Landscaping on a Budget

garla

When we first purchased our home, the landscaping was acceptable at best. The previous owners had done just enough to make sure the front garden bed looked presentable in the listing photo by throwing some shrubs into the space (and I mean literally throwing, they were just pots sitting atop the soil not even planted lol) and planting a few petunias (which died before we even got close to closing). For the price of the home we didn’t very much care about the state of the landscaping but needless to say by the time we closed on the home the “garden bed” looked more like an open grave where plants went to die, haha. After tackling some of the inside projects spring rolled around and we decided we wanted to give our little front garden a little TLC, ya know, in order to have our home appear as though we were actually part of society lol. Since our original intention was to rent the house out when we moved, our main concern was to keep the landscaping simple and easy to maintain (in the event that we got a careless tenant, the landscaping wouldn’t go completely crap) and our secondary concern was obviously keeping the cost of the project down (and I mean WAYYY down haha). We decided to go with all perennials, the idea being to plant once and relatively maintenance free. While our landscaping tips are fairly obvious, a lot of people seem to think that you need to purchase expensive and pretty annuals in order to give your garden a makeover. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE annuals, as well as your more demanding perennials (such as roses), they’re beautiful and if you have the cash and the green thumb more power to you. I, however, have neither of those things, annual means once and that means that if I spend $200 and a whole weekend gardening this year, I will be spending $200 and a whole weekend gardening next year – EWWWW!  I like the more simple route, and I LOVE knowing that come snow, leaves, freezing rain, wind and whatever else the fall and winter have to offer, come spring those planted that I planted last season and forgot about until now, will come creeping up and grow themselves right back to their original beauty despite my lack of attention. Here is what we did, how we did it and our tips for landscaping on a budget!

WHAT WE DID:

  • WE DID OUR RESEARCH – Aside from the gardening I did with my Mom growing up (and by gardening I mean helping her to spend her money by going with her to choose annuals every year lol), I didn’t know much. So I hopped on the internet and asked the opinion of a few garden-savvy friends in order to get an idea of what would work best in our garden and most importantly within our budget. Once we decided what we wanted to plant we surveyed our little garden bed to see exactly how many of each plant we needed, the last thing we wanted was to have to make multiple trips to the nursery. Speaking of the nursery, be sure to ask their opinion as well, when I realized we were going to have a few empty spaces I asked one of the workers and they turned me onto a super cheap and easy plant that I’d never even heard of that totally worked!
  • WE SHOPPED AROUND – While it may seem tempting to hit up your local home improvement store for plants and supplies all in one shot this is probably not in your best interest budget-wise. When comparing prices of the plants we wanted we found that the hostas we wished to plant were actually $4.00 more expensive at Home Depot than at our local nursery, while the azaleas were almost $12.00 more expensive!!! Additionally, the quality of the plants at our local nursery was much higher than at our local chain home improvement stores. While this may not be the case for you, my point is to be sure to compare prices, if we had bought our plants at the same time as our other supplies we would have ended up paying upwards of $100 more on our landscaping project!
  • WE BOUGHT CHEAP AND EASY PLANTS – Well, duh that’s the point of this whole post lol. We went with the following plants (these are my pictures of them this year so here is your proof that they did in fact come back! lol):
    gardenblog3

    Azaleas (sorry for the crappy pic, but it’s just to give you an idea). These are beautiful springtime flowers available in vibrant colors that make your garden look fab. We planted small to save cash (I’ll explain later) but this particular variety has the potential to grow up to 4-5 feet tall. So in a few years the owner of this home will be thanking yours truly, although no thanks are really necessary since we only paid $11.99 per plant!

    gardenblog

    Hostas – These plants are amazing, they do well in shade or sun so they are perfect for planting under trees. They require almost zero maintenance and while when purchased they will look like a dinky little plant they will grow outwards so they are a great garden filler. Oh, and they sprout pretty little purple flowers at some point during the season (not sure when, lol). These cost us $4.95 per plant.

    gardenblog2

    Liriope (pronounced LY-ro-pee) – A worker at our local nursery turned us onto these, they almost look like beach grass and make a great green filler for empty garden space. They grow outwards not upwards and sprout pretty little flowers that look similar to lavender. Again, very little maintenance is required and cost a mere $3.95 per plant.

    gardenblog4

    Green Velvet Boxwood – The one in the pic is kind of going crazy and needs to be pruned but whatever :). These shrubs require zero maintenance and will grow pretty tall (some can grow up to 10 feet, but can be pruned to any height). Since we already had three (thanks previous owners), we did not have to purchase any more for this particular area of our garden but I know that similar bushes cost about $11.99 at our local nursery.

