Edging in the kitchen garden offers some protection against wind and rain, keeps pests away and can enhance the appearance of your vegetable garden. Do not edge beds with used building materials, such as telephone poles or railway sleepers, if they have been treated with creosote or chemicals that may harm the soil and vegetables.
Protective and Decorative Hedges
Low fencing and hedging adds an attractive touch to the edges of the vegetable garden while at the same time creating an area with a favourable microclimate, more sheltered from the wind. It is also useful for keeping footballs out of your prized crops if you have children who play in the garden.
Low-growing common privet (Ligustrum) or box (Buxus) are popular choices for a green edging. If you decide to use box, choose a slow-growing cultivar, such as ‘Suffruticosa’ to prevent the hedge growing too tall too quickly. Globes of box planted at the corners of the bed will add to the decorative effect.
Another option is to plant culinary herbs or fragrant miniature and dwarf shrubs as a border around the vegetable plot. An edging of parsley and chives will serve two purposes: not only will they be useful in the kitchen, but the essential oils within them and in their scent will also deter pests such as caterpillars and grubs, aphids and even snails.
Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), cotton lavender (Santonlina), winter savory, hyssop and lavender can easily be pruned to an attractive shape in spring. You can also use them as low-maintenance hedging that requires no clipping, although this option does require more space.
Space-Saving Hard Edging
Living edging not only needs to be trimmed and tended regularly, but it also needs space in which to grow, reducing the area available for cultivation. Borders made of stone, wood or metal require considerably less space. Bricks inserted diagonally into the soil, woven willow, logs, hurdles or even aluminium strips are good, quick ways of creating a clear boundary. Just make sure they are inserted securely. Some may also serve as supports for taller plants.
Make clever use of the heat-retaining properties of stone and wood to improve the microclimate in your vegetable garden. Stone is especially good at storing the sun’s heat during the day and slowly releasing it at night. Heat-loving plants thrive particularly well if planted close to brick edging, reducing the need to go out with additional protective measures as soon as there is the slightest threat of a night frost.
All edging serves the important purpose of retaining the soil in the bed. Even after torrential rain, heavy watering and a generous application of compost, the edging will keep the bed in good shape.
In wet summers, snails can be a menace in the vegetable garden, sometimes managing to gobble up every single plant in just one night. There are various means available to help you battle against these unloved garden creatures, including snail deterring barriers to keep them out of the vegetable plot (above). Normally made of plastic or metal, they come in sections that slot together and are hammered into the ground. The upper edge is bent back sharply to deter the snails from crawling over the top. Make sure that there are no plants overhanging the barrier in either direction as the snails will make use of even the most slender stems to gain access to the plot. Once you have installed your barrier, check the vegetable plot carefully to make sure that you have not left any snails inside.
A low-tech but effective way of ridding a plot of snails is to make regular checks after rain, simply picking off the sails and collecting them in a bucket. You can then drown them or release them in an area of waste ground.