Looking for simple garden ideas to quickly and cheaply transform your outdoor space this summer? There are lots of simple tweaks you can make in your garden to spruce it up and create a comfortable and chic space, without spending lots of time and money. And you don't need to do them all to make a big difference. Follow these simple, inspiring tips and your garden will look amazing in no time.
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1. Paint old plant pots
If you're into container gardening, you'll know that terracotta pots can begin to look a bit shabby over time. Painting them is a great way to liven up your garden. What's even better is you can use any paint you want on them, including indoor paint. These pots have been painted with Farrow & Ball paint. Find more inspiration with our DIY alternative to planter ideas (we've used everything from tea cups to vintage tea caddies).
2. Sow seeds into cracks in paving
They're unsightly but you can make a feature out of cracks in paving. Or perhaps you're fed up with weeding the joins in the paving on your patio? Choose a low-growing, hardy perennial like thyme. It produces a scent as you walk over it and has pretty purple flowers, which will make bees happy, too. Find more ways to grow a bee-friendly garden in our guide.
3. Throw a seed bomb to grow a wild flower garden – fast
Want to grow flowers in your garden but not sure how? The easiest way to get started is to get a wildflower seed bomb and simply scatter the seeds in a designated area of your garden. Wildflowers pretty much take care of themselves, needing just sun and the occasional water. Besides, you'll be helping to create a bee-friendly garden this way, too. Check out our buyer's guide to the best wildflower seed mixes.
4. Clean your patio or deck
The overall look of your garden is hugely affected by the state of your garden paving and decking. Lichen growing all over deck? Patio covered in algae? Get to work with a quality patio cleaner or decking cleaner – you'll be amazed how much better your garden will look when you're done. Mind, cleaning either a patio or deck is much easier with a pressure washer – we have a buyer's guide to the best pressure washers.
5. Put up a sun shade
A sun shade can do more than just create a sheltered spot in a sunny spot: it will focus attention on a seating area, can provide privacy and can even block a terrible view. Of course, you can buy sun shades designed specifically for the purpose, but any washable fabric will work – the brighter the better.
6. Hang solar powered fairy lights
This is really the quickest update of them all – and one of the most effective come evening. Fairy lights add a cosy and romantic ambience to any garden, and distract from any features that are less desirable. Choose solar powered garden lights for an eco-friendly, super-fast update. Find out how to plan your garden lighting in our guide. The festoon lights used in this garden are from Lights4fun.
7. Update your garden furniture
Sometimes, though, what's holding your garden back from looking great is not the condition of your furniture, but its style. If that's the case, give your garden some oomph with furniture that's a bit more modern, more colourful, or more lightweight – or all three of those things. Not sure this will work for your space? Read our advice on how to choose garden furniture. This garden has been livened up with colourful Salsa garden chairs and Salsa garden bench from John Lewis.
8. Make a small garden feel bigger with an outdoor mirror
Small garden – and no time or energy to do an extensive update? Get a large mirror suitable for the outdoors and position it so that it reflects your tallest plants. The effect will be visually space-enhancing and charming. Note how the Outdoor Arched Window Mirror by All Things Brighton Beautiful reflects the luscious garden border in this garden. Find more tricks to make a small garden look bigger in our guide.
9. Edge the lawn
Lawn edging is an easy and effective solution for scruffy-looking borders, and for generally adding definition and poise to your garden design. There are lots of materials to choose from, and most lawn edging can be installed in under an hour. See these lawn edging ideas for inspiration.
10. Add garden cushions to make your outdoor dining area comfy
Get a couple of nice outdoor cushions, scatter them over your garden furniture – hey, presto, a brand new look for your garden. They're great for upping the comfort level of your al fresco dining, too, especially if you have a bistro set. This outdoor dining area has been updated with cushions by Laura Ashley. Find out how to create an outdoor dining area in our guide and be inspired by these gorgeous outdoor dining areas.
11. Feed the lawn
Feeding your lawn with appropriate fertiliser is essential for preventing excessive weed and moss growth, and will help the lawn recover better from mowing. Potassium, iron, and magnesium are especially important to healthy grass, so look for those when choosing your fertiliser. You can also add some rusty nails to your watering can (if you have a small lawn) – the iron in the nails will infuse the water. Get more tips on lawn care in our guide on how to mow a lawn.
12. Get a bird feeder
It's true that it's very easy to make a bird feeder out of an old plastic bottle; but then you can get a bird feeder that looks like a work of art. The Hanging Steel Bird Feeder by The New Eden, for example, definitely falls in the latter category. We have more of the best bird feeders in our buyer's guide.
