Budget garden ideas: 28 simple ways to update your outdoor space for less

Our budget garden ideas are perfect for giving your outdoor space a fresh new look without having to splash the cash

budget garden ideas
(Image credit: Cuprinol)

Our budget garden ideas can still pack a punch when it comes to freshening up your space. They're perfect if you don't want to splurge all your savings on your plot.

In fact, combining savvy spending with a little gardening know-how means it's easier than you might think to introduce vibrant colour, beautiful plants and bold personality to your outdoor space on a budget. Even little things, such as a good tidy-up, or planting a few seeds and watching them grow, can make a big difference to the look and feel of your garden.

From using salvaged items as plant pots and containers to making your own compost, or opting for inexpensive but stylish landscaping materials, we've put together tons of easy ways to save money on your garden transformation project. So keep reading for our budget friendly ways to update your space, then head over to our garden design ideas for more outdoor inspiration. 

1. Upcycle pallets for pretty planters

pallet furniture ideas: blue with flowerpots

Paint old pallets in your favourite hues, fix to a wall, and then attach pots for a lovely feature

(Image credit: Gelpi/Getty Images)

Pallets can be found for very little money (and are often free). So, if you're looking for budget garden ideas, they're a great place to start.

With just a little DIY skills, the possibilities are practically endless – just take a look at our pallet furniture ideas for tons of ideas. This one above has been painted in a gorgeous blue hue and fixed to a wall to hang plant pots from. It makes a pretty feature for any plot, will be fun to make, and won't cost the earth.

2. Or, give old tyres a new lease of life

budget garden ideas: tyre planters

Tyres make handy containers for flowers

(Image credit: iv-serg/Getty Images)

Another budget-friendly material to try is old tyres, which can be recycled as modern-looking planters. You could even give them a lick of vibrant paint for an eclectic feel.

Get creative with your choice of blooms and foliage and create perfectly circular displays that can be dotted throughout your border or patio. Need a few tips to get started? Check out our guide on how to plant a last minute spring container.

3. Mow a grass path

lawn ideas: wild meadow with mown path

Opt out of hard landscaping and go for a softer (and cheaper) approach

(Image credit: JoeGough/Getty Images)

Garden paths are essential from getting from A to B, but if you're using hard landscaping materials such as paving slabs, the costs can add up.

Instead, why not opt for a more natural feel and try a grass path instead? It will be a joy underfoot in the summer months, and is inexpensive once you've got your best lawn mower (which you might already have). 

It's a perfect solution for wilder, meadow-style patches of your plot.

4. Include unusual materials

dining area with corrugated fence in the background

Corrugated fencing may seem unusual, but paired with the right accessories it adds an element of industrial-chic

(Image credit: Kagu Interiors)

We often fall into a trap of thinking there are certain products or styles we 'must' have to complete our perfect garden. But, occasionally, some creative thinking can allow us to explore different materials and ideas that look good and save you money.

We really like the way this corrugated iron fencing has been used to great effect in this outside space. It's a modern yet rustic alternative to traditional wooden fencing, adding character and interest to the garden. 

Check out local builders merchants and reclamation yards to bag some for your update. 

5. Build a bug hotel

budget garden ideas: bug hotel

Get all the family involved and build a bug hotel

(Image credit: MarjanCermelj/Getty Images)

An easy way to liven up a plot is to welcome in new wildlife. So why not build a new home for them? It's a great weekend activity for all the family to do together, plus insects of all shapes and sizes are fun to spot for little ones.

You can use all kinds of recycled treasures to create an interesting abode. And if you spend a little more time on it, it can become an attractive feature for your plot, as well as being beneficial for the environment. 

Want to have a go this weekend? Head over to guide on how to make a bug hotel.

6. Welcome birds to your garden

budget garden ideas: bird feeder

The cheerful song of birds will instantly liven up a plot

(Image credit: Lightguard/Getty Images)

The sight of feathered friends flitting through your plot is sure to bring delight to everyone. Of course, their cheerful birdsong is a welcome bonus.

