Friday, March 13, 2009

How to Perk up Your Yard on a Budget

In these lean economic times, everyone is concerned about money, even if you haven't lost your job recently, many families are facing a rising cost of living even while pay freezes are being implemented all over. That doesn't mean you can't upgrade your yard this summer, however. I'll be covering some frugal gardening ideas today, and plan to do a few more segments on similar topics in the near future.

I mentioned last week that starting your own plants from seed can be a great money saver. That isn't the only way to grow your garden. Do you know someone with flowers that are too crowded? A woman in my area was thrilled to have me dig up dozens of irises from her yard because they needed thinning so badly.

Daffodils and Gladiola are other tubers/bulbs that naturalize, or multiply all on their own. Plant ten this year and they'll double in a couple of years. It's best if you transplant the extras after they bloom, or anything you dig up this spring most likely won't bloom this year due to stress. Don't transplant undersized bulbs, however. Give them another year to mature and they'll be more likely to thrive in the new location.

Cuttings are a great way to multiply your plants. Many bushes can be started from branch cuttings. There are hardwood cuttings, and softwood cuttings. Some plants do well from either sort, but now is a great time to root hardwood cuttings . Later in the season you can still take a hardwood cutting, but it is easier on the plant while it is dormant.

Soft wood cuttings can only be taken in the spring after growth begins, since this is the only time of year when there is softwood to cut.

Many trees and bushes can be started with cuttings including roses, butterfly bush, hydrangeas, lilacs, willows, citrus, grapes, and many berries. Not all plants will grow from a cutting, so if you aren't sure about something, feel free to ask and I'll check around.

Another option is going with annuals that will reseed themselves. I planted a lot of wild flowers last year. Soon I'll scrape the top layer of soil in my garden beds so the seeds are under a thin layer of dirt, then I'll let mother nature do her job. Not all of them will come back on their own, but most will.

And then there is splitting plants that get too large. Some things like day lilies, daisies, and purple cone flower (also known as echinacea) grow larger and larger root balls. Overtime the plants become too thick and need to be divided.

So you don't have any of these plants? Do you know an avid gardener? Catch them in the yard and ask them about their plants, chances are they'll be happy to share some of their seeds or extra plants with you.

Another option for those who just can't bring themselves to ask strangers for free stuff might want to talk to the Relief Society President or other leader at church. They are bound to know someone who is willing to share, or better yet, might be willing to arrange for anyone wanting to do a seed or plant cutting swap. Check out gardening bulletin boards. Many like Gardenweb.com have areas specifically for people living in a certain area of the world, or in a state. In the past people in Utah have gotten together to trade seeds. And if you live far away, you might be able to swap some via the mail.

Another option for those with a black thumb is to not add new plants, but add interesting things to look at instead. little statues, gazing balls, and other interesting art can add a lot of personality to a space without requiring a lot of upkeep. I'll defintely be doing a couple of posts on great garden decorations you can make for only a few dollars.

Don't think you need to start big--put in a smaller bed this year, upgrade an area that didn't do well last year, reseed grass in a bare spot. Little things can add big impact to the garden.

Rachelle asked about more information on pruning, so I've got a little extra help. Cuts on rose bushes should be made above a leaf node that faces away from the center of the bush. Always use a 45 degree cut and as you can see from the picture to the side, the cut should be made a quarter or an inch or so abover the leaf node.

In the second picture you can see a bush and the different ways to trim it. I generally lean toward a light trim simply because I like mine to look like of rambly, it fits in well with my cottage garden.

If you like yours morecompact for a more formal garden, a moderate pruning might be in order. The only reason i would do a heavy pruning is if the plant was diseased, or if the wood was so old it didn't really produce blooms last year. You probably won't get many blooms this season on a plant that uses old wood, but it'll make for a healthier plant over all.

And while you're at it, don't forget a good rose fertilizer, or my preference, a slow-release fertilizer.



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2 comments:

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Great info! I'm so excited for my spring flowers to start coming up. I'm just hoping they don't die with the cold fronts coming through. :)

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks for the cutting clarification. I still need to do that.

Do you think I'll get arrested if I dig up my neighbors bulbs in the middle of the night? Will they suspect me if they see flowers magically appear in a place where there were none the day before? No? Bummer.

Nichole