Trim strips save maintenance

By Steve Boehme - Contributing Columnist

Trimming grass under fences and around obstacles is one of the most boring and repetitive landscape maintenance chores. Many farmers and homeowners address this problem by slathering Roundup under and around these obstructions. Failing to do so means weekly “weed-eating,” or living with shaggy weeds and eventually volunteer trees along your fence lines. Surely there must be a better way, you say, and you’re absolutely right. In fact there are many ways, but they all involve a significant investment of time and money. The payback is saving yourself from the drip-drip-drip of wasted time, indefinitely.

Aside from the possible hazards of spraying glyphosate, the practice of “trimming” with Roundup leaves an unsightly strip of brown wherever it’s done, with a raggedy fringe of dead lawn grass. Eventually the glyphosate will poison the soil, but not sufficiently to discourage certain Roundup-resistant weeds and mosses. Your otherwise pristine, well-groomed landscape is spoiled by this eyesore, and you STILL have to spray and weed routinely, just less often.

If you have really long fencelines, you’re stuck with a chemical solution because more permanent answers are simply not practical. You should seek out an herbicide mix that is less selective than glyphosate, and includes a pre-emergent ingredient that will prevent seeds from sprouting. Your local farm supply store can help you with this.

For homeowners with smaller-scale weed issues, we have several favorite solutions. Perhaps the best one is to plant something attractive under the fences and around the obstacles that is so dominant and aggressive that other plants can’t compete. Reblooming daylilies (like “Happy Returns” or “Stella D’Oro”) are our personal choice. If you take the trouble to condition the soil, as you would in any other planting bed, daylilies will rapidly establish and smother out any competition. The result looks terrific, adds color to your yard and requires next to no maintenance.

The next best answer is to make a formal “trim strip” around and under obstacles, extending far enough that you can hang your mower deck over it, easily cutting off any grass that tries to invade it. All from the comfort of your riding mower. Here’s how you do it:

Using a spray can of marking paint, and a garden hose or straight-edge, make a line on the ground a foot away from the obstacle. Take a sharp spade and cut straight down all along the line, four inches deep. Then excavate inside your line, making a four-inch deep trench, flat on the bottom. Clean up any dirt on the obstacle itself, and then line the trench with a good quality weed barrier fabric.

The last step is to fill the trench with round river gravel or pebbles, at least one inch in diameter, up to the top. A nice touch is to tamp the gravel flat with a hand tamper. Now you have a nice, neat, crisp, well-defined edge where nothing is growing. Over time, as organic material like grass clippings and wind-blown seeds finds its way into your nice clean gravel, you may have to resort to herbicide spray now and then, but your maintenance duties will be vastly reduced. Your yard will look tidy and well-groomed indefinitely, and you’ll have more free time to do other things. Try it and see.

Steve Boehme is a landscape designer/installer specializing in landscape “makeovers”. “Let’s Grow” is published weekly; column archives are on the “Garden Advice” page at For more information is available at or call GoodSeed Farm Landscapes at (937) 587-7021.

By Steve Boehme

Contributing Columnist