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Timber edging has always been a popular choice for garden and landscape edging.
Being an organic material it has a natural aesthetic and less heavy effect on the landscape. When it comes to choosing timber edging however there are many elements to consider.
Some of these will include appearance, budget, durability and maintenance. The type and grade of timber you install will greatly depend upon the specific requirement of your edging.
If your edging needs to be robust to retain soil you will need thicker sections of timber edging. In such a circumstance perhaps timber sleepers would be better suited.
In this article, I will break down all of the considerations of installing timber garden edging. I will also list and describe the best timber for wooden garden edging for every scenario.
Is wood good for garden edging?
Whether wood and timber is good for garden edging really depends upon your specific gardens design.
There are many advantages of using timber and I personally love both aesthetic appeal and flexible qualities. Thinner cuts of timber can create perfect curves and even circles within garden designs.
Many timber products utilised for outdoor use and construction are treated to reduce decay. There are also many hardwoods which can naturally resist the vigour’s of the outdoors.
However I would say although most external timber products will last they can't last forever!
Even hardwoods will eventually decay but how fast will depend upon your site and application. If you are using thin edgings in very saturated soil they will degrade faster.
As a general rule I say use masonry materials for large retaining edging if your budget allows. So yes, wood and timber is good for garden edging but be aware of its limitations after a decade or two.
Treated timber edging
Many softwood timbers are pressure treated so they are more suitable for outdoor use.
This treatment helps to repel moisture and reduce the rate at which the timber degrades. As softwood timber is fast growing and cheaper to buy treated timber is the most typical outdoor choice.
Most fencing materials such as timber panels, posts and gravel boards are treated in this way. Such timber can also be stained for greater protection and a more aesthetic appeal.
It is no surprise that timber gravel boards are one of the most popular choices for flexible and flush garden edging.
This can be seen in the image below!
Flexible timber garden edging
While concrete and masonry materials are well known for their compressive strength, timber is hailed for its flexible properties.
Consequently it is no surprise that thin and flexible timber edging is often utilised to form curved garden edging. Timber has the added benefit of absorbing seasonal changes within the soils moisture content.
This allows timber to flex and contort without breaking and cracking like concrete or masonry edging. The most common example of flexible timber edging is fencing gravel boards.
These can have groves scored into them with a saw for extra flexibility and give. Thin timber decking boards can also be joined together and installed in this way.
This is extremely useful if you want thin, hardwood, garden edging but can only source the material in decking.
Raised timber edging
There are a couple of reasons why you may wish to have raised timber edgings in your back yard. The most common reason is to retain soil back off of patios and lawns.
Another reason for raised timber edging is to create a small physical barrier or junction between varying surfaces. When it comes to raised timber edging durability is very important!
If your timber is too thin or week it will not be able to resist knocks and pressures applied to it. This is particularly the case with raised and retaining timber edging.
Such edging is even more at risk from degradation over time due to wet soil and applied loads.
In an ideal scenario the best raised timber edging will be at least 75mm in thickness. However, for retaining soil I would recommend raised timber edging be at least 100mm thick.
This is why timber sleepers are the best raised timber edging material for external use.
Using timber sleepers as garden edging
Timber sleepers are large and robust sections of timber commonly utilised for landscape construction.
Originally sleepers where created to a sturdy base to railway lines, hence the name ‘railway sleepers’. Most sleepers measure 2.4 metres x 200mm x 100mm thick. This makes them the optimum thickness for creating raised beds and retaining garden edging.
Sleepers are very effective at forming long, straight and robust outdoor structures. However sleepers can also be used to form robust curves to within garden landscaping.
Sleepers can be cut into shorter sections and set vertically into the ground. Such vertical sleeper retainers are normally set in concrete for extra rigidity.
Such vertical sleeper edging can be seen in the background of the image below.
Hardwood garden edging
Hardwood is always the preferred timber for outdoor edging for two reasons. Firstly it is much denser than softwood and more resistant to outdoor conditions and rot.
Secondly it generally looks much more aesthetically pleasing than softwoods. This is especially so with hardwoods such as Cedar, Redwood and Balau which display radiant colours.
However, surprisingly there is not much choice on the market when it comes to hardwood edging. My guess for the reason would be the cost does not justify the amount needed for most gardens.
Consequently from a market perspective demand would be very low. However, there is an effective solution for creating the hardwood edging of your choice.
Try to purchase your preferred hardwood edging choice in decking boards. Hardwood decking can easily be worked into excellent garden edging of different styles and designs.
Balau garden edging
Also known as Shorea Balau, this tropical hardwood originates from Southeast Asia. Balau is well known for its radiant red look when oiled and fine grain.
This hardwood is extremely resistant to decay, rot and insect damage making it ideal for garden edging. Balau can provide a very contemporary feel with its orange tones contrasting well with creams and blacks.
Balau decking boards can be purchased and formed into very effective garden edging.
Teak garden edging
Teak is a well known tropical hardwood from Southeast Asia. Like Balau it is extremely durable and dense making it perfect for outdoor construction.
Teak has a rich golden brown colour which can really bring sophistication to a landscape project. The good thing about teak is it a little more accessible than some other tropical hardwoods.
Its colours also generally match other timber products such as garden furniture on the market. Always make sure your teak hardwood is purchased from a sustainable source.
Cedar garden edging
Cedar is been favoured for its durability and light weight making it perfect for a variety of construction projects.
Cedar actually comes from a coniferous tree which actually makes it softwood. However natural compounds in this timber make it extremely insect repellent and resistant to decay.
These natural compounds also give the wood a very pleasant aroma. Cedar edging does come in a range of products but simple deck boards can be utilised as edging.
Redwood garden edging
One of the most delightful qualities of Redwood timber is its vibrant, reddish brown, tones.
This time is extremely hard wearing and naturally resistant to moisture and decay. Redwood has become a popular material for both decking and outdoor edging materials.
Like Cedar redwood is light weight and very easy to work into any specification. Redwood is also less likely to warp and change its shape during seasonal fluctuations in temperature and moisture.
Cypress garden edging
Cypress timber is well known for being moisture resistant and tolerant of outdoor conditions.
It has long been favoured for its light brown colour which has a modern feel. Cypress like Redwood is well known for its stability and reduced risk of contraction.
This has made it very popular for any type of outdoor or landscape construction. There is not many Cypress products on the market specifically designed for edging.
However garden edging can easily be made from Cyprus boards or cypress decking!
Thank you for reading our article for what timber is the best for garden edging. Below I will link to some other articles you may find useful.
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Hyde Heath, Amersham, Buckinghamshire