There are a lot of things you can do to make your house look great from the outside. But none of them entail doing nothing.
And that, my friends, is exactly what we have done. Nothing on our landscaping for curb appeal. Until now.
Why did we wait so long?
- Because we are out of money.
- Because we had tons of other things to do that took priority.
But, finally, it was September and there was no more time to wait. Because in the Midwest, this silly little thing called WINTER comes at some point after October. And you cannot do things like plant grass and flowers during WINTER.
But, still very very little money.
So we had to get creative. I had saved about $250 in gift cards and rebates for this purpose. And we were able to make a big impact for not much money.
Wondering what it looked like before? Here’s a little progression – starting last September, before we even had the porch finished …
Fast forward to May …
And August …
And September after we finished painting the railings …. The porch looked better, but the yard? Not so much.
Most of the yard is actually cropped out … but you get the idea. Lots of weeds. No real grass to speak of.
But less than a month later, we’ve made some serious progress. I’m not embarrassed anymore. And I’m confident that it will look incredible next summer, once the plants begin to take off. (Landscaping is a long-game, which isn’t easy for impatient DIYers like me.)
So, here what the major aspects of our inexpensive curb appeal plan:
A big part of curb appeal is the yard. And we had some challenges to deal with – a giant slope and lack of enough soil in some places.
To remedy this, Ryan borrowed a skid loader from my uncle, which got put to very good use. He used it to move dirt and level the yard. (He also used it to clean up some of our driveway, build a retaining wall, and create a bridge over the creek on our property. More for another day.)
After we had a more level yard with more dirt, we spent $50 on grass seed from Menards (using a gift card and rebates). Ryan lucked out and planted the seed at the perfect time. Fall is a great time to plant grass seed in our area anyhow, and we didn’t experience any major rains that washed the seed away before it could take.
It did take a few weeks of regular watering, but the grass took off in most spots and it’s coming in green and thick.
Perennials and bulbs
Phase two of the plan was to create a garden bed around the house. You can easily spend thousands of dollars buying plants and shrubs, but that wasn’t in our budget. But we also wanted a good size garden bed in front of the house, for added color and to make it easier to mow.
Luckily, my aunt is an incredible gardener and amazing person. She offered to split her perennials and help me plant them in the yard.
Moral of the story? Get an awesome aunt. (Sorry, you can’t have mine.)
But if that’s impossible, you could easily do the same thing by swapping plants with friends or hosting a perennial plant exchange. (It’s super fun!) Many perennials need to be split, and fall is often the perfect time to do it. So you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by collaborating with friends and neighbors each fall.
Plus, your garden will be the better for it.
We focused on plants that would provide color all year, which happens to be my aunt’s specialty. In the end, we added:
- Asiatic lilies
- Day lilies
- Black eyed susans
- Native grasses
After splitting plants, I loaded up the bed of the truck and we placed them in the garden bed, which we had prepped with weed barrier ($40). I hope that the weed barrier will help to keep my weeding to a minimum.
My aunt helped me plan the layout of the plants and then we put them in. We added some tomato cages to the sedum to help them stay vertical after transplanting.
There were a few plants that I wanted to add to the garden bed that weren’t transplanted. So, I grabbed four plants from Lowes when they were 40 percent off (about $40):
- 2 hydrangeas
- 1 butterfly bush
- 1 snowball bush
These all happen to be larger than the others, so I hope it will provide some focal points. And all should also attract butterflies, which is an added bonus. (Tip: Save your receipts. Lowes often offers a one-year growing guarantee.)
Finally, I picked up a few bags of bulbs (daffodils, alliums and tulips) and $1 mums to round out the plantings and add some early spring and later fall color ($15).
At my aunt’s suggestion, we left a 2 foot space behind the plants to the house. This keeps critters away from our foundation and also gives us a really practical place to walk and loop the hose to water. It’s been really handy.
The final step for our fall curb appeal project was mulch. This ended up being a really large area, so we needed about $90 in mulch. (We got bags of cypress mulch on sale at Menards. I like cypress mulch because it hides leaves and other natural materials better than darker mulch, so it always looks fresh.)
Not only does the mulch make the yard look a little more finished (which it does), but it also helps to protect the plants over the winter and give some extra help in the water department. I watered the plants every day for almost a month, which I hope helped them establish good roots to survive over the winter.
You may not be able to see the full “after” of this landscaping project yet, but I hope this is the first step to beautiful curb appeal for years to come. And for only a small initial investment.
What are your tips for low-cost landscaping?
And if you like it, then put a pin on it …