Edges are a crucial element of landscape design. They can define areas, provide access and create opportunities. They help to establish design style. In permaculture theory, increasing the length of edge can increase productivity so having more edges must be good. Right?
So why can it sometimes be impossible to keep up with what is happening along the edges when gardening time is scant? Could it be a case of having too much of a good thing?
The edges in gardens are the boundaries between all sorts of areas - path to garden bed, lawn to kerb or pond to land for example. They might be straight (yes even in a permaculture design), curved or downright wiggly.
Often they are a place where plants can gather more than their fair share of sunlight and water. The edge in the photo is an example in the Roogulli kitchen garden where self seeding vegetables have squeezed themselves into a narrow space beside the path. In this location they get a little bit of extra water running off the path and a bit less competition for sun.
We found that the strawberries growing along the edges always have more fruit so now we have a lot of strawberries along edges. Hopefully that will mean more strawberries to eat. At least they will be easier to harvest.
Sometimes edges are a place to exert control. Beloved of the neat-and-tidy school of suburban gardens are the concrete mowing strips that mark the line beyond which the grass must not stray. This is control solution of a fairly permanent type. It is requires brute strength to change your mind with a concrete edge. Other edge options for control that are easier to move are pavers laid on sand (can be dug up and reused) or a thickly planted row of plants that keep the grass at bay.
Poorly designed edges can create unnecessary work. Our espaliered apples growing along a wire boundary fence in the kitchen garden were forever being overrun by grass from outside the kitchen garden. Much weeding by hand was needed. Now that the area outside the fence has been mulched, the grass edge has been removed and the maintenance is easier.
So I am working on the theory that there is a limit to the length of edges that you can comfortably maintain in a garden.
Edges can be exciting places. If you get plenty happening in the edges of a new garden it will appear more established than it is. My theory runs along the lines that each person has a maximum edge limit which depends on the time and capacity that they have to look after the edges. Wouldn't it be handy if we measured the total length of edges in gardens that are easy too look after? It could be possible to design gardens to suit an edge length limit and perhaps match the design better to the capacity of the maintenance crew.