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Grow some extra flowers, gather them in attractive bouquets, and sell them from a stand in your front yard. You'll make a little money and get to know your neighbors, too.
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With people tightening their financial belts this year, it’s nice to know there are some simple backyard strategies you can employ to save time and money. And these tips and techniques won’t leave your landscape looking shaggy! Here are some suggestions that will keep your yard looking great, while having a low impact on your wallet.
Plant Four-Season Shrubs — Select shrubs that look interesting four seasons of the year. You’ll spend less money overall, because you won’t be buying shrubs to complement each other. Viburnum and serviceberry are both shrubs with alluring spring flowers, attractive summer fruits, colorful fall foliage, and striking bark texture and color. Avoid plants like forsythia that are stars for one just season and nondescript during the rest of the year. Also look for native, drought-tolerant plants that require little maintenance to withstand the vagaries of weather and pests.
Share with Your Neighbors — Community is more important than ever during tough economic times, and sharing yard work with your neighbors can save money. For instance, consider renting a tiller, lawn aerator, or chipper shredder with a neighbor. Buy bulk compost or bark mulch together and split the load. Coordinate what you plant in your vegetable gardens so you can share the extra produce in winter.
Mow Smarter — How you mow the lawn can save you both time and money. Mow lawns at a 3-inch height for cool-season grasses (lower for warm-season grasses), and leave the clippings right where they land. Grass clippings feed the lawn, reducing its need for fertilizer. Sharpening your mower blades a few times each summer gives a clean cut and helps to prevent diseases from starting.
Plant Trees and Shrubs in Fall — Although you may be itching to landscape your yard this spring, nurseries often hold great sales on trees and shrubs in fall to clear out older stock before the new season begins. Fall sales are an especially good time to buy big-ticket items.
Divide, Conquer, and Share — Growing perennial instead of annual flowers reduces your seasonal expense of buying new seeds and plants. To expand your perennial garden divide overgrown plants, such as daylilies, iris, and hosta, and make new flowerbeds. (This will reduce the amount of mowing you do, too!) Trade extra perennials with friends or organize a plant swap in your neighborhood one Saturday morning.
Frequent Yard Sales — Check out yard sales for old tools, gardening products, and planters. Well-maintained tools can be used for years and they’re often inexpensive at yard sales. Inspect them carefully to be sure they are still in good shape. You may also find pots and containers. Check out craigslist.com and Goodwill for inexpensive gardening products and tools as well.
Collect Rainwater — In areas where water is expensive and scarce, invest in rain barrels to catch the water off your roof. Rainwater is free, and it has no municipal additives (which may harm some plants).
Mulch with Cardboard and Newspaper — To reduce the amount of mulch you buy, spread layers of newspaper or cardboard on garden paths. Then buy a small amount of mulch to cover these materials and make the paths look attractive. Cardboard, in particular, keeps the weeds at bay longer than regular mulch.
Use a Timer — Put your sprinkler system on a timer to avoid overwatering. You can also reduce your water usage by using soaker hoses and drip irrigation lines in gardens instead of overhead watering.
Sell Stuff — Once you get this gardening thing down, set up small stand to sell extra produce, berries, and flowers. You’ll make a little money and you might also get to know your neighbors better. (Then, next time you divide perennials, you might have more opportunities to swap plants.) Don’t forget to offer customers a little lemonade on hot days!
Charlie Nardozzi is National Gardening Association’s senior horticulturist and editor. Find more gardening tips at www.garden.org.