So to instantly bring life to any garden, invest in one of our best bird feeders or two – you can get them very cheaply. Or why not try making your own? It's simple to do with our guide on how to make bird feeders.

7. Use a spot of elbow grease

weeding tool

Clean up your plot for an instant refresh

(Image credit: Annabel James)

Believe it or not, a good tidy up works wonders when it comes to giving your garden a budget update. 

Whether it's an afternoon following our top tips on how to weed a garden, jet washing your patio with your best pressure washer, or clearing leaves and debris, it will make a huge difference to the overall appearance of your garden, whatever its size. 

Try your best to keep on top of it all year round – after all, those weeds don't stop growing for love nor money!

8. Give your pots a refresh

terracotta pots painted in colourful patterns in a modern garden

Plant pots updated with Garden Shades by Cuprinol 

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

Are your favourite planters looking like they've seen better days? Instead of buying new ones, simply give your existing pots a smart and inexpensive update with a lick of paint. 

All you need to do is give them a good clean, removing any bits of baked on soil, slug and snail trails before you start. There are plenty of fabulous paint finishes available that allow you to paint on pretty much any surface, so you can be safe in the knowledge that your pots will look amazing when they're completed. 

Head over to our guide on how to revamp and revive your terracotta pots in just five simple steps to recreate the look.

9. Create your own outdoor kitchen

WWOO Outdoor Kitchen by Garden House Design

Build an outdoor kitchen using reclaimed materials

(Image credit: Garden House Design)

If you love alfresco dining and entertaining, why not check out how to design an outdoor kitchen area in your garden? If you're handy at DIY it can easily be done on the cheap using wooden pallets, some worktop offcuts, an old Butler's sink and a few reclaimed buys to make a practical space. 

Alternatively, if your DIY skills aren't up to the job, you could hire a carpenter to craft your outdoor kitchen ideas from the same inexpensive recycled materials and offcuts. Even taking into account the cost of the labour, it will still be a cheaper option than buying a brand-new outdoor kitchen from a specialist company. 

10. Recycle and re-use

upcycled wheelbarrow used as a plater

(Image credit: Sandtex)

Giving a new lease of life to a much-loved item is great for the soul. For instance, an old wheelbarrow might have a wonky wheel and is heavy to push, but would look amazing spruced up and planted with some beautiful colourful blooms. 

Other bits and pieces to look out for are galvanised animal feeding buckets, old tin baths and even chimney pots – they will all look great used as unusual planters in your garden. Head over to our guide to how to use salvage for garden upcycling ideas for more inspiration.  

11. Save seeds 

metal seed tin on a kitchen worktop

At the end of the flowering season, collect seeds from your plants to be sown for the following year

(Image credit: Annabel James)

Fancy some free flowers? Collect seeds from your own plants to grow next spring. Harvest on a dry day, when the seed heads have turned brown and hard. Snip them off with a set of the best secateurs and put each type in a separate, labelled envelope or bag so you don't mix them up. 

Once inside, carefully shake or ease the seeds from their pods. Easy growers include Nigella, pot marigold, honesty, poppy, and rose campion. Label the seeds, and store in sealed paper envelopes in an airtight tin until you are ready to sow them.

There's more advice on how to grow flowers from seeds in our guide. 

12. Make your own compost

small wooden seed tray filled with compost and ready to be planted with seeds

Make your own compost and you won't have to make as many expensive trips to the garden centre to stock up on more supplies 

(Image credit: Annabel James)

Ready-made compost mixes are convenient, but the cost soars if you have a big garden or multiple containers. Instead, turn food waste and garden clippings into free, nutrition-packed compost by following some simple rules. 

Choose the best compost bin to suit the size of your garden. Position in a shady or lightly shaded spot to maintain a consistent temperature. 

An earth base is ideal for a compost heap, because it allows drainage, but if you site it on a hard surface, add a few spades of soil as a base layer. Use kitchen scraps but avoid cooked foods: fruit and veg peelings and crushed egg shells are ideal. Aim for 25-50 per cent of soft materials, such as grass cuttings, weeds and food waste. Mix this with woody offcuts, leaves, cardboard and paper. 

