One of the things I enjoy doing so much is playing around with flowers and vegetables in my wonderful little yard. I actually own 1 1/2 city lots to go along with my delightful little home. But I have champagne wishes and caviar dreams when it comes to landscaping –and a budget glamorous reality. I’m also kind of a doofus when it comes to growing things. I have no natural skill at it and I don’t know a ficus from a freakus. Still, I enjoy it, and I try to find ways to do it that won’t break the bank.
My ultimate dream is to have edible landscaping, a decent little herb and vegetable patch, a butterfly and rose garden, and next to no mowing required. Maybe even a few chicky-wickens in the backyard. I’d like to have flowers I can pick and put in the house. This all takes a while to establish, especially with a limited budget and even more limited skills.
The biggest cost, I find, is the cost of plants. Ye Gods, but they can be expensive! And because I have limited patience, I want everything Right. Now. so I can get it going and growing. It’s so easy to walk into a plant section of a store and walk out having spent a hundred dollars or more on just a few gorgeous flowers or flowering shrubs. I have even less success but just as much fun with gardening, though I love planning one, planting one and worrying over one. Most of my plants don’t actually produce anything, though, for reasons why I have no idea. So pretty much dollar for dollar my vegetable gardening is a waste. I also have an urban deer problem that the city is trying desperately to control. So many times I’ll plant things, beautiful, wonderful things, and the deer will graze them down to stalks, and I’m out that money too. Plus it makes me mad at nature. Grr.
As I think about my landscaping wish list for this Spring, I’m going to take advantage of some powerful lessons learned over the couple of years I’ve been a homeowner here.
I have lots of savings goals, as you are by now painfully aware of, so I don’t really have the budget to fence in the property or spend loads of money on plants. So this coming planting season, I’m going to practice patience and wait out the home improvement stores until they decide they can’t water many of their plants and tuck them all away in the back on a rack that’s marked down to between $1 – $5. I had no idea how common that practice was until this previous growing season. Apparently big home improvement stores receive plants at certain times of the year whether they’re really ready for them or not. Oftentimes they just won’t have room for the old plants, or the time to water them all and keep them going, so they’ll discount them deeply and move them to a sale rack. I found lots of plants this past Spring in just this way and I spent a fraction of what I would have if I’d purchased now. I positively felt like I was stealing! The downside is, you have to wait and don’t have the immediate gratification of having something now while everyone else gardens away. You also need to develop an eye for what you can save and what you can’t. I look for green stems. If the flowers just need deadheaded or the foliage is turning brown, but the stalk seems good, I can usually bring that back to life. If I can do it, you can do it. My plants actually have rebloomed several times over the growing season and they’re still going now!
I’m only going to buy perennials with a splash of annuals thrown in. I don’t have the budget to spend money on flowers that last a season and never grow back. I’m trying to build a giant garden that incorporates all sorts of plants for both shady and sunny land and just gets bigger and lusher each year. Annuals don’t do that for me. They’re more of a space filler for empty sections of garden. The problem for me is that annuals are often the brightest colored plants in the store. I want them. 😦 But, I’m only going to get the cheap/reduced plants that have a chance of establishing themselves and coming back every year. Then I’ll wait and get the cheap annuals for a few color splashes. As my garden gets bigger and healthier (as does my budget), then I’ll buy more splashy annuals. Otherwise, they don’t get me nearer to my goals.
Over the years I’ve had two flower box beds put in at the front of the house running basically the length of the house. It cost me some lumber, some stain and bags and bags of dirt from Lowe’s, but it was worth it. Overall, I’d say the project cost me about $75 per flower bed, given that the labor was free. But it has made the curbside appeal of my house shoot up tremendously. Everything looks so wonderful when it’s in bloom, and most things come back bigger and healthier year after year. It makes me very happy to pull up and see the things in my flowerboxes and I hope that ten years hence, it’ll be huge and lush and awesomeness. So I’m going to figure out simple home improvement projects that I can barter with someone to do that will enhance the property and enable me to garden more thoughtfully. This past summer I also bought some cheap landscaping timber, stained them, drilled holes through them and shoved rebar into them — instant flower beds in the bottom part of the yard. Very cute, very sturdy. Load it up with some good dirt, and you’re ready to plant whatever cheap, discounted flowers come your way!
Don’t forget about swapping plants with other people who are dividing things like irises, daylillies or other sorts of plants. No idea how to be a better veggie grower, though. That one still eludes me, as does the solution to my deer problem.
What are your glamorous gardening tips?