By Cynthia Bee, Conservation Garden Park
As one of the landscaping instructors for the Conservation Garden Park, I frequently get comments from students in the class along the lines of “Your yard must look amazing!” And I cringe a little bit. It will be amazing (someday), but, like yours, my yard is a work in progress and I’m making changes as I can afford them—one project at a time. The good news is that you don’t have to have deep pockets to make changes—especially if you can invest your own time and energy.
Don’t get me wrong—there are places where you shouldn’t cut corners, like creating a high-quality irrigation system, but there are plenty of ways to stretch your landscape dollars that won’t come back to bite you later.
Start with A Plan
It’s expensive to install a landscape, and even more expensive to go back and change it all later. No one wants to pay for a landscape twice. Your plan doesn’t have to be a fancy drawing from a professional designer, but it does need to be well-considered.
The easiest way to create a landscape plan is to follow the 5-step Localscapes® method. Localscapes was created by Utah-based experts in landscape design, construction, horticulture and maintenance, and formulated to work well in our challenging climate. Classes are taught statewide and the website, http://localscapes.com, provides free and low-cost resources for the do-it-yourself homeowner.
Doing the work yourself may pay off—depending on the task. Installing paths and irrigation, planting and mulching, or building your own amenities such as fences or trellises will not only save money, they’ll also provide you with a sense of satisfaction. If you’re renovating an existing yard (likely because the “start with a plan” part did not happen), projects can be completed one at a time to stretch the process over a longer period, making each change less expensive and overwhelming.
However, the smartest part of doing it yourself is knowing when you shouldn’t. Carefully assess your own skills and the amount of time you’re willing to invest in learning how to do the tasks properly so you don’t get yourself in over your head.
When it comes to plants and landscape materials, crowdsourcing (appealing to family, friends, classifieds or local groups) may yield great results if you’re willing to extend yourself a little and you’re not in a hurry to get the work completed. We’ve seen flagstone offered for free—if you’re willing to dig them from a yard that no longer needs them or load and haul excess materials away.
There are often cost-effective alternatives to your preferred materials. For example, instead of a flagstone patio or path, consider using Flagstone Chip or Chat, which provide a similar look for 70-80% less than the flagstone. If colored, stamped concrete is too expensive, staining your existing concrete can achieve a similar result. There’s no need to by larger-sized plants as they take longer to get established when transplanted. Within a couple of seasons, a smaller tree will almost always catch up to the larger tree.
These are just a few or the many ways to reduce the cost of landscaping. Visit our blog at http://conservationgardenpark.org for more ideas and resources.