My Green Thumb Dropped Some Green-Backs!

For the first time in 32 years, yours truly has created a garden :)  From scratch, even. I alluded to this awesomeness when I was out on paternity leave last month, but I wanted to dig in a bit deeper (no pun intended) and talk about what it all entailed. Both in time AND finances.

But first, I should say I SUCK(ed) at gardening. Like, I can barely keep a cactus alive.  We’ve tried our hands at potted plants and other things that just require water on a semi-daily basis, but up until now I guess I just didn’t care enough to ever follow through and keep up my with precious greens.  It’s all changed now, however! And I think I can attribute this to three reasons:

  1. I want our house to be worth more.  Every HGTV show I watch is always championing first impressions and good curb appeal. And if/when we ever go to sell or rent out the house, I want to make sure prospective buyers don’t get grossed out the second they walk up.
  2. I’m better at taking care of things now that we have a baby I’m responsible for!  I know plants aren’t anywhere close to living human beings, but you still have to “feed” and maintain them on a regular basis too. So now that I’m getting that down to a science with Baby $, watering plants is just another task to slip into our new rhythm we’ve got going on now.
  3. And lastly (but more importantly!), I had a pro to teach me how to do it – My mom :) After all my complaining that “I don’t know how” and “I don’t have the time,” my mom finally took me by my ears and forced me to learn while she was up visiting for the week helping us take care of said baby. And by the end of it we had ourselves a brand new garden! Weeee!

So I didn’t do it ALL the way by myself, but I swear I could do it from scratch now that I know what I’m doing and physically went through the whole process ;) I think that’s the key to a LOT of stuff in life actually – you need a good teacher or mentor to help you walk through things and squash your fears and insecurities!  It was the same thing when I was taking forever to start up my LLC too – I was way too freaked out to even try until a good law friend of mine sat me down and agreed to help.

And it’s also helpful for that person/mentor to ask you all kinds of questions and preferences so they know how best to help you achieve your goals too.  For gardening, it went something like this:

  • What kind of “look and feel” do you want? Tropical? Foresty? Lush? Flowery?
  • What kind of time commitment do you have to maintain it all?  Do you just want to water and walk away?  Do you want to sculpt? Do you want something real fancy?
  • How much money are you looking to spend?  $100?  $1,000?
  • What are the obstacles in our way?  Sunlight?  Shade?  Perennials vs. Annuals? (It took me FOREVER to finally realize what either of those terms meant, haha… but basically perennials live season after season, and annuals only go through 1 season and that’s that. Which is def. not something I was interested in as I just wanted to “set it and forget it” as much as I could)

At first it was pretty overwhelming because there’s about a billion and a half ways to make a freakin’ garden, but as we went over everything and started seeing this stuff play out in practice (like when we went to Home Depot to see what all the plants looked like), it got a bit less scarier and scarier as time went on.  And eventually my motivation got kicked into high gear and I finally just wanted to GET IT DONE.  No more thinking and wondering and figuring out the *best* or *cheapest* way to get this guy looking good – I just wanted to make it happen once and for all.

So we did!  And these were the steps we took:

  1. We hit up our local shops and nurseries to get a good idea of what’s out there and what my tastes were (which was GREAT since I’m much more of a visual hands-on learner than I am mental!)
  2. We went back home and figured out WHERE, exactly, this new garden was going to be planted, and how much room we’d need to fill up.
  3. We started de-weeding this area and cleaned it up enough so it was ready to be tackled once we had all the plants and soil (and mulch) ready. (That was another helpful thing by having a helper around – I didn’t have the first clue what plants actually needed outside of water? I thought you could just dig a hole and put it in there no questions asked, haha…)
  4. We made a rough list of how many plants we needed, and what kind of sizes so we could mentally layout the new plan.
  5. And then we went back to our favorite nursery and started shopping!

