5 Ideas for Beautiful (but Frugal) Landscaping

Published on July 10, 2015 By Lauren

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    Who doesn’t want one of those gorgeous, fancy yards you see in the pages of magazines or featured on TV? Unfortunately a lot of those lovely features come with a not so lovely price tag attached. Don’t lose hope though! There are plenty of frugal ways to spruce up your yard when you’re living on a budget!

    Here are a few tips to get you started followed by some specific tips for staying within budget!

    Step One – Choose Your Vision

    Whether you find an example in a magazine or online, it really helps if you have a rough idea of what you’d like to do. You don’t need specifics, but having a set idea or goal can keep your costs down by preventing pointless spending. Consider researching your particular house style to see what other people do for gardens. Don’t be afraid to take a peek at what your neighbors have done.

    Step Two – Plan and Set Manageable Goals

    Research will be crucial. Many homeowners make the mistake of planting flowers and shrubs at the wrong time of year or choosing plants not suited for their environment. Do some research on what plants fit your climate. Consider the pros and cons of annual v. perennial planting. Also research proper care of the plants you’ve chosen and how much maintenance is involved. Keep in mind, sometimes LESS is better.

    Step Three – Make A List and Budget

    Lists can help prevent splurges and unintended purchases. Use your research to plan your purchases carefully. Keep in mind that not all plants are available at all times of the year and that some items drop in price depending on the timing. For example, plants you may not have access to all spring and summer, however, often times decorative stones, benches, and figurines are often discounted during the fall months. You could always purchase items for NEXT year, assuming you have somewhere to store them.

    Okay, you’ve done your research. You’ve made your plan. Perhaps you have even started purchasing items on your list. What else can you do to save money?

    frugal landscaping

    1. Mulch or stones – You could easily pay a great deal of money for the perfect color mulch or perfect sized stones. If you are looking for this landscaping materials, try contacting your local Department of Works or Highway department. In some cases they will either drop off or let you come and get wood chips or stone as a courtesy for being a resident. It may be worth a shot. If all else fails, try to choose a color or style that is fairly common.  That way you can either gradually purchase it or comparison shop.
    2. Decorations – Depending on your chosen inspiration there may be no need to spend a lot of money on decorations. Keep your eye out for interesting pieces of driftwood or spare wood, antiques, or even rocks. You could even purchase some inexpensive paint and paint the rocks or wood.
    3. Do-It-Yourself Projects – Not all do-it-yourself projects need to be scary. The internet has many great and simple ways to landscape your yard or garden. Consider using materials you already have. For example, old tires can be painted and turned into pretty center pieces for a rustic garden. Keep your eye out for items that could be easily rehabbed for your yard such as old benches, bird houses, lawn ornaments, and more. Many of these items can be re-painted or re-purposed. There are even directions for making your own mosaic stepping stones! frugal landscaping
    4. Shop the Sale Rack – After the peak of the planting season many stores will put their plants on super sale to try to get them cleared out. Particularly if plants start looking scraggly and unkempt. In many cases some TLC will bring these plants back to life. Keep in mind that annual plants may be cheaper but need to be re-planted yearly while perennials will (hopefully) come back year after year but are more expensive. Figure out which suits your needs and the type of care each requires.
    5. Take Your Time – This may seem like a no-brainer. Seriously, we are all human. You may not complete your perfectly landscaped yard the first season of working on it. And you know what? That’s OKAY. Do not stress out about it and definitely do not break your budget for it. Have patience and keep your eyes peeled for good deals. One of the biggest problems you can run into is getting impatient and breaking your budget.

    These are just a few tips to help you landscape your yard without breaking the bank! Most of all have fun and enjoy the nice weather.

    frugal landscaping


  • I have been guilty of spending way to much on plants that never get planted, or end up being thrown in anywhere as I run out of time. As a former landscape designer, I should know better! I have found that the best gardens are those that have what works best for that setting. It’s easy to get carried away with all the plants available at the farmers market and garden center. Many of those plants are not hardy here in cny, or need special care, or only bloom once a season, which people don’t count on. If you are landscaping a new house, go slowly! Get to know your yard before you rip plants out and plant new. Where does water gather? What areas get sun all day? Maybe those overgrown shrubs just need a trim instead of removal. Those shrubs may block noise, neighbors, provide wind breaks and shelters for song birds. When mulching a new bed, more is better. Spend the money and mulch heavily the first year, then as your plants grow, you won’t need as much mulch to cover your beds in the future. Don’t use stones as mulch around plants (except a rock garden) as stones act like mini-ovens and bake plant roots. Don’t spend money on peat moss, it is a waste of money. It disappears into clay and sandy soil. Use compost to break up clay soil and add nutrients to sandy soil. Don’t spread compost all around. Dig a hole twice as big as the root ball, and fill half with compost, set in the plant, add more compost and soil on top. As the older post reads down below, do be cautious about wood chips. I inquired about getting some when the highway dept was trimming on my road. I have used them for paths, not on my garden, and only after the chips sat and “cooked” for a year or so. I was surprised when the road crew told me all their wood chips had been promised to a major landscaping company. I hope that landscaping company wasn’t re-selling those chips as mulch!

  • If you are lucky to live in a community that collects green waste for composting, as I do, you are in luck. Find out where the composting site is and when you are allowed to pick up some compost. My community is open all daylight hours. Some are open only weekends or a couple of times a year. I’ve even heard of some that limit how much you can take away, which is supposed to prevent contractors from depleting the supply.

  • Lauren, most of my perennials were gifts from people thinning out their gardens. I have beautiful gardens due to the kindness of others. As plants get established I take part of them and replant in other areas. I started out with 5 gifted hostas to triple that amount. I’ve done this with many perennials to extend my gardens.

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