Praise for the art of gardening is abundant and broad: It's therapeutic; it saves money at the grocery store; it's good for the environment; it raises the value of your home. But if you're making common — and costly — mistakes, things probably aren't coming up roses. Below, landscaping experts talk about how to make your garden grow while keeping some green in your wallet.
Do some research: Use plants that are native to your area. Nancy Somerville, chief executive of the American Society of Landscape Architects, says that opting for native species will result in the biggest cost savings. "They're great energy-, time- and money-savers because they're fully adapted to the conditions around here," she says. Next, find out what kinds of insects are attracted to the plants you're considering and whether those insects might be harmful to neighboring species. Before grouping plants, ensure they have similar requirements for soil, fertilizers, shade or sun levels and water, says Beth Palys, executive director for the region's Landscape Contractors Association.
Consider composting: Making your own compost adds up to significant savings, considering a 1-cubic-foot bag of prepared compost costs roughly $5. "Anything organic that once was alive will break down and give up its nutrients, even just grass clippings piled up in a corner of the yard that sit for a year," says Travis Poore, sales associate and how-to expert for Home Depot. Homeowners can easily make their own: Choose an accessible spot in the yard and wrap chicken wire around posts to create a compost area.
Plant edibles: With food prices on the rise, sales of edible plants and seeds have skyrocketed. No room for a proper garden? Not to worry. "Berry bushes are low-maintenance perennials, and a lot of herbs are perennial and can be really beautiful in the garden," Somerville says.
Check out local resources: Many local nurseries employ horitculturalists and landscape architects. Take advantage of gardening workshops hosted by local garden clubs and historic garden sites.
Check out deals: Sign up for a membership to the Arbor Day Foundation — $10 for six months, $15 for a year — and get 10 free trees. The 6- to 12-inch trees will arrive at the best time for planting. Members also get discounts on trees and shrubs.
Don't buy premium potting soil for all your garden needs: "If you're buying premium potting soil and putting it around your mailbox, you're just wasting your money," Poore says. The Home Depot how-to expert notes that potting soil, planting soil and soil amendments, such as vermiculite or compost, are designed for distinct purposes, though home- owners often view them as interchangeable — a costly mistake when it comes to name-brand products.
Don't feel like you have to plant everything now: "Stage it — in one planting bed, put in some of the big items, like larger trees and shrubs. The next year, put in the next level down; the next year, put in the seasonal color items, the perennials," Palys says.
Don't shy away from getting advice: You can get guidance without going broke. "If you don't want to hire someone to install or maintain the work, you can still invest in a landscape designer, who will look at the space and suggest plants that belong in certain places," Palys says.