When you're looking for budget gardening ideas to beautify your outdoor space for less, getting advice straight from professional landscapers is a wise move. We're all looking to enjoy the end of summer, – especially as many of us are staycationing this year – and so we've rounded up our expertise along with some fantastic advice from professional gardeners to help you out.
Because when it comes to revamping your green space, it can be tough knowing where to save money – by doing things yourself – and where to invest in a garden expert for professional landscaping and the likes, but we have all the information you need below.
Keep scrolling for our easy dos and don'ts, along with recommendations straight from landscaping and gardening experts. When you're done, check out our garden ideas feature for inspiration.
- Actually starting your garden design from scratch? We can help!
1. Do: use hanging baskets and pots
You know how much we're into container gardening at Real Homes, and garden landscaper, Ellen Wright agrees that using pots and hanging baskets is the way forward, to create a lovely garden.
“Baskets and pots can brighten up any outdoor space, and you don’t need expert gardening skills to plant them. There’s an array of hanging baskets and pot types for all budgets; you can even choose most flowers and plants depending on your personal preference.”
Self-contained planting spots like baskets and pots aren’t just a great budget garden idea, but they’re also quite compact, meaning smaller gardens can benefit from them as well.
- Need small garden ideas? Check out our feature for fab inspiration.
2. Do: weed your garden (yourself)
Who doesn't love a bit of weeding? Plus, weed pulling doesn’t cost a thing, but can revitalise your garden quickly and easily. It only requires one simple tool, and if you want an extra bit of power, we can help find you the best weed killer around. Ellen Wright says:
“If you have weeds in your flower beds or lawn, grabbing hold of weed puller and weeding yourself is simple and effective. Weed pullers come with a long handle, so you won’t even need to kneel down; you can weed with ease standing up.”*
3. Do: paint fences and sheds
You don’t need to replace an entire garden gate, fence or even garden shed to get more mileage out of an old one. Save money by buying a bright outdoor paint instead. What’s more, you can do that yourself without hiring an expert. Ellen advises painting is not just for appearance but maintenance, too:
“If your fences or shed are looking shabby and unloved, giving them a new lick of paint can brighten up the garden. There are a lot of wood paints and stains available in a variety of different colours depending on your taste.
“It’s recommended to use a wood protective paint to ensure any fences or sheds are protected from the elements and prevented from rotting.”
4. Do: invest in the right tools
Remember that it’s not just time that buying the right garden tools can save – if your tools are of low quality, they might not be able to get the job done and could even break, meaning you’ll need to buy new ones.
By paying for good quality tools in the first place, you can save more money overall and keep to the same tools for years to come. Horticulture and landscaping lecturer Julie Kilpatrick, says:
“Using the right tools for the job will save you time and money. Always use sharpened tools in good condition and, if you are planning to cut wood by hand, buy a brand-new handsaw. You will find it much easier to cut with a new saw.
“If you need specialist tools, hire them. Mixing mortar and concrete by hand is time-consuming and extremely hard work. You can easily hire a cement mixer for a few days at a very low cost. For long runs of fencing, consider hiring a nail gun.”
5. Don’t: expect instant results
Instead of buying plants that will immediately achieve your desired look, invest in smaller, younger plants to save money – and which with a little bit of support can grow to the same size quickly.
This is even more applicable when growing your own fruit and veg, as growing from seed is much more cost-effective and higher yielding than buying lots of starter pots from garden centres. Julie Kilpatrick says:
“It can be very tempting to go to the local garden centre and buy the larger, more mature, plants so you get an instant effect. Young plants are cheaper and grow reasonably fast with the right care.
“They also adapt far quicker to the environmental conditions specific to your garden. Mature plants look great in the short-term but they might take so long to settle that younger plants will catch up and may even overtake them.”
6. Do: use gravel – and reuse old materials
Not every surfaced area has to be done professionally, and you don’t even need to splash out for expensive materials. With some leftover bricks, a bit of gravel, and some weed membrane you’re able to get nearly the same quality for a fraction of the cost. Garden designer Christine Barve explains:
“Gravel and good quality weed membrane can make a very usable and relatively cheap path or patio. You don’t need to have a hardcore base for lightly used areas. Just make sure the soil is compacted and reasonably level.
