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Do-It-Yourself Gardening & Landscape Ideas

6/12/2013, 3 p.m.
In the midst of an economic downturn and with neighbors in close proximity, how best can today's urban chic create ...

In a recent journal article, “Transforming Inner City Landscapes,” researcher Frances E. Kuo, challenged Chicago law enforcement officials who argued that, in inner city spaces, trees and other forms of vegetation increase fear. Kuo concluded that tree density and grass maintenance increased both preference and sense of safety – in other words: trees and grass, gardening and landscape, whether in the front yard or backyard, increased personal calm and instilled a sense of safety.

But in the midst of an economic downturn and with neighbors in close proximity (row houses), how best can today’s urban chic, create a gardening oasis?

Landscaping artists recommend homeowners spend between 5 and 15 percent of their home’s value on landscaping. But for urbanites, who may have capital rich homes in tight spaces, maintaining the aesthetic beauty of their homes through landscaping can be a bit of a challenge.

Use What You Have: Preserve the existing plants and trees already on your property and educate yourself about plant care and pruning. Learn more about trees and rooting to avoid common pitfalls such as planting a tree too close to your house.

The Cheap Can Turn Out Expensive: Some jobs are do-it-yourself, while others are clearly set aside for professionals. Plenty of home improvement stores provide both in-store and low cost expert advice, as well as direct contact to contractors who can ensure the job is done properly the first time. Also, check to see if your local home improvement store offers nursery and landscaping services that discount materials.

Take a Phased Approach: Divide your plan into phases and pay as you go with readily available funds. You'll save on loan or credit costs and be able to evaluate your progress and adjust plans before moving to the next phase.

Buy Off-Season: Purchase trees, shrubs, soils late in the season when they are being marked down for clearance.

Use Free Water: Purchase a large beer bucket to catch rain water to conserve energy and reign in the cost of watering gardens.

Call on Neighbors: Gardening encourages old-settlers and new supplants to get together and “grow together” by gardening alongside each other. In addition to sharing the costs on some landscaping items or tools, the safety and security of knowing your neighbors is achieved as well.

Ask for What You Want: Masons, homebuilders, and concrete workers often have odd ends and pieces that they cast off as garbage. These materials are often great for enhancing gardens as loose art or stained and molded together to create terra cotta-style walkways.