Fire Your Gardener: Save Money (and Get Fit) Doing Your Own Yard Work
Most homeowners want an attractive yard surrounding their house that suits their needs, fits their lifestyle and beautifies their home.
Because most homeowners are also busy people with daily schedules filled with business meetings, social obligations, soccer practice, going to the gym and running errands, they often rely on a local landscaping company to care for their yard.
This convenient option frees up time to take care of other chores and obligations, but increases your monthly expenses and robs you of great opportunities to add low-impact exercise to your day and spend time with your family.
While it may seem worth it to spend the money on having someone else take care of your landscaping, you can save hundreds of dollars each month by firing your gardener, making this an easy way to cut expenses and have more money to spend on paying down bills or doing fun activities with your kids or partner.
If a packed schedule has you thinking that doing your own yard work is not an option, keep in mind that more time in your yard can mean less time at the gym, and there are plenty of easy changes you can make to transform your yard into an easy-care oasis with low-maintenance landscaping options.
If you are looking for ways to save money, get fit, take control of the chemicals used in your yard and spend more time outdoors, read on to learn more about how firing your gardener may be the best decision you make this year.
Save Money on Yard Work: Why It Is Worth It
Gardening is a great way to increase your physical activity with low-impact exercise you can do right at home.
No expensive exercise equipment is needed, and you can improve your health, lower your risk for ailments later in life and lose weight by doing simple tasks that will keep your yard looking great.
Spending time in your garden completing these simple tasks can also reduce stress, which can improve your overall wellness and lower your risk for stress-related illnesses and conditions, such as high blood pressure.
Depending on how much you pay your gardeners, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars every month by giving up this costly convenience and making time in your schedule to spend a few hours each week mowing, pulling weeds and taking care of your vegetable garden.
This is also a great opportunity to spend time with your family (and it will take less time) if you enlist the help of your partner and children.
By working in your yard with your kids, you can teach them valuable lessons about the value of money, how to take care of things and how to make their belongings last longer by keeping them in good repair, such as patio furniture, playhouses and pool toys.
If part of your landscaping includes a backyard vegetable garden, you can also teach your kids how to raise food and provide them with a better understanding of how food is produced.
Additionally, when you do your own yard work, you are in complete control of the products that are used to inhibit weed growth, kill pests or feed your plants.
This allows you to limit the chemicals used in caring for your landscape or to opt for all-natural options that make your yard a safer place for you, your children and your pets.
Choosing the products that are used in your yard also gives you an additional opportunity to save even more, since you there are many natural yard care products you can make using inexpensive ingredients you likely already have on hand.
How to Save Money on Landscaping and Get Fit: Getting Started
Before you let your yard care company go, you need to assess the situation and see if you really can take on this ongoing maintenance project.
DIY yard care is a viable option for the majority of homeowners, but there are some cases in which it might not be feasible or practical.
For example, homeowners with physical limitations that hamper their ability to bend over, stand for long periods of time or carry bags of fertilizer may not be able to take on all of their own yard work.
However, it still might be possible for them to take on some of the tasks that are within their physical abilities, which can still help them save money and stay active.
Other situations that might call for sourcing out some of your yard work include homes that have acres of natural grass lawns, extensive gardens, or landscaping features that require professional care, such as shaped shrubs, elaborate mazes or other intricate designs.
Even in these cases, it is likely possible to take over part of your landscaping care, while hiring professionals to handle the tasks that are beyond your skill level or simply require more time than you can allot to yard care.
If you do not have physical limitations or landscaping that requires special care, you simply need to make a list of the tasks required to care for your yard, and then determine whether or not you can make the time to do them.
If the list looks a bit too daunting, don’t give up hope: You can likely cut down the time it takes by choosing low-maintenance landscaping options, which we will discuss further below.
Once you know what needs to be done to keep your yard looking its best, make a schedule of how often each task needs to be completed so that you can easily check your calendar and avoid falling behind on your yard work.
For example, you will likely need to mow a natural grass lawn once a week, pull weeds every couple of weeks, water your vegetable garden daily and check your automatic sprinkler system once a month.
Garden like Your Grandparents to Save Money and Stay Active
Most of our grandparents did not spend much time in a gym, but most of them did not need to.
Ways of living and completely daily tasks that now seem old fashioned helped previous generations stay in shape without costly gym memberships.
Lugging baskets of wet clothes out to the clothesline, using a push mower to keep their lawns perfectly cut, pulling weeds by hand, raking leaves, hoeing garden rows, shoveling snow and, even, cooking meals from scratch all helped older generations stay active and burn calories while simply completing their daily chores.
By not using many of the things we consider must-haves in today’s busy world, like clothes dryers, microwaves, and gas-powered or electric lawn mowers, snow blowers and leaf blowers, they also saved money on their utility bills and had a lower impact on the environment.
