Planting and caring for a garden can provide a feeling of pride and satisfaction as you watch the plants' growth. The beginning gardener or even the experienced but too-busy-to-nurture gardener may prefer easy garden ideas. Choose a couple elements on which to focus your time and labor. In subsequent years, you may find the time to expand your garden with more creative elements.
Shrubs and Trees
Use shrubs in front of the house to add color and balance, and to soften the vertical edge of the house against the horizontal ground. Choose a slow grower like boxwood or a flowering shrub like azalea for little to no landscape maintenance. Use ornamental trees like Japanese maple or flowering dogwood. The fallen leaves can be mowed in the fall, returning nutrients to the ground.
Buy perennials. The initial expense is slightly greater than for an annual plant, but over two to three years, you will recoup the price because you won't have to purchase additional plants. Perennials can also be divided every three years into several "new" plants, furthering your investment even more. Sun-loving perennials include candytuft (low to the ground), coreopsis and salvia (medium height), and coneflower (tall). Partial sun or shade-loving perennials include hosta, ferns, impatiens and astilbe.
Annual flowers are a good cost-effective choice. Options for the sun could be the "wave" petunia, marigold, snapdragon or zinnia. For partial sun or shade, try impatiens, coleus or begonia.
Apply landscape fabric (made of a feltlike material or plastic) over the ground and about a foot from the base of the plants to block weeds. Keeping the landscape fabric away from the base of the plants will help retard moisture-related disease, and will also give a place for seeds to fall for new growth. Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch on top of the fabric. Mulch can be applied alone instead of using landscape fabric.
Plant two or more tomato, zucchini and green bean plants, even in pots, and you will have sufficient vegetables to feed a small family. For fun, plant pumpkin seeds.
Creating a pathway through your lawn or garden doesn't mean you have to install a cement or brick walk. Use stepping stones made of about 2-inch-thick cement in a square or circular shape to create an inexpensive pathway. Several inches of mulch can also be used. Both stepping stones (individually priced) and mulch (by the bag) are available at home and garden centers.
Place a gazing ball, heavy statue or a bird bath in the midst of the flowers or shrubs. Add a trellis to grow climbing plants like clematis, or an obelisk to support climbing peas.