Install Brick/mortar edging, such as this.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Danvers-IL/White-Gardens/185135107642?v=photos&ref=ts#!/photo.php?pid=3613295&id=185135107642&ref=fbx_album&fbid=300623192642

Grade away from the brick/mortar edge so that the mulch tucks in tightly.

If doing rock, use fabric, and tuck the fabric under the brick/mortar edging.

After two weeks, spray any grass trying to re-establish itself through the wood mulch.

ATV
08-05-2010, 12:46 AM
Thanks so much for the reply! I'm using wood mulch.

When you say, "brick/mortar" edging are you putting down dry portland cement, setting the brick on it and then wetting it down or do you actually mix up mortar and put down first? I'm trying to envision the process. If you're mixing mortar, how thick a layer do you put in the trench before setting the brick?

You do outstanding work. I looked through all of your photo albums. I saw a before and after photo (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3612984&id=185135107642&ref=fbx_album) of a job you did. I see you ran the gutter drain spout down into the ground. What does it dump into? Are you running it to a pop-up head on the grass side of the brick edging?

Thanks again.

Gmgbo
08-05-2010, 07:23 AM
Steel Edging

White Gardens
08-05-2010, 08:29 AM
Thanks so much for the reply! I'm using wood mulch.

When you say, "brick/mortar" edging are you putting down dry portland cement, setting the brick on it and then wetting it down or do you actually mix up mortar and put down first? I'm trying to envision the process. If you're mixing mortar, how thick a layer do you put in the trench before setting the brick?

You do outstanding work. I looked through all of your photo albums. I saw a before and after photo (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=3612984&id=185135107642&ref=fbx_album) of a job you did. I see you ran the gutter drain spout down into the ground. What does it dump into? Are you running it to a pop-up head on the grass side of the brick edging?

Thanks again.


Thanks.

That job already had an existing drainage system on the property. That downspout runs into a drain tile that runs out to the edge of the property.

If you want to you could do something simple like this for drainage.

http://www.lawnsite.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=157498&d=1249410446

When it comes to the brick edging, I run a string-line along the grade to keep my runs strait, and then dig a trench. I take a brick along the trench to double check and make sure that it's deep enough before I start.

Then I take type-s mortar (no aggregate for ease) and mix it up one bag at a time. Usually with an 80lb. bag I can get about 8 feet done. I try to make sure there is around 4 inches, + - of mortar under my bricks.

I like it as it doesn't move when you run over it with a mower.

ATV
08-05-2010, 01:03 PM
I really want to thank you again for your help. A lot of people have looked at this post but you really stepped forward and provided some help. Thanks!

I called my local rental store and their bed edger has either a rectangular blade for installing the edging pavers or a "V" blade. You mentioned I wanted a "paddle" blade. Sorry for my ignorance, but is the paddle blade and the rectangular blade the same thing? Sounds like it but wanted to check with the expert. I have hundreds of linear feet to do and want to have the right tool for the job.

MarcSmith
08-05-2010, 01:20 PM
1/4" steel edging would make it much easier to do curves and such...

When doing edging use a garden hose to lay out a "template" of sorts and then drive your mower with the blades off to ensure that you can get into all the curves and such prior to marking and installing your edging.

Personally I'd use a sod cutter in all but the areas right up next to the trunk of the trees.. and in those cases I would spray first, then wait a few days and then string trim it down. This way you are getting more herbicide into the plant. if you trim it down and then spray...lest surface area for the herbicide to stick to...

for steel edging the sod cutter would provide enough depth for the edging.

I would also install my edging such that the top of the edging was just below the lowest height you would normally cut your grass. that way the edging wont hit the blades when you mow.

ATV
08-05-2010, 05:46 PM
Marc,

Thanks for the reply. In some of the posts I've read here, I thought it made mention (and I could be wrong) that the steel edging requires maintenance? Do you have to replace or paint steel edging every few years? Just wondering about its durability.

I'm assuming it would definitely be cheaper and easier to install than brick. But I'm assuming the brick might last for 20 years or more without touching it? Especially if set in a mortar bed.

