Nothing seems to make a home more inviting than a beautiful landscape – but in spite of what most think, it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to create your own personal outdoor paradise!

You can create your own beautiful landscape with transplants and home grown plants for free!
You can create your own beautiful landscape with transplants and home-grown plants for free!

Of all of the projects we have tackled since beginning our little farm – I would have to say we are most proud of how little we have spent to create our landscaping.

When we first cleared off the overgrown 3 acre field in the late fall of 2010 – in addition to not having a barn, chicken coop, pergola or garden – there wasn’t a single plant to be found on the property – well unless you count the poison ivy! 🙂

Today, as crazy as it sounds – just three full growing seasons later – the farm has over 950 perennial grasses and plants.

These maiden grasses that now wrap the back of our upper pergola were all started from small divisions just three years ago.
These maiden grasses that now wrap the back of our upper pergola were all started from small divisions just three years ago.

The best part  – not counting the grapes in the vineyard and the fruit trees in the orchard that we had to purchase – we have spent a grand total of $0 on those plants!

The simple fact of the matter is – if you put in a little time and effort, and have a little patience – you can create a beautiful landscape for nearly free.

The Power of Dividing Plants…

The first lesson for someone trying to create a landscape on the cheap is to learn the power of dividing perennial plants.

Plants like Sedum add a lot of texture and color to our landscape -and they divide easily.
Plants like Sedum add a lot of texture and color to our landscape – and they divide easily.

We were lucky enough to have a fair amount of ornamental grasses and perennials growing at our house that we could take starts of for free – but even if you don’t – your friends and family probably do!

Don’t be afraid to ask that friend or neighbor who has a big clump of ornamental grass, or a beautiful stock of black-eyed susans for a start or two in return for helping to thin them out.

Splitting Daylillies - we were able to get over 8 plants from a single plant
Splitting daylillies – we were able to get over 11 plants from a single plant to replant into our beds

Two years back – we were able to get 24 plants of a special small grass we wanted by volunteering to thin out some overgrown clumps from a business landscape.  It took us about 10 minutes to dig up, divide up the large clumps and replant the smaller grasses back for them. Those grasses are now a big focal point in one of our big beds – all for free!

Almost all perennials can be divided – and although it may take them a year or two to become established  – the savings are worth it!  See: Dividing Plants In Mid-Summer and also How To Divide and Plant Ornamental Grasses )

Create A Holding Bed

Our garden fence row - now planted with sedum, daylillies, grasses and more - all for free.
Our garden fence row – now planted with sedum, daylillies, grasses and more – all for free.

If you are not ready to find a permanent place for plants that are available  – create a temporary bed for them until you are.  During our first two years we transplanted hundreds of ornamental grass starts, daylillies, coral bell, lirope, lilly turf, black-eyed susans and more into a small area we created at the back of the property.  We had not created all of our final beds yet – but didn’t want to pass up on the free plants.

The best part – they grew strong and large while becoming acclimated to our soil – and were a breeze to then lift out of the temporary bed and re-plant when we were ready for them.

Buy Small – And Divide!

If you do find a plant at a nursery that you love and absolutely need and want – purchase the smallest sized container you can.  Let it grow for a year or two – and then divide to have all you need.  Sure – it takes a little patience – but the smaller plants are MUCH cheaper in the garden stores – and are actually easier to care for and get established than the larger, mature plants.  They require less water and transplant much easier!

Creating Hardscapes from Recycled and Available Materials

The savings do not need to stop with just the plants in your landscape.

How our patio looked Feb 28th, 2012 - before the transplants and reclaimed brick patio and pergola
How our patio looked Feb 28th, 2012 – before the transplants and reclaimed brick patio and pergola

With a little legwork – you can find free or low-cost reclaimed materials to save big on additional outdoor projects like patios, arbors, pergolas and more.

All of our outdoor patios were created with reclaimed brick that we were able to find for free for the taking.

Our barn patio pergola was fastened together using  reclaimed wood from a barn we tore down, and we were able to use reclaimed wood windows to outfit the vineyard pergola as well.

The same area just two years later as it looks today - landscaped nearly for free
The same area just two years later as it looks today – landscaped nearly for free

You can check sites like Freecycle.org, Craigslist, or local message boards to find all kinds of free materials like bricks, rock, stone and more.  (See: 6 Simple Tips to Find Reclaimed Materials)

In addition to the free materials you can find – you can also save big by simply using what is available to you locally. For us – we have a quarry not more than 5 miles from our farm – and because it is local and nearby – it’s cheap!  In fact – we have created all of our stone paths and natural rock walls for less than $150 – total!  Find what is readily available in your area – and incorporate it into your plan.

Create A Plan From The Start

Recycled windows and brick were used when building our vineyard pergola
Recycled windows and brick were used when building our vineyard pergola

It really helps to create a plan – even if it is just a small sketch on a piece of scrap paper.  Even the simplest of plans will help to keep you on track when looking for the plants and materials you need to create your dream landscape.

If you would like to receive our DIY & Gardening Tips every Tuesday – be sure to sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column, “like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Happy Gardening – and Landscaping!

Jim and Mary



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