A landscape can look like a million bucks without costing that much. Follow these tips to save money in your yard.
1. Do your research. County extension agents and horticulturists at local universities offer free advice that can save you from making costly mistakes. Learn from your favorite books, magazines, and gardening websites, too.
2. Trust your instincts. When it comes to free advice, you sometimes get what you pay for. Keep in mind that profit motives may make some landscapers or garden-center staff overzealous. If you're not sure about something, don't buy it.
3. Comparison shop. Nurseries may differ drastically in price and quality. You may find great deals from online garden centers, too.
4. Avoid impulse buys. Make sure you have an appropriate spot for a plant before you purchase it. Otherwise, you may end up watching it die.
5. Shop cooperatively. Buying in bulk is less expensive if you share the costs with gardening friends or neighbors. The same goes for renting equipment such as tillers, lawn aerators, etc. Likewise, combine mail-order purchases with friends to cut shipping costs.
Get more tips on smart garden shopping.
6. Buy used when you can. New isn't always better. You can often find great deals on plants or tools at garage and estate sales.
7. Don't overplant. Landscape with mature sizes in mind, or you may end up paying to move crowded plants.
8. Collect inspiration. Instead of hiring a professional, clip pictures you like from gardening magazines, books, and websites to get ideas before you start a new garden bed or landscaping project.
Check out our Pinterest boards of garden inspiration.
Here's a hint: If there's a landscape in your neighborhood that you really like, don't be afraid to knock on the door and ask the homeowner if you can take pictures for your inspiration book. The homeowner might share tips on getting the look.
Use our Plan-a-Garden quick app to get started.
9. Test your soil. A simple soil test will pinpoint what your soil lacks -- so you won't have to buy unneeded additives or the wrong plant. Many soil tests also recommend the best plant choices for your soil type, so you can grow a carefree garden without trying to amend your ground.
Learn more about testing your soil.
10. Pay attention to pH. If your ground is too acidic or alkaline, most plants can't take up nutrients, no matter how much you feed them. That means fertilizers are a waste of money.
11. Add manure. Check with local farmers to find a source of this all-natural soil amendment. Many will give it away for free -- all you have to do is haul it.
Here's a hint: Let fresh manure age before using it. Otherwise the high salt concentration may hurt your plants and introduce more weeds into your garden.
12. Stop weeds. Weeds compete with your plants for water and nutrients. If you feed your plants, keep in mind that the weeds are using the fertilizer, too.
See how to weed properly.
13. Make your own compost. Convert garden and kitchen refuse into humus and improve your soil's tilth, aeration, and water-holding capacity by making compost.
Learn more about making your own compost.
14. Pick the right grass. Different types of turf perform well in different conditions. Make sure you have the best kind for your yard so you don't have to spend extra time -- and money -- to keep it looking good.
15. Feed your lawn sensibly. Cool-season lawns do great when fertilized only a few times a year, such as early September, late October, and mid-April. Don't fertilize in summer. Warm-season lawns can use a couple of feedings in summer but don't require it in fall or winter.
Use our lawn fertilizer calculator.
16. Leave grass clippings. Unless your lawn is especially prone to thatch, don't bag your grass clippings. They'll quickly break down, adding organic matter and nutrients to your lawn. This means you don't have to fertilize as much.
17. Start your lawn from seed. While it takes longer to get established, you can save a considerable amount of money by planting grass seed instead of sod. Or for curb appeal, sod the front yard and seed the back.
18. Plant cool-season grasses in fall. There's less likelihood of humidity-triggered diseases or hard-washing rains.
19. Don't cut your lawn too short. Most lawns do best if allowed to grow 2 or 2-1/2 inches tall. The higher you let your grass grow, the deeper its root system is, so you don't have to water as often. Tall grass shades out weeds better, so you don't have to spend on herbicides as well.
Get more tips on maintaining a healthy lawn.
20. Save surplus flower seeds. Many common flower seeds stay viable for years if stored properly. So if you don't use them all one year, you can plant the rest of a packet the next year.
Here's a hint: The best way to store your seeds is in a cool, dry place.
Learn how to get started in seed-saving.
21. Sow seeds directly into the ground. You won't have to outlay hard-earned cash for potting mixtures, trays, grow lights, etc.
22. Mix in annuals. Perennials are an expensive investment, so ease up on your pocketbook by purchasing some seed packets of your favorite annuals.
Here's a hint: Self-seeding annuals such as cleome, bachelor's button, and California poppy drop seeds -- so you don't have to buy them every year.
See which seeds are the easiest to start.