  • WE BOUGHT SMALL PLANTS – This was  important in our cost saving strategy. We very easily could have purchased shrubs at their fully grown size, however this would have ended up costing us more than double what we spent. While mature shrubs may have looked a little nicer and I sure do admire my neighbor’s fully grown azalea bushes, the next size up at the nursery (not much bigger than ours and certainly not anywhere near the size of our neighbor’s plants) came in at $25.99 per plant, meaning that we would have ended up spending more on three plants than all of our plants and supplies combined. So if budget is important to you and you’re willing to be patient your plants will mature in just a few year’s time and in the meantime I promise your budget friendly garden will look great!
  • WE KEPT IT SIMPLE – And I mean simple, lol. We didn’t even buy a shovel (we used my husband’s “e-tool”, a little fold up shovel that the military issues you with your gear haha, one of our neighbors actually felt bad and came over and lent us a shovel, people must think we’re so weird lol). In addition to the plants we bought edging stones, basic landscaping fabric and mulch (I will review the products and costs below) and took only about an hour to plant and arrange everything – BOOM lol.

 

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Our before and after picture (azaleas hadn’t bloomed yet, boo hiss!)! It only took us about an hour to complete the transformation! I wasn’t kidding about the use of shower curtains as a garden liner, see the before pic haha

TOTAL COST TO CREATE (YEAR 1)

Plants (3 azaleas, 3 liriopes, 7 hostas)  $82.47

Landscaping Fabric                                       $9.97  

*NOTE: we used landscaping fabric to prevent the growth of weeds and reduce the need for maintenance of the garden, it is not necessary, as we could have just laid the mulch on it’s own. A free way to mimic the function of the landscaping fabric would be to use newspaper, you would just have to replace it again the following season before you lay your mulch. Or you could use shower curtains … KIDDING, although that IS what the previous owners of the house did, so weird.                                                    

Edging Stones (18 @ $1.97 ea.)                $35.46

*NOTE: These were also not necessary but we considered this our aesthetic “splurge” for the project. You could easily find free things in nature to edge your garden (like large rocks of various sizes) or not edge it at all.

Mulch (3 bags @ $3.99 ea.)                       $11.97

TOTAL COST                                              $139.87

 

TOTAL COST TO MAINTAIN (YEAR 2)

Mulch (2 bags @ $3.99 ea.)                      $7.98

TOTAL COST                                              $7.98 <—– that’s right, total cost for the second year was $7.98!!!

 

Since all of our plants came back (miracle! lol) all we had to do was weed the garden then add some additional mulch, that’s it!!! If it doesn’t rain we give the garden a quick water every few days but other than that it takes care of itself. Now that you’re all hyped up about hostas and mulch (lol) I hope this inspires your own little budget friendly landscaping project, happy planting!!!

Budget Friendly Tips For Painting Furniture

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1. CRAIGSLIST -Check out your local Craigslist ads for furniture! I always hit Craigslist before thrifting because you have more negotiating power with a private party than with a thrift store, especially if the item is on consignment. The dresser I re-did for P’s nursery was a Craigslist find, the guy was asking $85 but I got it for $45! Also, if you’re lucky enough to live in a big city people are always getting rid of furniture for FREE whether it be on the sidewalk or in the “free” section on Craigslist, take advantage of this, I have lots of friends who have furnished full apartments using furniture that was being thrown out!

2. LOOK FOR QUALITY – … Or at least what was quality in the 70s or 80s lol. Go for solid wood pieces, while a laminate dresser at a thrift shop may seem like a great buy at $20 when a solid wood one might be $60, opt for the wood piece – it’s still a great buy and you will end up with a finished product that will last a lot longer and that you’ll love for a lot longer!

3. DO IT WITH A FRIEND –  Try to get some friends together that want to redo some things too! You can save money by sharing supplies and the job is much less tedious with some company and cocktails (limit the cocktails for better results, just sayin lol).

4. PREP WELL & TAKE YOUR TIME – You are most likely to get a good finished product if you take the time to prep your furniture well (sanding or priming) and don’t rush. I find that the key to a good finished product is LOTS of dry time, I allow about 12-24 hours between paint coats.

5. GET CREATIVE – There are so many options for repurposing a single piece of furniture, it’s crazy! Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into an idea, if you find something at a good price and it isn’t quite what you were expecting, try to think of how you could design it to better fit your style, if the drawers are strange looking or damaged maybe add baskets instead or if the pulls are ugly add new ones. Also, do not dismiss things that are dirty or defaced, some of my pieces have had toddler scribble all over them – dirt can be cleaned and writing/scratches will be covered by paint anyway. My favorite piece in my house (and cheapest for the size) I was so unsure about because it was super unique looking (not necessarily in a good way lol) and pretty dirty but I ended up getting three awesome projects out of it!