“If you have old bits of slab and bricks, upcycle them into a simple path or small area for a bistro table and chairs. Bed them firmly into soil, checking their level with each other and you’re ready to go.”
Find the best gravel for your garden in our buying guide.
7. Do: prune trees and shrubs
We can help with how to prune apple trees and the likes, but be sure to consult a professional if you need power tools for bigger jobs.
“If you have large trees and shrubs that need cutting with power tools, this is best left to the experts. Some power tools can be dangerous if you’re unsure how to handle them and don’t have the correct safety equipment. Also, specific trees and shrubs need to be cut in certain ways, as it may affect the way they regrow, so it’s always a good idea to consult a specialist,” says Ellen Wright.
Looking for the best secateurs? We can help.
8. Do: think about lawn treatment
Creating healthy looking, neat lawn edges can be done yourself, but do bear in mind that, in cases where lawns have problems, you may be better off asking an expert. Remember that paying for a good service upfront can save you money on tools, medicine, and seeds in the long run. As Ellen Wright says:
“If your lawn has specific issues, like brown patches, mushroom and moss growth, uneven, or bald spot, it’s best to get an expert opinion. Lawn treatments are usually made of hazardous chemicals that can be fatal if mishandled. It can also be confusing and difficult choosing the correct procedure for the job, so it’s undoubtedly worth passing this over to the professionals.”
9. Don’t: be afraid to negotiate
When you're sprucing your garden design remember that you don’t always have to spend a fortune to get a good job out of specialists, and certainly don’t forget to negotiate. Many prices aren’t fixed and it’s possible you can get a better deal if you ask.
The same applies to materials for your garden according to Julie Kilpatrick:
“If you have to buy new materials, the best place to buy them is at a builder’s merchants rather than a DIY store. Most builder’s merchants will negotiate with you on price. Get a written quote from one builder’s merchant and show it to another. Nine times out of ten, they will want to beat their competitor’s price.”
Whatever your hopes for your garden, remember to think long-term to get the best savings – whether that means negotiating and buying more affordable materials, investing in good-quality tools, or reusing items you have lying around.
For garden landscaping ideas and advice, we can help there too.
10. Do: save seeds to grow from scratch
When you're gardening on a budget, propagating plants from seeds or cuttings is a good place to start. It is far cheaper than buying small plants and satisfying too, as you watch the young plants that you’ve nurtured grow. You can also collect your own seeds from existing plants in your garden and increase your stock for free.
Many annuals and biennials, including foxgloves, honesty, Californian poppies and cornflowers, will readily self-sow, too, with nature adding to your floral display for free. Just remove any seedlings that pop up where you don’t want them and replant them elsewhere.
By late summer into autumn, seedheads will be ready for you to gather. Seeds are naturally packaged in a variety of pods, cones, berries, catkins, capsules, nuts, winged seed or exploding seedheads.
Some of the easiest plants to grow from seed are alliums, nigella, poppies, cosmos, calendula, zinnias, cleome and sunflowers.
This is how to collect and store the seeds:
- Choose a dry day to collect ripened seeds from healthy plants, before the seedheads open and disperse their contents.
- Hang or place them on a warm windowsill or greenhouse bench to dry. If the pods or capsules don’t open when dry, release the seeds by gently crushing them.
- For fruits and berries, mash them in a sieve, rinse away the pulp and leave the seeds to dry. You can place a bag over exploding seedheads and gently shake them out.
- Store your collected seeds in paper packets or foil, in a cool, dry place – use an insulated container or a collection of vintage tins, with some desiccant packs to help absorb any moisture.
- Label each packet with the name of the plant and the date harvested.
- Seed swap any excess with friends and neighbours.
- Pretty packets of home-collected seeds make lovely gifts.
Some seeds can be sown immediately, but most will be stored until spring.
Raise your seedlings in punnets or seedling trays, under glass or inside on windowsills and then harden them off before planting out. Find more advice and tips for greenhouse gardening in our guide.
Seeds need air through the pore spaces in the soil, so don’t do well in clay or silty soils. Keep them moist, as they need to absorb between 40 to 60 per cent of their weight in water to start germination.
Plant the seedlings out into prepared soil when their leaves develop.
11. Do: take plant cuttings and divide them
If you're gardening on budget and need more plants for your garden, it doesn't get much simpler or cheaper than taking cuttings from and dividing existing plants.
