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Landscaping on a Budget

A search for deals on summer annuals to plant triggered thoughts of landscaping in my mind.  Although I was unsuccessful finding the plants I wanted for my sidewalk garden, let alone finding them on sale, I did think through some ideas on landscaping on a budget.  So here they are!

Plan it.

Picture the plan for what you want your garden or yard to look like in a few years. What does it want? Trees? Bushes? Flower gardens? Water features? Hardscape? What will look good, be maintainable and within budget? Will you develop it all at once or piecemeal. What parts will be worked on first? Don’t forget to visualize how the matured plants will look – what looks great small might be overwhelming when fully grown.

Get advice. We got bids from 3 companies and one of them actually drew up a plan for our patio at no charge as part of the bid. Contact your local university extension or city garden or ask questions at local nurseries.

Use the right plants for your environment.

Cactus in a rainforest may not do well. Hydrangeas in a dry area will require lots of money and effort to keep them watered.

Sun loving plants don’t like it in the shade and will go downhill fast if planted there.

Soil acidity matters a lot to some plants, so know what yours is and research how to change it for the types of plants you want (or plant the kind that like what you have). Inexpensive soil testing kits are available from most big box hardware stores and discount stores.

Start small.

Well maintained plantings can grow quickly (depending on variety). To save money, start with small plants and have the fun of watching them grow. You can get seedling trees from your state state nursery. Smaller plants are less expensive and easier to get started that more mature ones.

We planted pine seedlings from our state’s nursery about 10 years ago and now they are over 30 feet tall. They came in bundles of 50 for around $10. They were much easier to plant as well!


My paternal grandparents were poor farmers. Grandma, however, had a sister in another state. They would mail each other plants back and forth to try out in their respective gardens. She got ferns, flowering plants and vegetables to try.

Years ago, my mother-in-law thinned out her iris – the old fashioned deep purple ones and mailed us a box of the ones she pulled out. We planted them in our first home’s yard. They thrived. When we moved, we brought some with us. They are now scattered over several areas of our current home as well.

If you want to trade but don’t have gardening relatives, check out the Garden Web Exchanges & Trading page – which lists multiple sites to exchange by variety, season, geographic region and etc.

Over winter.

When we moved into our current home, the prior owner had planted an annual leafy ground cover we called ‘Wandering Jew’. Each year for 20 years, I took clippings from it and put them in vases full of water during the winter. The cuttings grew roots over the winter and each spring I planted the cuttings, watered and fertilized them and they did well.

Although warm weather plants do well here in the temperate days, they can’t stand freezing over winter. I have three huge asparagus ferns that look wonderful on the patio. They are fully mature. To replace them each spring would cost at least $120 if I could even find mature ones. Since they are messy, I keep them over winter in our spare garage – which has windows and heat.

Multiply & divide.

Many types of plantings will increase over the seasons and can be divided into new plants. For exaple, daffodils will put on new bulbs under ground if you don’t cut the leaves until they turn brown. Mark where the plant is with a stake then dig up, divid and replant in the fall.

Buy and plant at the right time.

Most gardeners like to get started in April and May. By the time the end of June rolls around, some stores are putting things on sale. Be careful though to plant what you buy at the right time. It is best, for instance, to plant bulbs in the fall when they are dormant. Grass seed works best in early spring or early fall (usually with watering around here). Plant new trees when they will get rain and have time to put down roots (spring or early fall).

Get your plants off to a good start.

Don’t spend a bunch of money on plants and trees if you can’t get them to grow. If soil is poor amend it. Fertilize. Water. Protect from wildlife and child life.

When we plant seedling trees here, hubby encircles them with fence posts and chicken wire to keep the deer and rabbits from eating them. Before even ordering my fruit trees, I dug huge holes and put in sand to loosen the clay, gypsum (also to loosen the clay), mulch and fertilizer. I then stirred it all around and put the dirt back in the hole. When the fruit tree saplings came, all I had to do was loosen the soil, plunk them in and give them a drink.

Buy used.

If your landscape plan calls for furniture or other hard items, start shopping thrift stores, estate sales and garage sales to see what you can get for next to nothing. I found a really sturdy iron mesh patio table, four chairs, umbrella and stand for $50 – all it required was a can of Rusto-leum to look like new. Just last weekend, I found a park bench with a beautiful basket weave back, ½ inch think oak slats and brass hardware for $5 at a garage sale! Pots, border edging, outdoor statuary, fencing materials and more are typically easily found at such sales.

Share your landscaping secrets and tips with the readers, please!

Save Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. For my landscaping I actually barter services. I do digital marketing and seo so for my landscaping company I handle their website and marketing and get my work done free. Before that I would buy with a friend who would be working on his yard and we purchased in bulk. I just learn that you can get plants for free. Thats a lot of savings as well.

  2. Watering Fall mums should never be allowed to wilt… especially newly transplanted plants. Check your fall mums every couple of days for watering until you become familiar with their needs, particularly during dry spells. Be sure to thoroughly water-in your new transplants.

    • True, newly set plants need water. I’ve always found mums to be a pain….if you try to keep them year over year. In order to have the fall blooms, I’ve been told you have to pick the buds off for most of the summer so they will bloom in the fall.

  3. I usually buy perennials at the end of season for a dollar if they grow they grow and if not then I’m not out much. Sometimes the ones I pay full price for die anyways. Love the exchange website though. Defintely going to check that out.

  4. Thanks for the information. If you plant early enough in the fall the roots may have time to get established.

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