yellow flowerAnd I should cut in for a second here and add that it’s MUCH harder to go looking for plants and figuring out how many you can get/etc when you don’t have a clear budget in mind ;)

A fairly obvious thing, especially for all of us who are so used to dealing with money every day, but since this was my first foray into gardening and I didn’t have an inkling how much it all costs or even WHAT my own limits were, it probably doubled the amount of time we spent at the place until I was finally comfortable with our decisions. And it didn’t help that the wife only wanted to spend around $100 and the garden was at the lower end of her priorities considering we had just taken in a 3-day-old baby, haha… but when opportunities arise you have to jump! :)

We ended up settling on around $250 – a number I thought was more than fair to get our lawn looking as good as everyone else’s in the neighborhood. And a far cry from the “land of rocks” the previous owners had settled on too – I can’t believe we were OK with that for so long? Bleh!

Anyways, back to our steps here:

  1. After picking up all the plants and soil and what have you from the nursery (it ended up being the cheapest place of all, AND had the most to chose from!), we brought it all back and started digging the holes to make sure we had the pattern down and enough plants to fill ’em. (We didn’t).
  2. We then started planting all the plants, along with new juicy soil (I guess you have to use part pot soil and ground dirt and new soil to get a good mix going there for healthy transferness), and filled ’em all up with some good water too to make sure everyone was happy.
  3. Once they were all planted, we then covered the whole area with mulch – the best and most fun part! Haha… probably because it was the easiest and also LAST step in the process ;)
  4. We then made one last trip to the nursery to pick up a few more plants and bags of mulch we had unaccounted for, and the rest was history! We added in the last trip worth and it was a done deal :)

About 8 hours in total from start to finish (mostly because of all the driving back and forth), and overall a pretty easy project when everything was said and done.  Definitely much different than I had previously thought in my head.

The total costs?  $219ish.  But my mother did chip in $50 or $60 to help with the two larger bushes, as well as another mini Christmas tree one we snagged for the back deck :)  She wanted to give them to us as a gift, and we ended up sprucing up part of the back of the house too while we were at it. But not too shabby for a brand new garden under $300, right? I was surprised! And now we get to enjoy it for years to come!  Or for someone else to if we end up moving sooner, haha.. either way though, mission completed.  And now I can add some new skills to my repertoire!

What do y’all think? Money well spent?  Any gardeners wanna share some tips with us?

PS: I’d tell you what types of plants we got there, but sadly I can’t remember anymore :(  I know they were pretty common ones though! And cheap! Like $5.99 to $29.99 for the bigger bushier ones. Anything larger than that started getting up to the $50s and $80s for EACH. Figured why not just grow them big over time and save? ;)

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  1. William @ Drop Dead Money August 17, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    Awesome!! What a difference! We had the same thing – when we bought, all the house had was a mangy lawn, riddles with yellow patches from unscooped dog p&p (poop and pee). Our yard is bigger than normal, and Mrs. Drop Dead Money is a keen gardener, so we figured $1,000 into the purchase price of the house.

    The Denver Water Board has free seminars on landscaping. Their goal is to encourage gardening with a smaller water footprint, and they include free landscape design consulting. We used that, which helped. We under-spent on our budget and I, in imitable style, took that as justification to get some trees that were big enough to make a difference. And hey, if you’re going to be a dog, be a bad dog, so I got two big trees. We were making good money at the time, so at least we didn’t blow it on something that didn’t last. (See, I can rationalize anything I want to!)

    We love those trees now – nice shade in summer, lovely foliage in fall!

    Those before/after pics of yours are just awesome – good job! :)

  2. Lance @ Money Life and More August 17, 2012 at 7:12 AM

    I live in Florida and everything grows like crazy in the summer assuming you water well. Unfortunately this means a TON of weeds in our flower beds. I’m not a huge yard guy so I think we’re going to end up getting rid of the mulch, putting down the black sheeting to prevent weeds and then go with rocks in our flower beds. The mulch ends up fading after 3-6 months and just looks like trash and rocks should never fade! We’re going to test it out with a couple small flower beds first to see if we like it because the rock isn’t cheap for sure and we have a ton of flower beds…

  3. Erin August 17, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    You talked about curb appeal for future selling, but I think it’s so important to have curb appeal for YOURSELF. DO you like walking into your home better now that you have a garden?