I like the idea of less expensive and easier, just concerned about what it might take to maintain the steel edging.

MarcSmith
08-05-2010, 05:59 PM
you can get metal edging in steel or aluminum. edging comes in black for steel and unpainted aluminum.

yes over time the steel will rust, but its not a rust that will structurally hurt it. Steel edging is not as much decorative as it is functional For those who like the look of mulch right up against the grass with no visible edging.

in all honeslty if I had to go with something that looked good, choice of brick, I would look more towards a granite cobble over brick. more durable, but more expensive.
http://www.askthebuilder.com/artman212/uploads/1/457-2.jpg If you got a cobble that was deep enough, in theory you could do it with out any base/mortar

But I like the look of mulch against grass so I'd go steel edging, but that's just me...

White Gardens
08-05-2010, 10:35 PM
you can get metal edging in steel or aluminum. edging comes in black for steel and unpainted aluminum.

yes over time the steel will rust, but its not a rust that will structurally hurt it. Steel edging is not as much decorative as it is functional For those who like the look of mulch right up against the grass with no visible edging.

in all honeslty if I had to go with something that looked good, choice of brick, I would look more towards a granite cobble over brick. more durable, but more expensive.
http://www.askthebuilder.com/artman212/uploads/1/457-2.jpg If you got a cobble that was deep enough, in theory you could do it with out any base/mortar

But I like the look of mulch against grass so I'd go steel edging, but that's just me...

Great Posts Marc. I'm always grateful to be part of a civil thread with your input. Thumbs Up

I do agree about the steel. Easier to install. No muss, no fuss, and you do get that cut edge look with less maintenance compared to a cut edge.

The only thing I disagree on is dry setting the larger blocks you linked to. This guy lives up north and the frost/heave cycle will make them go goofy in a couple of years. That and if this guy is using a zero turn, he'll move them around pretty easily when he hits them.

Ultimately I would still set them in mortar. And as tree rings I would try to miter the bigger blocks to get as small of a seam as possible.

http://www.lawnsite.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=191744&d=1276867571

Another thing to consider ATV, is the trees you plan on going around. If these are smaller ornamental with minimally aggressive roots, then I wouldn't worry about the ring placement, as long as it isn't too close.

If they are potentially trees that will get large and have large surface roots, such as a silver maple, then I would take that into consideration and try to place the ring to get 20 years out of the edging.

And yes, the paddle bit I'm referring to is the rectangular bit they rental house mentioned. Thumbs Up

ATV
08-06-2010, 02:05 AM
When I traveled over the summer I went to a number of businesses who had cut edges around their mulch beds and I have to admit -- I really liked the look.

At our old house, we had the 12" long, narrow, pavers that interlocked end-to-end. I installed them around the mulch beds that bordered the house. They looked good. But after reading discussions here about people who don't like the brick when its out in the yard rather than near the house, I'm kind of on the fence as to what to do here.

Our driveway is pavers. We have an entry door next to the garage door and that whole area extending to the door is pavers. The pavers continue on and form a sidewalk continuing around to the main front door on the house. In front of the main door, is a patio area which is also pavers. The front facade of the house is light colored brick. The pavers are more of a rust color.

With the existing pavers, we have a lot of hardscape in place already. The front yard is surrounded by a black wrought iron fence.

So putting brick around mulch beds, given the type of home we have and prominent use of pavers already, might look complimentary to the house and look great.

I have to try and figure out the right decision. So you guys are very much appreciated with the feedback and advice you've shared. I can't thank you enough and I appreciate the time you've taken helping me.

My main concern is the number of trees in the yard that I would like to mulch around. I'm concerned that rather than it looking like a planned landscaping design which enhances the house, that it may look like a patchwork of bricks and mulch. If I can, tomorrow I'll take some pics and post here. If you guys don't mind sharing opinions, I'd love to hear what you think (and anyone else reading this discussion).

Tomorrow evening my wife and I are going to walk the yard and really take a look at things and try to envision what the end result would look like. I'm still leaning heavily towards the brick edging. But I do like the look of cut edges. The steel edging I've not seen enough photos yet to have formed an opinion. I'm going to do some more searching tonight to see what I can't find for photos.

