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I became a first-time home owner in May, but I waited until late September to start doing some landscaping projects. Why? Long-time home owners I know told me that fall is a great season for yard work — the weather is nice, plants are cheap, and veggies are hardy.
They were right! Here are three landscaping projects I did in my yard this fall, and how I saved money on each one.
When I built my screened-in porch, I started with an existing deck, but the railings were old and warped. I replaced the railings, but put the old ones to good use as a compost bin.
Situated in a natural area in my backyard, my compost bin is 4-by-6 feet with two chambers. On one side, I pile raked leaves so they can become mulch. On the other side, I keep an old trash can with a tight lid that I use to deposit food scraps.
The old deck railings make up the sides of the compost bin, caged with some galvanized steel mesh. The top is made of corrugated sheet metal, also left over from the screened-in porch project, and the front of the bin is removable so I can get to the compost inside.
Because I used materials I already had, the only thing I had to buy was some more wire mesh, which cost about $50. The lumber and sheet metal would have cost about $60.
Money-saving tip: Always shop in your own scrap pile first, and get creative with your salvaged materials — you’ll be surprised how much money you can save.
My front yard is very steep and shady, so it’s perfect for a couple of retaining walls — I don’t want to mow a steep hill, and barely any grass will grow there anyway.
So I bought about $100 worth of concrete blocks, enlisted some help, and got to work. Unfortunately, the soil in my yard mostly consists of infamous Georgia clay, so once the trenches were dug and the two walls were stacked, we had to amend the you-know-what out of the soil. Mixing my clay soil with several bags of topsoil turned it into something plants would want to grow in.
The money-saving part of this project came with buying plants — they’re cheaper in fall because nurseries like to clean out their inventories. I bought all my plants on sale for between 20% and 50% off.
I bought vinca, a trailing ground cover, to spill over the front of the walls. Behind the vinca are creeping azaleas in one wall and nandina in the other wall; both should fill the spaces nicely when they mature. Tufts of Emerald Goddess Lilyturf line the front of each wall. The vinca, azaleas, and lilyturf cost me about $60, but the nandina came from a friend’s garden — it had spread too far for her space, so she was dividing the plants. She gave me the part she uprooted.
After a weekend of work, my front yard looks much better:
Money-saving tip: Once a garden is established, gardeners have to divide and cut back their plants, so don’t be afraid to ask if you can take advantage of their unwanted offshoots. Chances are they’d be happy to give them to you.
Back in September, I prepared my garden for fall veggies by pulling out all summer plants that were finished fruiting, turning and loosening the soil, removing all weeds, and adding compost. Then, I planted about $12 worth of vegetables that thrive in cooler temperatures — broccoli, spinach, and cabbage.
Money-saving tip: Plant hardy veggies that you like to eat frequently so you’ll save money on your grocery bill. My spinach should last through several hard frosts, and the broccoli and cabbage should live until temperatures drop below 20 degrees F. It never gets that cold here in Georgia, so I should enjoy these vegetables all winter long.
Courtney Craig is an Atlanta-based writer and editor. She believes no effort is too small when it comes to green lving, which she tried to keep in mind while renovating her recently purchased first home.
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