How can you save money when planning your landscape design?

Landscaping your yard can be a costly business, when you add up the expected output for tools, materials, soil and plants, and perhaps professional help. But there are a number of ways you can keep the costs manageable.

The first step is to plan carefully: Just as you spend less if you go to the supermarket with a list (and stick to it!), you'll save money if you've done your homework. Gardening Web sites and books can be very helpful at this stage, and the people at your local plant nursery may be able to give free advice too. When planning a major project that includes changing the topography of the area (such as removing a small hill) or construction (adding pergolas or pools, for instance) it may be worth the money to get professional help with the design and perhaps the work, too.

You can pay less for a lot of gardening equipment and plants if you shop off-season (but not for annuals) and if you buy in bulk -- just be sure you're not sacrificing quality. Seeds or small plants will cost less than big, well-established ones. You can lower costs even further by taking cuttings or divided plants from friends and going the DIY (do-it-yourself) route as much as possible. If you need more people-power, "bribe" family members and friends with an offer of dinner. Also, making your own compost is good for the environment as well as your pocket.

Plants that are known to thrive in the climate and type of earth you have are going to cost you less money (and time) that those that need specialized soil, water and frequent treatment. Native plants are particularly good in this respect. It's worth keeping in mind that a well-kept, good-looking yard can add boost the value of you home by as much as 11 percent [source: Garskof] and you may recover up to 200 percent of your landscaping costs when you sell [source: American Nursery & Landscaping Association].