GOOD LUCK! CHECK OUT MY FURNITURE PAITING TUTORIALS!

 

Redoing furniture on the cheap – my favorite products!

 

 

 

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Some of my favorite projects have been my furniture re-dos. I love being able to see the finished product sitting there in my house each day as if to say “oh, hey lady, good morning, remember when you made me for $30? Yea, you’re awesome!” lol. My interest in refurbishing furniture was sparked by our move to our house here in Jacksonville. Up until  then we had been living in a one bedroom condo with little need for much more furniture than the few IKEA pieces we’d purchased when we moved in. Suddenly we found ourselves living in about triple the square footage with our tiny condo’s worth of furniture at hand. Having seen a few things on Pinterest, I figured I’d give these re-dos a try. So I hopped on Lejeune Yard Sales (our local version of Craigslist) and found a few pieces for  a few bucks and an obsession was born, haha.

Now I consider myself a novice furniture re-doer (is that a word? oh, well lol), I won’t say expert because I’m sure there are actually experts out there that will read this and cringe at my use of sub-par products and corner-cutting techniques, which brings me to my next point. My goal from the beginning has been to re-do my pieces on a budget, so I try to use products that are readily available at local home improvement stores at a low price point. Should I ever decide to re-do furniture for resale I would consider more expensive products, however, until that day my ways have worked for me and I’m sticking to ’em! Here are some of my favorite products (in no particular order) that I’ve used on many of my projects and while some are rather obvious, it will be easier to refer to this list when posting individual tutorials.

 

1. SANDING BLOCKS – I don’t to a ton of sanding on my pieces, just rough them up a bit and try to get any existing varnish dulled down. If you’re just looking to re-do an old piece you purchased for a few bucks or looking to upgrade and existing piece of old furniture, you probably don’t want to invest in an electric sander that you’ll probably use once. I happen to own an electric sander but I HATE that it generates so much dust and I find that sanding by hand has been fine in terms of how well my pieces have held up. These sanding blocks are easy to grip and great for giving a quick sand with even pressure as opposed to regular sheets of sand paper. I usually buy a 6-pack of 100-150 grit at Walmart or Lowes for about $6 (I found a 3-Pack here on Amazon for $7.30), tthese are great because they are reusable so a few will last you a few projects.

2. WOOD FILLER – This won’t be necessary for every piece, but for instance if your dresser comes with some weird metal piece that you’d like to pop off before you paint, this will fill the holes left behind. Additionally if your piece has any damage to it, such as deep cracks, dents in the wood or imperfections that can’t be fixed with sanding, this will do the trick. If you want to get supper crafty and change a two-pull dresser to a single knob just fill in the old holes with wood filler and drill new holes. Once you paint over it you will never know there was a hole or ding! Also, this tube is cheap and will last for many projects (I think I’ve been using the same tube for a year – impressive!!! lol). I usually go with the “natural” color, but it doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it’s paintable.

Carpenter's® Interior Wood Filler Natural -3.25oz

3. GENERAL FINISHES GEL STAIN – This stuff is awesome! It is technically a stain but goes on like paint. I originally used General Finishes which I purchased here on Amazon after seeing a tutorial recommending this particular brand (pictured below is my before and after of the dresser I re-did for P’s nursery and here is the tutorial). That being said I’d like to point out that recently Minwax has started making gel stain available in a variety of colors and is available at local home improvement stores, if you’d prefer to just buy it in-store as opposed to online. I prefer gel stain to regular stain because of the simple fact that it is so easy to work with. Regular stain is messy and requires a LOT of prep work and sanding which I am just too lazy for lol. That aside, I think that the gel stain gives it a more modern look. I also love the gel clear satin top coat (also available here on Amazon), it’s a little pricey but well worth it, when stored correctly a pint will last you MANY projects. NOTE: These GF products are not low VOC meaning that you will require lots of ventilation while doing your projects, no shutting yourself inside your garage for hours on end in the dead of winter, you need mask on, fans going and windows open! That being said breathing the stuff for a bit won’t kill you or but if zero or low VOC or eco-friendly paint is important to you please disregard this product recommendation.

