Whether you are hoping to sell your home, or it’s summer and you just want an excuse to be outdoors and dig in the dirt, sprucing up your landscaping can be a wise investment. Research has found that sophisticated landscaping with large plants can increase a home’s value by as much as 12.7%.
But what are your options if you are trying to make every dollar stretch as far as possible? There are ways to make your yard look more inviting on a budget.
1. Mulch — for Free
Mulch can freshen up a flowerbed and save you time and money (less weeding and watering). Save by snagging free mulch. Some communities offer curbside pickup of lawn waste, which is then turned into mulch that’s yours for the asking. “If you simply bring a utility bill (to prove you live within city limits) to the distribution center, you can get free mulch by the truckload,” explains Cherie Lowe, blogger and author of Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. Check with your local government to see if there is a program available in your area.
2. Prune, Trim, Pull
Simple pruning, trimming and weeding can make your yard appear tidy and more attractive. The best, easiest and most inexpensive way to spruce up a yard is to trim/prune shrubbery, add new mulch or extra rock and plant some seasonal flower pots. It’s an instant and easy makeover!
If you feel like you are in a constant battle with weeds, consider this inexpensive solution: homemade weed killer. Makes your own weed killer from one gallon of white vinegar, 1-2 cups of salt (table or Epsom salts) and a small squeeze of dish detergent. It can eliminate weeds like nobody’s business. Mix it together in a spray bottle or a bigger weed sprayer and apply. It takes 1-2 days for it activate, killing off unwanted weeds and costs a fraction of the price.
3. Free Can Be Good
One way to make your money go further is to check Craigslist for free or low-cost plants. Garden clubs may also hold plant sales or swaps. Or ask a neighbor for a cutting from one you admire. Better yet, let them know that if they are thinning out their plants you are happy to help them do that — and take what’s no longer needed.
You can also use cardboard boxes to keep weed from sprouting at all. Just go to your local home improvement store and ask their appliance department if you can take those big refrigerator boxes off their hands. If so, go home and cut them to the size of your flower beds, line them up flush against each other and soak with water. Then, all you have to do is dump your mulch on top. The cardboard is bio-degradable and the weeds are unable to grow through it. We laid cardboard down under our mulch beds about 3 years ago and still don’t have to weed!! See the link below for more places to find Free Moving Boxes!
4. Love Your Lawn
A freshly cut lawn always looks and smells great! And it can look even more elegant if it’s “striped” using an attachment added to a lawnmower. “It always gives your yard that great look whether you have a big or small yard,” says Mark Savoree, owner of Savoree Properties. “They are very cost efficient, as the striper kits normally run $100 to $300.”
If you live in an area of the country where grass doesn’t grow abundantly, or watering restrictions make it impractical to maintain a lush lawn, native grasses can be a practical alternative. In drought areas like California, replacing a turf grass with a native or climate-compatible grass can substantially reduce costs.
5. Buy Smart
Before you plant, get your soil tested to help you understand which types of plants or grasses will grow best on your property. This will leave you with lush lawns, shrubs and flowers–instead of an unsightly exterior and money wasted on dead and dying landscaping. Inexpensive testing may be available through your Cooperative Extension service (see the final tip).
It’s also good to know your climate and pay attention to placement and understand how much sun/shade your plant needs to ensure it looks its best all season long.
6. Plant Local
Substantial cost savings are possible with native foliage, as they will be naturally climate-appropriate and many are perennial, saving annual planting costs. Also, natives will thrive without costly chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These plants can also invite wildlife, such as birds and butterflies, making your surroundings even more attractive. Wild Ones, a not-for-profit environmental education and advocacy organization offers information on starting native plant projects.
7. Lighten It Up
Try outdoor lighting. “Outdoor lighting can be done for as little as $50. You can add night time visibility, security, decorative and do it yourself for anywhere from $50 to $500, depending on the size of your space!
LED solar lights can add a warm hue (and safety) to your environment and they are great for areas used for entertaining since they don’t attract bugs. For spot and flood lights, use LED bulbs: These will save 86% energy, last over 20 years, and retain light levels so the yard will shine bright even when autumn comes back around.
8. Ask the Experts
Have questions about choosing plants or helping the ones you already have thrive? Expert help may be available for free through your local Cooperative Extension program, or through volunteer programs and services offered by ”master gardeners,” individuals who are trained in horticulture and then volunteer in their communities. Find a local landscaper to help you get started or to help you maintain your landscape throughout the year.