23. Save and trade. Of the perennials you do buy, plant those that grow quickly, such as daffodils or lily-of-the-valley, and in two to three years you will have three to five times as many plants. They're perfect for trading with friends and neighbors.
24. Propagate your plants. Divide large clumps of perennials, such as chrysanthemums, hostas, and daylilies, into several plants. Take root cuttings from easy-to-grow shrubs, such as pussy willows, azaleas, and forsythia.
25. Choose native plants. Select species that grow naturally in your region to avoid such costs as extra watering, pampering through winter, and soil correction.
26. Use mulch. Simply using mulch can save you money. A layer of mulch helps the soil hold moisture better, so you have to water less. Organic mulches break down over time and improve your soil, so you spend less on fertilizer. Plus, mulches cut down on weeds, so you won't have to purchase weed killers.
See which mulch is the best for your garden.
27. Recycle newspaper. Rather than buying black plastic or landscaping fabric, layer about 24 pages of newspaper over your garden bed, soak them with water, then anchor them with a thin soil layer or mulch.
28. Gather fallen leaves. Don't pay to have your city pick up bags of fallen leaves from your curb in fall. Instead, chop them up with your lawn mower and use them as mulch for your plants. Or add them to your compost pile.
29. Haul sawdust. Many sawmills will give you sawdust for free if you haul it away. It's a great material for mulching garden paths -- clean and easy to spread.
Here's a hint: Sawdust can absorb nitrogen from the soil as it breaks down. So add some extra fertilizer when you spread sawdust around your plants. Sawdust is also great in the compost pile.
30. Gather wood chips. Many tree trimmers will give wood chips away, too. Just avoid walnut shavings -- they can make your prized plants suffer.
Here's a hint: Ask the tree trimmer if the trees they chipped had poison ivy growing on them. Poison ivy mixed in the chips can still create skin irritation.
31. Buy mulch in bulk. You can save a considerable amount of money by buying mulch in bulk. A pickup load of mulch may cost $40 compared to over $100 for the same quantity of bagged mulch.
32. Shop end-of-the-season sales. Fall is just as good a time to plant trees as spring. Many garden centers and nurseries are looking to get rid of their plants before winter, so you may be able save 50 percent or more.
33. Purchase small-size plants. While bigger trees give you instant impact by looking good the day you plant them, they're also more expensive. You could get several times as much for your money with small trees.
34. Plant sturdy, slow-growing trees. Fast-growing trees sound great but come with a price. They're usually more susceptible to storm damage, as well as pests and diseases.
35. Protect your foundation. Roots can damage concrete blocks. Plant large trees at least 30 feet from your house to prevent having to spend on foundation fixups.
36. Practice good pruning. Overgrown or badly pruned trees and shrubs can make your landscape look bad. A good pruning job can save you the expense of replacement plants.
Learn more about pruning.
37. Turn projects into social events. Gather friends and have a paving party. Your only labor expense will be refreshments.
38. Recycle bricks. Use brickyard seconds for a fraction of the cost of perfect, new bricks.
39. Make mulch paths. Instead of purchasing expensive flagstone, gravel, or other materials, consider making paths from inexpensive mulches, such as wood chips, pine needles, or shredded leaves.
40. Look for quarry rejects. Flat-cut stones with minor flaws still make for handsome stepping-stones, walls, benches, and flowerbed and pond edgings.
41. Visit construction sites. Stones, old bricks, and other buried materials at construction projects are often just hauled to the landfill. Ask the landowner for permission and he or she may give the debris to you.
42. Mix materials. If a concrete patio is too plain, but flagstones are too expensive, incorporate some flagstones into the concrete to create a design. There's no rule that says a patio needs to be made from just one type of material.
43. Use screws. A deck built from screws will last longer and require fewer repairs than one made from nails.
44. Line ponds with castoffs. Ask a swimming-pool maintenance service for rubber liner before you buy a 60-millimeter one. It can save you a considerable amount of money.
45. Consider alternative materials. A septic-tank bottom, for example, costs less than a fiberglass pond. Since the structure is underground, the only difference you'll see is in the cost.
