10 Tips for Saving Money in the Garden (cont.)
Published: January 28, 2011
Carefully plan and plot your garden to add value to your home and make the most of your time and money.
Tip #6: Avoid invaders
Ivies, grasses, and vines will fill in your garden quickly, and just as quickly take over your landscaping. Once these “invasives” take root, unearthing them is difficult, and in some cases, impossible.
Your garden center doesn’t call these spreaders “invasives.” They are billed as “fast growers” or “aggressives,” but often that’s code for non-native plants that take over the landscape and crowd out locals by stealing nutrients, light, and water.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains a list of invasives that includes various ivies, grasses, weeds, vines, self-seeding varieties of bushes and shrubs, and even seemingly innocuous herbs, like mint. Your county extension service can steer you toward the species best suited to your garden. Warning: If you love growing mint, grow it in a pot on your deck or patio.
Tip #7: Beware of neighbors bearing green gifts
You should love thy neighbor, but don’t ever take cuttings from their gardens unless you know exactly what they are and how they grow. Self-seeding perennials, such as Black-Eyed Susans and coneflowers, will quickly fill bare spots with splashes of color. If you tire of them, just grab a spade and dig them out.
But if a neighbor extends a slender stalk of Rose of Sharon, or other invasive tree species, run away screaming. These trees will spread throughout your yard and grow roots so deep that only a professional--or the better part of your weekend--can dig and pull them out.
Tip #8: Plant shade trees for natural A/C
Shade trees planted on the south and west sides of a house reduce cooling bills -- up to 25% -- and lower net carbon emissions. So include shade trees in your landscaping plan.
Choose shade trees according to their size at maturity, which could be 20 years away. Dense deciduous trees -- maples, poplars, cottonwoods--are good selections because their leaves cool your house in summer, and their bare branches let light in during winter. Plant them close enough to shade your house, but not so close that they will overwhelm the space.
Tip #9: Power down your lawn mower
The Environmental Protection Agency says gas-powered lawn mowers contribute as much as 5% of the nation’s air pollution. Switching to new generation electric and push-reel mowers—which are lighter, quieter, and kinder to your lawn than power mowers—reduces emissions and cuts fuel consumption.
To mow three-quarters of an acre of grass with a power mower requires 1 gallon of gas. As gas prices head to $4 per gallon, you could save $100 a year by switching to a muscle-powered or electric machine. An electric or good push-reel mower costs $150 to $250, so it will quickly pay for itself.
Tip #10: Grade your landscaping
Once a year, walk your property, cast a hard eye on your garden beds and ask, “Is that plant doing its job? Is it growing into its space, or wandering wherever it likes? Are leaves healthy or spotted with mold and pests? Are these greens improving curb appeal or just making my house look overrun?”
If a plant or shrub isn’t working out, it’s compost. If shrubs are growing too close to your foundation--1 foot away is good--transplant or prune them.
Make sure trees are growing no closer to your house than the width of their mature canopies. Otherwise roots can burrow into foundations, and overhanging branches can trap moisture against the roof or siding, leading to rot and insect damage.Check your flowering plants and shrubs to see if they are indeed flowering. Too few or dull blossoms should rally after a dose of fertilizer or layer of compost. An inexpensive alternative to commercial fertilizers is manure tea. Fill the foot of old pantyhose with a clump of cow or horse dung, tie the hose to the watering can handle, and let the manure steep in water. You can get weeks of nutrition from a little bit of dung.