Like home building, landscaping encompasses many skills, each of which is subject to changes from year to year. Flowers are an example of this where certain species are in vogue one year and then another takes center stage the next. Landscaping designs and practices also change because our yards are really micro-climate areas and ecosystem dynamics that require individual attention.
However, one of the biggest trends that seemed to be sticking is the move toward “green” landscaping. This may seem like an oxymoron but many landscaping principles are not self-sustaining and have to be repeated year after year in order for the landscape to flourish. A water-dependent lawn that requires chemical fertilizers for its survival is an example of unsustainable landscaping which costs the homeowner hundreds per year in upkeep/
The good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on being “green” in your own yard. There are many steps you can take to have a beautiful garden at a fraction of the cost of what you may be spending now.
A lot has been written about the dangers of pesticides and chemical fertilizers leaching into water supplies but many people also get sick from the airborne dust and spray from these compounds. The first real alarm went off when Rachel Carson wrote “The Silent Spring” and this led to the ban of DDT pesticide from commercial crops.
There are many environmentally-friendly products on the market for fertilizing but anything that comes in a bag will cost money. Composting, however, costs nothing and can rid you yard of leaves, vegetable matter and grass clippings. By simply following a composting plan you can let the microorganisms bacteria and worms make your fertilizer for you.
2. Inexpensive Perennials
Every spring there is a multitude of sales of perennials in church halls and in flea markets. These come from all over the spectrum of plant life and have be grown from clippings and rooted. As well, they are extremely cheap. This is a great way to included some amazing color and variety to your garden without spending big nursery dollars.
3. Start Your Flowers and Tomatoes
Again, nurseries charge you for sticking seeds into a pot and adding water. Do it yourself. Buy the seeds and get them ready to go out after the last frost. By then they will be almost ready to bloom.
4. Keep your Pots
When you do feel the need to buy potted flowers keep the little plastic or peat pots they come in for next year’s crop of flowers.
5. Natural Plants
In an effort to save water many homeowners are looking at the wild plant life that was around thousands of years before the settlers brought in their own varieties. Grasses and plants like wild onion have a subtle color of their own and will in perfectly with the rest of the yard. Look around and speak with a garden curator about where to find these gems.
6. Bird Houses, Bat Houses and Feeders
If you want to lounge on your patio at night but don’t want to be mosquito food you can go out and buy a propane-powered mosquito killer for a hundred dollars or more and keep filling the tank with expensive propane. Or you can attract birds.
Sparrows and other varieties love snacking on caterpillars and other insects who would make a meal of your plants. In addition, good bugs like ladybugs feed on aphids and other small insects which harm plants. They so god at what they do that The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, releases thousands of them into its indoor gardens for pest control.
A mature swallow eats its weight in insects a day while bats will eat as many of these bloodsuckers, plus moths and beetles. You can purchase these domiciles for around $20 or build your own out of materials from around the home. The internet has dozens of bird and bat house building plans.
7. Rain Cistern
Many homeowners watch every rainfall without thinking about the availability of free water for their garden long after the rains have stopped. This is especially true in areas where water is at a premium and water for gardens becomes scarce in hottest months.
Here is an amazing statistic: A 1-inch level of rainfall on 1,000 square feet of roof with eaves and a downspout produces 600 gallons of water. With a rain cistern system you can get free water for the whole season. And if you can get rain barrels and more containers for cheap from a flea market or free from other sources you are ahead of the game. But even buying them will save you money in the first year, money that would have spent buying water from the utility company.