Earth Day this year is April 22. The mission of this group is to protect and preserve our environment. The Bournelyf Butterfly Garden Team thought this would be the perfect day to kick off the start of our garden. At 11:30 am we will be meeting at the site of our Butterfly Garden on the grounds of the Church of the Loving Shepherd.

The activity we have planned for that day is to outline the edge of our garden. We are asking anyone who is interested in participating to bring a spade or square-backed shovel to the event. Barb will be demonstrating for the group how to create an English Garden Spade Edge. Following her demo all participants will get to try out this method and in this way we will finally get this garden started!

This will be an exciting moment for the team because this will be the time that all the months of planning for the garden will physically begin to take shape. We hope to see many of you there.

Location and Parking

1066 S. New Street, West Chester, PA 19382 – this is south of West Chester University’s South Campus complex where the football field is located. The church will be on your right approximately 1.2 miles past the stadium.

Park in the lower parking lot – this is the first lot you come to after you enter the grounds of the church.


The following is the content from a PSU Extension Brochure on how to do spade edging.


What is a Spade Edge?

Whether you have a flower garden or a vegetable garden, the bed will be enhanced by edging. Edging focuses your attention to an ornamental garden in a manner similar to the way a frame focuses your eye on a picture. In a vegetable garden, edging separates plants from walkways and tomatoes from potatoes. Edgings can form pathways, hold garden mulch, and make it easier to mow close to borders. Edging also helps keep invasive garden plants from spreading into the lawn and grass from spreading into the garden.

A spade edge is one of the simplest types of garden edges to create. It is labor intensive, but it’s inexpensive.  A spade edge is a shallow trench cut at the lawn’s edge. It defines the border between the lawn and a mulched garden bed. A spade edge has its tradition from formal English gardens, and hence, is often called an English garden edge. It can also be called lawn edging or landscape edging. Creating a spade edge is a perfect spring project when the ground is still soft from the rain.

Benefits of a Spade Edge

  • Creates a neat, clean line that enhances the appearance of the garden
  • Stops the encroachment of grass especially turf grass that spreads via stolons
  • Is less expensive than metal, wood, plastic, brick, other edgings
  • Requires minimal tools
  • Contains the mulch in the planting bed
  • Eliminates brown edges from chemical sprays
  • Eliminates tripping over the raised part of other types of edges
  • Allows you to expand or change the shape of a garden bed easily
  • Provides a mowing strip and helps avoid the use of string trimmers
  • Works well on any site, sloped or level, with beds of all shapes and plantings of all types

Disadvantages of a Spade Edge

  • Requires ongoing maintenance
  • Trenches must be re-cut periodically
  • Crisp edges can wash away after hard rains
  • Requires periodic weeding of the edge and redistribution of mulch

 Tools Needed

Very few tools are needed for a spade edge. For marking the edge you will need either garden spray paint, garden lime or chalk, flour, or other nontoxic marking material. A garden hose is helpful when laying out a large area. For cutting the edge use either a square-bottomed, sharpened nursery spade or a half-moon edger. Alternatively, you can rent a motorized edger at home and garden centers, which is much faster. You may wish to use gloves and knee pads when working close to the ground. You will need mulch and a small rake or hoe to create a finished look that prevents weeds from sprouting on newly uncovered soil. And lastly, consider having a cart or wheelbarrow close by to haul grass clumps to the compost pile.

Although you are not digging very deep (4 to 8 inches), consider using  Pennsylvania’s One Call System 811 or 1-800-242-1776 before you dig for safety’s sake. Visit for their homeowner’s brochure.

 How to Create a Spade Edge

The beauty of English gardens is enhanced by their pristine borders. When a spade edge is neatly cut, it can be one of the most elegant garden edges. Choose the right tools, follow the steps below, and take your time.

Step 1. Define Your Borders

Defining your borders is drawing a line that separates your lawn from the adjoining bed. Decide on the shape of your bed. If it has straight lines, use stakes and string to mark the lines. If it’s a circle, use a stake in the center with an attached string. Walk out to the farthest point, pull the string taught and walk the radius. If it’s curved, use a garden hose to approximate the area, and then work the garden hose into the desired shape. Step back and take a good long look from different angles before marking the border.

Step 2. Mark the Edge

When you’re pleased with the shape you’ve come up with, “draw” the outline on the ground or grass. Your drawing tool can be:

  • Flour
  • Garden lime or chalk (found at garden centers)
  • Non-toxic turf paint (found at garden centers and athletic stores)
  • Other non-toxic, non-permanent material
  • Flags and “eye-balling” it

 Step 3. Make the First Cut

The best spade for this job is one with a flat blade and straight cutting edge. Avoid blades with rounded backs or points to keep the edge straight. Sharpening the cutting edge with a flat file will make work easier and produce crisper lines. Unlike turning over soil for a bed, cutting the edge doesn’t involve moving a lot of earth. The end result depends on accuracy—making straight lines straight and curves smooth. Dig carefully along the marked outline making a vertical cut on the outside edge. Plunge your spade in 4 to 8 inches deep for the entire length of your garden trying to keep a smooth edge.

Step 4. Make the Second Cut

Turn around and face your cut. Move back 3 to 5 inches from the cut and make another cut at a 45 degree angle to the vertical cut. This cut should be as deep at the first cut and meet the first cut at an angle. This two-step process cuts the grass roots and the sod should peel out as one piece.

 Step 5. Remove the grass

Shake off excess soil and remove all of the cut grass from the trench. Put these grass clumps either back into the garden bed or into the wheelbarrow for compost. You can also use the removed grass to replace missing grass in other parts of the lawn. Use a garden rake or hoe to create a neat trench; slope the soil up into the bed. If any grass remains inside the cut lines, remove those separately with a spade or use a nonselective herbicide such as Roundup. Spray carefully or apply with a paintbrush so you don’t kill nearby plants.

 Step 6. Spread Mulch

To complete the job, mulch to the edge of the inside cut. You can use partially composted chopped leaves from your own garden or purchased mulch. Keep the slope of trench dry and weed free.

 Step. 7. Maintain Periodically

Spade-cut edges need regular but simple maintenance. Keep mulch out of the trench and pull any weeds that sprout in it. A weeding tool works well for this. To keep the lines sharp and crisp, you may need to recut the edge in the spring and fall. This will enlarge the bed slightly, but you needn’t remove much soil when re-cutting.

With this simple edge you can improve the look of your garden and make mowing a lot easier!


About chestercoextbutterfly

I am an apprentice Master Gardener with the Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Cooperative Extension Program. My local office is in Chester County. As part of my volunteer activity I am working with a team to develop a Butterfly Garden on the grounds of the  Church of the Loving Shepherd.  We will be using the creation of this garden as an educational program for some of the participants in the Bournelyf Special Camp which, is held every summer. Members of the congregation of the church will be involved as well as in the ongoing maintenance of the garden.The purpose of this blog is to document the project as it develops.
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