4. FOAM BRUSHES  – Okay this is kind of an obvious one lol but painting furniture with regular paint brushes will leave brush strokes. These foam brushes will put on a nice even coat of paint are easy to work with. Best of all they are SUPER cheap so you can buy a bunch and don’t have to worry about cleaning them in between coats, just chuck it and use a new one when you return to the project later. I have also used 4″ foam rollers designed for painting cabinets but only because I already had them from my cabinet re-do, it wouldn’t really be cost effective to buy a small roller set just for a dresser or what-have-you since you will still end up needing foam brushes for the corners, edges and grooves. Like I was saying, I always keep a ton of these foam brushes on hand since I end up using them on so many crafting projects, I purchase the 2″ ones at either Lowes ($0.79 ea) or Walmart ($0.47 ea).

5. BONDING PRIMER – This product comes in SUPER handy when refinishing laminate or fiberboard furniture. That being said, when possible try to stick to refinishing solid wood furniture, the finished product is much more durable and looks a lot nicer, BUT if you already have something lying around that you want to spruce up or happen to come across something for super cheap like I have, go nuts! Since you can’t sand fake wood, this bonding primer helps whatever paint you use adhere to the piece with minimal chipping (we hope, lol). The brands I use are Zinsser and Kilz but there are tons out there, as long as it is labeled “bonding primer” you’re good to go. Good thing is, you’ll only require one coat of this so a quart will last you a few projects. Check out my tutorial for re-doing laminate pieces here. NOTE: This is also some powerful stuff, it is oil-based so it can be messy and SUPER strong in the fumes department so be sure to keep those windows open! For a few more bucks, I think Lowes now offers an “odorless” version.

KILZ Gallon Interior Oil PrimerZinsser Gallon Interior Oil Primer

6. SAMPLE SIZE LATEX PAINT – If I was listing these in order of favorites, this would be number one. I know that there are tons of tutorials out there using chalk paint and furniture wax and while the finished products are beautiful, I am yet to try it. Latex paint has worked great for me, it’s cheap and I’ve found that as long as you have a solid piece of furniture and/or a good top coat it will be just as durable. I started becoming obsessed with these sample-size paints after I redid the dresser for P’s room using the java gel stain. I ended up using not even an eight of a quart and didn’t plan on using it for any other furniture in the foreseeable future (I’m pretty sure it’s still sitting in my garage and is most likely a solid block by now lol). In the interest of not wasting money like that on my next piece, I went to Lowes and instead of purchasing a quart of paint in my desired color, I had them tint an 8oz sample size (see below). Get ready to have your money-saving mind blow – it cost $2.98 (say whaaaaaaaat?!!?), I thought to myself “why you no think of this soon stooooopid???” haha. The truth is, for a lot of pieces, you’ll find that even with this tiny sample size you’ll have a ton left over. Be sure to keep it, they’re great for other craft projects! NOTE: Unfortunately, these little samples are only available in satin finish which is not ideal for furniture (a flat paint would adhere better), however, my pieces look great and I haven’t experienced any chipping so I guess it’s not that big of a deal.

Valspar 8-oz Cathedral Stone Interior Satin Paint SampleOlympic 8-oz Aqua Smoke Interior Satin Paint SampleValspar 10-oz Radiant Orchid Interior Satin Paint Sample

7. POLYACRYLIC TOP COAT – This is a great top coat, it holds up well but is water-based so it’s a good alternative to a heavy oil-based top coat. I have used this on many of my pieces. If the piece is more for looks and isn’t going to experience a lot of bumps and day-to-day wear and tear (I used this on my chalk board frame and the little make-shift bathroom pedestal), I always opt for this product because it is easier to work with and requires less dry time than the oil based gel top coat. I usually purchase the satin finish because I prefer my pieces not to look super shiny, but if you’re piece is going to be touched and need to be wiped down a lot a gloss finish may be better suited to your project.

8. PLASTIC DROP CLOTHS – Here in NC our weather is not too conducive to painting outside, as most of the seasons have one factor or another that will make it pretty difficult (spring – rain, winter -cold, summer -humid etc.). Since multiple coats and a lot of drying time is required for furniture, the chance of you getting a solid 12-24 hours where there is no rain, the temperature is favorable and there is no wind to blow debris or bugs onto your project is pretty much none, haha. Additionally the fluctuating temperature makes it hard for me to paint in my garage since the temp in the garage is pretty much always the same as it is outdoors. Taking this into consideration I do all of my furniture painting projects in my living room or office on a big plastic drop cloth and even though my house will look like a project-zone for a few days it is well worth the finished product! I prefer plastic to canvas drop clothes because I am always paranoid that spilled paint or stain will seep through the cloth and onto the floor, which would not be the case with plastic. When I am finished I simply take it outside shake it out and fold it up to reuse for my next project!

