How To Edge A Lawn By Hand

Edging your lawn has to one of the most high impact jobs you can do to improve the appearance of your property. It really does catch peoples eye and gives your home a “SORTED!” appearance. If you haven’t been edging your lawn up to now, do it once, i know it wont be the last!

Edging a lawn is the process of leaving a sharp clean line around the perimeter of your grass lawn. This can be along a footpath, driveway or flower bed. It gives your garden a well cared for appearance, which doesn’t take long to do if done regulary.

The usual process for in depth lawn care looks something like this:

  1. Dethatching or moss removal if required.
  2. Aerate the lawn
  3. Mow the lawn
  4. Apply fertilizer
  5. Edge the lawn
  6. Tidy the cuttings/ debris – usually with a lawn vacuum or leaf blower.

You can edge your lawn with either a powered tool like a string trimmer or use a manual edging tool. I would interpret edging a lawn by hand refers to using a manual tool. This is what i will stick to in my article.

There are a number of manual hand tools available for you to choose from. I will go through them and discuss their roles in edging a lawn.

1. The Steel Landscaping Edger

This is the oldest manual edging tool around, it is the one you will have most likely seen lying against a wall of the garden shed and maybe wondered what it’s for. They normally have a shaft about 3-4 feet long and it has a half moon steel blade at the bottom with footrests on either side of the shaft.

The footrests work in two ways..

1. They help the user to use his foot on the tool to push the blade into the ground using the power of his body weight/leg

2. The folded steel foot rests act as a depth control for the user to maintain an even depth of cut as they move along the line of cut.

Where should i use this type of edger?

This edger is most commonly used when you want to remove a piece of sod from the lawn next to a flower bed, or if a lot of grass and sod is growing over a path or driveway.

How to edge a lawn

The first thing you want to do is mark the lawn where you want it edged. You can do this by tying a piece of string between two stakes to give you a straight line or lay a straight edged board along the edge of the lawn which you want to edge. If you need to do a curve you could mark it out using your hose pipe as a marker or just use your eye.

Next you take the tool and place it at the line and push it into the ground by pressing your foot down on the footrest. Then lift the edger from the ground and move it along the line half the width of the cutting blade and push down again.

You only move it half the width of the blade as this keeps the depth even and make it easier to push into the ground.

When you have completed the cut all the way along, you can use an ordinary spade to cut the unwanted sods (at 90 degrees to the edging line) into manageable lengths. These sods can now be removed from the garden.

In this video below, see how the footrest acts as a depth gauge to provide a consistent depth all the way along the edge. This is slightly more difficult to maintain if you just use a garden spade.

You can also use this tool just to cut back to an existing line which has started to become overgrown.

This is normally the case when maintaining your lawn, the more often you maintain and tend to your lawn the smaller the sods/ cuttings will be. This leads me to the next tool you could use to maintain your grass edge.

Best manual lawn edger

I found that for any hand tool including half moon edgers, it is better to buy them with a good wooden shaft rather than a steel one. A wooden shaft (preferably Ash) will last every bit as long as a steel shaft, so long as it is not misused. A wooden shaft has much nicer feel in your hands and is also lighter than the equivalent shaft made from steel.

2. The Dual Wheel Rotary Edger

This handy tool is a more recent addition to the family of edging tools. It is quicker to cover distance in lightly overgrown grass but it’s capabilities are restricted when cutting sods.

The dual wheel rotary edger is used to maintain an existing line along the edge of your garden. It has a steel finger blades about 6 inches in diameter which are attached to one side of a rubber wheel – this side cuts the grass edge and the other side of the wheel runs along the grass or the kerb to turn the wheel around.

This edger works when you push the rubber wheels along the edge of the grass growing alongside a footpath or driveway. This rubber wheel running on the ground turns the steel blade/fingers at 90 degrees to the path which cuts into the overgrown grass along the edge.

This edging tool works best when it doesn’t have a lot to cut through. It becomes difficult to push the more sod you have to cut- so it is best to do it often.

It is probably a good idea to run this tool around the perimeter of the lawn ever time you cut the grass. This will keep the amount of overgrown grass to a minimum.

This edging tool does not leave as clean of a cut line at the edge of you lawn. The grass has a slightly more hacked finish, which does create an edge but not as clean an edge like the steel landscaping edger or even a powered rotary edger.

Also you can’t really just set it down and walk around the perimeter. It needs to be pushed back and forth over the same length 3 to 4 times to properly cut all the grass. This is a bit energy sapping if you have left the edging for a long time and there is a lot to cut through.

See it in action in this video below…..

Another point about the dual wheel rotary edger is it works best if you have a hard path or driveway to run the drive wheels on.

The real benefit of this tool is that it is so quick to edge a long run of lawn compared to the steel half moon edger.

Which brand of dual wheel edger should I buy?

The Rotary Edger in the Video above is made by Aimes, but i have found that some people were not impressed by the strength of the handle.

Truper make have one and it is made with much higher quality materials, with users reporting that it had a strong handle and works really well.

3. Edging Shears

Edging shears are used when you don’t have any excess soil or sod to remove from the edge of your lawn. You simply clip the long grass off the edge of the lawn and that is all. Edging shears are more for people who are really on top of their game with regards to garden maintenance. They should be used to clip the grass very regulary during the growing season.

Edging shears work just like a pair of scissors, but rather than moving the two handles together, which is not the correct way to operate them as it can cause jerky movements which will lead to an uneven cut. The correct way is to keep the rear handle vertical and operate the rear front back and forth to open and close the shears.

You should operate the opening and closing of the shears at a steady pace and with a smooth quick clip as this aids a better cut of the grass. If you close the shears too slowly it makes it harder to cut through the grass and requires more effort on your part.

See the video below on the correct operation of the shears

These shears shown in the video above are made by Spear and Jackson which is brand renouned for quality and craftmanship, if you are looking to buy a pair of garden lawn shears you can’t go wrong with a pair of these.

After edging your lawn it is a good idea to weed the flower beds – a great idea for this is if you have a small cultivator  – it saves a lot of back breaking work!

I hope you found this post informative and helpful. Happy edging!

  1. Hi – my question is about adapting my use of using the manual edger. I use the edger around cemetery footstones in my family plot. The “grass” is thick, tough and deep. It grows fast and quickly covers the footstones. There is no electricity nearby and I must not carry heavy items. Now I have had knee surgery so I was wondering if using a mallet to hit the edger into the ground would work? or perhaps you have some other ideas… or I guess i have to hire someone to do it.

    Any suggestions is appreciated!
    Getting older and wiser!

    • Hello Ester, if you like doing the edging you could get someone to modify your edger by shortening it to about 1 foot long, then you could you bring a wooden mallet with you and hammer the edger into the grass – this would save your knees and the wooden mallet is relatively light to carry.
      Good luck

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