Landscaping with Native Plants
8 Ways to Landscape on a Budget
Does anyone have any suggestions for an inexpensive landscaping border? We want to turn the side and front of our house into a semi-raised bed for various herbs, but we have found the cost of ready-made materials obscene. And we just don't have a couple hundred dollars to drop on just the landscaping materials. Can you help?
LSN in Baton Rouge, LA
Here in CA, many people are using "old" concrete. They stack them like bricks to create any height desired. Just break it up into the size you need with a sledgehammer. Once stacked (no mortar necessary), you can plant draping plants at the edge so they cover the rustic look of the concrete if you prefer.
The place to get the concrete is at your local waste dump. With the landfills trying to cut back on how much garbage is dumped everyday, they will charge you very little, if anything. Also, keep your eyes peeled for anyone re-doing their driveway in your neighborhood. They'll gladly give you the concrete.
Al in Marina, CA
Just this past weekend, I took the whole family rock hunting for our garden border. There are several new neighborhoods going up in our area. This usually involves the builder digging up the land and then raking it flat, which brings up a lot of nice sized rocks. Most builders are happy when your remove these rocks, as they don't have to haul them away. The kids really enjoyed hunting for just the right sized rocks and even helping to dig some larger ones out of the dirt. Now my garden has an attractive border for free and just a little work.
Barbie from Indiana
To find cheap landscaping borders, walk in the woods or along country roads and you'll find all sorts of rocks, pieces of concrete, interesting logs, etc. I collected about 50 feet of border this way. I also added some large shells that I already had. Makes for an interesting edging when you relate the stories about where you collected your gems! Friends and neighbors can also be on the lookout for you and pick up a rock here or there in their travels.
Try a local quarry. The place from which I just moved had a granite quarry, and the small leftover pieces were placed in a scrap pile. You could take as much as you wanted (and could haul).
Try using tires as your borders. Paul Farber is the author of a book called Tire Recycling is Fun and one of his ideas is to cut the sidewalls off of a used tire, and then cut across the tread. This gives you a two to three foot piece of edging that can define your border. Depending on the tire size, they can be up to 6" high, and they are indestructible. They don't rot, dogs don't chew on them, and you can get them free almost anywhere. You just need to be careful of the wires if you cut a steel belted tire because they are sharp!
Jonathan in NM
Our local railroad office gives away the discarded crossties as they replace them, although they are very heavy to move. As a "thank you," we take the railroad yard crew some canned soft drinks or other snacks.
Sometimes no border is the best border of all! Dig a 6-8" trench around the area that you want to make into a bed. Use a square-edged shovel or edger tool to get a nice clean line. Next, mound the topsoil from where you want the highest point of the bed to be and slope it down to where the trench starts. Now, after planting your herbs, use pinestraw for mulch and cover the bed, including the trench. This has a nice professional appearance and only requires re-edging a couple of times a year. Just push back the pinestraw, and using the square shovel, remove any rogue grass growth and redistribute the dirt that will naturally settle with rain/watering. Then tuck the pinestraw back in!
Teresa M. in Montgomery, Al
We had a good chuckle at our neighbor's choice of landscaping borders, but it actually looks nice and it's free. He used his old rain gutters. He turned them upside down and buried the edges.
When we bought our first house, we were cash poor as many new homeowners are, so anything we did had to be free or practically so. My husband works at a sheet metal factory where many materials arrive on wooden pallets or are braced by 4x4s. He would take our truck to the plant on a Saturday and load it up with free wood! Pallets were used to make our compost enclosure and torn apart for shelves for the garage. He notched the 4x4s like Lincoln Logs just by using a circle saw and built many raised beds for both flowers and vegetables. Those beds lasted for 10 years! Nothing was chemically treated, so it didn't hurt the soil or the plants! All it took was some work. Check at local factories. You may be able to haul away a lot of freebies!
You can also make a raised bed by mounding soil and planting in it. To keep the edges clean, you can use layers of newspaper around the edges of the bed, and plant trailing plants around the edges to cover the paper. You also can obtain free mulch in many communities. Usually you do the work, but the mulch is free! I have also had tree services dump a load of chips in my yard after they have chipped up a neighbor's tree. I just let them sit a year before I use them, so they don't rob the soil of nitrogen as they decompose.
You should also let friends and neighbors know that you are building flowerbeds. Often, they have plants that they need to divide, and you can get most of your plants for free! Or divide plants that are already in your yard. I spent $5 on one hosta the first year in this house, and I have divided and divided that plant over and over again. I now have a whole garden full of beautiful plants!
So, you can have wonderful gardens and raised beds, just for the work and the asking!
For inexpensive borders along your garden beds, use cut logs. You can obtain these for free from arborists, landscape companies, or by looking around in your neighborhood. Select large or smaller logs, depending on the length or depth of the bed.
Kim from Nashville
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