Turn the heap every month with a fork to allow air to circulate, and in six months to two years, you will get a supply of compost to dig into flower and veg beds, or rake around the base of trees. 

To make potting soil for containers, blend equal parts of homemade compost with garden soil and coarse sand or grit. Head to our guide on how to compost for more expert tips.

13. Choose stylish salvage

Wooden greenhouse filled with plants

Upcycle unusual items and you'll be adding character to your garden (and saving money in the process)

(Image credit: Fiona Cumberpatch )

Step away from the garden centre and source secondhand and vintage accessories instead. Old wooden crates make striking shelving for pots when stacked on top of one another. Create a focal point with an old milk churn or a step ladder which makes an effective pot 'theatre'. Ceramic sinks are ideal planters if you want to learn how to grow succulents, herbs, or alpines.

Check Facebook Marketplace, eBay or Gumtree for old zinc baths and tubs which make rust-free planters. Keep an eye on skips for interesting ironwork or discarded terracotta pots, but do ask the owner before removing anything.

14. Go rustic and reuse garden waste

cottage garde path ideas: log stepping stones

Think of clever ways to re-use garden waste to save on costs

(Image credit: Gerald Corbett/Future)

If you're cutting back bushes or trees in your garden, check to see if you can reuse any of your offcuts before condemning them to the brown bin or compost heap. 

Save skinny, straight branches and reinvent as cane wigwams for sweet peas or climbing beans. Tree trunk slices can be used for garden path ideas as they make an attractive stepping stone design. 

Meanwhile, stumps can be repurposed into rustic stools to place around the best fire pits. Clustered together, they can also be used to display pots at varying heights. Take a look at our tree stump ideas for more creative uses.

15. Take cuttings from your plants

greenhouse with a potting bench, watering gan and potted geraniums

Taking cuttings from your existing plants gives you new plants for free 

(Image credit: Alitex)

You don't need to be a seasoned gardener to learn how to take cuttings from plants. It's a simple way of duplicating favourite flowers and you can expect a high success rate. Popular plants such as Penstemons, Salvias, Fuchsias and Pelargoniums can be propagated in September. 

Choose a non-flowering shoot, as these sprout roots more quickly. Cut to about 10cm long. Make the incision below a leaf node (the point where the leaf is attached to the stem). Remove the side leaves and the soft growing tip. 

Fill a pot with potting compost mixed with horticultural grit or Perlite (both widely available at garden centres). Push the cuttings into the soil around the sides of the pot. Place in a warm, light spot, out of direct sunlight. A plastic bag or cling film over the top will create a moist atmosphere which boosts the cuttings' growth.  

16. Source cut-price plants

how to grow tomatoes

Open garden events can be a brilliant way to source cut-price plants for your own garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sunday morning car boot sales and open garden events are the cheapest places to acquire new plants, as seasoned growers with surplus stock often offload there. If you're thinking of learning how to grow tomatoes or other veg, this is a great place to start. 

You can pick up veg plants, succulents and perennials at prices which are well below that of a nursery or garden centre. Go ready prepared with your own bags, and take cash. Buying locally means that you're likely to be purchasing plants which will thrive in the same soil as your own garden. 

17. Go for gravel

gravel path lined with plants

Opt for great-value materials when planning new garden paths or landscaping ideas

(Image credit: Fiona Cumberpatch)

Making new paths can create interest in a garden, leading the eye from one area to another and helping to create structure. One of the least expensive garden path ideas is to use gravel, rather than slabs or stones. 

Mark out the area that you want to cover and remove any loose grass and soil. Take a permeable membrane, available from DIY stores, and pin it to the route of the path. This will stop weeds growing up through the stones. Spread the gravel at a depth of around 2.5cm. Choose small pebbles (up to 16mm) as they are more comfortable to walk on, and then rake for a smooth surface. 

Want to try your hand at more DIY landscaping ideas? Our step-by-step guide on how to lay a patio is a great one to get you started. 

