On a recent day in the 50s, which lately seems to always be followed by a single-digit downer, I was outside trimming bushes. Oh, the ideas and the gotta-do’s that come to mind when you’re in the yard for the first time in forever.
Whether you love or loathe lawn and garden work, chances are you want it to look good. And unless you have the coin to farm it out, you’re looking at DIY. Now is a great time to plan for and prioritize what needs doing.
Otherwise, it will never get done, or it will dig an unnecessary hole in your budget. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish out there. List them in order of necessity – when to plant, prune, fertilize, etc. – and personal priority.
When it’s time to put the plan in motion, keep the following tips in mind when you head to the hardware store or nursery.
Take a test
. Actually, do this before you buy any plant or lawn chemicals. Soil test kits are simple and relatively cheap. They tell you if the flower bed, berm or the soil under your grass is too acidic or basic for optimal growth. Most flowers prefer soil on the acidic side; grasses are just the opposite.
Maybe all your lawn needs is some pelletized lime or gypsum (much cheaper per square yard than fertilizer). Last fall’s leaves, chopped up and placed below a layer of mulch, can improve the soil for flowers as well as expensive fertilizers.
Read the label
. One of the most popular lawn products in early spring is pre-emergent crabgrass and dandelion killer. Like many prescription medications, these same formulas are often available in generic, much cheaper options. And if those early weeds have never been much of a problem, try skipping the application this year. If a couple sprout up, just pop them out while thinking about the money you saved.
. Yes, I know, the best time to plant these is in fall, and bulbs are typically cheaper than container-grown perennials. But mid to late spring is a good time for the latter. Because they come back year after year, time and money are saved in the long run. For the ultimate freebie, ask a friend or neighbor if you can divide or transplant some of theirs.
Plan for the worst. Even the wettest Kansas City summers seem to have weeks of high heat and little or no rain. Purchasing drought-tolerant plants will save you time, trouble and the expense of watering. Several online sources, like The National Gardening Association ( http://www.garden.org/zipzone/) and Mother Earth News ( http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/what-to-plant-now-zl0z0903zalt.aspx
), will give you some good ideas.
. Bigger plants, trees and shrubs cost more than smaller ones. It’s that simple. But in many cases, those smaller items only need a few weeks or months to catch up. You save big bucks, and get to watch them grow! A year or two from now, you won’t remember or know the difference in size.
Buy in bulk
. Mulch is a must-have for both its decorative and soil-enhancing benefits. Fortunately, it’s fairly cheap. But if you have a lot of ground to cover, those $3.99 bags can lead to serious sticker shock. Most nurseries and professional landscapers can get it for much less per cubic yard, and even with their markup, can sell and deliver it to you for a comparative bargain.
Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little one, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click http://twitter.com/savinmavens.