You can call me sad, if you want to, but I like a nice neat edge on lawns: a sharp, crisp cliff-edge on a flower bed helps to stop couch grass creeping into the flowers, and if the person mowing can see where the edge is, they are much less likely to let the mower roll over into the bed, making those horrible round scalped patches.
And when it comes to paths and patios, I think that a nice neat edge makes all the difference. Rather like trimming your fringe, if you haven't got time to go to the hairdresser for a proper cut...
Autumn and winter are good times to do this sort of job: not only are there better things to do in summer, but once you have cut back all the herbaceous plants, you can often get a better look at paths and patios.
Last week, I noticed that the patio in one of “my” gardens was looking really weedy and untidy, so I spent some time hand-weeding all the cracks, and sweeping off the debris. Instant spring clean! But then I noticed how far the grass had crept over the slabs.
Have you ever seen grass doing this? If you leave it long enough, it extends itself over the hard standing, even though there is no soil for it to root into. It's amazing, really, it looks just like proper grass but it is only an inch deep. And it's insidious - you don't notice that your patio or path is getting smaller and smaller.
In fact, in one garden, I found that whole areas of the lawn had 1970s crazy-paving underneath them, including a yard-wide path that ran diagonally across the garden. You would never know that it was there, just an inch below the surface of the grass! It was very handy when they decided they wanted a pathway around a raised bed so that they could get to the bird feeder with slippers on: they asked me to lift the turf so that they could get their builder to lay a proper path, and were amazed to come out ten minutes later to see that not only had I lifted the turf, I had “magically” produced a path as well.
So, to get back to paths and patios: all you have to do is get a hand tool underneath the loose edge, and lever up the carpet of grass until you can see the edge of the slabs. Then cut the “carpet” with scissors or secateurs. I usually press it down with my foot, after cutting it all, to get a more natural-looking edge: and once you get it clear, it's easy to run round with the edging shears once a month or so, to keep it back.
Sometimes you find that the grass is rooting itself along the joints of the patio, which is a sign that it's time to re-grout: but it's usually easy enough to pull the grass out from the cracks.
So there you have it - how to (almost) instantly enlarge your patio!