Saving $$ on Landscaping

Discussion in 'Budget Board' started by ktkerber, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. ktkerber

    ktkerber Mouseketeer

    May 1, 2004
    We built a new home this past summer and we haven't done any landscaping yet. We are planning to do so in the spring.
    Since this is the budget board, I was hoping someone could help me out with saving some $$ on the landscaping.
    I really have little knowledge of landscaping and plants. The hubs calls me the grim reaper of plants.
    Is there a cheap or free and easy to use software out there that can help us plan our landscaping? If we could design and do it ourselves, we could save so much $$$.
    We are just not sure where to start. I just thought if we could get started on the designing now. Then come the begining of spring we could be ready to get our hands dirty.

    Thanks so much,
  2. ilovemk76

    ilovemk76 DIS Veteran

    Oct 20, 2010
    The first thing to plant are trees that will be used for shade. They need time to grow and produce shade.
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  4. marlynnp

    marlynnp No take backs, bowing out or other weenie manuever

    Mar 18, 2006
    In my experience people who have no knowledge of plants tend to spend more money because they are frequently having to replant because they didn't choose wisely that first...second...third... time they planted something.

    You'll save time and money by hiring a landscape designer. They're going to have the knowledge of what plants will do well where you live and which should be planted at what areas on your property so they are properly located when they mature.

    You'll end up with a master plan for your entire property and then you can do (or hire someone to do) bits and pieces as your budget and time allows.
  5. Sandy61

    Sandy61 Mouseketeer

    Mar 25, 2011
    We built a home about 5 years ago and it was miserable for the first year or two. Dirt yard and no shade. Now I have one of the nicest landscaping in my area. Here are some ideas...

    Make instant shade by building a pergola over your deck or the area where you might have a patio table. I planted a Sweet Autumn Clematis (I have planted these at 2 homes and both got huge and tall) to go up the west side and over the top of the pergola and it got huge in a couple of years. Shady patio in 2 years.

    I live outside of town next to a farm field so we planted a row of fast growing windbreak trees on the west side of the property. They also provide snow fence to keep the driveway clear. I even cut branches of Austrees from my sister's house and stuck them in a bucket of water till they grew roots and then planted them. They are huge now.

    I planted fast growing river birch together in a garden area where I planted perennials. This is to the west side of a playset area that had a cover over the fort. They are huge now and provide great shade.

    Around the property I planted fast growing trees such as sugar maples and silver maples. I got these from a usda kind of place that sold them in groups really cheaply.

    Do not buy from catalogs, I have never had any luck with that. They come very small and half dead. Use the catalogs to get ideas like what needs full sun or full shade.

    I planted foundation shrubs that I liked in groups of odd numbers. 3 dwarf barberry next to one globe arbovitae next to 3 spirea. Cistena plum grow fast and are cheap. I have those in foundation plantings also. I used woodchips around my plants. I use mountains of woodchips that we get free.

    Make sure you plant according to how big the shrub or tree will be when full grown, NOT how it looks good now.

    Research and learn all you can. I have run across really knowledgeable workers in the garden center at the home stores like Home Depot and Menards. Go to garden stores for information and then buy at a cheaper place unless the garden store will guarantee it. Even Walmart will guarantee plants and shrubs for 1 year. I have taken back completely dead and dry stems with a receipt and they refunded my money.

    I took a picture of our house from the road and used it to play around with in the winter. Thinking about what color shrubs I wanted and what would work out best where. It takes a winter to think it all through.

    Good luck and imagine in a few years it will be great.
  6. Colleen27

    Colleen27 DIS Veteran

    Mar 31, 2007
    If you don't have the knowledge or the interest to do research, you're probably better hiring it out. "The grim reaper of plants" sounds like you have a history of choosing inappropriate plants for the locations you're planting or varieties that require more TLC than you want to put in, and if you hire someone you can get solid expert advice in native and easy-care plants for your specific site.