    Also, “annuals” is a terrible name for plants that only bloom once, since annual typically means “every year.” You are definitely not the first or last to get tripped up about annuals/perennials.

    It looks great!

  4. bogofdebt August 17, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    I hate the term annuals. I always think that they should last forever. But it looks nice! I have been getting in the hang of gardening this last year. Or I was until the heat wave started killing everything.

  5. J. Money August 17, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    Thanks guys! Glad you like! Enjoy the weekend :)

    @William @ Drop Dead Money – Nice!! I’ll need you two to come over and help us plant our tree too – it was the only thing we didn’t get to do that I really wanted (the trees we found at the time were nasty looking, so we’re waiting for a fresher supply to come in to plant). A $1,000 budget is hot for gardening, well done!
    @Lance @ Money Life and More – You’ll have the opposite of our transformation, haha… totally test it out first to make sure it looks like the way you want it :) At least your rocks will have plants in them and not be a desserted plane like ours was!
    @Erin – Thanks! We DO actually like it a lot – good point :) Though after a while I tend to forget/not get as excited so I’m sure at some point I’ll go back to normal, haha… I do like knowing we put hard work into it though every time we see it :) Makes me feel like a good homeowner for once!
    @bogofdebt – I know, I hate those terms too – always tricks me :( Now I just say “where are your plants that I can leave outside all year long?” Cuz I don’t want anything fancy or to have to take them inside every season – that’s too much work for me :)

  6. Erin85 August 17, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Don’t get too excited yet… the plants have to live for a while before you can call yourself a gardener! I know, because I always try and be one, until about two weeks later when everything’s dead… Turns out you can overwater plants! That said, good luck, it looks awesome!! Good job :)

  7. Holly@ClubThrifty August 17, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    That looks awesome! I wish I could make my yard look like that. Unfortunately, I have a black thumb.

  8. stephanie August 17, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Wow! You did a great job. Aren’t mom’s wonderful! If you’re looking at doing more landscaping in the future, check and see if your community has a gardening club, (don’t worry you don’t have to embrace your inner geek and join it lol) because they may have semi-annual sales of plants that will grow well in your ‘hood, at a 1/4 of the price, and lots of free advice.

  9. LB August 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Wow very nice and good idea!

    I have always liked plants indoors and out for that wonderful nature feel. (plus the extra oxygen!) My mom always made me water her plants which I hated, but because of her I know how to grow almost anything. I love having pretty plants you only have to water once a week or less, but in the summer I get my garden on ha! This year I tried small pumpkins, green beans, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloup and still have 2 strawberry plants that produces like 3 strawberries a year ha! Don’t ask me about grass though. I killed it so many times, I didn’t even bother to reseed it this year. It’s just a brown patch of nothing. Thank goodness HOA didn’t say anything. shhhh

  10. AverageJoe August 17, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Man! Not only do I think it’s money well spent, but I also think it’s a great way to relax. My mom is coming to visit in about a month. I think I’ll enlist her to help me as well. If she complains I’ll tell her it was your idea. ;-)

  11. Anthony Mignone August 17, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    This is a genius idea. I fully support any project that has the potential to increase the value of your home while enhancing its visual appeal. Now that you’ve dabbled in some localized sustainable forestry, why not create a backyard garden as well? It’s an excellent and tasty way to tackle the food bill. Plus I’m sure some fruit trees would add even more value to your home. Money well spent -> Money well saved.

