This yard has really gotten away from me. As you can see in the pictures a lot of the dirt and grass has traveled along the walkway and in between the cracks on the walkways. Does anyone know what has caused this?

What would be the best way to go about removing this?

How long will it take me to take all of this out?

Here is my plan as of now ( please let me know if it could use any improvement/Criticism)

Take an edger to both sides of the sidewalks then use a flat shovel to pick up the detached dirt on the sidewalk I was thinking that I might use a grinder to sharpen my flat shovel so that it will cut into the dirt better and without as much force. I am also open to suggestions on other tools that I can use.

Bonus questions ( only if you want to answer)

Does anyone know how many blades for the edger I would go through?

Would this job be enough for me to go and buy an edger?

2 Answers 2


Simply peeling the grass back with the sharp shovel (which will, in fact, self-sharpen as you run it over the concrete, under the dirt) will work well and cost zero power edger blades. You should not be "cuttling into the dirt" - you should be peeling the dirt/roots/turf off the concrete surface. However, where that surface is no longer smooth, some cutting may be involved. Once it's peeled back to the edge you can cut it at the edge with the same shovel.

If you are trying to edge hidden concrete where you can't see the edge with a power edger I imagine it could cost quite a bit in shattered nerves and blades

Pressure-washing it off is another option, if you like the overkill power tool approach to problems, but does not involve any blades to break. It also works well for cleaning out the joints. Then you can fill those with a concrete joint filler to slow the rate at whcih they pick up new soil and seeds.

I'd rent a power washer before buying a power edger for tool investments, here. But I might also try a narrow hose nozzle on my regular garden hose first.

  • As noted in @Jurp's answer, many people edge with a line trimmer (strimmer, depending where in the world you live) which also has other uses, or you may already own one.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 9, 2023 at 14:57
  • I need to see if I can find a good source reference, but earthworms are also implicated in the slow subsidence of heavy things on the surface of lawns. They tunnel out from below and transport materials to the surface - so over time, they both cause the surface level to rise relative to the heavy thing, and they undermine the heavy thing so it gradually sinks.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 9, 2023 at 15:13
  • "cause the surface level to rise" — we bought an old house with a small backyard heavily shaded by a huge maple tree. The land sloped toward the cellar door, so to keep the water out I did some landscaping and discovered a paved path leading from that door. At some points it was nearly a foot underground. The very rich soil covering it must have resulted from decades of no one bothering to clean the leaves off it each fall. May 13, 2023 at 0:36

The growth along the sides and in the cracks has similar causes. The side-growth typically results from grass growing over the sidewalk. This grass traps wind-blown soil and organic particles and, as it ages and dies, the blades contribute to the organic material under the living growth. Over time, you get soil, which then allows the grass to grow even better. The growth in the cracks can be infiltration from the edges along with weed seeds that sprout in the wind-blown soil particles and organic material that naturally builds up in crevasses.

Some of those sidewalks look to have been unused for years, especially those pictured in photos 3-5. If they aren't ever used by you, you could simply add some topsoil to them and encourage the grass to continue growing over them. In times of drought that grass would go dormant first, but otherwise it would look like the rest of your lawn. I have seen this in the older portions of my own small city (example: one guy wanted to expand a flower bed at the front of his house and when he began manually trenching for the edging ran across a sidewalk that was three inches below grade).

Otherwise, your plan to remove the grass and soil along the edges will work; doing it manually will be a good workout, or you can buy an edger. There really is no way to know how many power edger blades you'll go through without knowing how many linear feet you have to edge. Some folks may opt for a string trimmer, but that may require many string replacements. If you go the manual route, buy a half-moon edger and sharpen the blade as needed. Cheaper than a power edger, but more work, of course.

As for the growth in the cracks, you may have to resort to a hand-trowel and/or a Korean tool called a Ho-Mi. As you can see via the link, this tool has a narrow pointed tip that's good for getting things out of cracks. I don't think you'll be able to get that growth and soil out without resorting to working on your hands and knees for more than a few hours.

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