Trying to Do a Yard Makeover on a Microscopic Budget? It Can be Done!

Unfortunately, reviving a dilapidated yard requires more than watering the lawn and pulling out weeds. Many homeowners let their yard run wild because they know that a huge landscaping project will cost them a pretty penny and a lot of work. If you think your yard needs a total makeover, yet you find yourself on a tight budget, you can still make amazing transformations on the cheap. With a little creative scrounging and some careful planning, a project like this doesn’t have to break the bank. Read on for a few clever tips that will help you complete a major yard makeover without spending too much: via Pinterest via Pinterest
Inventory, Plan, and Diagram
By far, the cheapest yard makeovers use and reuse materials and tools already on hand, so the first step should be a walk around the yard, garage, and tool shed to see what’s available. The current supplies and condition of the yard will have a big impact on your future plans for the area. Some homeowners think that they need to completely rip out the entire yard in order for it to look good again. However, if you just go to town ripping everything out, you might be destroying some salvageable plants and areas that just need a little nourishment or pruning. Take a look at what you have to work with before ripping anything out. You’ll waste a lot of money if you start from scratch, so take inventory of what you already have. Then you can draw up a diagram of what you plan to keep, what needs to go, and what you plan to add. Planning saves time and money now, and down the road. via Pinterest via Pinterest
The Updating Process
Once you’ve laid your plans, you can start updating the salvageable areas one by one. Again, remember that updating all or part of a well-built garden saves both time and money relative to starting over. Thin out overcrowded beds and destroy noxious weeds. Prune and if necessary, remove low-hanging branches. Clean up the edge around existing bedding features like retaining walls. Next, build up the soil in the permanent beds with garden soil, mulch, peat, and manure. If buying that stuff breaks the bank, spread the project over a couple of years by using a low cost chipper to produce your own compost or mulch.
Remember: Organic fertilizer like compost feeds the plants for years. Commercial fertilizers are water soluble, so they have a rapid, short-term impact. Also, two tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water sprinkled on the lawn and garden makes an excellent, low cost fertilizer. via Pinterest via Pinterest
Revitalize the Grass
No matter what you do with your landscaping, a dead or patchy lawn will drag down the entire look of your yard makeover if you don’t repair it. If your yard only has a few problem areas, you can try seeding techniques to help bring it back to life. However, if your grass is long gone, it is probably a good idea to get new sod altogether. The upside of this project is that you can easily lay new grass on your own. According to professionals who specialize in sod in Marietta, GA, you’ll need to test the pH levels in the soil, till any existing clay soil, and apply a few inches of top soil before installing any new sod. Once you have prepared the area, it will only take a few hours to lay new sod and turn your pathetic, dying grass into a lush, green area that brightens up the entire yard. via Pinterest via Pinterest
Repair Damaged Soil
Fixing even a badly damaged or compacted yard doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does take a bit of time on the cheap. In the fall, when online organic gardening supply shops put their surplus seed on sale, there are bargains galore. Beginning in the early spring, a mixture of daikon radish, mustard, and cowpea produces a sea of flowers while it breaks up even hard clay soil. Run some water in a bucket. Let it sit for 24 hours to clear out the chlorine. Add a tab of mycorrhizal fungi to the water and mix well. Using a hoe, chop up the surface of the blasted area. Sprinkle with the mixture of water and fungi. Next, hand-sow a mixture of daikon radish, mustard, and cowpea seed. Cover with a thin layer of old leaves, grass clippings, or straw to keep the seeds moist.
In a matter of weeks, the damaged area will be covered in pretty white and yellow flowers, but the real benefits are happening below ground. Daikon radish produces a huge, 2-foot long root to penetrate even the worst clay soil, while the cowpeas lock in nitrogen along a taproot up to 8-feet long. The mustards grow so aggressively that the weeds never have a chance. Hack off the tops and let the radishes rot in the ground to form free compost. Voila. You get free compost, free nitrogen, and free ground cover, while preparing the ground for your trees and bedding plants.
Remember: At $10 each or more, even seedling trees can break the bank, but root stock can be had for as little as $1-$2 per stem and you can graft your favorite hybrids onto it. via Pinterest via Pinterest
Learn Basic Concrete/Hypertufa Technique
Working with concrete and hypertufa (a mixture of Portland cement, sand or perlite, and peat moss) can be a bit messy, but it’s not all that difficult. Many tutorials are available online if this is your first time working with these materials. A small, hand-cranked home cement mixer runs about $32. Small electric versions are available for as little as $170. Nothing stops you from making everything from pavers to walls. Pinterest Pinterest
Get Creative
If your yard has room for “extras,” but you don’t want to pay for expensive fountains, extravagant outdoor furniture, or decadent gardening décor, there are still plenty of ways to breathe a little life into the area. To add a little romance or variety to the yard, you can utilize a trellis on the fence, or try vertical gardening to create a point of interest. You can string cheap twinkle lights along the fence to create a little ambiance without paying for expensive wiring or fancy sconces around the yard. Take a trip to the dollar store, Ikea, or the junkyard and let your imagination run wild to create interesting paths, screens, or shady nooks. via Pinterest via Pinterest
If you are gearing up for a total yard makeover, but hesitate due to the price, just remember that there is more than one way to complete a project like this. Take a look at your budget and think about what area needs the most work, or what you care most about. If the bulk of your budget will go to new sod, then you can skimp on other areas by making your own compost, or trimming back existing plants to make them look better. Also remember that you can attack the project one area at a time—that way you won’t be spending a huge chunk of money at once. Whichever method you choose, just allow yourselves to be creative and think outside the box—new ways of thinking will help you avoid the traditional pricey costs of landscaping.

