Nine great ideas for creating a beautiful, low-cost, low-maintenance outdoor living space.
Visions of lush green lawns with shade trees and comfy outdoor furniture prompts many homeowners to spend exorbitant money and time on their yards every year. In fact, Americans spend about $40 billion each year and, on average, 73 work hours cutting grass, pruning and otherwise maintaining their plots, according to Choice Home Warranty. And those figures don’t include professional lawn services (estimated at about $53 a week), outdoor furniture, flowers and more.
But there are ways to achieve an enviably fun, fashionable and comfortable outdoor space without sacrificing so much of your hard-earned money or leisure time:
DIY clean up
Photo (cc) by Tom
Remove old mulch, prune bushes, remove dead branches and leaves and pressure wash your deck and steps. Wiping away foul weather residue gives you a fresh palette on which to decorate your lawn. Wash your outdoor furniture, and repaint it if it’s made of wood or wrought iron. I recently spray-painted two weathered Adirondack chairs, and they look good as new for the cost of two cans of paint and about half an hour of work. Revitalizing what you have saves money and cuts down on waste.
Of course, doing as much as you can yourself will save you the cost of professional cleanup, which can run upwards of $1,000 on a large property, according to homeimprovementeducator.com. But if there are still things you feel you need to hire out — such as dealing with a downed tree or large amounts of standing water — be sure to get bids on the specific project that you need handled.
Opt for low- or no-maintenance
Photo (cc) by Michael Locke
Weeding, mowing and irrigating a lawn takes time and money. In a small yard you can easily remove grass and fill it in with mulch, which usually runs about $3 to $6 per bag. Use this handy mulch calculator on Lowe’s site to figure out how much to buy and what it will cost. Add low-cost succulents and decorative rocks. The result can be a desert- or California-style yard with a modern twist.
Decorate with remnant stone
Photo (cc) by Tim Dorr
Stones used for walkways, retaining walls and other outdoor hardscapes are expensive, about $15 to $20 per square foot, according to landscapingnetwork.com. Slash the cost by going to your local nursery or big box store and asking for leftovers or irregular pieces for use in an elevated garden or to add visual interest throughout the yard, recommends Better Homes & Gardens. Don’t forget to look for free stone from other homeowners who are switching out their hardscape by checking the “farm and garden” category on Craigslist.
Explore ground cover
Photo (cc) by Kaz Andrew
Ground cover plants spread across the surface but do not grow tall so, unlike grass, no cutting is required. Not only do they require little maintenance, but they also choke out weeds. Creeping perennials, clover and other ground cover plants can be combined with pavers and rockwork inexpensively to create great visual impact.
Get picky with blooms
Photo (cc) 1970 Lincoln Continental
Flowering plants are lovely, but many are annuals that need to be replaced each year. The cost adds up — not to mention the time spent. When shopping at the garden store, look for perennials that will bloom each spring. (Usually spring flowers are organized by “perennial” or “annual.”) In addition, choose a variety of plants with different textures, heights and colors as well as those that bloom at different times, recommends Realtor.com.
Photo (cc) by Nan Palmero
It’s no fun to spruce up your lawn and not be able to enjoy it because you are at work all day. Buy some low-cost Tiki lamps or wrap strings of lights around trees for a festive look. Inexpensive path lighting adds a welcome look, too. Consider these lighting ideas from BobVila.com
Have a seat
Photo (cc) Jayhawk Explorer
Big box stores have a host of low-cost seating options or you can build one yourself with low-cost concrete blocks, topped with a foam pad and throw pillows against an outside wall, suggests Better Homes & Gardens.
Add some warmth
Photo (cc) by Sean Loyless
You can enjoy your outdoor space even on chilly evenings if you add a fire pit or chiminea. The cost of these has dropped considerably — to as little as $50 at home and garden chain stores and big box stores. Or, consider these DIY fire pit ideas from Home and Gardening Ideas.
Photo (cc) by Timothy Takemoto
Small decorative rocks and gravel are inexpensive — starting at about $10 per 40-pound bag — and they add fun dashes of texture and/or color under trees and other areas. Find more ideas for this type of outdoor decorating at Sunset.com.
What are your yard care shortcuts and secrets? Share with us in comments or on our Facebook page.