I'm mulching mainly to make it easier to mow the yard. I'm 48 now but when I'm 80 years old or better I don't want to have spend a lot of hours every week on the yard just to keep on top of things. I'd prefer to have to mow, fertilize and kill weeds and that's about it. I'm trying to minimize how much we have to do with the string trimmer, make it easy to mow, etc. Just planning for down the road when I'm an old fart.

I'm on top of the gopher situation now, but when we bought the house 2 years ago there were a lot of gophers and chipmunks that had borrowed in the ground. If I do go with the brick edging, I'm definitely going to take the advice and put the mortar down. That way if there are tunnels in the ground, or if we have problems with frost and heaving, I can minimize how much the edging might shift. I think having a sound base is good advice. I don't mind whatever work it takes to do the job right. Its a good investment.

Craigslist has a Brown Bed Edger (http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/ank/grd/1861528733.html) listed for $650. If I end up deciding to go with the cut edges, I'd be willing to buy an edger like this if need be. I have to imagine the edges could be re-cut pretty quickly with this.

How frequently would the edges typically need to be re-cut? If its every other month, I could probably live with that. If its every other week...then those brick edgers look mighty good!

This has been a great discussion. Thanks guys.

MarcSmith
08-06-2010, 07:40 AM
wg. I did say IN THEORY so I did qualify my statement.. :) Even though I've been up north 10 years now (if you call Dc north) I still revert back to my florida days with my thinking sometimes...and i did fail to notice Minnesota on the location...

Id venture to say to to keep your cut edges looking sharp... a couple times a growing season should be enough. and in between edging you can always touch up with a string trimmer to catch any runners and unruly grass depending on the type of grass...

White Gardens
08-06-2010, 09:48 AM
wg. I did say IN THEORY so I did qualify my statement.. :) Even though I've been up north 10 years now (if you call Dc north) I still revert back to my florida days with my thinking sometimes...and i did fail to notice Minnesota on the location...

Id venture to say to to keep your cut edges looking sharp... a couple times a growing season should be enough. and in between edging you can always touch up with a string trimmer to catch any runners and unruly grass depending on the type of grass...

Oh I know, I wasn't trying to bust your chops, so I apologize if you took it as such.

I agree with using your trimmer to keep the edges nice. The old farm house I do a maintenance on, I have to use my trimmer once every two weeks to keep the edges nice and clean. Occasionally I have to dig out sections by hand where a mole has run along the trench. The place has an old appeal to it, and I haven't even considered once mentioning edging of any kind at that place as anything but the cut edge would look out of place.

ATV, that's a great price for a bed edger. The only problem with the brown bed edger is that it's great for doing new edges, and at 650 I'd buy it to do what you need to and turn around and sell it when your done. I tried a brown edger to re-define a couple of beds earlier this year, but it didn't work out well as the wheels on the machine want to drop into the existing trench.

Another thought would be to get an echo bed re-definer to keep the trenches/cut edges nice. I haven't tried one yet, but there are plenty of guys on here that like the results they get from it. I use a Stihl trimmer with a yard boss tiller head on the end instead. Basically it's the same principal, but I get more uses out of the tiller head rather than just a bed definer.

http://www.echo-usa.com/prods_list.asp?Category=REDEFINER

MarcSmith
08-06-2010, 10:11 AM
no offense taken...

ATV
08-06-2010, 10:30 AM
Hi Guys,

I think I've finally made a decision thanks to all of the awesome help you've given me. I'm going with the cut edges. Here is why...

It's going to cost way less to do. It's faster and easier. Down the road, if I decide it's too high of maintenance (which it now sounds like it won't be based on what you've said), I can always rake the mulch back and run a bed edger with the paddle around and install the brick (in mortar) and then rake the mulch back into place. So there isn't much of a downside to go with the cut edges because I can always do the brick later. Unless you see a problem with my theory?

Instead of buying the brown edger, I may rent one for the weekend and then buy the echo redefiner instead. I watched a video of the redefiner in action. It looks fast and easy. The one thing I don't get, is it blows all of the dirt onto the top of your mulch. Do you:

1) Leave it and not worry about it
2) Rake the mulch towards the tree before edging and then rake it back
3) Throw fresh mulch on top to cover the dirt.

