Guide: How to save money on landscaping for your yard
We've detailed the costs and benefits of flood- and drought-resistant projects and urban gardening
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Strategic landscaping is an easy way to improve the curb appeal of your home, prevent damage to the environment from flood or drought, or become more sustainable by growing your own food. However, landscaping also can easily become expensive for anyone with a budget.
According to HomeAdvisor, homeowners spend anywhere from $300 to $10,000 on landscaping, with the average costs falling between $1,427 and $5,308. It can be discouraging to look at how expensive landscaping can be, but if you’re willing to get your hands dirty (figuratively and literally), you can finish a DIY landscaping project without breaking the bank.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through which landscaping methods might be right for your home while showing you ways you can save money and earn rewards while you transform your yard or garden.
Guide to flood-resistant landscaping
According to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), flooding is the most frequently occurring natural disaster globally. This is partially due to a dramatic increase in severe rainfall over the past few decades.
Flood-resistant landscaping can mitigate damage from flooding and prevent runoff that can pollute nearby bodies of water, which can help prevent communities from spending millions of dollars in damages.
Should I invest in flood-resistant landscaping?
In 2017, President Donald Trump proposed cutting federal flood insurance for areas such as Florida, Louisiana and the Eastern Seaboard. The original federal flood insurance program was created in 1968 to help homeowners who are at a high risk of flooding. With the possibility of this program being cut in the near future, now is the best time to begin thinking about how to protect your home from flooding.
Even if you don’t live in an area prone to constant flooding, flood-resistant landscaping could still be a great option for your yard if you live on a coast or in an area where excess water runoff could potentially pollute nearby water sources such as streams, lakes or even the ocean.
DIY projects to help prevent flood damage
Too much water can be detrimental to vegetation because waterlogged roots can’t access the oxygen they need for photosynthesis. Considering vegetation on a large scale, flood-resistant landscaping can involve building walls or even building natural channels and buffers that can store excess water or let it flow freely without damaging surrounding homes and vegetation.
However, we want to walk you through smaller scale, single-home projects you can take on to help your yard survive periodic or even constant reflooding. Here are a few DIY projects you can do to help make sure your yard can survive excess water.
1. Keep your yard as natural as possible.
Average cost: FREE
Perhaps the easiest way to prevent flood damage is to keep your yard as natural as possible. This means keeping the natural slope and grade of your lawn, as well as planting grasses, flowers, and shrubs that are natural to the area. Native vegetation will be hardier and more resilient to the environment, making them more likely to withstand any flooding.
Also, use hand tools to remove weeds, buy natural fertilizers, and avoid pesticides. Pesticides, foreign grasses, and aggressive weeding techniques can cause dangerous runoff in flood-prone areas and compromise the integrity of your natural vegetation.
2. Plant a rain garden.
Average cost: $3-$4 per square foot
Rain gardens are built to increase water infiltration and help filter water runoff from your yard. In a small depression (ideally on a natural slope), plant native shrubs, perennials and other vegetation. Which plants work best will depend on where you’re located and your yard’s soil type.
Garden Design Magazine offers these tips for creating a great rain garden:
● Think of a rain garden just like a border or foundation planting rather than a beloved specimen tree. In other words, it should not be a standalone feature.
● Consider all the rules of composition, screening and circulation – not just the rule that says to put a rain garden in a low spot that is 10 feet from the house.
● Pick a shape that works with the rest of your garden design. A rain garden does not need a specific shape to function properly so feel free to be creative.
● A rain garden can be as formal or as wild as you like – it’s all about the plant selection. Monocultural rain gardens are OK, as long as that fits with your overall design. Here are some favorite rain garden plants: Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), Iris versicolor or I. virginica (blue flag iris), Veronicastrum virginicum (culver’s root), Carex vulpinoidea (fox sedge), Cornus sericea (red-twig dogwood), Acorus gramineus (sweet flag), and Athyrium filix-femina (lady fern).
● A rain garden doesn’t have to be separate from other plantings. Consider making a depression within a perennial bed or shrub border (especially if space is tight and you don’t have room for a larger rain garden that stands alone).
● Put in more than one rain garden for repetition and continuity. If it works with your overall design, create a little rain garden for each downspout.
