Is It Possible to Do a Nice Frnt Yard Landscape on Nearly Zero $$

katclaws_moApril 27, 2010

....Without spending a fortune? Where do you look for deals for plants? or is that even a possibility? I'd like to find some nice perenials that are low maintenance, because I can't spend too much time outdoors (Severe allergies), yet I'd like to give my house some nice curb appeal. We're on 3 acres of a mostly wooded lot, so I really don't need trees. We planted a dwarf Korean lilac tree about 10 years ago & it has beautiful fragrance & spring color, but that's about it for my "green thumb". I planted a burning bush in a shady area and although it's tall, we never see the bright red in the fall. And we lost an azalea bush for reasons unknown. And, oh yes, the moles are running rampant. Are daylillies truely indestructable? And, am I doomed to only plant hostas? (no offence to hosta lovers)

I've been trying to get educated about soil conditions, (mostly clay here in MO), shade/little sun in front yard, & deer resistant plantings.

Is starting from seed a good way to get the plants I would like, since nurseries tend to be fairly high priced, or would catalog specials be a better option?

And this is only the front yard. Our backyard has so much potential, but the money is scarce to do it justice at this time.

TIA and any suggestions would be appreciated.

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I like to get plants at Lowes on their clearance carts. I have found a ton of plants that way. Sometimes they don't look so great but they usually perk back up after they've been planted.

One of my favorite ways to get plants is when friends divide them up. Then when they bloom, you are reminded of your friends.

Also, you can check Craigslist (maybe Freecycle) because sometimes people want to give rid of or divide plants and they will let you come dig them up.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 7:04AM
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Any current plants if they are properly maintained will look nice. That means pruning, fertilizing, edging, irrigation, and hiring a landscape mow and blow guy! Okay that part is not zero budget, but yes.... keep what you have looking as it was originally designed to look like - healthy, weed free, and nicely pruned as fits the nature of the plant and Site.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:52AM
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What I've been doing is making mental notes of what grows well in front of other houses. I figure that nothing is a good deal if it won't grow easily.

Check out your local CL. I've seen people giving away all sorts of great plants when they renovate, add pools, ect.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 3:19PM
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FIRST: Make your landscape plans ... not by species, but by function and desired effect. Know what you need so when you find it for a good price you can grab it. Have a plan that shows the current and the desired plans. YOu might even have a "transitional plan" that shows what you will do while you are waiting for the money to do the final.

Figure out which part has to be done first. Make sure you don't end up re-doing something - that's a waste of time, labor and usually money.

Don't get so focused on "cheap" that you lose track of your plan. If it's not going to do well or look good in your garden, it's not a bargain. Don't spend the gas money to get freebies if they aren't what you need.

Take your time ... landscaping is never really done, so enjoy the process.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:26PM
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Thank you all for your responses & advice. I will check out those links.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:36PM
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The way to a good landscape on a low budget is more about what you do than the cost of materials.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:48PM
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Some of this depends on what you want to accomplis, of course, but no matter what, you want to figure out how to keep plants alive. ;). Soil prep is going to help a lot in that regard - esp when you have clay! I personally have had good experience with lasagna gardening - you can get lots of info on that on the soil forum.

Of course, you also want to know what you want it to look like, etc. But if it won't stay alive, it doesn't look good. One way to know what does well in your area is to look at yards nearby and see what is growing well. If you can talk to neighbors who garden, you can get a lot of insight - and potentially benefit from getting free divisions if you are really lucky. And most of those will be plants you can divide yourself in a few years. Seeds are also a good way to experiment cheaply. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:35PM
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I would say yes to your question as is, but no if you ask for that plus "quick".

Echoing the posts above about planning and preparing, with the idea that that will come from you, and you are in process of thinking and educating yourself about what grows, what looks good; add to that more self-directed study about design and curb appeal for your particular home and setting, and you can get there.

The stipulation of not spending much time outside is more of a challenge for DIY landscape, as it sounds like you are not going to be out there propagating shrubs from cuttings and nurturing beginning groundcovers...hostas may be your ideal plant! But, it may also mean that you want to think of less-is-more design with one or 2 more simple but striking, big impact changes, something more architectural.

I don't think of daylilies as much for impact, and they require feeding and watering for most bloom if you choose long-bloomers, plus sun...but more to the point, I think you are not quite at the plant selection stage yet but need to peruse some of the LD books or 'net items on doodling at an earlier stage. Just what lazygardens said.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 6:42PM
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holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas

frankie makes a good point. You have allergies, and need to do more architectural points, rather than the regular yard like everyone else in the neighborhood. You could do a lot with boulders, a water feature, mulches instead of grasses, hardscapes, scultures(?), and a few low-upkeep, tough plantings as focal points. Think out of the box, and design something that fits YOUR needs.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 7:28PM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

I understand low budgets... A couple more ideas. May or may not help.

You say you have 3 acres of mostly wooded land. Don't know if this just means lots of trees, or if some of it is more natural woodland. Are there any shrubs or perennials with interesting textures etc that can be moved from there into the front shade to help provide structure?

Check in with the closest garden club or equivalent. They may have a set-up that assists in plant sharing or swaps. Depending on how active it is, it may be worth a $15 or so annual membership to get in on access to the free plants. In a smaller town, you may not even need to join to get in on this.

Do follow up with the suggestion re Craigslist and Freecycle. And also with paint_chips' suggestion on contacting commercial landscapers about plants they are removing elsewhere. Many of those they will keep for reuse, but you may be able to get some 'less than perfects' for really cheap. And most of the 'less than perfects' may be great for you, but not worth the necessary patience for a pro.

