Saturday, April 25, 2009

Frugal Hard-Scaping

"Hardscape: any garden feature that is not a plant; ie: fences, trellaces, benches, sidewalks, patios, birdbaths, etc."

A lot of hardscaping is very formal, very beautiful, and VERY expensive, out of reach for most of us. A recent visit to Lowes had me staring, with hands clasped, at a display of beautiful trellises that would look prefect with one of my clematis vines clambering over it. I bought a clematis last year, on sale for $5, and here I was considering a $40 trellis for it. Um... this defeats the purpose finding plant bargains!  But hardscaping adds so much to the general look and atmosphere of a garden that most of us would do what it takes to get a trellis or fence or patio. Here are some things you can do - if you are willing to take extra steps - that are very easy on the wallet.

Use What You Have

Instead of purchasing blocks, bricks or short sectioned fences for garden borders and raised beds, I have used what I already have; rocks picked from our fields over the years and slate from old barn roofs. Bricks begged off workers at a demolition sight create framework for my raised herb beds.

I've also seen gardeners use logs or split timber for the same purpose. Most of these methods look a bit informal, even 'rustic', but I keep in mind that they are not the focal point. They enhance the flowers instead of distracing attention from them.

Do It Yourself!
Hiring someone to install something is pretty foreign to me, but I hear that some people do.  ;) Putting in a patio, building stone walls with flights of stairs, making paths through the garden, these things can all be done by YOU. Below you can see my current work in progress, terracing the hillside behind our house. Last year's completed section didn't fall over during the winter, which is encouraging considering it's dry-wall! The cost of a 2-3' high, 50' long retainer wall was $0.00. And it got me a lot of really good exercise. :)

Ask a Friend

There are some things we simply can not do ourselves. Remember those trellises that I wanted? My dad or brother could easily make something for me, but getting them to make something for me is like pulling teeth. Sometimes you'd rather not bother trying. I have a retired friend who loves puttering in his work shop. In fact, that's what he does all day, nearly every day. I've seen some support trellises that he made for his wife's roses, and asked him if he would make some for me. He did, to my specifications, and didn't charge me a cent. (I would have paid him! But he is just too nice! He's guaranteed a home made pizza with everything on it for that.) I paid for some primer and a couple of cans of spray-paint to finish the trellises. I figure that if I'd bought the number of trellises I have, it would have been well over $100. I paid less than $10. I can't wait to see how they'll look when the roses are in bloom!

This isn't an article about what great deals I've gotten, it's my effort to show you what can be done, if only you try. Try using what you have. Try doing it yourself. Or try asking a friend. Don't worry about bugging your friends, they will probably be flattered that you are calling on their skills!


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