13. Create a mini vegetable garden
Got a patch of garden that's not doing anything? Why not start a vegetable garden? It's very easy and suitable for a beginner, and it can even be done within containers; fresh veggies on your dinner table will be a bonus, too. Find advice in our guide to vegetable gardening for beginners.
14. Plant up window boxes
If the only outdoor space you have is a small balcony, or even just a window sill, you can still freshen up the area by planting up window boxes. Many plants don't need much room to thrive in and will add colour to your home's exterior. Our beginner's guide to window boxes has lots of handy tips for getting it right.
15. Update your planting scheme
Tired of your flower borders looking the same every year? Update them with some colourful annual or perennial plug plants. For best results, choose a single colour, white or purple, for example, and organise your new planting scheme around it. We have the best purple flowering plants in our buyer's guide and lots of tips for creating beautiful garden borders.
16. Paint fences and the shed
Another easy garden DIY project with lots of visual payoff: paint your shed. You can't go wrong with a lovely pale blue or duck egg shade for an instantly on-trend look. Discover more ways to use paint to brighten up your garden. Or if you're ready to take it up a notch and buy a brand new shed, check out the best garden sheds. This shed has been painted with Garden Shades by Cuprinol. And while you're at it, you might as well repaint your fence as well. To make the job (much) easier, use a paint sprayer.
17. Add a quick and easy water feature
A water feature will instantly up the design game in your garden – and you don't need a massive garden to accommodate one. Choose a solar powered water bowl water feature – no costly or fussy installation, and no energy bills, although you may want a battery backup in case there isn't enough sun to generate the energy for the pump that moves the water around. Find out more in our comprehensive guide to garden water features.
18. Add height with vertical gardening
Use arches over pathways and wigwams and obelisks in borders to give the garden height. Why? Doing so will make the garden as a whole feel greener and bigger – and taller planting can provide you with added privacy, too. Grow climbers like roses and sweet peas over your new structures. For more info, see our advice on how to create a vertical garden.
19. Plant succulents in walls
If your brick garden walls are showing their age, send succulents to the rescue. These pretty plants are also quite undemanding and will thrive even in gaps in your brickwork. To plant your succulents, push them in gently, first prepping the holes with a bit of grit or vermiculite. Then just leave them to it, as they don't need any watering. You can also plant them up in a frame and hang it up on your fence (shown below) to create a pretty focal point.
20. Line steps with containers
Use containers for creating a formal design scheme along your steps; a symmetrical arrangement will give tired garden steps an instant 'lift'. Lining steps will also draw the eye up the garden, which in turn can make a small garden feel larger. Find more tips on making your small garden feel bigger in our guide.
21. Group pots around patio doors
Another great way with containers is clustering them outside your patio doors or windows. This means you can enjoy them from inside as well as out and it will help to blend your indoor/outdoor spaces. Plus, even if the garden isn't lush with planting beyond the doors or windows, it will look it from indoors. Use a garden bench to add multiple levels and mix and match garden pots of different sizes and shapes.
22. Prune overgrown plants
Another easy weekend job that makes a massive difference to any garden. Trimming your hedges and overgrown trees and bushes will instantly make your outdoor space look neater. You will need the best tools for the job – check out our buyer's guide to the best hedge trimmers and best secateurs.
23. Mulch containers and borders
Mulching may seem like an unexciting task, but it's really great for keeping your garden in top condition and it can make borders look really smart really quickly. Mulching helps lock in moisture around the plants' roots and protects them from pests, so if there's a heatwave, your garden is much less likely to wilt and should need less watering, too. Bonus. Use wood chips, bark, or old leaves for your mulch. Find out how to prepare your garden for a heatwave, just in case.
24. Create a focal point
Larger gardens really come into their own with a focal point or special feature, for example a pergola. Pergolas, arches and arbours are very easy to build yourself because they usually come in kit form. And once you've built your pergola/arch/arbour, cover it with climbing plants and/or hanging baskets to create a shady spot for reading or picnics – or just to frame a view. Find out how to build a pergola in our step by step guide.
25. Throw a barbecue – in your garden!
What better way to enjoy your garden than entertaining and feeding guests? And there is real choice of BBQs out there, whether you have space for a gas BBQ or charcoal BBQ, or a portable BBQ if your garden is small and you want something that can easily be put away.
And check out our buyer's guide to the best BBQs on the market to make your choice easier.