 12-ft x 9-ft Plastic Drop Cloth

 

Painting Wooden Furniture Using Gel Stain

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This is one of my favorite projects, mostly because it was my first one! For a while we used it as a TV stand and once we found out we had a tiny babe on the way we decided to use it for the nursery. I love the way the baskets give it a great look and are still super functional. I located the dresser on Craigslist and purchased it for $45, it was solid wood and dovetailed (a sign that it was handmade), the guy was about 20 and he said that he had been in possession of it since he was like 5, pretty cool huh? This thing will probably make it through a few more generations. I replaced the center drawer with two baskets from Michael’s (originally $12.99 ea. but on sale for 60% off) and added four new drawer pulls for $2.37 ea. The grand total of this project was right around $60.00!!! I decided to use the java gel stain by General Finishes (I talk about it here in my favorite products post), since I knew I wanted the piece to be brown and was to intimidated by regular stain but didn’t necessarily want it to be just flat brown as it would be with a simple paint job. This was my first project so it definitely speaks to how easy this product was to use!

Here are the steps and products I used for this particular re-do (unfortunately I do not have step by step pics, I will do my best to explain in detail):

YOU WILL NEED:

  • General Finishes Java Gel Stain (or other gel stain of your choice)
  • A Man’s Sock
  • Wood Filler (if hole-patching is needed)
  • Black Foam Brushes
  • Drop Cloth
  • Rag
  • Sanding Blocks or Sandpaper 100-150 grit
  • Top Coat (gel or polyacrylic)

 

HERE’S HOW I DID IT:

  1. First, I removed all hardware, to include the pulls and an ugly metal emblem that was on the font.
  2. Remove the drawers. If your piece of furniture is super dirty, wipe it down with a little soapy water using a rag. This is not a super important step, I only did it to one piece that had some kind of sticky residue on it. You’ll find that sanding will remove most dirt anyway.
  3. Next, begin sanding (I always do steps 3 & 4 outdoors to keep my indoor workspace clean). I don’t go nuts with sanding, my goal is simply to remove a good amount of whatever varnish or clear coat is original to the piece, I don’t try very hard to get it down to the wood grain, I find this is only really necessary when re-staining a piece. I sand for about a minute on each surface, paying attention to the edges and grooves. This particular piece had a weird design along the top of the first drawer, I didn’t bother sanding inside every groove since they wouldn’t be exposed to getting hit or bumped into once the project was complete.
  4. Once you have finished sanding, take a damp rag and wipe down the whole exterior of the dresser and drawers to remove any sanding dust. I also take the time to vacuum or dust out the insides of the drawers since you don’t want any dust sticking to the paint once you being the painting process. After the wet wipe-down is complete dry the piece off with a dry cloth and you’re ready to begin – YAY!
  5. I set up my painting area so I have plenty of room to move around and be sure that all of my work space is covered by a drop cloth of some kind. I dip my man’s sock into the stain dabbing off any excess and begin wiping it onto the furniture in long even strokes (you could also use a foam brush for this step), when painting furniture always paint in the direction of the original wood grain, not against.
  6. After you have finished putting the first coat on all of the pieces you are finished for the day. At this stage it’s not going to look good at all, don’t worry, it will get there!!! I allow 12-24 hours between coats, so I will generally return to the piece the same time the next day to apply the second coat, this makes it a great after work project or naptime project for all you fellow mamas out there!
  7. On this particular piece I applied four coats (I think lol it may have been three, if it looks good after three than you’re good). I must note that I do not sand in between coats when painting or when applying my top coat, many tutorials (and the outside of the top coat can lol) will tell you to do this, I just found that it was an extra step I did not need but feel free to add it if you want, it won’t hurt! After your final coat is applied and dry you are ready to start your top coat. Take a black foam brush and begin applying the clear coat in an even layer using even brush strokes, be mindful not to leave behind any bubbles (sometimes the polyacrylic will do this, just go over the area with your brush) and not to allow the clear coat to pool at the edges of the piece. I generally apply three top coats, allowing 12-24 hours dry time in between coats.
  8. The final step is replacing the hardware. For this particular piece, I purchased new pulls (here is a link to the exact ones I used, available at Lowes), but if the original pulls are in good shape simply clean and reuse them or update them with some spray paint (I use a Rustoleum satin finish spray paint when repainting my pulls).
  9. DO YOUR HAPPY DANCE, YOU’RE DONE!!! Revel in the glory of your awesomeness and be sure to tell everyone I MADE THIS!!!

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