Desperate for advice! Front porch/small budget

garden-of-simpleMay 21, 2014

I'm a long time lurker, but a new poster/member.

I'm desperate for help! We moved into this house 5 years ago, and because our budget is and has always been zero, all of our energy and resources have gone into vegetable and fruit gardening out back.

Our "landscaping" is nearly non existent and while I know what I like, I don't know how to do it and certainly not on a budget.

My MIL has offered some assistance as an early birthday gift. Our budget is probably in the 200 dollar range (my husband is a teacher and I stay home, so it's not likely to increase by much for the foreseeable future).

There's a lot that needs to be done, but I'm looking for a good foundation on the cheap that will allow for improvement over time.

The long term plan is to probably paint the house a dark blue/navy/grey. Possibly screen in the wrap around porch (adding a roof on the side).

I'd love to eventually landscape this hill (that is nearly impossible to mow and mostly tall grass and weeds) and create a walkway across the front of the house.

We do not plant edibles Along the house because we find that we have to spray for lady beetles and box elders of we end up with 20,000 on the house and almost as many inside.

Right now the beds extend maybe 2 feet out and perhaps 10-12 feet long on the front and maybe 15-18 feet on the side. I can bring them out further (with some effort, our soil is incredibly rocky).

Currently the left side of the front has some tall grasses by the tree (they haven't grown in yet) I hate them and don't mind getting rid of them, they are lovely for privacy in summer (we live on a semi busy semi country road - we get about 70 cars a day, my across the street neighbor has a farm), but a pain the rest of the year. That's it. The rest is a mess of weeds.

I do have three small burning bushes I can plant. I need something low maintenance and fairly hardy (we are zone 5 and this area gets sun most the day).

I like the look of cottage gardens.

I'm totally lost. I have no ideas. Help?!

We actually use the side door as an entry but it's not well defined, the side space is day lilies and grasses too, currently we stack our wood along that side of the house but that's hopefully changing soon.

Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

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Side of house (which is actually entry)

Immediate/low cost solutions needed but is also love some longer term/investment ideas coupled in.

The inside of the house is lovely but the outside is a little embarrassing!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 1:09PM
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Here's a suggestion of a general scheme insofar as how to make a better link between the front and back entrances. I don't think it would require as much grading as it first appears. Much of the "grading" could be done with plant heights. You mostly need to make sure that proper drainage is taken care of. The walk connection could be a combination of grading and decking.

You said "like cottage garden" but it would be up to you do transform simple into complex and get those plants you admire. The scheme I offer is more about forms, arrangement, layout. Where I show a blue flowering perennial, that could turn into the dozen different perennials that you like. It's more work, of course, but that's up to you.

I would get on to limbing up and shaping the tree before those bottom limbs become dominant. It's a process that should be gradually undertaken right along with the tree's growth.

It would be good if you could add a picture that is taken from the road (showing everything) but that is squared up with the house, centered on the front door.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 3:42PM
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Thanks so much! Here's some additional pictures I hope are helpful this is from across the street and it's te best I can get, the hill is so steep that we need to wear golf spikes - that's an issue for another day I suppose.

Front center

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 4:53PM
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Front right

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 4:55PM
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Front left

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 4:57PM
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Looking up on left from driveway

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 4:59PM
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And sorry last one this shows the space available a bit better

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 5:00PM
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From the street view, it looks like the main thing needed is a tree on the R to balance the one you already have on the L. They don't need to match, though it would be OK if they did. There could be a bed of groundcover or low shrubs to screen the porch skirting. I feel for you on maintaining the slope. It looks like a place to pen in some goats! The hill would look pretty if it was seeded with lespedeza, but don't know if it would be worth the bother.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

You have a slope. If you expect to plant a cottage garden, you need to terrace the slope. Not sure where you are, but I know money is tight. Rocks found can help with terracing. And you need a drip system to water the plants. This could be a gorgeous place. Your call!


    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 9:27PM
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I don't plan on doing anything with the slope for several years, at which point we would have it professionally terraced. What I need is to do something with directly in front of the porch. Something with some height because of the height of the hill/street view.

There is a VERY large tree in the yard to the right but it's about halfway in the yard and not by the porch.

I was thinking a large bush on the porch portion to balance? Maybe a burning bush or lilac or some sort of large flowering bush?

But then do I continue the height all along the porch? Anything small gets lost, you can't see it from the porch or the street, but I don't know what to do. I'm not a fan of hedges but would that work here?

Does anyone have suggestions on creating a mixed shrub border, that perhaps would work on its own now and as a background maybe 7 or 8 years down the road for when the hill gets attention?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 7:19AM
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"I was thinking a large bush on the porch portion to balance? Maybe a burning bush or lilac or some sort of large flowering bush?" Well, where exactly do we mean by "on the porch"? Certainly not in front of, I hope. Either would work fine but would work out next to the R end if grown in the tree form (multi-trunk, limbed up with a raised canopy).

I think you may be wrongly thinking that you need to cover part of the porch, but covering just the skirting is enough.

