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Landscaping on a Budget

If you've already decided you're going to be undergoing a landscaping renovation, then you're probably focused on a strict budget you need to adhere to. Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful yard. Here are a few helpful money-saving tips for the frugal home landscaper.

Have a Well Thought Out Plan First

If you don't have a plan and a budget, you don't have a beginning, middle or end. Sit down with your family and decide exactly what it is everyone wants out of their new yard or garden. Decide on a strict budget, and commit to adhering to it. Always remember to factor in upkeep if you really want a rare plant species in your project, do you have the finances to give it the hydration, food and overall TLC it needs? Ask this question for each new element.

Get Itemized Bids From Several Contractors

If you're undergoing a major change that you've decided you simply cannot do yourself, you've made one very good step in the right direction. Knowing your limits will always save you money in the long run...and hiring professionals to do quality work often means avoiding having to do re-do it several times. However, when landscapers compete with one another, you're bound to find the right company for the right price. Seek out bids from several contractors, and subtly let them know they're being considered among others. Ask to see examples of their previous work. And ask for itemized bids. It's important to know how much each element of your project is really going to cost.

Salvage Your Current Yard

If you're approaching your yard like, "Extreme Makeover - Yard Style" and you're envisioning a bull dozer going over the whole backyard - think again! You probably already have some beautiful trees and plants that can be salvaged for your new yard. Transplant your favorites, and keep them nurtured in a safe area as the work is being done. As the new flora is ready to be put in, include the old as well.

Your Lawn

Your lawn is the most important staple of your yard, and your new project. If you're lawn looks shabby, no water feature or rock garden is going to help. However, if you're the kind of lawn owner who invests thousands of dollars on extensive and toxic weed killers, you can bankrupt your landscaping budget before you've even started your project! Furthermore, many horticulturists claim that a lawn with some diversity (several different species of grass and weeds) are healthier than lawns without. Treat your lawn with a store bought application you can do yourself - and limit how much you're doing it. Overall, accept the fact that even the most perfect lawn has a few weed patches that can be pulled by hand.

Water Features

A water feature can be the most exquisite part of an entire landscaper project, and many recreational landscapers choose to make some sort of pond or waterfall the focal point of the yard. But don't be fooled - these can be very inexpensive if you have the time and patience.

Water pumps are relatively inexpensive - and very easy to install. Pond liners are equally as easy - and very cheap. A few strategically placed stones to build a wall or create a falling effect is really all you need to complete the feature. To save a dollar: don't buy stones from a home goods store. Try visiting a construction site - many excavators will have done the work for you - even placing stones in a pile! If you know someone with country-like property, see if you can spend some times hunting for the perfect stones for your idea.

Bargain Bricklaying

Laying bricks for the first time can a daunting task. Many first-time landscapers get overwhelmed by the thought alone, and hire professional help. But, by doing it yourself - you can save an enormous amount of money. If you're laying a brick patio, plan on using sand instead of concrete. It's significantly easier and usually just as durable. Laying bricks in sand instead of concrete will also cut back on the amount of bricks that need to be cut - and often wasted.


The plants - the accessories of our yards. Plants are arguably the most important part of a put-together looking yard. Since they're considered so important, you may be somewhat stuck in your ways when it comes to plants for your landscaping. The recreational landscaper will often return to the same high priced nursery again and again. If this is your case, you know that plants can be the single most expensive allocation in your budget.

If you need to save money, try getting some major plants at places such as Walmart or Home Depot. They'll be cheaper - and yes, oftentimes lesser quality - but a tender loving green thumb can turn the plants into nursery quality flora in very little time. If you spend a lot of time caring for your yard and garden, this is a very easy way to save a very large amount of money.

Try taking someone with you to discount nurseries who really understands plants. There are many healthy plants sitting in places like these, and the knowledgeable plant lover will easily be able to pick out the healthiest plants, and the most thriving species.

Another helpful tip for saving money on plants: buy off season! Many stores will dramatically discount prices at the end of a blooming season for certain breeds, as they do not want to care for them. It's a good way to save money, and as long as you plant correctly, the plants will be in the ground for next blooming season!

Cutting Down on Water Usage

Since we've already determined the plants are often the largest expenditure in a landscaping project, it's not difficult to come to the conclusion that a plant's nourishment....water...can also run up your bills. It's important to keep your plants well hydrated. (After all, you've spent so much buying them!) But if you just run your garden hose over the plants every night when you get home from work, you're sure to pay a pretty penny! When plant shopping, look for several species that are "drought tolerant" - in other words, these do not have to be watered on a regular basis. If you're able to make a one-time larger investment, we recommend installing an automatic irrigation system - or a timed sprinkler system. These control how much and how often your plants are watered, and most of the watering mechanisms have energy-saving controls built in. Irrigation systems can be expensive to install, but typically will pay for themselves in a few short years. Lastly, make sure all your soil is covered with a layer of mulch. It retains a huge amount of moisture in the soil, reducing the need to water frequently. Plus, it smells great!

Start a Compost Pile

Adding organic matter to the soil in your garden is easily one of the most important thing you can do for your new landscape. While you can buy enriched soil each new season to replace or supplement the soil in your garden, starting a compost pile is far more affordable, better for your garden, and it drastically cuts down on the amount of trash you dispose of! Simply start collecting all your organic kitchen waste (banana peels, leftover scraps, coffee grounds) in a bucket. Feel free to add organic yard waste (leaves, braches, grass clippings). Keep the cover on, and eventually, the organic matter will decompose so thoroughly it becomes a mound of matter that will add a huge amount of nutrition to your gardening soil.