Just wondering what you pros do.

I have just a couple more questions and then I think I'm ready to tackle this!


WG - in an earlier reply you mentioned that you use a string trimmer and scalp the area you plan to mulch and then spray with roundup. Then you use the bed edger.

I'm assuming if I'm going cut edges that the proper attachment would be the "V" shaped blade the rental place mentioned?

Just to make sure I'm clear -- you're saying there is no need to rent a sod cutter and remove the sod where the mulch bed would go?

I should mention...I've got a 40 gallon tow-behind sprayer I use for roundup, a skid steer, dump trailer, tractor with front-end loader, Stihl commercial blower, Stihl commercial string trimmer and a Ryobi sting trimmer with the expand-it option and a tiller attachment. I checked and Ryobi doesn't offer a redefiner attachment. Bummer. But I'll buy the echo you mentioned. Not that I want to spend the money - but it would save a ton of time the way it looks.

We also have a plant about 9 miles away that manufactures mulch. The problem is they only sell in 10 yard loads and my dump trailer has a 6 yard capacity. I can add 2 foot extensions to the trailer and that might give me the 10 yard capacity -- but I'll need to talk to the plant and see if they can tell me the weight of a 10 yard load.

If I should remove the sod with the sod cutter, I've got an easy way to haul it away and I've got a place I can dump it. What I don't know is if the problem would be using a sod cutter close to the trees? I'm assuming your advice to scalp and round-up is to avoid problems with roots?

So the proper order is scalp, round-up, edger with V blade, hand taper with shovel from V perhaps 10 inches towards tree and then put the mulch down?

Thanks you guys. You've been great.

MarcSmith
08-06-2010, 11:14 AM
atv. if you go the scalp route. IMO spray first then a day or two later scalp... better chance of kill as you are getting more roundup on more leaves...

ATV
08-06-2010, 12:17 PM
So the rental place said, about the V blade, is "people have used it for that". Sounds like its not 100% the right tool for making those initial cut edges. I can call around other places, but what should I ask for? Is there a certain blade profile I should get?

ATV
08-06-2010, 01:21 PM
I called Brown and mentioned the edger for sale on Craigslist and told them what I wanted to do. Mainly I wanted to confirm what the proper blade is to use for making the cut edge (they said to use a rotor).

Anyway, the fellow there said that in our sandy soil that it won't hold the edge without edging material. I called some local landscapers to find out what their experience has been. One fellow said not to even cut anything. He said to put the mulch down in a mound around the trees. I've seen that done. Seems like you would end up with mulch over the yard from mowing, etc... The other landscaper said he uses a plastic edge in his own yard. So....not a clear choice.

I do have groups of trees that regardless will need a bed around the group. So now I'm reconsidering doing the brick.

Does a mulch mound around individual trees and a mulch bed with brick edging sound like smart plan?

Sorry about the 101 questions. I'm starting tomorrow so I don't have a lot of time to make a decision.

JCS Landscaping
08-06-2010, 08:08 PM
Atv,
just finished a mulch job for some family. We had over 30 trees to recut and mulch. We rented a sod cutter to widen the circles. The landscaping and home are around 5 years old, so we had to widen the circles to keep up with the growth of the trees. The sod cutter cost us about $15/hr to rent and we finished cutting in about 1.5 hours. Real simple and easy process. Worst part was removing the sod. I have some before and after pics in the pictures forum. Not sure how to get a link but search for it and you can check em out. Its a very nice home, and the clean cut edges are nothing short of classy.

JCS Landscaping
08-06-2010, 08:09 PM
BTW... we have sandy soil also, and never found this method to become an issue.

White Gardens
08-06-2010, 08:43 PM
I called Brown and mentioned the edger for sale on Craigslist and told them what I wanted to do. Mainly I wanted to confirm what the proper blade is to use for making the cut edge (they said to use a rotor).