18. Buy bulbs for spring cheer

cottage garden ideas: daffodils

Planting bulbs is an inexpensive way to introduce lots of colour to your garden in early spring

(Image credit: Akarawut Lohacharoenvanich/Getty Images)

Flowers are thin on the ground during January to March. Planting bulbs will bring a mass of early colour with a low price tag. Buy multi-packs in early autumn, choosing bulbs that feel plump and firm, and set aside an afternoon to plant up borders and containers. 

Plant daffodils, Crocuses and hyacinths by the end of September, lilies, Alliums and Crocosmia in September/October, and tulips in November. You can find out innovative ideas for how to plant daffodil bulbs in our guide. 

Plant the bulbs two to three times their own depth, two bulb widths apart, with the pointy side upwards. If you're putting bulbs in pots, mix the soil with a handful of horticultural grit, and water well after planting. 

Prevent squirrels and mice from uprooting them by putting chicken wire over the top of pots (remove when they start to sprout). There's more advice on creating striking displays in spring in our dedicated guide to planting bulbs

19. Plan ahead

flowerbed planted with lush foliage

Plan garden borders to make the most of the space and your budget

(Image credit: Unsplash/Adam Anderson)

Before you splash out on a car-full of random plants from the garden centre, think about the look you're aiming for. Stylish planting schemes stick to a limited colour palette and repeat planting (the same plant used over and again). You may wish to mix hot colours such as orange, red and purple, or stick to cool hues of blue and white for a calming feel. 

Consider using the same foliage plants and ornamental grasses throughout the garden to link spaces together. Make a shopping list, working out roughly how many plants you need and stick to the plan. 

There's more advice on planning your planting scheme in our guide to garden borders

20. Invest in perennials and divide them up

Geranium nodosum (Cranesbill Geranium)

Perennials, such as hardy geraniums, are a more cost-effective way to add colour and interest to your garden as they flower every year

(Image credit: Getty)

Perennials, or plants which come back every year, are a thriftier choice than bedding plants or annuals which need to be bought and replaced each spring. Perennials can be split and replanted so you buy one – and get three. Geums, Astrantias and hardy geraniums all work well using this method. 

Take the plant out of the pot you bought it in and carefully pull it into three parts, gently teasing apart the roots. Dig one hole for each plant, firm them in and water well. The following year when they have spread, you can divide them up again. 

21. Brave bare roots to make hedges

Garden scene with clipped hedges and outdoor dining area

Investing in bare root plants for hedges and garden borders will make your money go further

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Buying enough plants to create one of the best fast growing hedges can command a high price, but there is a cheaper way. Opt for bare root plants, rather than larger, ready grown leafy specimens, and plant them in November. Your hedge will start taking shape in the spring. 

Beech, laurel, hawthorn, box and privet can all be bought in this way. Bare root plants can look off-putting because they often don't have any leaves, but this is only because the plant is dormant. Once the hedge has been planted, fed and watered, it will start to sprout in the growing season. 

Try online specialist nurseries for the best deals. Many offer a pre-ordering service.

22. Opt for budget-friendly lighting solutions

Pergola ideas:

Add a decorative touch with a range of budget-friendly solar and battery operated garden lighting ideas

(Image credit: Lights 4 Fun)

A softly lit patio or terrace transforms a garden when the sun goes down. Permanent garden lighting ideas look fabulous but it can be pricey to get it professionally installed. Try the best solar lights and battery options instead. Aim for lighting on different levels. Twist battery operated or solar lights around a tree trunk, or thread them through the branches of a tree. 

Floor standing battery lanterns will offer subtle uplighting, while solar-powered stake lights pushed into the ground highlight a statement plant. Look for solar lights with an amorphous panel, rather than a crystalline one, as they have a higher rate of light absorption and a more reliable beam. 

For after-dark dining, suspend battery operated festoon lights from a pergola, and add some candles to the table.

