Tips for Landscaping Your Lawn on a Budget


Using potted plants gives you an affordable way to create height and add color to your lawn. (Photo by Steve C. Mitchell)

A modest landscaping budget doesn’t mean your lawn has to look like you cut corners on it.

In fact, some of the most dramatic features of a lawn aren’t the most expensive to achieve. The key is getting the most out of the money you can spend on your front lawn or backyard.

Unlike many features associated with your home’s structure, landscaping can be done piece by piece while not sacrificing curb appeal along the way.

Landscape designer Brittany Whalen of Professional Grounds in Lorton, Virginia, says most landscaping projects are not done at one time. Instead, homeowners often request the projects be separated into three or more stages to break up some of the cost.

Also, consider keeping some of what exists in your current landscape design and incorporating it into your new plans. Starting completely from scratch almost always is pricier.

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Save Money with DIY Landscaping

One of the most obvious ways to keep costs down is to figure out what can be DIY projects. Many lawn improvements can easily be tackled by a homeowner. Here are just a few:

  • Build a garden. Nothing adds a touch of class to a property like a well-maintained garden. All you need to get started is a small piece of land where you've stripped the grass away and tilled the earth. Then, all you have to do is install your plants. How to build a tranquility garden in your backyard.
  • Mulch flower beds and around trees. Mulch adds a touch of dark color to your beds and around trees, giving the area a professional, finished look. Mulch is inexpensive when you buy it by the cubic yard, ranging in price from around $30 to $50 for the least expensive options.
  • Build a quiet sitting area. There may be no more perfect use of an outdoor space than relaxing in your own peaceful oasis. The centerpiece of this area is typically a bench, and while some garden benches can be quite expensive, you can get a small faux stone bench for as little as $50.

Find Savings When Hiring a Lawn Professional

DIY projects, however, aren't the only way to save on landscaping. You can hire a landscaper at affordable rates by checking Angie's List and also timing the project just right.

Whalen recommends contacting a landscaper during the slow season, usually January and February, because many choose to waive consultation fees or offer winter specials. Typically, she adds, homeowners start calling landscaping companies in March, and have to wait several weeks to get on their schedule.

Also, let your landscaper develop a plan around your budget. Paying $1,000 for a design element may be worth it to you if the end product looks like something for which you might have paid $5,000.

Angie’s List members Sergio and Meredith Jimenez called in professional help for an affordable upgrade to the look of their front yard in Coral Springs, Florida.

“We’d recently renovated our pool and spent a lot of money on that and didn’t want the landscaping on the front yard to be too expensive,” Sergio says. “We viewed it as a luxury if we could afford to do it at a certain price.”

After searching Angie’s List, the couple brought their budget to Pristine Landscapes of Pompano Beach, Florida.

The $2,400 project included new plants, a rock wall, walkway, rock in the beds and black mulch. Existing palm trees and some bushes were kept.

“The curb appeal has improved dramatically,” Sergio says. “We were embarrassed by our front yard and now we feel like we have a showpiece.”

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Creating distinct spaces gives your lawn a designer look. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Christina O. of Seattle)

Be Flexible with Your Landscaping Budget

Landscapers often say most homeowners come to the table only with ideas for their yards.

“Unfortunately, most customers don’t come to you with a budget or have any idea what things cost,” says David Bratka, owner of Simplicity Landscape Services in Columbus, Ohio. “So, we work within a range. It’s about giving the customer options and explaining the pros and cons.”

Being flexible opens up a lot more opportunities when working with a landscaper.

“Rarely do I get a budget,” says Brian Grunkemeier, owner of Sunset Landscape & Design in Snohomish, Washington. “Usually they say what they want, and I’ll give them some ballpark prices. Then we work from there and see what we can do.”

Remember, too, that you can always create a hybrid plan that combines DIY projects with jobs for the pros.

Grunkemeier even encourages it.

He lets willing homeowners install parts of the project themselves.

“I’m fairly good at helping people come up with plans that they can implement,” he says. “In some cases, we deliver the trees or shrubs and they plant them.”

Just keep your DIY aspirations in check, Grunkemeier adds.

“You can always go get a one-gallon perennial, but you can’t get a boulder and bring in trees.”

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