The basic functions of flowerbed borders are to divide and contain one or more areas of the garden. They physically and visually separate a flowerbed from a lawn, gravelled yard or path. They stop earth, roots of plants, grass and pebbles from spilling out of raised beds. Borders can be raised or flush with the ground. In addition to practical functions, borders have aesthetic value because they can outline spaces, accentuate styling and so on.
What can you make flowerbed borders with? You can use natural materials—such as stone, pebbles or wood—or alternatively concrete, metal or plastic. Whether you want a traditional or modern look, the important thing is to choose a material that suits your garden and home (style, dominant colours, existing materials, furnishings etc.). In the case of a raised border for containing soil, plants or pebbles, when choosing the material also take into account its strength. In this article we suggest a few ideas for making DIY garden bed borders.
DIY flowerbed kerbs
A really practical way to create a DIY flowerbed border is to use concrete tiles, which come in various colours, finishes, shapes and sizes. Concrete or stone edging borders are also called kerbs.
Once you’ve put on some utility gloves, here's how to build a DIY kerb for flowerbeds by dry-laying concrete tiles without mortar:
Mark out the perimeter of the flowerbed using wooden stakes and string, or alternatively a hosepipe (which is perfect for curved or circular beds).
Dig a trench of sufficient width and length to accommodate the concrete tile kerb.
Fill the trench with gravel, then level and compact it.
Lay the tiles and set them in place with a rubber mallet.
Cover the uncovered parts of the trench with earth, burying part of the kerb.
Using the same technique you can make a flowerbed border by substituting tiles with new or reclaimed solid clay bricks, or stone blocks (these can be made from tuff, which is a fairly common type of rock). Depending on the material and by varying the height of the trench, you can obtain a kerb that is flush with the ground or raised to the desired height.
According to your preference and needs, the edged bed can contain plants, or just coloured pebbles or stones. In the first case, once you’ve made the border, turn the soil in the bed using hand tools or a rotary tiller, bearing in mind that the best time for planting and sowing is autumn. Of course, you can build a border even if the plants are already bedded in. In the second case, remove any grass from the soil, lay down a mulch membrane, secure it using metal pegs, then finally fill the bed with pebbles and level it off.
Wooden borders for garden beds
You can buy ready-made wooden borders for garden beds, which you simply hammer into the ground: they usually come in rolls or panels. Alternatively, you can buy the raw material and adapt it to your project, for example by cutting wooden boards down to size and sharpening them at one end so they are easier to bury. You can also use salvaged wood, such as boards disassembled from pallets. The wood must be resistant to atmospheric agents: if it has not been pressure-treated, waterproof it with impregnating agent. Brush the part that will go underground with bitumen paint or a similar product.
Alternatively, you can start from scratch and make everything yourself starting with logs or large branches, which should be cured before use. If you want to make planks from a tree trunk you can use a bandsaw, or a chainsaw with a suitable guide bar (here you will find an explanation on how to cut wooden planks from a trunk).
You can also use new railway sleepers (old or reclaimed railway sleepers should not be used in the garden), by cutting them into blocks or laying them horizontally. As in the case of concrete kerbing, simply dig out and create a gravel bed that will give stability to the sleepers and facilitate water drainage.
Sturdy wooden borders (as well as borders made of concrete, brick or stone blocks) can support steps in a sloping garden. In any case, whether uphill or on the flat, to effortlessly transport the materials and equipment that you will need to create your borders, we advise using a wheelbarrow or a transporter.
DIY metal borders for garden beds
Would you like to give your garden a contemporary look? If so, a great choice for making garden bed borders is corten or weathered steel, which has a protective patina coating.
Corten profiles can have a rough edge or a finished edge (which is ideal if the border will stick out of the ground). They also come in different shapes, including with spikes along the bottom that facilitate fixing to the ground. If necessary, you can anchor them to the ground using long pegs or nails and, if you have a long border, join the profiles together with screws or rivets.
Here's how to create garden bed borders using corten steel:
Mark the perimeter of your bed as described for tile kerbing.
Dig a furrow along this perimeter using a spade, then deepen it with a pickaxe.
Insert the corten profile into the furrow.
Reinforce the border by filling any gaps in the furrow with earth or sand, then compacting it.
Instead of corten steel, you can use aluminium or galvanised steel strips. With the same system you can make a plastic border if you prefer.