  12. Jacob @ iheartbudgets August 17, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    it sounds like you are watching TOO MUCH HGTV. I only say this because my wife and I watched it for HOURS AND HOURS on end before we bought a home, and started buying stuff left and right to spruce up our apartment. Since we don’t have cable now, we only watch it when we’re away from our home, which helps keep our mind from designing our house and grabbing our credit cards, LoL.

    But really, $219 is a good budget for the amount of improvement. We probably dropped $100 this summer (and an additional $100 from presents) to get some plants going. Definitely makes everything much nicer to come home to. We also dropped a good $4,000 on house projects outside (new HUGE fence, HUGE brick patio, HUGE pergola….we do everything HUGE), but the improvement is like 200% over what we used to have. So I totally feel you on dropping some cash to make your home more enjoyable and increasing the value at the same time. Investing in (mostly) appreciating assets is a good thing

  13. Jacob @ iheartbudgets August 17, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Forgot to mention, that we dropped $4,000, but got our neighbors to chip in $800 and returned over $1,000 in extra materials, so we actually on spent like $2,200. Probably gave us a good $10,000 of equity :)

  14. Stephanie August 17, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    Looks awesome!!! Definitely money well spent. :-)

    My biggest goal is to have as many perennials as possible in my yard. Rozannes (a variety of geranium) are amazing. Gorgeous purple flowers from late spring to early fall, or at least that’s been my experience. And once you get them established, you barely have to water them!

    And I haven’t tried this myself, but I would love to incorporate blueberry bushes into landscaping. Supposedly there are varieties that have beautiful flowers during the spring, during the summer they provide food, and then during the fall the foliage turns red, like a burning bush. I currently have a rose bush that keeps half-dying every year (no matter what I do! I’m fairly good with gardening, but I’m apparently hopeless with roses), and I’d like to rip it up and replace it with a blueberry bush. :-)

  15. DebtKiller August 17, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Absolutely money well spent. Landscaping provides beauty to your home. A solid return on your investment, no doubt. I need to do the same thing for the front of my house as well. Ever thought of this as a side hustle? Landscaping? Gardening? I’d pay someone to do it.

  16. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager August 17, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    I love it! Want to come do my house next?

    Definitely hoping on sprucing up my front yard next spring (hopefully all the ugly bushes will be dead by then). I’d like to have the backyard taken care of as well, I just need my neighbor to take care of those black berry bushes – brutal!

  17. Chris August 17, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    I know absolutely nothing about flowers. When my mom was teaching me (it must be one of those mother-son bonding things) she kept talking about all these pretty flowers she could plant. I only cared about food. I loooove to tend to my garden because it GIVES ME SUSTENANCE! I also grow herbs for cooking. I haven’t bought tomatoes all summer, have more butternut squash than will fit in my freezer, and a variable jungle of lettuce spewing out of the ground. We also have zucchini, okra, cucumbers, jalepenos, and green chiles. I end up saving a lot of money on produce. That being said, we expanded our garden to border our fence around our yard. We spent a whopping $300 on soil alone. We aren’t even done, but we are looking at about $1000 on just the garden area. Next year we will be selling what we grow to neighbors and coworkers.

  18. Manette @ Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance August 17, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    Whether you spent hundreds or thousands of dollars, it will always be a money well spent. Creating a greener environment and helping reduce carbon footprints in our own little way is already a great step for a better environment. Congratulations for taking that first step!

  19. Edward Antrobus August 17, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    Speaking as a former horticulture professional, I’m always happy when I hear that someone is taking up one of my favorite hobbies.
    And just to throw you up, there is a third class besides annuals and perennials. Biennials are usually classified as perennials, but they only last 2 years. Most biennials grow and look the best in their second year.

  20. Money After Graduation August 18, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Looks great ! And will add value to the home for sure. I was supposed to start a garden this year.. too late now, but next year I will be taking a page out of your book for sure!

