Metal garden edging is the pièce de résistance of garden edging. It's the most durable and long-lasting option, and it comes in many different shapes and sizes. It also is available for purchase in many different kinds of metals, which means you can choose how flexible, rust-resistant, and durable you want your edging to be.
Choosing to use metal edging as the edging for your garden or flowerbed will be a decision you won't regret. Requiring no maintenance, you can install it, which is easy, and essentially forget about it. It will continue to do its job for as long as you need it to, leaving you free to give your attention to the things that really need it.
When it comes to using edging in your landscape, the imagination is the only limit you have. Whether you hide it under the ground, use it to create walls, carve out pockets of contrast, or make a pathway, the options really are limitless, and completely up to you.
Types of Metal Edging
As was previously mentioned, there are a number of different kinds of metal edging, each coming with different qualities, pros and cons, and, of course, price tags. Let's go over some of the differences so you can find the perfect fit for you!
You may recognize galvanized steel from shed roofs or walls, outdoor cellar coverings, and a number of other places. Often called corrugated metal (though not all corrugated metal is galvanized steel), it has many, many uses, and is favored for its flexibility and resistance to rust.
Galvanized steel is just steel that has gone through a process called "galvanization". It's a chemical process that coats the steel in layers of zinc oxide, which makes the surface more durable, rust-resistant, and much harder to scratch. Galvanized steel is commonly used for making street signs, heating and cooling ducts, and many other outdoor appliances or structures where resistance to the elements is a requirement for a longer life of function.
Popular for the almost crystalline, shiny look that persists for years after installation, it requires next to no upkeep to keep it looking new. It's also decently flexible which makes it easy to shape according to your landscaping designs.
Corten steel, also referred to as weathering steel, was manufactured for its strength, and was initially used for shipping things by train. Containers made of this metal were incredibly strong, and it was later discovered that the particular alloy used to make them would form a layer of controlled corrosion that would form as a barrier from the elements.
This controlled corrosion that formed just on the surface of the steel prevented the need to paint or otherwise protect the metal. As it formed a barrier against the elements on its own without rusting through and was extremely tough, it quickly became a favorite in the world of shipping.
Corten is actually an abbreviation, the "Cor" standing for corrosion resistance, and "Ten" standing for tensile strength. It's referred to as weathering steel because it actually weathers itself against the kinds of conditions that would normally break it down. It begins rusting on the outside, but once it is protected, it stabilizes, and the corrosion stops.
There are, however, a few cons to using weathered steel. If you weld it, the welding point will weather at a different rate than the rest of the structure, which can be unpredictable. Corten steel weathers according to exposure, like a reaction to stimuli. So any areas that receive more exposure to moisture will weather more quickly, specifically areas that collect water. Constant exposure to saltwater is an especially effective way to corrode corten steel.
If you live in a climate with average or below-average rainfall or overall moisture, this is a great choice for you!
Raw steel may be one of the more unfavorable options available to you. It's completely untreated by any processes, and even when kept indoors, it will begin to rust simply from being in contact with the moisture in the air.
Raw steel is best described as an ingredient used to make more superior steel products, and as such, would be a poor choice for use in a garden setting.
Aluminum is a great choice for garden edging. It's very light and flexible, making it easy to handle and move around into the shapes you want. Aluminum is one of the most common elements, which makes it easily accessible and fairly cheap.
Aluminum does corrode, but once it forms a protective layer on the surface, the corrosion stops there, making it a very low maintenance choice. It's non-toxic, so you don't have to worry about its effect on the soil or your plants, which is a nice perk.
Though it is one of the most versatile options, it isn't particularly strong, so keep that in mind when you're considering its placement. For example, don't put it anywhere and at a height where you may run it over with a lawnmower, as that will more than likely bend or otherwise disfigure it. Don't install it in a place where children running around may step on it, and avoid placing it near the edges of your driveway where it may be run over by an errant driver.
If you have children who may damage the edging, consider using it inside the garden or flowerbeds themselves, as opposed to establishing the border of the flowerbed. You'll be surprised as to what you're able to accomplish by using edging as a barrier method inside your flowerbed.
Cast iron, unlike most of our other options, is most typically used as an above ground edging. Galvanized edging, for example, remains for the most part below the ground, preventing roots from crossing boundaries they shouldn't. Cast iron edging serves more of a decorative purpose, providing a more visual than a physical barrier. Why is that?
Cast iron has a very low melting point, which makes it incredibly easy to form into shapes. However, once it has been molded into shape, it doesn't really bend. Cast iron does great under pressure as a whole, but once you try to bend it (assuming you're able to exert enough pressure), it won't bend, it will break.
Pros and Cons of Using Metal Edging
To summarize an overall view of the different edging, let's go over some of the pros and cons so you can make the best decision for you and your garden.
- For the most part, metal edging is sturdy and will keep the shape you install it in.
- The below-ground section of the edging will prevent grass from spreading into your garden or flowerbed.
- It will last for a long, long time, and won't crack, tear, or fall apart from exposure to the elements.
- Variables like the specific metal you use and the amount of it you need can end is some expensive combinations.
- The water run-off from the corrosion may stain the ground or surrounding structures if they're too close.
- Each kind of metal has it's own set of pros and cons, so making a choice isn't as easy as going to the store and grabbing the first thing you see on the shelf.
How Much Does Metal Edging Cost?
The prices for metal edging will differ based on the following variables.
