Not everyone has thousands of dollars to pay a landscape contractor to overhaul a garden or other outdoor space, but you can achieve a backyard oasis on a budget with some resourceful, do-it-yourself garden projects. Many projects that seem expensive can be completed with inexpensive materials, or, better yet, free materials. In many cases, an entire project can be completed at only the cost of hardware or supplies.
Completed arbors or even the cost of lumber for a do-it-yourself arbor can set you back. If you live in a wooded area or have access to a wooded area from which you can legally take wood, then collect several twigs and polelike branches to make a rustic garden arbor. That arbor style coordinates well with cabins and cozy cottage homes. The polelike branches should be straight, roughly 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 7 feet long. Lay some of them side by side on the ground, forming an arbor side panel that is 2 feet wide. Form an identical side panel with another set of the polelike branches. Place three branches horizontally on top of the first side panel, spacing those three branches evenly. The three branches can be attached to the side panel's vertical branches by hammering 2-inch-long, ring-shank nails through them. Repeat the procedure with three more branches for the other side panel. Stand the side panels upright about 4 feet apart, and use nails to connect them with 5-foot-long branches across their top, creating an arbor. Decorative branches and twigs can be used to complete the arbor's top.
Buckets, barrels, crates and even bathtubs work well as planters if they have at least one 1/2-inch-diameter drainage hole drilled in their bottoms. If you prefer the look of stone planters, then consider making hypertufa planters, a lightweight alternative. The recipe for hypertufa requires mixing 3 parts peat moss, 3 parts perlite and 2 parts dry cement with water until the solution is the consistency of pancake batter. Either pack a 2-inch-thick layer of the mixture around a bowl or pour the mixture into a mold. A mold can be made by placing one container inside another container that is roughly 2 inches larger; cardboard boxes, old baking pans, old bowls or wood boxes can be used. The hypertufa mixture is poured into the space between the two containers. Keep the hypertufa covered with plastic for three days as it becomes a planter, and then leave it in the shade filled with water for leaching out the lime for another two to three weeks to cure. Drill out a 1/2-inch drainage hole in the hypertufa planter's bottom before using the planter.
Frames for Raised Beds
A raised bed need only be a large, four-walled space about 8 to 18 inches deep and does not necessarily need to be made from lumber. Basically, any material that can fit the criteria and enclose the space can be used to make a raised bed. For example, fieldstones can be stacked to make a raised bed's four walls, or flexible willow branches which can be woven around small wooden stakes to make a willow wattle fence raised bed. Another option is to repurpose landscaping ties removed from another location in the landscape; stack them to the desired height for the raised bed, drill holes through their ends and drive landscaping stakes through the holes and into the ground to hold the landscaping ties in place. Even sheet metal panels and be bent and held in shape with rivets to make a raised bed.
Array of Walkways
Less expensive options than brick pavers and paving stones can be used to make walkways in your property. For example, flat stones can be set on the ground to make a pathway. If a stone won't lay flat because one side of it is rounded or oddly shaped, then dig a small hole in the ground and set that part of the stone in the hole. Gravel left over from another project can be spread on bare ground or landscaping fabric to form a walkway. If you have access to wooden pallets that weren't treated with toxic chemicals, then use them to make a boardwalk path through your garden.
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