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This article appeared in the June 2002 web issue of Horticulture Update,
edited by Dr. Douglas F. Welsh, and produced by Extension Horticulture,
Texas Cooperative Extension, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.
Stretching Your Garden Dollar
By Ted Fisher, Extension Horticulturist (Retired)
Cherokee County, Texas
Many Texas home owners are unfamiliar with the art and technique of gardening, and spend needless dollars each
year on landscaping. Although dollars spent on landscaping can pay big dividends, the trick is to stretch those
dollars and make the most of the money invested. Here are some money-saving dollar-stretching suggestions for
you to consider:
- Purchasing the biggest trees is not always a wise investment when landscaping your home. These big trees are
often set back drastically during digging and transplanting, and may take years to recover from transplanting
Many times, a smaller tree will re-establish itself more rapidly, producing a nicer tree in a shorter time
period. With the money you save buying smaller trees, you can get a good start on the rest of your landscape.
High-quality trees are a good investment. Although there is a time and place for 'fast growers', do not overlook
the dependable oak varieties, cedar elm, bald cypress, and Chinese pistachio. They will last longer, and you will
have fewer insect, disease, and pruning headaches in the meantime.
Beware of door-to-door tree trimmers who
insist that topping your tree is a good idea. Topping trees opens up large wounds, leaving them vulnerable to
insects, disease, and decay.
- Select plants well adapted to your area. There are excellent choices available, including many interesting native
varieties. You may not have the most unique landscape on the block, but at least it will be healthy.
- When using chemicals, read and follow label directions carefully to avoid mistakes and save money. You can
ruin quality plants by spraying before reading. Using the wrong insecticide in your vegetable garden may make the
harvest unsafe for the dinner table.
- Choose your fertilizer carefully. The three numbers on each bag (16-4-8, 15-0-5, for example) indicate
nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium content, respectively. To promote leaf growth on any plant, choose a
fertilizer high in nitrogen. For improved flower and fruit production, select a fertilizer high in phosphorus.
Potassium (potash) is seldom lacking in our clay soil, so do not pay extra to get it.
- Save money by making and using compost as a soil conditioner. Any home landscape has an out-of-the-way
spot large enough to accommodate a compost pile. This not only saves money spent on peat moss, but it gives
you an easy way to dispose of leaves and grass clippings.
- Beware of 'miracle' products that may or may not aid your landscape or garden. Every year, dozens of
deceptive products hit the market. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Read labels carefully, and use
common sense with regard to unbelievable claims.
- Top-dressing your lawn with sand or soil on a regular basis is not a recommended practice. While minor low
spots can be corrected this way, you can easily overdo it and smother your lawn. Using topsoil from an unknown
source may also introduce undesirable plants and weeds into the landscape, creating additional work and expense
to correct the problem.
- Shop and compare. While many nursery and garden supplier prices are competitive for many products, prices
do vary for nursery stock and plant materials. Check several nurseries before buying, to be certain you are getting
the best price for quality merchandise.
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