While some commercial products were available for killing pests and cleaning, they also saved money by using homemade cleaning and yard care products whipped up using common household products, like baking soda and vinegar.
Here are 10 ways you can garden like your grandparents to save money and get fit:
1. Use a push mower, instead of a gas-powered or electric mower.
2. Pull weeds by hand, instead of using toxic weed killers.
3. Start an at-home compost pile, instead of buying chemical fertilizers.
4. Rake leaves, instead of using a leaf blower.
5. Sweep your patios, driveway and walkways free of dirt and debris, instead of using a leaf blower or garden hose.
6. Shovel snow off your walkways and patios, instead of using a snow blower.
7. Plant and care for a vegetable garden, instead of buying all of your produce at the grocery store.
8. Use natural weed control methods, like vinegar, instead of commercial products.
9. Edge and aerate your lawn, prune plants, trim tree branches and bushes, and clean your pool yourself, instead of hiring outside help to complete these tasks.
10. Plant flowers and herbs that repel unwanted pests and attract beneficial insects to your yard, instead of using chemical-laden pesticides.
Cut Back on Yard Work with Low-Maintenance Landscaping Ideas
Whether you take these steps during the initial installation of your landscaping, or replace some of your current landscaping with low-maintenance features, you can save time on yard work by creating a backyard oasis that is lush, beautiful and easy to care for.
Here are six easy ways to cut back on yard work:
1. Limit your lawn.
A large lawn of natural grass is one of the most time- and water-consuming aspects of most homeowners’ landscaping.
According to Water Sense, a partnership program of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, outdoor residential water use makes up about 30% of the water an average American uses each day.
Of this, about half of that water is used to irrigate gardens and lawns.
In warmer, dryer climates – like the Southwest United States – residential outdoor water use can account for up to 60% of the water used each day by the average citizen.
Knowing that, it is easy to see how much you could cut your monthly water bill if you had less lawn to water.
You can also save money by limiting the space dedicated to a conventional lawn by reducing the need for fertilizers, weed killers, pesticides, and gas or electricity for your lawn mower.
Of course, a smaller lawn means less mowing, edging, watering, weeding, spraying and aerating, so the smaller your lawn, the less time you will have to set aside to care for it.
2. Install automatic irrigation.
Standing outside with a garden hose and making your way around your yard to water each landscape feature is not how most people want to spend their mornings, but you can save time and avoid this task completely by installing an automatic irrigation system.
Automatic sprinklers can take care of large areas, while a drip system will more efficiently irrigate flower beds, vegetable gardens and container gardens while saving you time.
3. Limit weed growth with ground covers.
Pulling weeds is good exercise, but if you want to save time by limiting the number of weeds that grow in the first place, you can do so by using ground covers around plants and on bare patches or earth.
Natural, low-maintenance ground covers, like gravel, mulch, bark or wood chips, beautify your yard while inhibiting weed growth.
This is a great way to make your yard more attractive and cut down on ongoing maintenance requirements.
4. Replace natural grass with artificial grass.
If you really want an expansive lawn but do not want to spend the time and money it takes to keep a conventional lawn looking its best, you can install artificial grass instead.
Synthetic turf is an ideal alternative to natural grass and requires no mowing, watering, weeding or aerating.
Taking care of fake grass is much less time consuming than caring for a conventional lawn, and artificial turf provides the lush look and soft feel of natural grass.
This single change to your landscaping can save you hours of yard work each week, which means more time to play with your kids or save money by taking on other yard care tasks.
5. Widen your swimming pool deck.
Even if you have an existing pool deck or patio surrounding your pool, you can expand it to create more space for lounging around the pool, and take up more space in your yard with a low-maintenance hardscape feature.
Pool decks can be easily swept clean of debris and are a great use of space instead of more grass or plants that require water, pruning and weeding.
Adding on to your deck with paving stones is lower maintenance than adding on with wood, since a wood pool deck will need to be stained and sealed regularly.
6. Leave your grass clippings.
Another great shortcut that can help you reduce the time you spend taking care of your yard is simply not picking up your grass clippings.
When you mow your lawn, leave the grass clippings on the grass and allow them to break down into the soil to feed your lawn.
This saves you time that would otherwise be spent raking up clippings and fertilizing your lawn.
Save Time and Get Fit with Yard Work: Final Thoughts
You don’t have to have a green thumb to get rid of your gardener and start taking care of your yard on your own.
There is plenty of information about lawn maintenance, planting vegetable gardens or beautifying your backyard online.
You can also look for inexpensive or free classes offered at your local garden center, community center or community college.
What is your favorite yard care trick for saving time or money?
Share your best tips in the comments below.
Photo Credits (in order of appearance): stock.xchng, sparkules; stock.xchng, Ayla87; stock.xchng, Ayla87; stock.xchng, ngould; stock.xchng, lespowell; stock.xchng, MeHere.