Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Decorating the outdoor space for less

Before, I listed some ideas that would help a new (or not-so-new) homeowner in decorating and furnishing the interior of a house without going into debt. However, there comes a point where the inside is not all that needs to be refurbished. What about the green(ish?) space outside? Here are a few ideas that might get the creative juices flowing

Throw yourself on the mercy of your neighbors.
Well, maybe not literally as that might get you an unwanted reputation. However, neighbors may have been around the suburb, city, countryside for a while and have some plants that might need dividing. You might inquire if you can have some plant divisions in exchange for helping refresh their garden beds. You get something to plant around the house out of the deal, and a neighbor is happy that she had some garden work done and a sucker to take that plant off her hands. Plants that can be divided include hostas, coneflowers, daylilies, bleeding hearts, rhubarb (why not go for edibles?), chives and many more.

Shop curbside.
If you have never scavenged and live in a semiurban to urban area, you are in for a treat! People throw out the darndest things--garden hoses, rakes, lawn mowers, lumber, chairs, fencing and so much more. If you can make minor repairs, many of these items can be yours and functioning with minimal cost. Find a bench that has seen better days? Sand it down and paint it; now you have a seat for under the shade tree. Scrap lumber can mean a new raised bed for flowers or veggies. That leaky hose that someone threw out can become your drip irrigation system. Just add holes and lay it where you need it.

If the repair is outside your capability, offer the item on craigslist for free and let someone else have the joy of fixing it. You might even work out a deal where you pay a small fee and they fix it for you!

Check the classifieds (e.g., craigslist).
If curbside is not your thing (I urge you to try it as it is difficult to beat the price), shop from the comfort of your own home. People offer a wide array of items on craigslist and other free electronic classifieds. Plants, trees, animals, rusted old farm equipment, items the owners cannot figure out--all there for you to find and pay a small fee to bring home. If your neighbors' selection of plants do not satisfy you, I know you will find more on craigslist. Try the farm and garden section for most of your outdoor needs or use the search box if you dare. I have been lucky enough that some people will deliver items that I cannot fit in my car.

Use word of mouth.
People love being helpful. Ask around at work or the hardware store or wherever you can strike up a conversation about working outdoors or gardening. Someone will know someone else who has a son who runs a lawn mowing business. You lack a lawn mower but a neighborhood boy can help you out. The guy at the hardware store may recommend someone who hires himself out for small outdoor jobs or his truck for hauling things. Your work colleague may know where to get free mulch and compost in town. A neighbor might be in construction and bring you some scrap items you can assemble into a fantastic sculpture. Place a call to city hall and ask about whatever you want to know around town.

There you have it--a few strategies to keep the costs of lawn maintenance and installing foundation plantings and new trees from stressing the savings account. Remember, some creative thinking can allow you to see the potential in that pile on the curb or that worn-out bench on craigslist. Whether you are working on the interior or exterior of your home, you can beautify without heavy use of the credit card. Happy homeowning!

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