October marks the official four year anniversary of me purchasing my very own home. It feels like just yesterday that I was signing my signature on the biggest financial commitment of my young life in exchange for a set of keys to a humble 1960’s ranch in need of some TLC. As you can imagine, the first few minutes, hours, and days were filled with overwhelming excitement and joy of being a homeowner. I was here, I made it, this is the American dream right? Now I can just sit back and relax in my kick arse bachelor pad and watch football and play video games. That was what I thought for those very first few moments. Then the reality of what I had just done started to sink in. I had bought a 1960’s ranch in need of TLC…a lot of TLC.
Over the next few months I started tackling various projects around the house to get it in move in ready shape. I got new carpet, replaced toilets, painted, laboriously chipped up the ancient basement tile floor, installed new flooring on the now uncovered basement floor, stained the deck, replaced the baseboard heating, got new windows, got new a/c, moved in furniture, and somewhere in the I started to redo the landscaping.
The operative word in that last part is “started” to redo the landscaping. With all of my other projects going on, my yard and landscaping pretty much took a back seat. I managed to tear out some overgrown shrubs out front when I first moved in, but my dreams of having a Better Homes and Gardens lawn quickly vanished behind spending my time attempting to renovate other portions of my house.
After many straight months of going hardcore on fixing up the house I was pretty burnt out. The last thing I wanted to do was to start another project. So for many months I did the bare minimum required of me to keep the grass cut at a height where the mower wouldn’t completely clog. Every week or so I would begrudgingly take the 2 hrs out of my weekend to fire up the push mower and fight back the ever growing army of grass blades that make up my ½ acre plot.
This went on for awhile until my life changed in a big way. Around the one year mark of me owning my home I met a wonderful girl who would eventually become my girlfriend. The only problem was she lived in Maryland and I lived in PA. This meant that for us to have a relationship we would both have to commit to frequent long distance trips to visit each other. This meant that my weekend time was pretty much spent traveling and visiting with her. Good news for me, bad news for my lawn.
Over the past 4 years my yard has gone from being overgrown when I first bought it, to decent looking when I removed the first batch of shrubs, to not neat but still acceptable, to overgrown again, to finally most likely what my neighbors would consider eyesore status.
Going into August my yard was full of huge weeds, the grass was overgrown, and my shrubs hadn’t seen trimmers in years. I was definitely the ugly duckling of the neighborhood. In contrast my two neighbors across the street have picturesque suburban lawns complete with gorgeous flowers, bird baths, and perfectly manicured lawns, and shrubs that look freshly groomed rather than a bad hair day.
I really didn’t mean for my yard to fall into such disrepair, it just sort of happened. I had always meant to finish my landscaping, but I could never seem to get around to it as I was always working on another project I deemed more important. That is until this September.
My wonderful girlfriend moved in over the summer and has finally convinced (pressured? :p) me into finishing up my landscaping. So this past month we have been pulling weeds, trimming bushes, cutting grass, and planting new shrubs to get rid of my ugly duckling status. We are nowhere near done but have gotten a good start on it so far.
Now that I’m actively trying to keep a nice looking yard I am feeling the pain of the rest of you who are trying to keep up with the roses. Landscaping isn’t cheap in either time or money. Plants are pricey, mulch is pricey, sprays are pricey, gas for the mower is pricey, all the gardening and landscaping tools are pricey. Everything in general is pricey when you are first starting out, not only in money but also in time. I’ve dedicated many hours so far in September undoing the damage that years of laziness have caused to my yard.
There is an awesome reward though to all of this money, effort, and hard work…my yard looks much better than it has in years. I’m still definitely the ugly duckling on the block but maybe a little less ugly then I used to be.
Now since this is a personal finance site it certainly wouldn’t be nice of me to not share some money saving tips that this past month has taught me.
1. Fall is a great time for planting not only due to it being easier on new plants without the hot summer sun beating down on them, but also because fall corresponds to when garden centers are trying to get rid of their plants for the season. You will get some great deals on plants the closer it gets to winter and stores are more desperate to clearance their remaining plant inventory.
2. Buy a small plant, pay a small price. This one is extremely obvious but the bigger the flower, shrub, or tree you buy the more you are going to pay. If you have the patience to wait a few years, you can get a smaller younger version of your favorite plant for a much cheaper price.
3. Some townships/cities have free mulch and compost. Sadly my township doesn’t, but the neighboring township has a giant mulch and compost pile that residents can pick up loads of for free. That would save a bunch of money on landscaping, as usually you need to redo your mulch every year or two.
4. Check the big box stores for your landscaping needs. I purchased plants from my local garden center because I always thought that places like Walmart and Lowes had subpar plants. Well I was in Walmart and Lowes the other day and not only were they cheaper than the local garden center for the same plants, the plants they had actually looked healthier and larger than the ones I had just purchased from the local garden center. Shame on me for not price comparing beforehand.
5. Don’t skimp on your hoses. Since I’ve moved into my house I’ve gone through multiple hoses even though I rarely use them. I always buy the cheapest hose at Walmart and without fail within a month or two the metal connector is bent and water sprays from it uncontrollably. Well no more, the next hose I buy will be a legit one with a thick metal connector that won’t bend.
6. Pick plants that are low maintenance. This deals more with the time aspect but if your anything like me, you’d much rather look at your plants then maintain them. Make sure when landscaping you try and make your life as easy as possible by selecting low maintenance flowers and shrubs.
7. This is more of a wish but if I ever build a new house and have to reseed I am getting grass you don’t need to mow. Yes amazingly enough they make such a thing. There’s a whole range of grasses that need minimal mowing (like once a month) and naturally stop growing at 3-4”. Sign me up for that please.
8. Don’t be me. Looking back on it I’ve definitely slacked on my responsibilities as a homeowner. One of the duties should be to keep your yard looking at least decent and not overgrown. That not only makes your house look attractive, but also keeps neighbors happy and property values up.
Hopefully by next spring my yard will be looking pretty nice. We have planted a bunch of low maintenance rhododendrons and plan to plant some hydrangeas, azaleas, and of course some roses