Landscaping on a Limited Budget
Consider Repurposing and Free items for your garden.
Landscaping on a budget depends on your dreams and your size budget. Also, think about if you want to become a ‘gardener' or if you just want your landscape ‘decorated' and be done with it. There's a huge difference.
If you're fond of gardening, you can plan on working on it over a long period of time, years even. This way you can stretch your budget over a longer time or add to it as your income increases.
A lush green lawn is what comes to mind when most people envision their front yard. These days, however, many of us are thinking ‘green' and lawns are anything but eco-friendly. Lawns began as a way to wealthy folks in Victorian England to show off their wealth. Lawns required a lot of manual labor back then and were expensive, so the larger, finer and well kept your expansive lawn, the wealthier you appeared. Sadly, this idea was carried over to suburbs of the middle class and even poor homeowners. Lawn still requires a lot of attention. If you're determined to have one that is ‘perfect' plan on spending lots of money on fertilizers, weed killers and equipment. If your lawn is large you'll probably need a ride-on lawnmower, this is quite an investment. Do you really want to spend your weekends mowing, edging and weeding? If so, a lawn is for you. If not consider other options like grown cover, stone and rocks or even paving bricks with potted plants.
Lawn alternatives. Our front yard has two large sugar maples in it, they are ancient and produce a lot of shade and leaves in the fall. I probably could grow a lawn under it, but it would require more time and funds than I have or care to invest. One year I bought five large pots of Vinca Minor, an evergreen ground cover that thrives in shade and under shade because the roots are shallow. In spring it is covered with lovely bluish-purple flowers. In the depths of winter it's still a deep, shiny green. It crowds out nearly every weed that tries to pop up through it and stays a constant height of about six inches. In autumn we allow the colorful maple leaves to fall and collect on top of the "Myrtle" as it's sometimes called. The leaves break down and feeds the trees, as nature intended. You may have to be patient for a couple of years while it fills in, but if you divide your original plants and use them to fill in more areas, it will go more quickly. In the long run you'll have an earth-friendly, evenly green front yard that requires practically no upkeep at all, it's totally self sustaining and save you a huge amount of money over the years.
If you love flowers, add perennial beds by starting small at first and expanding them over time. The easiest way is to chose an area, mow it short, then cover it with a layer of eight sheets of newspaper. Top it with mulch (I prefer cedar as it repels insects and smells wonderful). It's best to do this in the fall so you can till it up in the spring when the newspaper has broken down into the soil as compost. This method will save you a lot of work and amend the soil at the same time. If your new perennial bed is four by six feet, purchase about five perennials that you enjoy and that are suited for your soil and sun exposure. Full sun means at least six hours of direct sunlight during the growing season. I started with Foxglove (digitalis), Shasta Daisies, Chrysanthemums, Oriental Lilies, and Phlox. One of the reasons I chose these, other than I love them, is that they bloom in different times during the summer so something is always in flower. Foxglove are biennials which means if you purchase a large plant that is flowering, it will drop seeds and form leaves next year so will not bloom then. Plant an adult plant and a couple of ‘yearlings' so next year is covered. The others listed above will be ready to be divided in about three years, so you'll have more to plant elsewhere or to trade with other gardeners.
Take around your parents, grandparents or neighbors gardens. Chances are, if they have perennials, they'll be happy to give you ‘starts' from theirs. This will stretch your budget a long, long way.