Shrubby perennials, such as salvias, fuchsias and pelargoniums, and most shrubs, including hydrangeas, lavender and philadelphus, can be grown from cuttings. It will take time, but you will cut costs and replicate the specific plant.
- For cuttings select plant growth that has toughened up a little, so not too soft or bendy.
- Softwood cuttings are generally taken in spring or early summer, collected in the morning when the plant is turgid, or full of water.
- Hardwood cuttings, taken from mid-autumn to late winter, will propagate a range of trees, shrubs and climbers, and can be grown on outdoors.
- Cut softwood cuttings diagonally at a leaf node or leaf stem junction, making cuttings about 15cm long. Remove the lower leaves so that there are only two or three at the top.
- Make a small hole in the free-draining compost potting mix with a stick before inserting the cutting. Each cutting needs to have at least one node underground and one above.
- Dip the end of the cutting into honey or hormone rooting powder to encourage root development. Put a few cuttings in each pot, as success is not guaranteed.
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- Place the pot in a propagator case or cover with a plastic bag, ventilate twice a week.
- Cuttings need good light but not direct sun, and keep the compost moist until the cutting is well-rooted.
- As leaves appear, harden off the plants and transplant into larger pots and then into the garden when they are at the required size.
- For clump-forming plants, including perennials, spreading shrubs, underground rhizomes, bulbs and tubers, increase your stock by dividing every two or three years.
- Divide iris and canna rhizomes after flowering by trimming back foliage, lifting, removing any dead pieces from the rhizome and replanting.
- Succulents are particularly easy to propagate as clump-forming varieties produce offsets. You can take leaf cuttings from fleshy leaved species, and stem cuttings from branching types.
12. Don't: be afraid to start composting
If you're serious about saving money in your garden, and looking to cut costs across the board, then it makes good sense to make your own compost. Not only is home composting one of the best budget gardening ideas, it's also good for the environment. Home-grown green manures and compost from garden and household waste improve the soil and replenish nutrients.
Create a compost bay in your garden using recycled timbers (see below), or use a compost bin in a shady, level, well-drained position, where water can drain away and worms can get in and do their work. Put in some twigs and branches to help aerate the heap.
Good things to compost include fruit and vegetable peelings, prunings, grass cuttings and tea bags, which will quickly break down, as well as cardboard egg containers, egg shells, leaves and scrunched up paper. Don’t put in meat or dairy products or diseased plants and perennial weeds.
Regularly turn or aerate your pile, don’t let it dry out, and get the balance right of wet ‘greens’ and dry ‘browns’. Your compost is ready when there is a dark, soil-like, spongy layer at the bottom.
Find more advice on what and how to compost so that you are confident you are composting the correct ingredients.
13. Do: build your own raised garden beds
One of the best budget garden ideas we've come across are these DIY raised beds and containers. Learning how to make raised beds from locally sourced, reclaimed or recycled timbers, including cut logs, ladders and scaffolding planks is a must. Don’t use treated pine as the chemicals can leach into the soil. There are many online for guides for how to make them - such as this guide on the RHS website.
You can also be imaginative with the potential for repurposing other items as containers. Old kettledrums, tyres, crates, dust bins and buckets, to tin cans or chimney pots, can find a new life as a plant pot. Look for bargains in unlikely places, such as charity shops, vintage markets, junk shops and car-boot sales.
Whatever you repurpose, remember to drill a drainage hole in the bottom. And, for more organic gardening ideas to keep your beds pesticide-free you can take a look at our guide.
14. Do: DIY your garden supports
The simplest support for climbers is a wigwam of three or four canes or sticks, placed at corners and secured at the top.
- To avoid sticks catching you in the eye, top the supports with upturned pots or bottles.
- Willow, hazel and birch are good choices for supports.
- Cut small, sturdy and flexible branches and have a stock ready to use.
- Place supports twisted and woven together as a cage to let plants grow through.
- You can also make tepees out of bamboo canes or sticks to support plants in containers.
- Reuse your supports to create an insect hotel or add them to log piles for wildlife.
