I have so many wonderful ideas for our backyard. My ultimate vision of paradise is to make our backyard completely edible. How wonderful would it be to lie in our hammock (conveniently shaded by vines of wine grapes), munching on handpicked strawberries and blackberries? Or saunter over to our lemon and lime trees and pick something ripe in the fall to make into freshly squeezed juice?
We are in the process of making plans in our back and front yards which will hopefully incorporate part of my dream into reality. In fact, there is really only one thing standing in our way to pure landscaping bliss: money. Turns out that landscaping can be quite expensive (you probably are knowingly shaking your head if you are a homeowner). While I am by no means an expert in landscaping, I thought it would be a great time to share with you ways that I have found to save money while still getting the landscaping that I want.
Saving Money on Plants
Share Clippings and Off Shoots. One of the best ways we have saved money on plants is by knowing others who are willing to share clippings and off shoots of their own. My friend Helen (also a reader of MDP!) has given us vincas, an offshoot of her banana plant, an offshoot of her century plant, and a pineapple plant she started from the top of a pineapple purchased in the grocery store (so cool—she’s extremely adept at this). We have given her some cilantro from our garden, and we gave my mother-in-law and brother-in-law elephant ear plants (they are not elephant ear plants, but I am unsure of their actual name) from our backyard. And our mother-in-law has also given us rosemary from her garden’s huge supply of it.
Buy Plants Online. I have saved money by purchasing plants online on a site called Spring Hill Nursery  (get $25 off of a $50 order right now; this is generally a deal that is offered by them). Through this site I purchased three clematis vine plants for our wooden trellis, and one blackberry bush for the cost of shipping. Another online site to purchase plants at a discount is eBay  (what can’t you find on eBay?).
Grow from Seeds. Starting plants from seeds is very affordable. In fact, you can afford all of the plants you want, so long as you can grow them from seed. Use egg cartons, old plastic containers, cans, cleaned food jars , and really anything you can find for containers. I have had luck with using seeds from previous years by storing them in a cool dry place.
Purchase Perennials. If you are going to purchase plants, purchasing perennials is a great way to save money (not during the first year, but in subsequent years). Also, purchasing plants that will spread means you can transplant the extras to other areas of your yard. We were able to harvest some of the elephant ears in one part of our yard to add color to another part.
Find Throwaways. Finally, I am always amazed at the plants nurseries and home improvement stores throw away. Neglected plants just need a little love and they will generally pop back to life. Ask the store if you can take a few plants from their pile of throwaways (I have found they go through their stock in the mornings before the rush of customers during the day). You could also offer them money for the plant. Sometimes nurseries have “clearance” sections for plants that need a bit more love.
Saving Money on Landscape Items
Municipalities and Farms. For landscaping items you might want rocks, mulch, containers, statues, etc. For mulch, check with your municipality. Sometimes they offer programs where they will give free mulch, or reduced-price mulch for residents (you may need proof of your residence in the town, municipality, or city where you live). Growing up, we never purchased rocks from landscaping stores. Instead, we took rocks out of our fields on our farm and piled them as high as we wanted. I am not sure if you can find farmers who would allow you to do this, but it does help their crops and they might be willing if you ask them.
Free on Craigslist. Craigslist is a great resource in finding landscaping items, especially in the “free” section. As people landscape their backyards they have other landscaping items they wish to get rid of so long as someone comes and picks them up. While writing this article, the Craiglist free section for the Houston area has mulch, outdoor benches, pots, wood, gravel and fill dirt. And that is only for two days back!
Do it Yourself. Finally, you can save money on the labor costs by doing the work yourself . Get creative and invite some friends or family members over. After the work is through, have a barbecue or schedule a future party in the space that they helped create so that you thank them and allow everyone to enjoy in the labors.