When asked what my favorite garden tool is, I enthusiastically effuse over my half-moon edger, like the one here from Blue Stone Garden. Many people don't use them, or even know what they are for, but they are — in my opinion — the one tool that can most easily help you transform a garden.
My current edger is the straight long-handled variety that you can find for less than $20, just about anywhere that sells them. But I dream of the Brook & Hunter Premium 40-inch edger (above) with its handcrafted red oak handle and stainless steel alloy polished blade. Its shorter gripped handle is perfectly proportioned for the way you use the tool as you step on it. The longer handle works for me (probably because I am tall) but the shorter one would probably work best for most people.
I am big on multi-purpose tools, so what makes these the best tools ever? Here are five great garden uses for the edger:
1. Lines in the landscape lead your eye around to all the beautiful things to see in the garden, and are a very handy tool in a designer's bag of tricks. They can be created with paths, structures, plants, or a whole host of other things. The fastest and easiest way to make a line is to get out your edger and start cutting into the dirt. I've used mine to make new beds, plant lines of bulbs, other seeds, rhizomes and just about anything you can imagine.
2. The tool was made for creating clean bed edges. I like to lay a hose or piece of rope out along the edge I want to create so I can adjust the line perfectly, then take the edger and cut along the rope line, flipping the cut into the beds to create a nice clean border between the plants and grass or path. (If you are making big cuts, the excess can also be hauled away and used to patch turf elsewhere or be composted.) Clean bed edges can make even the most mediocre or undesigned garden look many times better. Take a look at the example above by Dayton Landscaping at the difference an edger makes outlining a sidewalk.
3. Because the edger cuts a better line than any shovel, you can edge in a nice straight line, then install what you need beneath, like underground wires and pipes. The turf then easily flips back down right where it started. We recently used our edger to move wires for the electric fence, and I plan to bury the hose that goes to my vegetable garden this spring — simply because I am tired of looking at it draped across my lawn all the time.
4. Some weeds are a pain to dig out by hand, but the step-on edger is great for removing dandelions, poke, and other plants with significant roots.
5. Lastly, I just discovered that the half-moon edger is fantasic at cutting up the last remaining pile of snow at the end of my driveway. Those piles, as they melt, become mini icebergs that almost seem to self-refrigerate in order to last longer. The edger chops them up so easily; my three foot high by 20 foot-long pile of snow disappeared in two mild days (where I am sure it would have been an impatient week if I had left it alone).