    However, if you do decide to do it yourself... I lay everything out on old-fashioned graph paper. I use 1 square = 6" for my scale but if you're only doing larger plantings like shrubs and lawn you could probably go 1 sq = 1 ft or even larger (I interplant veggies so I like to be able to get detailed). There probably is an easier way using software but for some reason that's something I haven't starting doing digitally... I like being able to take my pad outside and "walk" the design while making plans/changes.

    Ordering from catalogs can be a great way to save money but check out the company on The Garden Watchdog @ Dave's Garden ( before ordering... Some mail-order nurseries are known for lousy quality, while others offer excellent products and service. Also, if you are going to use catalogs/internet orders, look for nurseries that are in areas with a similar climate to your own to minimize the shock on the plants.

    And as Sandy said, make sure you're thinking in terms of the full-grown dimensions of each plant. A lot of DIYers and lower-end landscapers will overplant to get a great look ASAP but that only gets you an overgrown mess that needs thinning in the long run. Higher-end landscapers will spend more on larger stock to start with to avoid that "maturing" time but a little patience will get you the same result at a lower cost if you're willing to give smaller plants some time to grow.
  7. gardengalB4

    gardengalB4 DIS Veteran

    Jan 24, 2008
    At least go to a Nursery-most of the staff have degrees in horticulture and will help you from making costly mistakes.Some places will give you the design for free if you buy your plants there.Or you can have them do your design & pay for it-then you are free to buy your plants anywhere.
    -So many of the fast growing trees have a short life span.They are weak wooded & break off in storms (& you are constantly picking up branches after a storm) because they grow so fast.
    -You need to know how big plants are going to get-sure that little blue spruce looks cute in the pot-but it's not going to work well as a foundation plant. I've seen too many of those planted up close to a house(by either a homeowner or the builder).:headache:
    -I really wouldn't rely on staff from Lowes-if they are like the ones in our area-none of them have any formal training in horticulture.
    -Does your area have a master gardeners program?That may be a good source for some information if you don't want to go to a nursery.The people in those programs are passionate about plants and may help you for a small fee.
  8. daughtersrus

    daughtersrus DIS Veteran

    Feb 26, 2002
    If you buy plants yourself, make sure to save the receipts. Most stores will replace them if they die within the first year.
  9. riley2008

    riley2008 DIS Veteran

    Mar 12, 2008
    I second the recommendation on checking to see if your area has a Master Gardener's Club. Ours gives great advice and has spring sale with CHEAP plants that do well in our area. They aso have a lovely garden so that you can see the plants full size (for the most part).

    Consider trees first - if you don't already have them. In the south, next month is the time to plant. Where do they need to go to offer the best shade in the summer - sometimes hard to determine in the winter. Maybe you want lots of different tress. Keep in mind that more trees = less sun (can be a good or bad thing depending on where you live).

    Once you've determined trees, then consider what else you want - beds around the house, beds around trees, freestanding beds, etc. You'll also have to decide if you want annuals (replace every year). Usually people do a mix of evergreens and/or grasses and annuals, but some have done rock beds with non-living boulders and other amusing pieces.

    At both of our houses were marked the beds out with field spray paint - I'm sure there's another name for it. It's the kind of spray paint that you spray upside down to usually mark sports fields. Take a picture of that - print it out on you home printer and add measurements - to a local nursery or the Master Gardeners - they'll help you.

    Also, we decided to wait on other landscaping until that around the house was done. (For budget sake)
  10. wiigirl

    wiigirl DIS Veteran

    Oct 29, 2012
    LOL...I learned that the hard way... :P
  11. kirstenb1

    kirstenb1 DIS Veteran

    Feb 23, 2010
    Go to the library and check out books on landscaping. I've used both Southern Living, and Better Homes and Gardens books. Our builder left several trees close to the house. I used them as a starting point by surrounding them with a giant perennial bed. Think about how you want your yard to look in all different seasons. For instance, I have periwinkle as a ground cover. It stays green all winter, so gives some color and texture. I also have heather and ornamental grasses; again, it gives us something to look at in winter. I do have some roses; I guess I'd classify them as my gift to the deer, LOL!!! Seriously, the deer come and just munch the heads right off. So I'd also think carefully about if you'll have animals coming to get a snack. There are a fair number of deer-resistant plantings, things like daffodils.
  12. Sandy61

    Sandy61 Mouseketeer

    Mar 25, 2011
    If you don't use paint to mark out planting beds, use a garden hose laid on the can move it around until you find a shape you like.

