Despite what the gorgeous landscapes in popular gardening magazines would lead you to believe, having pretty flowerbeds need not be expensive or require a professional grounds crew to build. By recycling available items, making use of natural topographic features and native plants or using inexpensive or free seeds from dollar stores and online seed swaps, your yard can be the envy of the neighborhood for the price of the sweat equity alone.
Mark a spot in your yard where you want to make a flowerbed. Use a garden hose to outline the shape, changing it around until you are satisfied.
Use a flat shovel or sod cutting tool to cut into the soil slightly, scribing a line around the outside of the hose until you have gone all the way around. Remove the garden hose.
Remove the grass from the inside area with the same shovel or sod cutting tool. Save the grass to reuse on bare patches in the yard or toss it in the compost heap.
Edge the bed with scrounged materials to save money. If you live in a naturally rocky area, try dry-stacking rocks to form the perimeter. Alternatively, cut straight limbs into short sections, sharpen one end of each slightly and pound them into the ground to create a rustic border. Or upturn colorful wine bottles in the ground to form the edges.
Add compost mixed with soil to the bed to build up the shape and keep it from being boringly flat--simulating high spots and small hills in the beds make flowers seem taller toward the center without the expense of having to buy several varieties of different heights of flowers.
Save on purchased potting soil and make two beds simultaneously by removing soil from one spot to fill the other bed. The resulting low spot can make a rain garden planted with rushes, cattails and other native water-loving plants. Divert water from your roof’s downspout through a buried hose or pipe and use that free water to turn it into an inexpensive water feature.
Plant your new beds with plants grown yourself from discount store “10 for $1” seed package bargains, cuttings from obliging friends and neighbors or online seed swaps.