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Landscaping for new homeowners on a budget

Can't afford a tree trimmer?
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New homeowners on a budget may have to pick and choose landscaping this spring. Buying an affordable house sometimes involves cosmetic compromises. Imperfect landscaping may be one of them. It's tempting to dish out the big bucks for that perfect yard right away. Then reality kicks in. You realize what suits your budget is an entirely different matter. We've decided to consider our new house a work in progress. Rather than being house poor, we'll tackle cosmetic landscaping issues one step at a time. Here's our top ten landscaping worries for this spring, with solutions suited to our budget.

A tree trimming service is not in your budget?

We have a dead tree in our front yard that needs to be removed. The branches are dragging on the roof. We're afraid this will lead to damage in the near future. As new homeowners, we definitely can't afford a new roof or even tree removal this spring. Our budget friendly solution is to immediately trim back the branches causing the issue ourselves. We'll tackle them one at a time using a long reaching trimming tool from the home and garden store.

The last homeowner botched a gutter replacement job?

We have a section of gutter that was improperly installed. Truly, gravity is rendering the whole system useless. Replacing the one section isn't enough. We can't afford to replace the whole system. Plus, some of it's in excellent condition. We've decided to replace all the gutter on just the side of the house that's damaged. We have a roofer friend who can help us with advice and tips. The materials are minimal in cost. Detailed instruction sheets are available where the materials are sold. They're a godsend to new homeowners.

The last owners didn't pick up after their pets?

We spent a lot of time when we first moved in just raking up various yard debris and doggy doo doo, for sanitary reasons. We were truly concerned with disposal of this less than desirable rubbish. Turns out all it takes is a phone call to your trash service. They were more than happy to pick up our twenty bulging bags of sticks, rocks, dog waste and old rubbish. What's more they didn't even charge us extra. Turns out the local garbage men (competing for the business of new homeowners) are willing to go the extra mile.

Your yard has rocky areas?

This can be a real dilemma. In our case, the old homeowners had a boat parked in the back yard. To accommodate the boat, they filled the area with assorted rocks, which have sunk into the landscaping. On this one, we've decided to just take matters into our own hands. Our budget doesn't allow for paying a landscaper for heavy labor. We'll just dig up the rocks as best we can, level the ground and plant some native perennials. Let's call it a forced rock garden.

You desperately need a privacy fence you can't afford?

Our home is surrounded by neighbors with multiple dogs and poor backyard landscaping. Problem is, we have a huge yard and can't afford to fence it all. As our compromise solution, we plan on fencing one side of the yard at a time. We'll start with the portion that would face the alley, if we had an alley. (Our new house backs neighboring yards, with only a short chain link fence between us.) On the sides, we'll attach trellis to the existing fence. Planting quick growing vines and vining flower seeds will provide us with affordable natural fence.

You have a squirrel problem?

I love to garden, but this yard is inundated with cute little furry pests. I don't want to harm them. I also don't want them eating my vegetable garden. Most likely we''ll tackle this problem the same way we did at our last place. There, we made an enclosed vegetable garden, quite simply and inexpensively. We sank posts in a rectangle, as if building a fence. We then wrapped the posted area with cheap chicken wire, leaving space for a door. For the door we made a chicken wire wrapped frame. The latch was a nail and rope affair. Simple but effective pest control.

The last homeowner was a river rock fanatic?

The front face of our house is stuffed full of river rock. In addition, they bordered this area with logs. Considering that our home is brick, it's very unsightly. Once again, we'll take on the labor of removing the river rock ourselves. Our plan is to save it for another, or several projects. We even have two in mind. Meanwhile, we'll plant a few perennial, drought tolerant, flowering bushes in place of the river rock.

Your field of dreams looks more like a field of nightmares?

We live in Colorado, where ignored lawns grow brown and weedy quickly and efficiently. Our back lawn was sufficiently ignored, prior to our purchase. The best solution would be new sod. Our alternate solution? We plan to have grass only in the front yard, which has been better maintained. This will cut down on watering and maintenance. The back yard will be tiny gardens of native plants, surrounded by paths of the river rock we pull from the front of the house.

Your poured patio is cracked?

Our back patio looks like it's been through an earthquake. We can't afford to pour a new concrete patio. Instead, we'll break up the old concrete and save it for future projects, such as pathways, etc. Until we can replace the patio, we have a more budget friendly patio solution. We plan to use landscape edging to border the temporary new "patio". We'll fill the area with mulch. Maybe next spring a new poured patio will be in our budget.

You were stuck with a dilapidated garden shed?

We need a shed and can't afford to build one. The one on our property has seen better days. Still, it has a few good years left, maybe. This spring we plan to reinforce the old shed. We'll also search Craigs list for leftover roofing material to keep the leaks out. Craigs list, if you didn't know, isn't just for stalkers. It's a great online resource for new homeowners. Find cheap (and free) building supplies and more under the free and materials listings.

This article was previously published by this author on a now closed Yahoo property.

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