10 Tips for Landscaping on the Cheap

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SPRUCE UP THE YARD

Take a look at your yard -- the grass can always be greener. If you're like many homeowners, you pay more attention to the interior of your house than to the exterior. But consider this: More people see (and judge) your landscaping. Fortunately, sprucing up the yard or porch is cheaper than redoing the kitchen or bathroom.

CONTAIN THE PLANTS

Add pizazz to your front porch with container plants. This simple trick instantly makes your home more welcoming. Containers and plants should be different in type and size, and placed on varying levels. Stick with the cheap landscaping theme by repurposing metal tubs, buckets, and pails as planters.

STOCK UP

Gardening isn't much different from shopping at Costco. The more plants you buy, the lower the per item cost. For example, at a local nursery in Ohio a flat of petunias (36 plants) goes for $14.99, or 41 cents each, while a three-pack of plants goes for $1.99, or 66 cents each.

GROW FROM SEED

Seasonal plants liven up a landscape. The seeds of alyssum, celosia, cosmos, hyacinth bean, impatiens, marigold, morning glory, nasturtium, sunflower, and zinnia germinate and mature quickly, and grow equally well indoors or out. If you don't want to start from scratch, flats of annuals are good for landscaping on the cheap. Many perennials, such as black-eyed Susans, blanket flower (gaillardia), columbine, and coneflower (echinacea), are (nearly) effortless to grow and relatively inexpensive.

GO NATIVE

Which plants are native to your region? It pays to find out because a garden filled with native plants yields financial benefits. Native plants don't need much attention, so you save on fertilizer, pesticides, and water. Gardening with indigenous plants is easily doable and an effective way to landscape on a budget.

DOUBLE DOWN ON PERENNIALS

These are many plants that come back year after year. Instead of buying annuals and replacing them every spring, plant your beds with more perennials and a handful of annuals. Add a few new perennials to your landscape at the start of the growing season and after several years you'll have full flower beds that need little work.

PLANT OFF-SEASON

When spring hits, your landscaping probably looks pretty sparse. But if you plan ahead and plant bulbs (e.g., tulips, daffodils, nasturtiums) in the fall, beautiful flowers will burst forth at the first sign of spring. While they don't last very long, the blooms will keep the landscaping looking vibrant and colorful while waiting for the perennials to pop up and new annuals to make an appearance.

TEND THE FOLIAGE

Clean up branches, leaves, petals, or fruit that may have fallen onto the lawn. Pruning deciduous trees and shrubs is an essential component of garden maintenance. Failure to tidy up your yard may be seen as a sign of neglect. A few hours of yard work is the ultimate no-cost landscaping idea.

LAY ON THE MULCH

Apply a fresh layer of mulch to all garden beds for an instant transformation. The dark mulch adds a nice contrast to the surrounding plant life and helps the ground retain moisture while keeping weeds at bay. Mulch is relatively cheap, especially when buying in bulk.

BEAUTIFY THE LAWN

Is your lawn an unflattering brown and/or filled with weeds? It might be worth growing new grass. Putting down grass seed is relatively inexpensive -- just be sure it gets plenty of water. If there are large grassless patches, installing new sod may help, although it costs more.

FILL THE SIDES

The strips of land on either side of a home are hard to make aesthetically appealing. One low-maintenance and inexpensive landscaping idea calls for filling these areas with pea gravel or sand and topping them off with a decorative arrangement of stones or bricks.