I’ve been remodeling homes for as long as I remember. First it was at babci’s (one room at a time on the cheap), then it was with my 1950’s fixer upper. Finally, at the peak of the market, we bought my mom’s 1890’s split roof colonial…which needs everything. What that means is that I’ve been a big fan of HGTV. I think part of it is because when I walk through a dumpy house, I can always imagine the ‘after’ in those before and after shows. I know by the reactions of some of the people who visited our house shortly after we bought it that they didn’t possess that gift.
I love house hunter’s international. It’s so interesting to see the different styles of homes around the world. Anyway, I noticed recently that my perception around design has gotten I dunno, a little jaded recently, especially with the outdoor shows. Or perhaps it’s just that I have a lot of experience with landscaping and I see things that may not be as obvious to the inexperienced dreamer. My frugal side cringes when I see the curb appeal show and they transform a horrible grassy house front into a gorgeous blooming utopia. I look at the yard and I can’t help but pick out all the annuals in the mix and calculate how much 25 flats of annuals and 12 yards of mulch will cost to get the yard to continue looking like that in years 2 and 3.
I was watching outdoor spaces this morning and it was the same deal. A gifted designer transformed a barren grassy outdoor area into a planting wonderland. The grass was replaced by flower beds and lots and lots of decking. There was not a blade of grass to be seen. Most decks require some kind of annual maintenance and flower beds require constant weeding and annual mulching. Cushions have to be brought in during the rain so they don’t mold and ponds need treatment so they don’t turn into a fungus mess. It all looks really nice at the end of the show, but I when I see the gorgeous spaces and water features, all I see is cost and maintenance and more cost.
This year, there are whole sections of my perennial beds that I didn’t mulch because of the cost. Instead I put the time in to weed. This fall, I’m going to save my pine needles and use that as mulch for next year. I already do that in my backyard beds as they naturally fall into that area, but now I’m going to relocate some of it to the front and sides of the house too. The pine doesn’t look quite as nice as cedar, but I’ve gone a little too crazy with my beds and now have more square footage than I care to pay to cover in expensive mulch.
Tips To Keep Gardening Costs Low
I still love watching HGTV but it would be nice if they shared some frugal tips once in a while. I spent a lot on my garden in years 1 and 2, but it’s been fairly low cost since then. Here are my tips:
- Free Pine Needle Mulch – Although I have an abundance of pine needles at my disposal due to the trees in my yard, not everyone does. This year, my husband saw a lady at the dump on Saturday morning picking through the bags of yard waste in search of the perfect pine needles for mulch. In our area the pine needles come down thick over a period of a week or too, so that is the perfect time to go to your local dump and have at it.
- Perennials vs Annuals – My yard is almost all bulbs, shrubs or perennials. Sure I’ll throw a few cosmos or spider seeds in the yard in spring, but generally I don’t buy a lot of plants in the spring.
- Find your Gardener Friends – The worst thing in the world is thinning out a perennial and throwing it in the trash. Wait til spring or fall and ask friends what they would have to spare that they would be okay sharing.
- Trade Plants – You’ll eventually get to the point with perennials where you have excess. This spring I managed to trade 3 garbage bags of clothes in exchange for my extra plants. Both of us were thrilled with the exchange.
- Share with Others – Offer plants to new neighbors who are just starting out. It does a world of good to welcome people to your street without any cost to you.
- Find Sources of Free Manure – start a compost bin or call up a horse farm and see if they have any manure to spare. If it’s fresh you may have to throw it in your compost bin for a season before you use it. My uncle lived in the city and he used to shovel up pigeon manure from the inside of bridges. That was not the best source because of the broken glass and trash in it, but if you really don’t want to spend money on gardening, you will find cheap sources of fertilizer.
- Get Seeds from people or places- Babci is always scouring shopping malls for perennials that have gone to seed and she grabs a handful when she sees them.
Do you have any free or low cost gardening tips? I know I’m missing some.