  21. August 19, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Can you send your mother to us? :)

    We’ve talked and talked (well, my wife talked and I kinda listened) about landscaping the front and doing “something” with the back. This might be the inspiration we need. It’s much like anything else in life, get a vision, make a budget execute. And sometimes, you need someone to pull you by the ears (or a wake up call) to make it happen.

    Great article

  22. Melissa@LittleHouseInTheValley August 19, 2012 at 9:00 PM

    You did a great job! The curb appeal definitely improved.

    I also suck at gardening, but this year we grew a vegetable garden and though the cucumbers and squash succumbed to beetles, we are getting green peppers and lost of cherry tomatoes.

  23. Downundersugarglider August 20, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    great idea – as you say definitely improves the curb appeal. If you want something unkillable try liriopes, mondo grass – will fill out the bed, live for years, no maintenance (unless you have drought – then give them some water) easy to remove if you eventually want to. In Australia we have a native violet ground cover that is pretty good too – don’t know if you would have similar – with little teeny purple and white violet flowers! Again – just leave them to their own devices.

  24. J. Money August 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    @Erin85 – Ack! That’s what I’m afraid of actually! Even though it’s now been about a month – and things are looking good still! – my fear is that all the rain we’re getting will overdue it outside of my control :( But the fact I’m still on top of things here after an entire month is a new world record for me, so that’s gotta count for something ;)
    @Holly@ClubThrifty – You just need a good mentor to walk you through it and help out! It really wasn’t that hard at all when we were going through the process. And when you’re with a friend (or mom, in this case! haha…) it’s also kinda fun :) I’d be pretty bored doing it alone.
    @stephanie – Oh wow, that’s a good idea! Never even heard of those before. If we end up living here more than I want to, then I’ll for sure check ’em out, thanks :)
    @LB – Hahaha…. I want some pumpkin plants!!! Fall is right around the corner – my favorite season!
    @AverageJoe – HAH! You totally should too – it’s great for bonding :)
    @SavvyFinancialLatina – I try ;)
    @Anthony Mignone – I would love to do that next actually, but I think we’re gonna try moving soon and I’m not ready to up my game to that level yet ;) Maybe our next place will already have one built in that I can just maintain and keep going? That would be pretty cool.
    @Jacob @ iheartbudgets – WOW. Nicely done my man – that IS huge! Haha… Love it :)
    @Stephanie – Ooooh that would be fun! I love blueberries!! And actually one of the bigger plants we put on our back deck was a rose bush – which I think is doing okay still, but sometimes I do wonder if it’s half-dead too, haha… they’r def. strange.
    @DebtKiller – Oh man, I don’t have the patience for it to actually make some bucks off it, but I’m all about paying someone else to work it for sure! I’ve never looked into it before, but I always think it’s gonna be crazy expensive… maybe if you marketed yourself as a “budget gardener” you could capture a good niche there outside of the more fancy stuff?
    @Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Or maybe you can find a way to get on that HGTV show where they come over and rock the whole thing for you free of charge ;) At least I think it’s free?
    @Chris – AWESOME!!! I really admire people who can pull that off – especially if they end up making a side income from it :) Way to work it, bro! Def. some major skills going on over there.
    @Manette @ Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance – Thanks! Although do I still deserve credit if that was the last thing on my mind while making it? ;)
    @Edward Antrobus – Oh jeez, haha… don’t go and confuse me now! ;)
    @Money After Graduation – Yay! And then take pictures so we can see it on your blog :) – Thanks man, glad you enjoyed it :) Do you know any friends or family members that are good at this stuff? I’d just invite them over for some lunch or dinner (or beers?) and then put them to work! Haha… it’s actually pretty fun when you’re just hanging out and chatting at the same time as gardening.
    @Melissa@LittleHouseInTheValley – Woohoo! A hearty congrats to you too, then :)
    @Downundersugarglider – Oh cool! I have no idea about what we have, or don’t have here, but leaving them alone to their own devices seems mighty perfect to me :) Thanks for stopping by, mate (sorry, couldn’t resist).