3. Use heavier mulch.
Average cost: $1.33 per square foot
Mulch is a versatile landscaping element that can help with weed reduction, moisture retention, erosion control and soil insulation, all while adding aesthetic value to your yard. Many landscape architects utilize mulch in their designs, and choosing the right mulch for your DIY landscaping projects can help prevent flooding and runoff.
Shredded hardwood mulches are heavier than softwood (pine) mulches, meaning they are less likely to float away during heavy rain. Consult your local garden store for the best mulch options for your specific yard.
4. Use driveways as a drainage system.
Average cost: $1.50 per square foot
Pavement, asphalt and cement driveways are huge sources of runoff in flood-prone areas. To combat flooding as a whole, you can utilize your driveway as a drainage system. Replace pavement, asphalt and cement with gravel, spaced paving or even grass. These will allow for better water infiltration, helping prevent your yard from flooding.
If you’re unwilling or unable to ditch the hard surface driveway completely, another option is to add drainage systems to the sides of your driveway.
Guide to drought-resistant landscaping
As of July 2018, at least half of America is experiencing drier-than-normal conditions, with 10 states having areas of extreme or exceptional drought. Experts expect for parts of the country to experience drought conditions for years to come.
While there is little anyone can do about the weather, one area many residents can help with is water conservation through drought-resistant landscaping.
Should I invest in drought-resistant landscaping?
Whether or not you live in an area prone to drought or abnormally dry climates, water conservation through xeriscaping, or drought-resistant landscaping, is something every American should consider.
According to the EPA, 9 billion gallons of water are used daily for landscaping and gardening. That’s around one-third of all Americans’ residential water. If we can cut that by only 1 percent through water conservation practices, that can save 90 million gallons of water every day.
How to build a xeriscape
The planning process for xeriscaping is extremely important, so you might want to ask a professional for help during the first phases. Xeriscaping is comprised of much more than just thoughtfully choosing plants that don’t require water; it’s considering soil improvement, efficient irrigation practices, strategic plant groupings and thoughtful maintenance that eliminates wastefulness.
Step one: Start from scratch
You’ve heard of the phrase “out with the old, in with the new.” The first step to creating a solid foundation for xeriscaping is to get rid of all of the grass and weeds that currently fill your garden or lawn. This means getting rid of the roots as well.
Step two: Prepare your soil
How much preparation your soil needs depends greatly on how you plan to fill your lawn or garden. Native plants may be able to thrive in the soil already in your yard, but any non-native vegetation you add will require some amendments to the soil composition.
Mulch can also be an important addition to your soil. A thin layer of mulch can conserve moisture while regulating the soil temperature during warmer or cooler weather. Mulch also helps prevent weeds from sprouting up and potentially ruining your new xeriscaped yard or garden.
Step three: Set up irrigation
Irrigation is a key factor in how much water you’ll need to maintain your lawn. The more efficient your form of watering your landscape, the less waste you’ll have and the more water you will be able to conserve.
Research popular irrigation methods such as drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting and automated irrigation systems to decide which technique will work best for your lawn and your budget.
Step four: Choose the right plants
The other major factor in determining how much water you will need to maintain your lawn is plant choice. Native flowers and plants that require little water to thrive are your best option for creating a landscape that requires the least amount of water.
The University of Texas at Austin’s wildflower website lists a collection of over 100 drought-resistant plants across multiple regions. You also can ask a local nursery or landscaping business which plants will work best for your soil composition and climate.
DIY projects to incorporate drought-resistant landscaping in your lawn
1. Use drought-resistant plants
Average cost: varies by plant
Even if you don’t have the time or money to invest in a completely xeriscaped lawn, incorporating vegetation that requires little to no water can help you eliminate waste and reduce the chance of your grass, plants, trees and shrubs dying due to dry weather.
Succulents, agave and cacti are all great options for those who want to add some greenery to their yard without needing to constantly water them. Flowers such as poppies, yarrow and rock daisies can add pops of color to a yard. Herbs such as sage and lavender also will thrive in warm, dry climates.
2. Replace grass with turf
Average cost: $5-$20 per square foot
While artificial grass can cost more on the front end, the money (and water) you can save over time make it a worthy investment for anyone living in a dry climate. Easy to install, artificial grass is a popular option for households in the western United States.
3. Embrace the rock aesthetic
Average cost: $3-$5 per bag
Turn your yard into a beautiful mosaic of walkways and rock gardens. If you’re hesitant to completely transform your yard from green to gray, scattering succulents or cacti throughout can add a bit of green without adding to the upkeep of the space.