It is not likely that terracing the bank is or will be feasible. It would be very expensive and to what end? Isn't there a way that a bank can look good for much less money? I'm suggesting seeding Lespedeza, but don't know if it will grow there. But SOMETHING pretty can.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 2:48PM
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robo (z6a)

Your house is very charming!!

On budget:

1. Does your area have craigslist? I ask because you could put a wanted ad on there "Wanted: landscaping shrubs - will come dig them out for you" -- you never know, someone might take you up on it! Lazy gardeners sometimes put the converse of that ad up here: "Free, full grown bridal wreath spirea if you dig it -- bring an excavator" (I REALLY wish I'd thought of that before I dug out my own with a shovel and a hacksaw).

I also look for fundraising plant sales to pick up common, reliable perennials.

2. Smaller plants are a budget gardener's friend. In two years noone will know if you bought a one gallon shrub or five gallon.

3. For the most part, if you want height you are going to need width, so are you ok with bringing the bed all the way out to where the slope starts?

4. I also don't know your area - but I would be tempted on any of the following in my area (Northeast) for Zone 5:

* 2 or 4 narrow conifers (blue juniper or yew maybe?) - winter interest
* rhododendrons - winter and spring interest
* boxwood or holly - winter and fall interest
* red osier dogwood - fall and winter interest
* lacecap hydrangea in front (summer interest)
* azaleas (summer interest)
* smaller lilac like miss kim (spring interest) - a regular size lilac would get tall enough for you but would eventually need a large width - can you handle a 12 foot wide shrub there?
* spirea - lots to choose from there!

For taller perennials, thinking you might want a cottagey type feel, I could think of goatsbeard, joe pye weed, ligularia, Phlox paniculata, meadowsweet, some varieties of black eyed susan, delphinium, hollyhocks (reseeding bienniel)....uhhhh....I'm sure there are others.

I would be tempted to make my bed as wide as possible, and leave some breathing room between plants and the porch -- the plant's eventual full grown size and the porch, that is.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Thu, May 22, 14 at 15:23

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 3:11PM
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robo (z6a)

Some more thoughts on taller perennials for Z5- sage sylvestris, catmint (will go wild with little encouragement), coneflower, peonies (taller ones if you don't mind staking - but not so cheap), shasta daisies, foxglove (poisonous to children), tall snapdragons, bee balm (although it can be quite enthusiastic).

In my area rose of sharon is not invasive and produces a nice hardy plant with lovely late summer blooms. It would fit your space requirements and looks cottagey. BUT I think it can go wild in other areas of N. Am.

How about a climbing rose along the porch?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 3:19PM
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You guys are fantastic! These are great suggestions.

There are several posts on craigslist for inexpensive perennials, but no shrubs (yet).

I am absolutely ok with extending the bed to the slope, the less mowing the better, but was afraid of such a big undertaking- I suppose if I'm planning some bigger bushes to eventually full the space it's not that bad though, and we can get free bark mulch in town.

Because of the steps would you do a foot path coming off them an through? My husband has suggested getting rid of the steps maye

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 7:01PM
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I'm in central ny and am familiar with most of those plants

I've thought of getting some native wildflower seed bombs and tossing them at the hill to see what happens

Yardvark I appreciate the sketch ups the visual really helps!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 7:03PM
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Somehow, I don't think the seed bombs will do much or solve the problem since there is thick grass already there. Usually, preparation and work have a lot to do with how things come out.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 8:28PM
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Yeah I was afraid of that yardvark! The previous owner mowed it in golf spikes and we did too until my husband slipped. It looks nice mowed but not worth the risk

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 8:56AM
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So I ended up leaving it mostly in my mother in laws hands. We tilled all the way to the grass line and even though I was trying to avoid a hedge look, I may get one. We did two coppertina ninebark on each side of the porch and three knockout roses on each side in front of that. I never considered myself a rose person, but these are pretty.

Now I'm filling in with perennials on either side, I haven't put any of those in ground yet. I've got to get some pictures still. Thanks for all your help!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 8:05AM
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I wish there was a way to upload multiple photos! Sorry for the cellphone pics they don't do it justice!

Still a work in progress but the left side (still figuring out perennial placement)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:28AM
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Right side, for now)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:30AM
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The whole middle section below the stairs is empty- no idea what we are going to do there. A patio? Some perennials and birdhouses? No idea

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:32AM
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Also the ninebark can get 6-8 feet but we will keep it trimmed to 4-5.

For perennials I have bee balm, salvia, echinacea, false sunflower, a few I don't remember and I still need Shasta daisies and phlox (sp?)

I'm considering dividing up my day lilies and using those to round the side corners and running dianthus (sp?) along the front of the roses as a border to the grass.

I figure I can kind of play with the perennials and their placement for a while

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 9:38AM
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I'd want some kind of a landing so I wasn't stepping off the stairs onto soil or mulch.

I like what you've done so far.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 11:42AM
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Thank you for remembering to report back. It looks good.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2014 at 4:10PM
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