This may or may not become a series, so just in case we’ll call it “Using What You Have”.
As Son’s birthday pool party approached, I really wanted to do something about the landscaping of the house, particularly the back patio area. The house had been vacant for a year, and my stepmother (queen of the garden) had died the year before, so things were dead, overgrown or in various other states besides vibrant and beautiful.
I gave myself a budget of $100 for the project (which included the front patio and entry area, too, but this article focuses on the back patio area). I knew I needed new things, but I used what I already had wherever I could. I knew I wanted to do a lot of potted projects, mostly because there were several beautiful pots left with the house. They would look great at intervals around both patios. There was also a patch of garden right by the pool that needed attention, so not everything would be in pots.
Over a few days, whenever I found myself nearby, I went to Home Depot, Lowe’s and my favorite nursery. I looked in the past-prime section of Home Depot and Lowe’s, and was able to purchase several perennial and year-round plants for 50 – 75% off. They just needed a little TLC. I also purchased a few other items that were on special. I bought potting soil and and mulch at Walmart, where they were cheaper (and again, I was going there anyway). Remember that I live in a suburb dense with retail establishments, so none of these were more than a 5 minute trip away. If I had to travel out of my way the additional costs for gas and my time would have made it less frugal.
My favorite deal was at the nursery, where they had beautiful flowering shrubs on sale, 3 for $10. My thumb is closer to black than green, so I made sure that all of my selections would grow where I planned to put them. And all three places I shopped will take back a plant that fails – a benefit I’ve had to use on occasion.
Back at the house I cleaned out the dead plants and removed about 2/3 of the soil from the pots. I did this because the pots are large, and though new plants deserved fresh soil full of nutrients, I used what I had and saved the bottom third of soil, which was still usable. The new plant would have fresh new soil around its roots, and with my continued care should be fine.
There were a few pots that had no usable soil, so in those cases I used what I have to lessen the amount of potting soil I’d have to use. I’d been collecting broken pool noodles, perfect for placing at the bottom of a large pot. They won’t rot, they hold water for a little while, and thrown haphazardly into a pot before adding soil they take up room and are terrific for drainage, too!
I have to admit, I was pretty proud of this idea. It’s not one I picked up on the internet, TV or from a friend.
I made sure to sprinkle some plant food (I already had it on hand) in the planter before placing the plant. That stuff really works! After finishing all of the potting I placed the pots at intervals around the patio. Here’s one looking all purty:
Now I was ready to get to work on the garden patch. There were a few salvageable plants already there, and I didn’t want to move them because I’m not really a gardener at all, and was completely sure that I’d A) kill them and/or B) make a big mess of things and have no earthly idea how to salvage it. So I left them as is, and added some of the past-prime plants I’d picked up in my travels. A little mulch, and it looks decent, if I do say so myself.
There were a few areas where I thought lariope would look good, and take little maintenance. I didn’t want to spend money on lariope plants, so I used what I have, culling the lariope from the huge swath we have in the front yard.
Culling – or thinning – lariope is really easy. I’m going to do a how-to post tomorrow, so please check it out.
I used the pieces I pulled in two places in the back yard. The first is in front of a fence, which had nothing but dirt.
The second was at the edge of the garden bed, under the butterfly bushes. Before there was just dirt.
The plantings are thin now, but they should grow in nicely.
Several bags of mulch later and the project is done. And the best part is that I came in $20 under budget, and in time for Son’s birthday party.
Someday, when I’m a grown-up gardener, I’ll learn how to grow plants from cuttings. There are many people who get free plants by sharing cuttings with one another. There are even clubs devoted to the practice. In the meantime, I’m pretty happy with what this closer-to-black-than-green gardener has accomplished.