Home Ownership

Landscaping on a Budget: Cheap Ways to Make Your Yard Beautiful

A beautiful yard is one of the best ways to improve the curb appeal of your home — but you don’t have to break the bank to get great landscaping.

Forget calling a gardening service for a total overhaul or paying a ton of money to a professional designer. You can transform your outdoor spaces into something stylish and functional with a few well-considered (and inexpensive) steps.

We’ve got all the tips you need to create a gorgeous landscape without emptying your wallet. Take a look:

Get Free Mulch From Community Sources

You can’t achieve a finished look to your garden and keep the weeds from popping up within your flowers unless you get some mulch down. Mulch also helps lock in moisture for your plants’ roots and provides extra nutrients they need to thrive. 

But, mulch can be pricey. So, what’s the solution? Believe it or not, many larger communities have free sources of mulch for their residents. When tree companies trim branches away from lines or clear trees away from roads, they convert the wood they cut into mulch and literally give it away — which can easily save you hundreds of dollars.

Divide and Share Your Perennials

Perennials are your friends, so skip the pricey trays of annual flowers this year and buy plants that will return year after year, instead. The long-term savings you’ll gain can’t be ignored.

You can get some immediate rewards, too: Just go digging around the perennials that are already in your flower beds for plants that are ready to be divided. The odds are high that you have tons of flowers that have maxed out the potential for growth in their existing spaces. Thin out the new blooms by moving them to another spot in your garden that needs to be filled and save tons of money.

What if, however, you’re looking to add some new elements to your garden? If you have a ton of hostas, phlox, bleeding heart plants or other perennials, divvy them up and head to your local “plant swap.” Virtually every area has groups of avid gardeners who will happily trade what they have for something else (or even give you their extras).

Create a Lasting Impact with New Trees

Trees can lend grace, beauty and shade to your property for generations to come, but trees can be pricey additions to your landscape — unless you’re willing to be patient. 

While well-developed trees provide instant gratification when you’re planting, they can also cost tens and hundreds of dollars each. If you can wait a bit to see your trees really develop, small saplings are an inexpensive solution. You can even join the Arbor Day Foundation, where your $10 membership will get you 10 small trees that you can plant wherever you like.

It may take a few summers to see your trees start to take shape, but the wait will so be worth it — especially when you see how much character they lend to your landscape.

Use Shrubs Instead of Fencing and Hardscapes

Borders around your property not only help define the overall aesthetic, they also help mark your boundary lines and give you a sense of privacy. However, fences, retaining walls and stonework are all labor-intensive to add, and the materials are increasingly expensive.

What’s the cheap alternative? Try shrubs. Hedges built from shrubs are easy to plant and easy to maintain, and they tend to grow quickly. For border shrubs, pick something that maintains a bit of color or keeps its leaves in the winter. Barberry bushes and holly are both traditional choices for hedges.

You can also use flowering shrubs as cheap, easy “filler” for otherwise bare spots in your yard. They’re especially good at filling in corners and softening the edges of a landscape. Forsythia plants provide a ton of early blooms in the summer, and a mature lilac plant or two will look lovely near your porch or driveway.

Consider Adding Ornamental Grass or Herbs for Ground Cover

If you’re looking for a way to create a cohesive look in your landscape, one easy way to do this is to mix ornamental grasses or herbs throughout the yard. Ornamentals are great as both low-cost, low-maintenance accent pieces to your other plants and as focal points that add depth and texture to a flowerbed. 

Ornamental grasses can also be used en masse in a line to direct the eye down a walk or up the driveway of your home, and ornamental herbs are great “filler” for hard-to-maintain spots along hills. Mint, flox and clover are all perfect groundcovers that require little effort once they’ve taken root, and they spread quickly.

You can even add ornamental grasses and herbs to pots on your deck or porch to create a little additional outdoor beauty. Lavender, sage and kale are all popular, fragrant choices that will enhance nearly any landscape and help cover ugly bare spots.

Finally, remember this: If you’re struggling to create the outdoor space that you want and need, there’s no harm in asking a landscaping company to take a look and do the heavy lifting to get you started. 

If your yard is overgrown, needs better lighting or you just don’t know where to begin, a landscaper can get things into shape so that you find it easy to maintain on your own — and that will save you money (and frustration) in the long-run.