When it comes to gardening outside the cookie cutter box it is often best to do so for the right reasons. I am not saying to just use any material or any old design but to actually think outside the box and create a garden that is beneficial to all. You and the environment as well as your wallet.
Tip #1 - Choosing the right materials - It often becomes easy to choose the same materials that everyone and their cousin has used. But in most cases that is not really safe for the environment unless everyone were using native plants and designing with permeable hardscape. Permeable hardscape allows for water to flow into the ground rather than into the storm drain. Native plants require far less water and maintenance then their non native counter parts.
Tip #2 - Plant outside the box - You are not limited to using the same containers. In fact a simple basket could make a nice planting arrangement that may even be a nice gift for that special someone. One suggestion would be to go thrift store hunting for interesting containers. Another option to plant outside the box is to garden upwards. If you have extra blank wall space then you surely have the room so why not take advantage of it.
Tip #3 - Gather free water - Mother nature gives us free water yet most people don't harness that extra water. Harvesting that rainwater allows you to to irrigate your garden without having to pay for it. This reduces your water bill. If you daring enough you could even use greywater. If you really don't want to harvest rainwater or use greywater then I would recommend having an energy efficient irrigation system installed (stay tuned for future posts on this topic).
Tip #4 - Grocery shop in your garden - I highly advocate using native plants but I also like the idea of being able to eat organically. In any landscape design there is always the design alternative to have an edible garden area. Better yet you could use all native shrubs and groundcovers with edible trees. There are even some edible natives.
Tip #5 - Give back to your garden, not the landfills - There is an easy way to reduce waste in the landfill and create great organic matter for your garden and that is to compost. Compost is the best material to add to your garden to add beneficial plant nutrients to your plants. You acquire all that food waste so why not use it to benefit your garden.