My partner says you can tell a lot about people from the outside of their residence, how well it is kept. He says when he as on calls with the fire department, that if the outside of a home was ill kept, with overgrown with scraggily weeds and unkempt vegetation, then the responding team would know that the inside of the residence was going to be a mess.
Sounds harsh but if you have been on as many calls as he has, you learn to call them as you see them.
I believe in tidy and low maintenance landscaping. If I had all day long, I might opt for yard options that require more tending but as it is, I don’t have a lot of time to devote to my yards so I have devised a way to have tidy and low effort landscape.
Groundcover. It can be pricy if you are covering large areas. Luckily for me, my yards are basically the size of postage stamps, so pretty small. In my front yard, I have marble chips that cover the ground. Sounds expensive but it was actually very cheap. The bags were hugely heavy so I could only tote home a few at a time. They last and last however. The backyard ground cover is also very low maintenance and fake grass. We had quite a drought in the Bay Area a few years back and this was when I changed up my landscaping to reflect a much lower need for water. In my backyard, I spent a bit to cover most of the ground that is not being used up by raised vegetable beds, with fake grass. It is not cheap, as landscaping options go, but basically indestructible and lasts forever. Once I got it installed (thanks to my handy son-in-law) it became a lovely no maintenance area in my backyard. The side of the yard currently covered in more white marble chips is going to be converted and covered with more fake grass for the dogs. Now that we have two canines, we need more roaming area for the dogs.
Plants. I opt for mostly pots of water thrifty succulents which I have collected over the years. Some were clippings from friends and others I had swapped and traded. I have two hydrangea plants in the ground and those cost next to nothing, a few dollars on the sale rack from the local DYI store. Tossing old coffee grounds on then from time to time means they are thriving. I did buy two plants for my backyard recently; blackberry and raspberry which I found at my local discount grocery store for just $6.99 each when they ran a plant special. I’d seen them for triple that price and decided it was time to pounce. I always seem to have an empty pot or two in my garden so the new plants readily found a home and are already thriving. In a year or two, I expect to be harvesting fruit from both. From my perspective, if you are going to buy trees or plants, make sure they give back. I like mine to return the favor of planting and caring for them by providing fruit but you may prefer beautiful foliage or flowers. Just keep an eye out for bargains and figure out who can give you cuttings for free when it comes to plants. I’ve rooted many a rosemary and lavender plant as small gifts for friends and family. My daughter planted both in a tiny strip near her front porch area and I smile every time I come to their front door knowing that I provided the landscaping for free. Many plants come from bulbs which responsible gardeners will dig up and divide so they don’t overtake their yard thus it never hurts to ask if you want free bulbs.
Pots and Planters. You can find these for free just about anywhere. Look to your own garage and in your house first. Old toy containers, giant plastic buckets, sturdy storage boxes, there are an endless number of containers that you can press into service without costing you a dime. Second choice would be to scout garage sales where sellers will give them away for pennies on the dollar. Scour local ads, you might even find them for free, just be sure and take someone with you and practice safety first and always. Any stranger that expects you to come into their home to get something for free is not your friend. Don’t do it. Anything you pick up for free should be sitting on the sidewalk in full view of many witnesses.
Dirt. Your local garden club or community center may give away dirt for free or hook you up with a source. Scour the internet for construction sites or farmers offering free chicken and horse manure. You can often pick up a load of soil for next to nothing. This just requires brute force and some sweat equity. If you are concerned about the makeup of the soil, there are local agricultural sources that will test it for a nominal fee.
Garden accessories. Try your local dollar store first followed by garage sales and then thrift stores. I found all sorts of short decorative metal trellises at the dollar store that I use for my climbing vegetables in the summer. I have also found a couple of great garden accessories at thrift stores and antique shops but I cap those purchases at just $20 so it keeps me from splurging on something that basically sits in the dirt. This includes such flights of fancy as perhaps, an old fire hydrant which my former fireman partner says is crazy talk. He has no vision but I digress. OK, so no fire hydrant no matter how quaint and charming. Besides, they actually do weigh 500 pounds so probably not the most practical décor choice.
Trees, Glorious Trees. Did you know if you join the Arbor Day Foundation you can get ten trees free? Memberships start at just $10. Check with your local garden club, many trees can be rooted and started for free. Some cities will also provide trees for free, check with your city services.