How To Landscape On A Budget

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Some experts suggest that a good landscaping budget should amount to 10 percent of the value of your home. Realistically, however, many people are struggling to make ends meet and couldn't possibly consider a five-figure budget for fixing up the yard. Even a mid to high four-figure landscape project is out of the question for lots of homeowners.

If your landscaping funds are limited, don't worry. You can still design and maintain an attractive, inviting property on a small budget.

Starting With a Good Plan

A little advance planning can save you big money, both in the short run and by protecting your investment over time. During your planning stage, you may want to consider:

  • Using design software rather than hiring a designer: Easy to use software lets you try out all your design ideas from the comfort of your home and will help uncover the best designs for your property.
  • Working in stages: Dividing a major landscape overhaul into a number of small projects you can complete over time keeps costs manageable.
  • Choosing practical locations for new trees: Protect your investments by planting trees at least 30 feet away from sidewalks, driveways and homes to prevent future damage and expense.
  • Making choices you can maintain: Be realistic about your relationship to outdoor work and choose plants that will survive the level of care you're willing and able to provide.
  • Working with what you have: Incorporating the trees, plants and features you already have into your new design brings huge savings.
  • Improving your soil: Taking steps to improve your soil quality through fertilization, ph control or topsoil purchase allows you to get the most from the plants you bring into your yard.

Lawn Basics

If you're starting a lawn from scratch, you've got the option to use sod or seed. Sod lawns have the advantage of an instant, lush green transformation, however they can be expensive to install. If your funds are limited, a seed lawn is probably the more practical choice. Although you'll have to invest your time spreading seed, the money you save will do well applied to the rest of your landscaping project.

Smart Garden Shopping and Landscape Design

Shopping for plants and other landscaping supplies presents many more opportunities for saving. Here are a few shopping strategies to help keep your project within budget:

  • Choose drought tolerant plants: You'll save money on your water bill and decrease the chance of having to replace deceased plants.
  • Buy young plants: These plants have their whole lives ahead of them to grow beautifully and cover more ground each year.
  • Consider slow-growing plants: Many of these are much hardier than their quick growing counterparts.
  • Divide perennials: Pretty perennials you may already have divide easily each year to cover more ground.
  • Get your best price: Get great deals for your yard by buying in bulk, taking advantage of landscaper discounts and buying late in the season. Additionally, explore the option of reclaimed lumber, stone, crushed shell and other materials for "hard-scaping."
  • Experiment with unlikely materials: Some materials that weren’t designed for landscaping are great for the job such as old railroad ties, military containers and concrete test plugs. Expand your shopping beyond traditional landscaping supply stores and you may be surprised what you find.
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  • Find freebies: You'd be amazed how many places and people are still giving things away! Try demolition sites for bricks and stones (with permission of course), your town or city for free compost, mulch or even trees, your friends and fellow gardeners for material and plant exchanges.

You'll be able to save even more money by making organic compost and building your own walkways or retaining walls from the great stones and bricks you've found.

DIY vs. Professional Help

Doing your own landscaping work brings dramatic savings on labor costs. While you may find it tempting to do all your own work, this isn't always a realistic option. If a particular landscaping job is beyond your fitness or skill level, trying to do all your own work could end up costing you more in injuries or mistakes that need professional repair. Try to be honest with yourself and only take on the jobs you can safely handle.

Letting Your Investment Work For You

A well-planned, well-maintained budget landscape project is an investment that keeps on giving for all the years you own your home. You'll see the payoff in some predictable and surprising ways:

  • Lower energy costs: The trees and shrubs you plant around your home provide shade in the summer and a buffer in the winter to keep heating and cooling costs under control.
  • Increased home value: A home with attractive landscaping sells for more than a comparable one with a poorly kept or undeveloped yard.
  • Increased enjoyment: You'll probably want to spend more time outdoors enjoying your nice new property than you did in the past. Family, friends and neighbors will be drawn in too, giving you the opportunity to create lots of happy memories outdoors together.
Last Updated: February 23, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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