- Amount purchased
- Metal used
- Treatment the metal may have received
- The manufacturer and business who sells it
- Shipping costs
How Do You Install Metal Edging
The installation will differ based on the kind of product you use. Some products will come with "spikes" or spines attached, which means you can simply stick them in the ground and they'll stay (with some possible hammer use). Other types of edging may come with stakes or pins that are not attached, which are used to keep the border in place.
Check out this video for an example of how to install metal garden edging.
This metal edging is used as a barrier between a mulch bedding and the grass. As you can see, it's incredibly effective in keeping the grass out of the flowerbed. This specific kind of edging develops a layer of corrosion that helps protect the metal underneath, making it last much longer. This corrosive process gives the metal a reddish tint that can be cleverly complimented by the foliage you place near it.
Not only does using edging this way keep the grass out, but it can also keep the things you put in your flowerbed from spreading out into your lawn.
For example, plants like mint and lemon balm are pleasing to look at, and always smell wonderful, but they have a nasty secret. They spread via an underground network of roots that will absolutely take over any area you give it, and it will continue to grow back year after year, no matter how sure you are that you pulled every last one.
A great way to stop plants like this from absolutely running amok? That's right, garden edging! Most plants that spread this way have a fairly shallow root system of just several inches. Put a barrier down beneath the ground and you've foiled their scheme to take over.
Depending on the variety and size of the edging that you use, you can use the edging to establish not only different barriers but different levels in your garden or flowerbed. Doing this will add a whole new exciting dynamic to your yard that will seem extremely professional, taking your landscaping to the next level.
The garden edging in this picture is actually serving several purposes. Yes, it's definitely acting as a step, bringing up the level of the garden, but look at the bottom. It's also acting as a barrier between the plants and a layer of gravel separating the metal edging from the grass.
Try not to get so caught up in using the metal edging as a functional piece, and consider how you can use it in a more artistic way! Anything you put in your flowerbed or as a part of your landscaping will generally have a functional purpose and a decorative purpose. When you're placing your edging, try to think about how you can incorporate it almost as a decor item that does a job.
3. Statement Piece
This design takes full advantage of the height and color of this metal edging. Creating a very definitive barrier, it almost seems at first that the flowerbed behind it is elevated, but it isn't. It's just behind a wall, and it's protecting plants that are tall enough to still get sun in spite of it, which is why it works.
A tall wall and tall plants all draw your eye upwards, but the clever installation of horizontally traveling boards in the back prevents your eyes from being drawn too far up, keeping your attention on the flowerbed and the plants.
4. Make a Match
Are you looking to do something unique that will stick out? Either make or buy some containers of any size that are made of the same material the edging is made out of. It will bring a new level of uniformity and cohesiveness to your landscape that will be hard to duplicate any other way.
Something you may want to watch out for is the type of edging you do this with. If you look closely at that picture, you can see that the concrete is slightly stained. Most likely corten, or weathered steel, the corrosion barrier it forms will wash away if it's exposed to too much water, which, in turn, will stain whatever it washes onto.
While the oxidized barrier can be aesthetically appealing, make sure you're aware of the possible drawbacks and how to deal with them.
5. Design Opportunities
This picture gives you a fantastic peek at how this particular siding (most likely aluminum or galvanized steel) is secured into the ground. This staking system allows you to form the metal edging into a variety of shapes, giving you full control over the customization of your garden.
You can use it as a divider to separate different plants or landscaping materials, or you can use it for purely aesthetic purposes. Creating borders between your plants and your grass, making walkways between your zucchini and your tomatoes, or using it to designate plots out of specific areas are just a few of the ways that you can utilize this versatile landscaping tool.
6. Heavy Duty
Not all siding needs to be used to small projects, little details, and minuscule jobs like keeping your bark out of your lawn. Edging can be used for your larger projects too, you're just going to need to reinforce it. Secure some wood or metal poles into the ground, attach some sturdy siding to it, and you've got yourself a nice barrier that you can use for a number of things.
For example, a setup like this would allow you to create some levels in your garden. Not only would this effectively keep many plants from spreading, but it would help you add dimension to your landscape.
This clever use of aluminum or galvanized steel edging has allowed for a clear separation of different kinds and colors of landscaping materials. Where bark and pebbles would normally become mixed together quite quickly, this metal edging keeps them apart. Not only are the colors made quite striking by their division, but the different textures are immediately noticeable as well. Colors and textures aside, it's a simple project that can be carried out in any flowerbed, regardless of the size.
8. The Other Side
Where most metal garden edging would probably be described as functional rather than decorative, cast iron is most certainly an exception. Where most metal edging acts as a barrier below ground, the majority of cast iron edging is generally a barrier above ground, better functioning as something that keeps bushes and taller plants in their place, rather than keeping the voracious roots of other plants from spreading.
9. Faerie Garden
This cute little cast iron fence gives a perfect example of what aesthetic options are available to you in the realm of cast iron edging. Cast iron is best known for the shapes and designs it can be twisted into before it cools and sets, which makes it a perfect candidate when it comes to the more intricate and detailed parts of your garden or flowerbed. Landscaping isn't always about the big changes you can make, but the little details you incorporate as well.
Another great example of cast iron edging, this application fully utilizes not only the edging itself but the color of the edging, which is cleverly contrasted against the greenery in the background. The combination of the rustic wooden chair with the slightly corroded cast iron edging gives your yard a wonderfully woodsy effect, which is further accentuated by the inclusion of pinecones.