Anyway, the fellow there said that in our sandy soil that it won't hold the edge without edging material. I called some local landscapers to find out what their experience has been. One fellow said not to even cut anything. He said to put the mulch down in a mound around the trees. I've seen that done. Seems like you would end up with mulch over the yard from mowing, etc... The other landscaper said he uses a plastic edge in his own yard. So....not a clear choice.

I do have groups of trees that regardless will need a bed around the group. So now I'm reconsidering doing the brick.

Does a mulch mound around individual trees and a mulch bed with brick edging sound like smart plan?

Sorry about the 101 questions. I'm starting tomorrow so I don't have a lot of time to make a decision.


Just trust your gut. Even in the sandy soil go with at least some steel edging. Dare I say it, but you could even do plastic. :hammerhead: Either way you could use the angle bit and cut the circles like you would if you were doing a cut edge. Then you'll have a good cut out to lay your metal or plastic edging.

If, you were to do the plastic, the key is to get it low, and buy 10-12 inch spikes and install one spike per foot. Don't use the crappy L pins they try to sell for the plastic edging, they don't work, and that is why you generally see the plastic edging that has come out of the ground.

The only major advantage I see to steel or plastic over the brick is that they will be semi-temporary so you can expand them as the tree grows.

So good luck on you decision. The key with the brick edging is that it's tedious. You'll go through about 3 bags of mortar before you figure out the right consistency. Too stiff and you can't pound them down if you need to. Too loose and your bricks will sag when you set them in the mortar.

To get a semi-perfect circle around a tree, I take a piece of string and make a loose loop around the trunk of the tree. Then I wrap the string around a can of marking paint and tie it to keep it place. Then I gust go around the tree with my paint. If all your circles are the same size then just make it so that you can re-attach it to other trees easily. Kinda like a compass.

Get latex gloves to wear if you do the brick and mortar. That way you can get your hands in it without tearing them up. Masonry tools can be hard to deal with if your not used to them.

Use Type S-Mortar. Even though in 80lb bags, it has a better consistency when dealing with it along with the greater strength over Type M.

Good Luck.

shooterm
08-08-2010, 01:13 PM
Around trees and in the upper midwest wouldnt a solid structure of only a few inches like mortar just crack and heave retaining its spring position? I'd just lay it as normal paver base. Just me but a trimmed edge with mulch seems more healthy for trees and doesnt train roots to grow at the surface.

White Gardens
08-08-2010, 01:40 PM
Around trees and in the upper midwest wouldnt a solid structure of only a few inches like mortar just crack and heave retaining its spring position? I'd just lay it as normal paver base. Just me but a trimmed edge with mulch seems more healthy for trees and doesnt train roots to grow at the surface.

A normal paver base is a waste of time. Reason being is when you do a paver sidewalk or patio, don't you at least put in some sort of restraint on the edges, such a mortar edge, or plastic snap restraint to keep the pavers in place?

Even if the brick/mortar edge happens to crack or move, it's in larger sections instead of one brick moving. So ultimately it will retain it's shape better in the long run.

Even some of the brick/mortar edgings I've done in the last 3 years haven't moved a bit.

shooterm
08-08-2010, 01:58 PM
I dont know its a big no no to mortar brick in when used on the ground. If your not placing anything to the frostline you make sure it can flex so I cant see why this is special.

White Gardens
08-08-2010, 03:03 PM
I dont know its a big no no to mortar brick in when used on the ground. If your not placing anything to the frostline you make sure it can flex so I cant see why this is special.


Why is it a big no-no, I'm not following you?

shooterm
08-09-2010, 02:03 AM
You dont put paver or brick on the ground without a flexible base. The mortar ruins the base you put it on because it doesnt flex just shears.

shooterm
08-09-2010, 02:06 AM
Mortar isnt bad or brick it just need to flex as a unit just like a sidewalk slab.

White Gardens
08-09-2010, 09:39 AM
PD, this is brick edging we are talking about, not a paver sidewalk/patio.

There is no difference between bricks laid in mortar and poured curb edging. The only big difference is you get a better look, and your bricks can be at grade with the brick rather than a poured curb edging.

Basically I feel like you are telling me an apple is an orange.