Urban Native Landscape Property Border

wrendot1October 20, 2006

Two years ago, my husband and I began a natural landscape in our yard consisting of a native grass and flower mix (native to the midwest). This past summer the city passed an ordiance requiring that we apply for a Land Use Management Permit (through the local Forestry Department) which would require setbacks from the street and neigboring properties. The new ordianance also required feedback from surrounding property owners on our application. The forestry department, in an attempt to appease the neighbors and reach a compromise, has strongly encouraged the use of mulch for the setbacks, rather than mow strips.

My concerns: Mulch can be messy along border areas. It was suggested that we use landscape timbers along property lines to hold the mulch back. This, in my mind, creates more work for the nieghbors who now have to trim along that timber. So, we could make one timber flush (acting as a mow strip for the nieghbor's lawn mower tire), then add another timber next to the first one that sits on the ground surface. However, now we have just added something that will eventually rot, need to be maintained, possibly replaced at some point - in addition to the idea that any toxins in the wood will leach into the ground.

I am looking for a creative, natural, environmental, and low maintenance alternative that would hold back the mulch (or prevent mulch from scattering across the border), allow for a neighbor mow strip, and not create a potentially unfriendly border or tripping hazard. Of course, low cost is always a bonus.

I have seeen all the various pavers, continuous concrete options, and plastic timbers. While these are all options, I was hoping for something more creative and natural looking.

Any out-of-the-box ideas would be welcome! Thanks.

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A berm of earth or scrounged rocks can hold back mulch. A shallow trench can be a barrier to slow the spread of your plants into the neighbor's yard. You can often scrounge pieces of masonry if you don't want to pay for them. I use large branches and downed tree trunks as borders for some of my garden beds. They rot but they are free.
If you are looking for a permanent solution and peace with the neighbor then I would spend the money and go with your original idea but use plastic timbers or masonry.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 7:31AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I used rocks for a border once and they were a pain. I liked the look but weeds were a problem - and you couldn't mow real close to them.

I really think mulch can make a nice border. If you make a edging trench... just a shovel, step and pry to one side .... fill the trench with mulch- the trench holds the line. You can run your lawn mower right over the mulch edge to get the grass that grows there. The biggest draw back with mulch is that it has to be re-applied as it decays. But for a "natural" look, I'd have to say mulch is probably the easiest to deal with.

The next best alternative to mulch edge is those plastic edging borders. They need to be re-stepped in every year because of frost heave, where I live. My neighbor uses them and they aren't bad and barely visible... gives an easy edge to mow right up against. They make black which is probably the most inobtrusive color, but I believe there are other colors and patterns one can get now also.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 10:24AM
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gonativegal(zone 5a)

Dear Wrendot1,

If I understand you correctly, you need to maintain a strip of unplanted property?

Well, here's my two cents. I encountered a similar problem with my parkway. Since it is public property I was ordered by a Judge to maintain an 18 inch setback from the curb for folks to enter & exit their vehicles safely.

My solution to the problem was to create a shallow trench, lay about 2 inches of crushed limestone screening and then level in some nice pieces of flagstone. I added to this a connecting flagstone path to the public sidewalk. It's worked out very well - it looks both beautiful and natural.

Not sure how big your area is - the cost of flagstone can sometimes be prohibitive if you have a large area to cover. But in terms of durability, it will last for years with minimal maintenance.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 1:10AM
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You haven't said how large the area is that you need to maintain, but I have a long strip on my property, about 120 ft. that separates my landscaped area from the woodlands. I hired someone to dig a shallow trench, lined it with landscape paper, covered the landscape paper with crushed rock, pea gravel, and then put larger rocks on top to make a dry creek bed. It's about 2 feet wide and looks very natural and with the landscape paper underneath, NO WEEDS GROW! That's my 2 cents! :)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2007 at 12:04PM
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