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Vlado
    on Jun 18, 2017

    how to mix peat moss and cement
  • Mar29419837
    on May 27, 2018

    what is used under the plastic cement form?

  • Mike Sims
    on Feb 11, 2019

    The front yard is clay soil surrounded by large hardwood trees. Grass doesn't grow, but moss does. What can be done to get grass to grow?

    • Ginger the farm gal
      on Jul 27, 2019

      You can spend lots of money, putting in top soil and grass seed not to mention tilling. Even after I did all that I finally gave into the moss. It's actually very pretty and easy to care for. Add some large rocks for accents, a few small evergreens and potted plants for color, and enjoy not having to mow. I added a gravel walk way with stepping stones outlined with brick, and added a few different types of moss and ferns. Now it maintenance free and my favorite setting spot.

Join the conversation

2 of 7 comments
  • Jlnatty
    on Jun 15, 2018

    A timely article for me to come across, as I'm on a very tight retiree budget and am tired of spending money each year buying annuals to fill in "bare" spots in my front garden bed and filling the two porch planters (on either side of my front door). So, I too started trying to think outside the box. I decided to buy artificial topiaries to put into the front porch planters. They weren't the most expensive, but not the least expensive either. Still, I figured since I would normally spend at least $140 every season buying annuals and adding a few perennials to various garden beds here and here, the investment for the pair of topiaries will save me money in the long run. I have artificial Christmas trees that go into the planters that can replace them during the the winter. I also took a hard look around this morning after reading your article and realized that there are two black metal decorative screens in a side garden, one of which can be removed to a particular place in the front of the house where I've been wondering what to do to add some height and interest. Many neighbors have put up metal pieces of art in the space between two front windows (the neighborhood is filled with post WWII basic 3/1 ranch houses that have the same floor plan and two "ranch" windows (long and narrow) on the bedroom side of the house, a large picture window on the living room side of the house, and a 2 step concrete stoop to the front door! The black screen will work beautifully to add interest and height to the space. The barely alive clematis which just doesn't like that spot can be transplanted too, I'll see if it likes its new home better. I also realized I can divide my giant iris which has finished blooming, and in the fall I can divide one of three very large hostas in my backyard to place here and there in the front. It will work and it will all be free. Thanks for the inspiration and confirmation that this can be accomplished.

  • Eroque022810
    on Jun 16, 2018

    W have what I feel is a lawn that is to big. So with that said I want to make it either an oval or put an island shaped raised planting bed in front. My husband on the other hand wants to wait til next year to see island we can afford to hire a professinal to redo our yard. I don't believe in hire out what we can do. I am no a diyselfer not by ant stretch of the imagination but I do believe that we are capable to fix up the front and hire out for the back which is where ppl hang out. The front is for curb appeal only. The back needs a patio and or a deck or a combination. It needs regarding as well as sod and removal of a lot of soil and possible a tree then planting of a new tree. So you see I would rather spend money there. So I will show this post your my husband or see if he understands to do the work ourselves or we will never get things done. It's going to a process cause we have budget restraints like most ppl. So thank you for breaking this done. I to believe in plans.

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