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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Landscaping Your Home Garden on the Cheap


I was a little surprised to see an article in the August issue of Money Magazine titled "Cure the Summer Landscape Blues." But it reminded me that I've been a true cheapskate when it comes to my garden. So I thought I'd share a few of my strategies with you.

I have re-used or repurposed so many things in my garden- plants, hardscape, even sod and dirt.

  • If I'm removing sod in one place to expand a flower bed, I take it up carefully and look around to see where I need to improve the grass, and plop it down - after a little prep of the site, of course.
  • When we replaced our paved driveway with concrete, they removed the existing gravel and sand base. I save a few wheelbarrows full and used them as the base for my paved landings at the foot of the stairs from my deck.
  • The first owners of our house had a sandbox for the kids. The next owners poured soil into it and turned it into a not-very-functional planter. I finally tore it down, and used that wonderful topsoil/sand mix to top dress an area of my lawn where the soil is absolutely horrible. That grass has looked better this summer than ever before.

I'm careful with gardening expenses in other ways too. If I'm not sure a new plant will like my site - or that the rabbits will like it too much - I start small, often one from an even an end-of-season sale.

Many store closings are not places to find deals. It's made the news about how the liquidators may charge more for an item than you could have bought it for on sale before the store closing. But I have been fortunate in the past with landscaping materials. When a K-Mart closed a few years ago, I stocked up on bagged mulch at 50% off. And as far as I know, mulch NEVER goes on sale.

But later, I found an even cheaper way to mulch my flower beds and trees. My village (in any other state, it would be called either a town or a city) chips trees and branches that are downed in storms, pruned limbs from parkway trees, or brush placed on the curb by homeowners during seasonal pick-up days. All those chips are available free for the hauling. Actually, if I wanted an entire truck load, they would deliver. But I'd have no control over the quality of the load.

How to get this stuff home? I use the large paper yard waste bags that we are required to use if we dispose of yard waste. They cost about $.50 each. Wait, you say, that's a waste of money! It would be, if I used the bags once for this purpose and threw them away. But I don't. I can usually use the same bag for 2 or 3 trips to the chip pile if I don't fill them too full. Then I dry them and put them away, to use when I have yard waste that I can't dispose of on my own property.

And speaking of paying to have yard waste hauled away: I keep that to an absolute minimum. We almost always mulch our grass clippings and let them fall back onto the lawn. I shred and save my leaves each fall, corraling them with hardware cloth or other spare items. Next year, when I'm putting down new wood chips, I'll spread a layer of leaves first, then the wood chips.

Right now, I've got my eye on a pallet of bagged top soil at the local grocery store. The price has already been reduced. But I'm trying to wait until they've given up on selling it, in hopes they'll accept my offer for an even lower price. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I'll bet any of you who are gardeners have tips about how you've kept costs down. Click on my name below and tell me about it. We'll share those ideas in a future post.



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