Concrete landscape edging or curbing enhances the look of a yard. It also can make maintenance easier by defining areas and containing soil or mulch. Basically, three ways are used to add concrete edging. Using precast concrete sections is the easiest. Building wood forms and pouring concrete is cheapest. Using a rented concrete curbing machine is most efficient but most expensive and difficult for someone not used to handling machinery.
Start All Edging With a Base
All types of concrete edging require a stable base, which means laying out the line for the edging, marking it with stakes and twine, and excavating an area as wide and as deep as the edging to be used. Fill that excavation with medium gravel to about 2 inches from the ground level, and compact it into a solid foundation to hold either precast or poured concrete. Ensure the gravel base is level if you plan a straight level curb, like along a driveway or sidewalk.
Lay Precast One Section at a Time
Install precast concrete by setting sections into the base, tapping each firmly into place with a rubber mallet. Place sections tightly together if using blocks or strips that do not have interlocking edges. Fit the interlocking edges together for that style. Check with a level to ensure sections form a straight and level curb. Fill dirt on the outside edges of the concrete once all sections are installed, and tamp it firmly into place. Add sod, garden dirt or mulch as desired behind the concrete edging.
Build Concrete Forms
Build wood forms of 1 x 6 or 1 x 4-inch lumber set on the gravel so wood is above the ground at the desired height for the curb. Hold the forms with wood stakes driven firmly into the ground every couple of feet. Mix concrete in a wheelbarrow or concrete mixer, depending on the size of the job, and shovel it into the form. Tamp it firmly into the forms with a board and level it with a mason's trowel. Once it begins to set, remove the forms and smooth the top and sides with a mason's trowel or a curb finishing tool, which puts a rounded edge on the top. Let the concrete cure for at least three days before filling dirt around it.
Rent a Machine
Rent a concrete curbing machine. Fill it with concrete according to the directions; some machines are filled with dry concrete mix, water is added in the machine and the concrete is extruded or poured in one continuous operation. Other machines are filled with premixed wet concrete which then is formed by the machine. Curbing machines come in different styles to produce different looks. Some employ a "stamping" technique to press designs to resemble bricks or stones into the concrete. All require skill at handling such machinery.