8 Ways To Landscape on a Budget

You don’t have to spend a lot on landscaping to give your yard some praise-worthy curb appeal. Start with these savvy ways to landscape your yard on a small budget.

by Ben Parris
Ways to Landscape on a Budget photo

When I was a kid, shopping with my mother, she showed me what she called a Silver Dollar Plant, amazing for its translucent round leaves that looked like coins. I thought a silver plant was really cool until she said, “That’s the only kind of money that grows on trees. Now go try and spend that, hotshot!”

As an adult, I took a leaf from her book, so to speak, and developed a variety of quick, money saving ideas on landscaping. You can save both time and money by taking the following steps:

1. Take pictures of your favorite lawn layouts.

It’s a great way to get a head start. If you know what you like, try to duplicate the general look and feel as closely as possible in terms of color, type of plant, and the varying heights. Whatever you do, don’t copy the lawn next door.

2. Know your perennials from your annuals.

Always ask the supplier which are which. Many a good plan has been foiled by new gardeners filling their grounds with annuals only to watch them all get lost, and that money go down the drain the very next year.

Perennials are plants that live for several years and often require two or more years from seed to flower. But be careful as a very warm or very cold climate can reverse the normal characteristics of a plant in its original habitat.

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3. Carefully examine that grass mat.

Grass mat can get you going more quickly than seeding, which may take several rounds to fill in. But this only works if you do it right. A good many grass mats either fail to take hold or turn out to be weed mats.

Look closely at each mat you take, scrutinizing to make sure it contains all grass and has healthy roots. When you plant it, avoid the rookie mistake of crushing the roots by stomping it in place.

4. Minimize erosion.

The more soil that washes away, the more soil you have to replace. The bigger the gradient, or slope of your land, the more vulnerable your set up is.

If your grounds present this challenge, create terraces or steps firmed up by wood, rock, or bushes to alleviate the problem. The effect is stunning and pays for itself in the savings on soil replacement.

5. Save those rocks and bricks.

With the exception of concrete and other building debris, anything that you find as an obstruction one day can be a decorative touch or erosion block the next.

Small, uniform items can form borders, while large, irregular items can serve as accents.

6. Know how big it grows. 

One of the most common mistakes of the novice is to place shrubs too close together in an effort to eliminate what they think are unsightly gaps. In as little as two years, you will come to regret this decision as plants crowd each other out and undo everything you hoped to achieve, spilling into driveways or destroying each other. Often they have to be pulled out and replaced later.

Instead of overpaying and suffering with the consequences, find out in advance how big they end up at maturity, and chances are you can buy fewer than you thought.

7. Don’t pay for the full service until you get the full service.

Sometimes, you just need a paved path, and simply don’t have the skills to do it yourself. An excellent way to know who is good is to note what jobs are being done in the neighborhood.

As in all areas of home improvement, some pavers take payment, start a job, and move on to the next, leaving you in the lurch. Don’t hire anyone who you haven’t seen finish a job, and make sure you withhold the final payment until the work is done.

8. Mulch.

Save money on mulch by making your own. Your lawnmower may have a mulch setting, and the leaves you throw away are a great source of mulch, too.

Incidentally, the Silver Dollar Plant, also known as Moonwort, is a biennial, boasting a two-year life cycle.

Reviewed March 2024

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