Cost-effective landscape rock includes decomposed granite, pea gravel and river rocks. You even can use larger rock slabs or cement slabs for sturdier walkways and patio areas that seamlessly fit into the rest of your grassless lawn.
Funding for your drought-resistant landscaping projects
Many U.S. cities in drought-prone climates offer rebate programs to homeowners who take significant steps to improve their water conservation efforts.
Other rebate programs:
● Cascade Water Alliance’s Irrigation Efficiency Program
Cost-efficient urban gardening
As more people find themselves living in large cities, replacing lawns with terraces or balconies, urban gardening is increasing in popularity. With just a windowsill, well-lit balcony, terrace or vertical garden setup, you can save money by growing your own food while adding some air cleansing plants to your home decor.
Should I invest in urban gardening?
It really boils down to two main questions: Do you live in an urban area, and do you enjoy cooking your own food? If you’re someone who rarely eats a meal at home, it might not make sense to set up a windowsill herb garden or terrace garden filled with seasonal veggies.
If you are someone who spends a considerable amount of money on organic produce each week, however, you can save money while you impress your friends and family with food made from your own garden.
The most efficient crops for urban gardening
Average cost: $22 per plant
Tomatoes are one of the most efficient plants to grow at home. You can use vertical supports in a raised-bed garden on a balcony or terrace, or you can insert supports in a large pot if you’re tight on space.
Average cost: $15 per plant
All you need to grow your own avocados is a fresh avocado pit. Within a few weeks of suspending an avocado pit in a glass of water, you should be able to plant a small tree. Pretty soon, you won’t have to worry about your avocado toast habit ruining your chances of buying a home one day.
Average cost: $15 per plant
Who said salads have to be more expensive than fast food? With a few starter plants and warm, moist soil that gets plenty of light, you can grow your own romaine, spinach and even kale from your windowsill or terrace.
Average cost: $5 per plant
No one can deny that most fresh herbs are ridiculously expensive when you buy them from the store. Create your own windowsill herb garden and you can grow your own basil, mint, ginger, cilantro, parsley and rosemary.
Utilizing loyalty programs and credit card rewards to pay for your landscaping
Landscaping projects can get expensive, especially if you’re converting an entire yard. Luckily, there are loyalty programs and credit card rewards that you can leverage to help make up for some of the costs.
You can sign up for Ace Hardware’s free rewards program to save on supplies for your landscaping or gardening project. The loyalty program lets you earn 10 points for every $1 spent, and you get $5 in rewards for every 2,500 points earned.
Local Nursery rewards programs
Check out your local nurseries to see if they offer rewards programs or financing options. Some local landscape and gardening centers will let you earn points and rewards to use toward future purchases. Others might offer special savings or financing on large projects. It never hurts to ask your cashier the next time you’re shopping.
Rewards credit cards
Lowe’s offers multiple credit card options to help you finance your next project, including one co-branded American Express Business card. For personal use, Lowe’s offers the Lowe’s Advantage Card, which gives users three options to save money or finance their project. You can save 5 percent on smaller Lowe’s purchases, receive six months of special financing for purchases of at least $299 or receive extended financing options on projects that cost more than $2,000.
Home Depot also offers customers credit card options. For small projects and everyday Home Depot purchases, you can use Home Depot’s consumer credit card, which offers up to 24 months of special financing on purchases of $299 or more, exclusive cardholder offers and 1-year hassle-free returns.
For larger projects, Home Depot offers a Project Loan card with a fixed APR, larger credit line, no annual fee and 84 months financing. If you are planning to re-landscape a larger yard, this might be a good option for you.
Wells Fargo Outdoor Solutions
Some outdoor retailers offer in-store financing through the Wells Fargo Outdoor Solutions Credit Card Program. This program is only offered at select stores, so ask if it is an option at your local gardening or landscaping retailer.
Other rewards credit cards
The best rewards credit cards for large gardening projects will offer an intro period of 0 percent APR, giving you time to pay off a larger purchase without interest charges. These rewards cards are more versatile than retailer-specific cards because you can continue to earn cash back and other rewards on other spending categories during and after your landscaping projects are complete. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card and the Discover it® Cash Back card are both great options on our best rewards credit cards list.
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