And yes, most varieties of daylily are pretty indestructible, but few of them really thrive in shade, and... they can get to be hosta-esque in their ummm... tedium. (Apologies to daylily lovers.)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 8:52PM
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Neat and clean is the place to start. Very litlle that is neat and clean is better than more amenities that might not be so neat and clean.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 9:17PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Daylilies are supposed to need 6 hours of direct sun. I didn't think about that when I planted mine. They are about 7' from the eaves of my west-facing single-story house, and almost under the dripline of the old maples that provide afternoon and evening shade for the house. So they get direct sun for only 2 or 3 hours -- but it's mid-day sun. And somehow the shade is a bright shade.

Amazingly, they bloom and are quite happy! So if you get some sun, you might try a few daylilies -- and be prepared to move them if the experiment doesn't work.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 10:27PM
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I should say that neat clean and FINISHED is what looks good.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 7:01AM
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Mulch. mulch. Do you have a county or municipal entity of any sort where you could obtain free mulch. I think that well placed curved beds covered in mulch are a great place to start.

search your own three acres for plants that you like and would like in a cultivated area. Divide. Place them in threes or fives in your new mulched beds.

Once you have a neat, clean area, with defined, mulched beds, the sky is the limit. It is so not about buying lots of expensive plants but the terribly laborious work of creating neat and curving beds. I don't know what to say if you are physically unable to do the work and family members refuse. Could you do the work in small steps?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 1:36AM
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Empty mulched beds are not a good thing. A bed should be a result of the plants that are in it. That is the exact reason that I added the word "finished" above. Nothing looks more unfinished than big mulched beds with very little in them.

I'm sure Westsider means for you to have full beds, but knowing the budget is low ......

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 3:58PM
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I did wonderfully detailed and lush gardens in my first house on a budget, and now I'm doing another in a completely different climate on even less money. I made many many mistakes, most of them costing me more than was necessary. I did learn a lot with the first house and hopefully that is translating to savings here.
The single most important thing I learned was to choose a specific plant for a specific spot and not buy something then wander the yard searching for a place to put it.
Here is how I did my second home.
Identify the zones- what purpose will each area serve? Draw an overhead view as detailed as you can and decide on play areas, pet areas, lounge areas, greeting guests areas, utility areas, etc.
Then take many many photos of the house and grounds from many many angles. Look at them and post them here. What you are trying to do is plan out the bones of the space. You need to know "I need a tall something here, I need to draw attention here, I need to block this view, I need shade here, I need a safe area for kids, I want to put a bench here, I need winter interest here", and so on.
Don't forget to consider the view from every window- most of us enjoy our gardens from inside the home a great deal of the time, so views are major. Little vignettes of plant groupings or a small statue need to be within sight lines from rooms you spend time in IMO.
Write it all down on your drawing.
Planning and research is easy and free.

First year I put in what will be the largest trees and big conifers- these are the main bones and provide balance and structure. My budget insists that I buy small plants, but time is on my side and I can enjoy them for decades.
Next step/year was major shrubs- those that get larger then six feet. These plants are what provides most of the texture and ebb and flow of the design. I try and stick to a loose color scheme as I don't want red blooming next to pink- keeping track of colors and bloom times is best done on paper, trust me. Evergreens with winter interest need to be apparent nearly everywhere.
Next step/year was smaller (six feet or less) flowering shrubs and conifers that I adore. As always I have to buy small and wait for them to grow, but my budget is what it is and I deal with it.
Next step is thinking about perennials and with these bloom times and colors are even more important. Think texture, too- many plants can compliment each other tremendously if you just think about it.
Once I have these established I look around for areas than need ground cover
Last thing for me is annuals.
I find annuals to be extremely work intensive so I usually limit them to one or two areas right where I need major focal point of color during a season. Keeping the area small makes for less work and retains the visual punch.

There are other methods, this is just mine. Some folks do one corner or view at a time, and this is fine, too. Start small if you doubt your abilities, but finish what you start.

Don't sweat it.
IMO it is a game to play not a job to get done and should be enjoyable. If you get something wrong you can move it. I have had plants that were moved so many times they needed wheels. It did teach me to choose the plant with the spot in mind and not vice versa. In my experience every single time I have purchased a plant and wandered the yard looking for a place to put it I eventually end up having to move the plant. Going shopping for a "six foot shrub with white summer blooms and likes full sun" is much more the way to go IMO.

I am by no means any sort of expert on this, just an avid gardener who has made her share of costly mistakes.
Plan, read, pick peoples brains. Growing them is easy- just find out what a plant needs and give it to them. Don't expect full sun plants to do well in shade and don't expect arid climate plants to live in a bog- it's pretty simple.

I looked at my new homes yard as a five year plan purely because of cost restrictions. I am in year four now and am very happy with how things are progressing. Sure I wish things would grow faster and fill in better but I can't always get what I want.
It is a process and if you love doing it things will work out.

If you hate doing it, plant some simple plants and be done.
IMO it is work and if you can't or don't want to do it yourself or hire it done don't set yourself up for a lot of maintenance. Neglected plantings look worse than spare yet well maintained areas. Be honest about your level of time and interest investment and don't bite off more that you can chew.

Didn't mean to write a book, and again I am no expert. My advice is worth exactly what you paid for it :)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 7:46AM
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