As a stay-at-home mom and part-time writer, I work hard to spread our resources as efficiently as possible. After groceries, bills, home maintenance, and other necessities, there is little extra to spend on the garden. Our garden is a different kind of necessity, though, providing us with food, a sense of connection with the land, and a sanctuary from life’s stresses. Instead of spending much money, I have relied heavily on ingenuity, creativity, and community to create our yard and garden.
Much of my landscaping comes from items already in our yard: stones, logs, and plants I extracted from the weedy wilderness that was our yard when we bought the house. I discovered flagstones under a half inch of dirt in the front, and dragged them into the back yard to form a path to the garden beds. I dug up many dozens of cantaloupe-sized boulders throughout the suburban property, and arranged them around my flower and veggie beds. The main vegetable beds now fill a previously sun-baked patch of dirt, and are framed by scrap lumber I got free from a neighbor. I ordered about fifteen cubic yards of free mulch from the city, and used it to create xeriscape areas where grass grew poorly. I planted these mulched beds with drought-resistant plants divided from friends’ gardens.
I grow my vegetables from organic seed. Starting plants from seed gives me a sense of accomplishment, and saves a lot of money over seedlings. I grow these in homemade compost in reused clean yogurt cups or egg containers. No food scraps or weeds go to waste in our yard, but get distributed into two piles: the main compost, and one for weeds and seeds, which I will use to make compost tea when it breaks down. I even have been known to beg grass clippings off the neighbors for my compost, and I swipe bags of coffee grounds every time I visit Starbucks. I use my homemade compost throughout the garden.
To make a water feature, I bought a wine barrel liner, which was much less expensive than an actual pond liners. Branches from old trees and pea gravel left by contractors landscape the area around our little pond. My daughter loves to play in the water, and flickers and finches often fly in for a refreshing drink. The birds also appreciate a pile of brush I built just for them near the bird feeder. Brush piles provide perches and protection from our two lazy cats. The pond, brush piles, and seed make our yard a perfect backyard habitat.
It might be easier to spend a lot of money at a garden center on fancy landscaping materials and fully mature plants, but with a little sweat, a lot of love, and some creativity, I have made a unique, fun garden for my family, our friends, and local wildlife. Every time a guest steps into our yard, he or she remarks on what a great space we have. “Did you did this yourself?” they ask. “It feels so nice here, and looks great!”