Many Americans are trying to minimize expenditures. If you are one of these people and your landscape budget has been slashed, don't give up hope. You can still add charm to your garden.
My latest yard renovation has been done slowly and as cost-efficiently as possible. Let me share a few tips:
Look for plant material you can transplant. You may not be happy with a plant's present location, but will it look good in another area? Do you have a fast-growing ground cover that can be moved to a bare spot?
When transplanting, dig up as much of the root as possible and be prepared to water daily if no rain falls. This is where a rain barrel comes in handy. You have "free" water to keep your newly relocated plant happy. This spring, I have moved crape myrtles, African iris, butterfly bush, a low-growing ground cover with small blue flowers that I have not been able to identify, daylilies, ornamental sweet potato and a cherry tree. So far it looks like everything will survive other than one crape myrtle. I haven't quite given up on this plant yet because it has three green leaves left.
Purchase small plants. They cost less and will quickly grow this summer if given the proper care. If you are very ambitious, try taking cuttings of your favorite plants.
Swap plants with gardening friends or join a garden club. Clubs often have meetings at which plants are swapped or fundraising plant sales with reasonably priced plants.
Remove unattractive plants. There is nothing wrong with bare spots in your beds. Keep your beds neat and mulched. A tidy, sparsely planted garden is better than an unkempt one with many plants. Have a master plan, and add plants as your budget allows.
Keep on top of weeds. Pull them when they are small. If the weeds get larger and widespread, you may be tempted to go to chemical control. This can be a good option, but chemicals are expensive. Pull weeds as you go.
Don't overdo in the garden. This doesn't just mean your labor, but any products you use. Don't overfertilize; try to kill every bug; overwater; or use fungicide as a preventive measure.
Treat early when you notice problems, but don't overtreat. If the label says to mix 2 ounces of chemical with a gallon of water, 4 ounces does not make it better. It makes it more expensive and a possible pollutant. If you have a small space, perhaps you can share the expense of a chemical with a neighbor. You both save money, and there are no leftover chemicals cluttering the garage.
If you have a few bare spots in your lawn, don't resod. Let the established grass fill in. Once again, use the water in your rain barrel to keep the bare spot and the grass around it watered. This encourages rapid growth. The bare spot will be overgrown before you know it.
Reuse the decorative or hard elements in your yard. Stepping stones are a perfect example. We removed many when we had a concrete sidewalk poured in the back yard. Those stepping stones have been used to delineate three vegetable and herb garden areas. They have been placed under the faucet for the hose, and a pad has been placed for the plant material waste container. Not one went to waste.
Do you have old flower pots lying around? Grab two that match and are about knee-high. These can serve as legs for an outdoor bench. The top (seating area) can be made from wood from old pallets. If you or a neighbor are having sod or mulch delivered, save the pallets. Some sod companies will give away pallets they can no longer use. The bench requires a saw and a few nails. It can be left as is, or you can paint the wood. Use it to sit on or display potted plants.
Using strawberry pots as the bench legs gives you the opportunity to place plants in the exterior cups and add another dimension to your creation.
In past years, I have used pallets to construct a potting bench. The only extra supplies I needed were nails and a saw. This bench lasted at least five years, and then I built another one. Let me place a huge disclaimer here: I have absolutely no woodworking skills. No prizes would have been won, but they functioned very well and cost next to nothing. My idea of success!
I hope this gives you a few ideas and starts you thinking about what you can do in your yard without busting the budget. One of the many aspects that I love about gardening is the opportunity to continue learning, so please share your ideas.
Mary Collister can be reached at email@example.com.