Holy crap landscaping is expensive! We got an estimate last summer to do mulch and some basic plants in our front yard and it was around $4,000. Ugh.
A few years ago, I decided to be Mr. Badass and cut my own mulch beds, not having a fucking clue what I was doing. I had a friend over, we popped some beers, and started cutting squiggly lines in the grass like the pros do. Then I bought a bunch of dirt, covered up whatever grass was left, and eventually topped it with mulch. Bingo! There you have it, a perfectly landscaped yard. Except… no plants or flowers… and a ton of weeds within weeks. I suck at this.
3 years later, obviously the mulch beds are still there, but they don’t look as nice. My wife is regretting me ever doing this to begin with, yet I still argue how awesome it will look once I mulch again. If you’ve done any type of landscaping before, you know it’s no walk in the park, either. I’ve tried out different methods and layouts, but I always end up going half-ass on it for two reasons – the amount of work and the cost.
Here are some things I’ve learned about frugal landscaping in the past few years that will hopefully help you as you venture into “who has the best lawn” season…
1. Buy mulch in bulk
If you go to Home Depot around this time of year, you’ll see plenty of bad-ass dudes loading up their carts with a shitload of pre-bagged mulch. These guys think they’re hardcore, but they’re just wasting money and energy. I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes buy mulch from Home Depot – but it’s usually when I am too lazy and running behind on getting it done.
All jokes aside, buying pre-bagged mulch is not the best way to get your frugal on. When you buy the pre-bagged stuff you’re usually getting:
- Less mulch for your money
- A lower quality product
- Mulch that could be filled with chemicals
This may not apply to all pre-bagged mulch, so if you do decide to buy it this way, just read the labels carefully. If you really want to get your frugal landscaping on, buy your mulch from a local landscaper or landscaping supplier. I usually spend well under a hundred bucks for 3 cubic yards of mulch and it’s dropped off right in my driveway. That way I can shovel it when and where I want it. Some other benefits of bulk mulch for me are:
- Saves money – as I said above, it’s much cheaper this way
- Saves energy – you’ll carry pre-bagged mulch to your car then out of your car to the spot you want it, then you’ll cut the bag open and pour it out
- Better for the environment – you won’t have dozens of empty plastic bags to throw out
2. Anything that needs to be done, do it yourself
And if you can’t figure it out, use YouTube. You really shouldn’t have to pay landscapers to do the work for you, unless it’s something extreme that the average person can’t do with a little elbow grease. Landscaping is hard work, and it’s expensive work if you pay someone to do it. Even major projects like paving a path with stones can be done with a little research.
3. Have a plan (and stick to it)
If you don’t, you’re going to end up with crap. Draw it out on paper. Use spray paint to mark areas around your hard where you plan on cutting or making major changes. Know well in advance how much you can afford to spend, and don’t exceed that amount when you go shopping for materials. Bottom line – know what you want to do, estimate the costs, and keep to the plan.
4. Pimp your curb, don’t worry about the back
When you’re getting your frugal landscaping on, you may have to let some things in the backyard go. Remember, it’s all about curb appeal. Whether you’re selling, planning to sell, or you just want to enjoy pulling into your driveway, having the front of your house look kick-ass is never a bad thing. So when you’re deeply considering decking out the backyard with a park bench and a playground, think instead about planting shrubs, flowers, trees, and laying mulch out front instead.
5. Consider placement and buy in-season
Do your research before buying plants or flowers that won’t grow where you plant them or based on your local climate for the time of year. You should also look for sales on items that fit this criteria. You may have your heart set on a certain type of flower, but if something else looks just as good and is much cheaper, go with it. Remember, you’re a Neederson, not a Wantling.
6. Don’t over-commit
This is what I did, and I am not regretting it. By cutting mulch beds that are too big, planting too many flower beds, or creating a stone walk path that is way too long, you’ll not only spend more time and money up front, but you’ll have to do maintenance on it each year. I ended up cutting mulch beds that were way too big, and I’d never done a lick of landscaping in my life. Now I have to buy loads of mulch every year just to refill them. Also, when I want flowers, that’s just way more space to fill.
7. Stop trying to be edgy
Okay, I had to use at least one lawn-care pun. Just don’t put stupid shit in your yard that you think looks cool. It’s a waste of money, and your yard will just look ridiculous. What am I talking about? I’m talking about an Amish buggy (yes, I’ve seen it). Or little “men” created out of metal sprockets and pipes (my neighbor down the street). Or how about a couple of Power Wheels trucks running over each other like a mini, white trash monster rally (another person down the street from me). WHAAAAAT?
Whatever you decide to do to your yard this spring and summer, learn from some of my observations and mistakes and save yourself a little cash. Share your ideas for frugal landscaping in your comment below!