    Ground cover is great. I dug up some from my sister's house and it really spreads. Ajuga and something else I don't know the name of.

    Drive around your neighborhood and write down things you like.

    Be careful whether something is dwarf or regular size of the same shrub. Dwarf works good in small places and regular can get enormous.

    Keep an eye out for neighbors who are dividing plants and giving them away or selling them. Stella d'oro lillies are fantastic because they are one big clump and you don't have to do much. Hostas are divided but need shade.

    Pay attention now to what direction your house sits and where you get shade and where you don't. It will be slightly different in the summer.

    We have an terrible problem with deer. I think we built the house in their path on the way to a creek. I have used spray and many of our trees and shrubs have cages around them. Even when they are big enough to stand being eaten, the deer then rubbed their antlers up and down then and skinned the trees. The deer love all types of apple, crabapple, burning bush and there are probably many others.

    Be ready to plant grass seed and fertilize this spring whenever it is good in your area. We didn't get done with our house until mid-May and had a hot, windy dry summer. We had a hard time getting the yard established.
  13. christygobar

    christygobar DIS Veteran

    Jun 27, 2005
    I am always trying to brainstorm ideas to make our front yard look better as well. One thing I find helpful (I have a terrible gardening thumb too), is using the US gardening zone maps and then typing into google something like "Zone x best plants" or similar. You should end up with some good websites showing you great shade/full sun ideas :)

    I am most proud right now that I had a fully empty dirt bed and I put 5 dwarf nandinas in there (a super pretty color-changing shrub) and they are doing awesome. I think they were $8 or so each and work really well down here in the south (TX).

    We have a lot of ground cover that helps. And a couple of nice oak trees.

    I do best with perennials - they need very little maintenance. For greenery, hosta varieties are good around the base of trees and as filler in a flower bed. I think they work almost anywhere in the US.

    Good luck! :)
  14. Robbi

    Robbi DIS Veteran

    Oct 21, 2012
    Nurseries here will come out and design a landscape. It costs about $200 but you get it back in plants. My husband and son installed the plants. We had to buy more and priced them at different nurseries and Lowes. Some were cheaper at the original nursery and others weren't. We went with the best price.
  15. TLuvsD

    TLuvsD DIS Veteran

    Aug 8, 2010
    Check with local botanical gardens, college/universities, large nurseries. Many offer landscape seminars which will help you learn what grows well in your area. We bought plants from a couple university programs, inexpensive and beautiful.
  16. sherry7

    sherry7 DIS Veteran

    Apr 29, 2001
    Hi, I noticed that we're neighbors...kind of. :) Every year in mid May on a Saturday, there is a Penn State Master Gardener's Plant Sale at Donohue Center in Greensburg. In addition, check out their website at: for lots of good tips for our growing area.

    If you plan on doing it yourself, you don't necessarily need to commit to planting everything in the spring. We moved into our house (new construction) 10 years ago, and the builder only landscaped the front of the house. By the time we had a chance to even think about doing the sides and back of the house, it was already August. I found lots of shrubs and perennials marked down to $2-$3 at Walmart, Lowes, and Home Depot. Since it's hotter during that time of the year, we did have to commit to watering them more often. Most places have a 1 year replacement guarantee if you keep the tags and receipt.

    Just off the top of my head, some things that grow well in our climate: rhododendron's, azalia, hosta (shady areas like near the foundation), spirea, day lilies, tiger lilies, those orange lilies that grow wild on the side of the roads (and reproduce like crazy), daffodil bulbs, clematis, most types of ivy (but it spreads like crazy), hydrangeas, tall ornamental grass clumps, evergreens, etc. Tulip bulbs grow well too, but I had several hundred of them eaten by our local rabbit population, so I gave up on them.

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