Budget Landscaping

Check out these smart ways to landscape your yard on a budget

  1. Now that the backbone of your gardens have been planted, you can concentrate on flowers. Consider planting mostly perennials as they will come back year after year and can be divided after two or three years to make new plants. Choose perennials that bloom at different times of year. Purchase the largest containers you can afford and then divide them as you are planting them to have two or more plants for the price of one. Look for sales at nurseries, garden clubs or fund raisers, and or get divisions free from friends or neighbors. Trade or barter to get what you want for cheap.

    When choosing plants for your garden, make sure you include some colorful foliage plants with different textures and shapes as well as perennial grasses. This way your gardens will still be attractive when perennials may not be blooming.

    More advanced gardeners can try their hand at starting perennials and annuals from seed. It's fun and you can have dozens of plants from just one $2.00 seed packet. And better yet, save the seed from your own plants to start new ones for the next year.

    If you are not good at sowing seeds, try the winter sowing method instead. I've written an article all about winter sowing here. Many people who are not good at sowing seeds traditionally, have great success with winter sowing, including myself.
  2. Once the gardens have been planted, you should mulch them to keep the weeds at bay, to help retain moisture, to prevent soil erosion while your plants are getting established and to help keep the soil at a more even temperature. You don't have to pay a lot for mulch. The kind of mulch you use makes no difference, but it should be inexpensive, it should benefit the soil as it breaks down and it should be readily available in your area. For these reasons I recommend organic mulches which can be in the form of shredded wood from trees, shredded leaves, grass clippings, or pine needles, to name a few. In fact you can get shredded wood mulch free or at a very low cost from your local dump or highway department. You may want to ask if there were any diseased trees mixed in. They may or may not know, but it's always good to ask.

    You can also contact your utility company and find out what they do with the wood chips that are created when they prune trees from around power lines. If they don't do the pruning themselves, they will usually tell you who does it for them. Generally, these trees should not be diseased.

    You can also post a wanted ad on Freecycle.org or on Craig's List. You'd be surprised at what people are willing to give away if you just come and get it. Another man's trash is another man's treasure after all. Just make sure if the wood is freshly shredded that it decomposes for a month or two before you use it.

    There are also inorganic mulches such as rocks and plastic, but I do not recommend those for most situations. They don't enrich the soil and weeds usually end up growing on top anyway and the plastic and rocks will make it very hard to weed.
  3. Smart Ways to Landscape Your Yard on a Budget
    Image courtesy of www.everystockphoto.com.

  4. To use less mulch, spread a thick layer of black and white newspaper underneath your mulch. Overlap about 6-8 layers of paper on the ground and around the plants (stay away from the glossy ads as the inks may not be safe for the environment). Wet the paper down with a hose as you go along so the paper doesn't blow away and cover with 2"-3" of mulch. This method will block all light to the weed seeds below, will enrich the soil as the paper breaks down and usually lasts from 1-2 growing seasons before it has completely decomposed. And newspapers are free if you subscribe yourself or know people who do. You can also get newspapers from your local library. Just ask to find out what they do with the old ones that are no longer on display. Brown cardboard works great too. Remove any tape and staples before using.

    If you must buy mulch, it is always cheaper to buy it by the truckload rather than by the bag. A pick-up truck full is usually around $20-$30 in my area. And you always seem to use more mulch than you think you will, so don't be afraid to buy it in bulk. Just lay down a tarp before you dump the mulch to allow for easy clean-up.
  5. We have been conditioned to believe that we must spend lots of money on fertilizers for our plants to grow healthy and strong, but that's just not true. All you really need is compost. That's it. Compost has all the nutrients needed for most plants and also acts as a soil conditioner, and compost will not burn your plants if applied too often. Compost can be purchased by the bag, in bulk and can be free if you make your own. Check out my article on "Composting Made Easy" to learn how to do it yourself.

    Spread a 1" layer on all your garden beds and around trees at least once a year. You can even sprinkle sifted compost on your lawn and avoid buying expensive lawn fertilizers all together.

Now you see that a little planning ahead of time and educating yourself can save you tons of money when it comes to landscaping your yard. Remember to start small and do a little each year so that you don't become overwhelmed. And most importantly, have fun and remember to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Tips & Warnings

  • Join a local gardening club for access to local information, gardening discounts, and plant and seed trades. Your local library may have more information as some clubs hold meetings there.
  • Befriend a neighbor who is a gardener and offer to help them weed or plant in exchange for plant divisions, seeds, and knowledge.
  • Get free fertilizer in the form of manure from horse farms or farms that have chickens. Make sure the manure has composted for several months before adding to your gardens so that you don't "burn" your plants. Avoid cow manure; too many weed seeds if not composted long enough.
  • Watch local nurseries for mark-downed plants during the heat of summer and at the end of the growing season.
  • Watch the newspaper for plant auctions at the end of the season.
  • Join mailing lists of local nurseries to get notifications of subscriber only sales, specials and discounts.
  • Learn to propagate your own plants from cuttings, divisions, and seeds.
  • Always know where utility lines are before digging.
  • Avoid planting trees near power lines, septic systems, or too close to your home.
  • Save money by creating smaller spaces or garden rooms. Fill spaces with accent pieces, furniture or garden art until plants begin to fill out

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