15. Do: encourage wildlife with companion planting
When you're gardening on a budget, you need to take advantage of nature's free pest controls and pollinators. Birds, beneficial insects and amphibians will all keep pests in check and help to create a self-sustaining ecosystem. Encourage these natural predators by providing habitats, water and plants in your garden for wildlife. See our advice on how to create a wildlife garden.
Without pollinators many food crops would fail, so it is important to encourage pollinating insects into your garden to increase crop yields.
Include flowers with pollen or nectar either near to or mixed in with the vegetable plot to increase the numbers of these welcome visitors. For more ideas of what to plant see our guide to creating a bee-friendly garden.
Disaster-proof your garden through plant diversity. The wider the range of plants, the less they are plagued by pests. If a disease or pest does strike only a limited number of susceptible plants will be affected.
Use companion planting, such as yellow flowers to attract beneficial insects that love to feed on aphids.
Herbs are a natural pest control, so include choices such as rue, wormwood, rosemary, santolina, lavender, tansy, thyme, garlic and mint among your flowers and vegetables. See our guide on how to create a herb garden for more ideas on how and where you could include herbs in your planting plans.
16. Do: go for natural garden pest control
Before you rush out to buy specific garden products to tackle a problem, check your kitchen cupboards. There are so many cheaper solutions and ingenious garden ideas on a budget that make use of items you will already have at home. Did you know, for example, that:
- Sprinkling coffee grounds around vegetables and roses will encourage earthworms, repel insects and provide nutrients
- Tea leaves offer nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil, lower the pH and can be used in the compost, while a brew of weak tea can be used to water plants to deter pests and fungal diseases.
- Homemade garlic, nettle, soap, tomato and basil sprays are effective against aphids, mites and thrips. To make a garlic spray insect repellant, puree two garlic bulbs with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, let it sit overnight, strain, add one teaspoon of mild liquid soap and 1 litre of water to fill the spray container. remember though: the aim is not to kill off all the insects in your garden, but rather achieve a healthy ecosystem.
17. Don't: disregard food scraps
Budget-friendly gardening ideas don't come much cheaper than this: using scraps of food that you would otherwise have discarded to grow new food! And, for more advice on how to grow your own be sure to read our guide.
- Onions are the easiest to grow from scraps; simply cut off the root end, leaving about half an inch of onion on the roots, and then place in a sunny spot and cover with soil.
- To regrow spring onions and leeks, put the root end in a jar of water for a few days, replacing with fresh water as needed.
- Garlic will grow from a single clove, planted with the root end down.
- Cut potatoes into pieces with at least one or two eyes on each, let them dry out a bit for a day or two at room temperature, then plant about 8 inches deep with the eyes facing up, but only top with 4 inches of soil. Add more soil as the plant grows.
- A piece of left-over ginger root can be planted in soil with the newest buds facing up, in a moist, warm spot with non-direct sun, and it will regrow roots and shoots.
- Romaine lettuce, celery, cabbage and pak choi can all be regrown by cutting off the plant’s base and putting it in water, then transplant into soil once the roots show.
See our guide on how to plan a kitchen garden.
18. Don't: shy away from change
You will save money on replacing plants, fertilising and watering if you follow the mantra, ‘right plant, right place’ and mix up your flower beds, you're guaranteed to achieve a different look in your garden very quickly.
Look around in the neighbourhood for what grows well, observe the conditions in each season, and at different times of the day, assess the soil and amount of natural moisture.
Research plants for your microclimates and seek advice from the experts at your local garden centre, because advice is free! If a type of plant does particularly well, try more varieties of the same, and grow them in swathes together.
Look for local plant sales at church halls, National Garden Scheme gardens, village open days, or at the WI group. Your local forestry commission may also sell native trees in the dormant season at very cheap prices.
These, and the other budget garden ideas outlined above: using your own homemade compost for healthy soil; growing strong, disease-resistant plants that are climatically appropriate and don’t need constant spraying; propagating to increase your stock; and aiming for a balanced ecosystem, will all go towards helping you to create a sustainable, preferably organic, garden that does not cost the earth environmentally or to your pocket.
With special thanks to discount code and charity fundraising website Savoo.
*Ellen Wright via MyJobQuote
**Julie Kilpatrick – Lecturer in horticulture and landscaping, Author of The Plant Listener, Editor at online gardening magazine Gardenzine, and Member of the Garden Media Guild
***Christine Barve from Barve Garden Design.