23. Add an affordable feature

wooden archway diving two areas of a garden

Focus your budget on one or two key features to give your garden a strong focal point

(Image credit: Forest Garden )

Choose one large striking feature to make a centrepiece in your garden. A wooden arch makes a splash for a modest sum. Opt for a DIY style which you can put together yourself and add colour with the best exterior wood paint

Find out how to grow clematis or other fast climbers such as a rambling rose to adorn it, or leave it plain and simple for a more modern look. 

24. Update fences with paint

wicker sofa in front of a dark painted garden fence

Smarten up old garden fences and protect them from winter weather by giving them a lick of paint

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

The least expensive way to transform a tatty garden is with a pot of paint. Use it to unify washed-out brown fencing, tired-looking sheds, trellises and lacklustre raised beds. 

Dark colours, such as Cuprinol’s Urban Slate or Black Ash will make plant foliage pop. An off-white shade creates a modern country look. 

Prepare surfaces by brushing away any debris or dust. Apply a couple of coats. Consider disguising ugly brick walls with masonry paint – try Sandtex for a wide range of colours. 

If you're thinking of painting garden furniture to give it an update, check out our feature for top tips on how to achieve the best results. 

25. Make a DIY pond

decked pathway leading through flowerbeds with a DIY water feature in one of the beds

A DIY water feature can make a striking addition to any garden

(Image credit: Fiona Cumberpatch)

Add an affordable water feature by finding out how to build a garden pond. Use a half barrel, trough, or a plastic tray – a wider vessel is best. Put the container in an area that gets sun and shade and cover the bottom with gravel then fill with rainwater. 

Add a selection of bog or pond plants. Ensure that any pond creatures can get in and out of the water by adding some stepping stones. Old bricks or big stones will work. 

26. Choose great-value flooring

great floor tiles used in the house and out in the garden

These Planate fossil grey porcelain tiles from Walls & Floors have a concrete effect and are suitable for inside and out so you can create a seamless flow between the two spaces 

(Image credit: Walls & Floors)

Not everyone loves decking (although if you do, make sure you check out our best decking buys), so if that's you, why not try the latest paving ideas instead? 

It's not always as pricey as you might think, and there's lots of designs that are made from stone- or even wood-effect materials that look like the real deal for a fraction of the price. 

Want to save even more money?  Find out how to build decking and how to lay a patio and take on these tasks yourself. 

27. Give existing furniture a refresh

pallet table painted with bright yellow paint

Use colourful paint to transform tired looking garden furniture

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

Paint finishes are so much more sophisticated these days and you can paint or spray most surfaces with minimal prep. So, if your furniture is wooden or metal it's easy to give it an update. 

Cuprinol has a large range that's ideal for wood – choose from neutrals, reds and pinks, oranges and yellows, or greens and blues. We've got plenty of tips on painting garden furniture in our guide. 

28. Choose budget-friendly trellis

planter and trellis with a climbing rose

This Askholmen trellis from Ikea can be teamed with the matching Askholmen planter for a budget-friendly way to add colour to a patio

(Image credit: Ikea)

This is a such fabulous idea for so many reasons. Whether you're tight on space, need to cover unsightly walls without spending lots of money or simply want to add colour and scent with climbing roses, adding a simple trellis is a versatile and great-value idea. 

It's perfect for balcony garden ideas too as it's an easy and inexpensive way to create an area for growing fruit and veg or for showing off your favourite climbing plants. 

What are budget-friendly materials to use in a garden?

We've covered a few budget-friendly materials for a garden already, but here's a handy checklist to refer to when planning your plot:

  1. Gravel is an inexpensive solution for pathways, and with a variety of colours to choose from, can look stylish too. If you prefer paving, there are often cheap varieties available which still look chic.
  2. You can also create softer, grass pathways using the best lawn mower – grass seed is very affordable.
  3. Opt for reclaimed materials when it comes to edging or fencing – old red bricks have a vintage edge which works perfectly for cottage garden ideas, or try corrugated metal or painted pallets for fences. Reclaimed materials can also come in handy for planters.
  4. Grow your plants from seed or take cuttings.
  5. Even cheap pieces from second-hand or discount stores can be revamped with a lick of inexpensive exterior paint.