-Daylilies are one of the easiest perennials you can grow. They are also one of the most budget friendly. A 2-foot clump can be divided into as many as 10 plants that you can either expand your garden with or share with your friends. To pick up daylily clump, take a garden spade with a nice deep sharp blade. Stick it in to the ground around the perimeter of the plant and get as much of the root ball as possible. Be sure to dig out the entire plant. Loosen the root mass as you go. Use your spade as a lever and top root ball out of the ground. Cut a large clump in half to make it easier to lift. Sit the clumps in a wheelbarrow or on a tarp to confine the mess. Separate each clump into several small plants with the sharp garden knife. Make sure each division has a set of leaves and roots. Place just one of the divisions back in the hole. Use your spade to make sure it's at the same depth they grow before. Improve your garden soil by mixing lots of compost. Shovel it into the hole around the plant. Press the soil down with your hands. Spread mulch around the plant. This will help keep the soil moist and shade out weeds. Water the planting area. Regular watering the first season will help establish the roots. What's next expand your garden at no cost with the other divisions or share them with friends.
There are hundreds of plants at your local nursery. How do you know which ones are the best for you? I'm Justin Hancock from Better Homes and Gardens. I'm here today to help you pick the healthiest plants for your yard. There are 3 things you wanna look for when you're shopping for healthy plants. The first is stem strength. This plant seems nice and outright. This one, kind of floppy. Chances are if it's not holding up well on the pot, it's not gonna hold up on your garden. I'd go with this one. The next thing you wanna watch for is to make sure you bring home disease-free plants. There's a lot of daylilies on the table and they all kind of look the same. But take a closer look and you'll find that some are better than others. This leaf has a bunch of yellow spots. Spotted leaves are often a sign of disease. Plant this in your yard and you run the risk of spreading this disease to everything else you grow. I'd definitely pass this one by. Instead, look for plants with nice, healthy evenly green leaves. The last thing you wanna watch for is to make sure your plant has a healthy root system. It's most subtle but most important. Start by carefully grasping all of the leaves and the stems in your hand, see if you can pull it out with a nice even motion. Grip the pot and pull it out. If you can't get it, lay the pot on its side and carefully push around. This should help loosen it up. Then lift it back up and carefully pull it out. We can see this plant has some unhealthy rotten roots, not a good buy. Let's take a look at another one. This iris has very nice light-colored healthy roots. This is a much better buy. This is the one that I would choose. So next time you're out plant shopping, remember these 3 easy tips. Strong, sturdy stems; disease-free leaves; and a strong healthy root system and you can be sure you'll be getting a good buy every time. I'm Justin Hancock and that's your Tess Garden Tip.
-Mulch is a gardener??s dream. Covering the soil keeps the moist longer so you have to spend less time and money watering in summer. Mulch also suppresses the growth of weeds so you need to kickback and enjoy your yard more. In hot summer areas, a blanket of mulch from the ground insulates the soil too helping keep roots cooler and plants happier and the layer of mulch from the soil helps prevent disease organisms that live in the ground from splashing up on plant leaves when it rains or when you water. If using natural mulch such as shredded wood or bark, composed, coco husk, pine needles or weed-free straw, the mulch will improve your soil as it slowly breaks down. There are 2 things to keep in mind when buying mulch. First, do not go too deep, keep your mulch between 2 and 3 inches. Pile too much up on the soil it could suffocate plant roots. The second thing to watch for in your mulch is to avoid spreading the mulch right up to plant stems. Leave a gap of a couple of inches between the plants and the mulch. This reduces issues of rats and also keeps rodents [unk] on to the mulch from [unk] on your plant stems. This guideline applies to all plants, trees and shrubs as well as perennials. Take the time to spread a couple of inches of mulch over your yard and enjoy the benefits.
-Trees are one of the biggest investments in your landscape, often outliving hardscape elements such as decks, patios, and fences. That's why it's important to make sure you're buying a great tree. The first step is ensuring you have the right tree for your site. Pay close attention to the tree's mature size so it doesn't outgrow the space or so that it doesn't turn out to be too small to cast the amount of shade you want. Also note the tree's preferred growing conditions. If you have a hot dry yard for example, you want to avoid trees that like moist soil. Also consider the growth rate. Faster trees give you quicker gratification, but they're also much more like to produce big branches in windstorms or die early deaths due to passing disease. After you pick the best kind for your yard, visit your local garden center and nursery. When look at trees, pay close attention to the bark. Avoid trees that have deep scars or wounds. Also note the leaves. You don't want to buy a tree looks diseased with black, brown, or spotted foliage. Likewise, if the leaves seemed especially pale, it's best to pass on that tree and go to one that has lustrous green foliage. Of course, take a look the tree's overall size and shape too. You want a well branched, nicely shaped specimen. Look at the base of the tree. Nursery sometimes accidentally pack their too deeply. You want the root flare where the roots flare out from the trunk, to be at soil level, not buried. Trees planted too deeply, tend to dry early deaths.