December 10th, 2016 10:55 AM by Jackie A. Graves, President
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
BY NANCY DUNHAM - To
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