Horticulture Magazine

12 Cheap & Simple Garden Design Ideas

piggy bank sat in front of garden lawn

Not everyone has the time or disposable income to invest in expensive furniture and landscape design for their garden – but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a beautiful and inviting outdoor space, that functions for you and your household.

Whether it’s through using recycled materials, repurposing household items, or painting your existing garden accessories to give them a new lease of life, there are lots of DIY and inexpensive ways to turn your garden from ‘drab’ to ‘fab’.

If you’re looking to transform your garden on a budget, check out this collection of 12 cheap and simple garden ideas, to inspire you to make some changes, and create the outdoor oasis you’ve always wanted.

1) Decorate your plant pots

A beautiful pink painted plant pot with white & pink flowers
Beautiful pink painted plant pot

You may already have some plastic or terracotta plant pots lying around, but perhaps you aren’t impressed with their dull green or brown appearance.

If this is the case, spray a primer onto your clean, dry pots, and use acrylic or outdoor paint to give them a new lease of life.

Look online for inspiration and get creative with your designs, colours and patterns, to create unique plant pots that are personal to you.

This can also make a great crafting activity to do with children.

2) Recycle plastic bottles

Plastic bottles used in a vertical garden
Plastic bottles used in a vertical garden

In a world where stopping single-use plastics from polluting our land and oceans is of the utmost importance, repurposing used plastic bottles as planters is both a cheap and eco-friendly garden design idea.

To make a plastic bottle into a planter, cut a large hole in one side, and puncture a couple of small holes in the other side, for drainage.

Fill with potting soil, and your chosen seeds or seedlings.

Hang multiple bottles on a wall or wire fence to create the effect shown.

3) Repurpose old furniture

A repurposed and heavily painted bathtub full of plants
A repurposed bathtub full of plants

Consider whether you have any old furniture at home which might look better in your garden.

An old desk can make an excellent potting table, whilst a chest of drawers can be used as a unique plant stand, and a disused dining or coffee table makes a great garden table.

Paint the furniture a bright colour or pattern for a funky look.

For the truly daring, an old toilet or bathtub can make a quirky planter, and is sure to get the neighbours talking!

4) Plant in teacups and jugs

Plants in pink teacups
Plants in pink teacups

If you have any old chinaware that you don’t use anymore – perhaps it’s got a chip in it, you don’t like the design – instead of throwing it out, repurpose it as quirky plant pots.

The small size of teacups and mugs makes them perfect for herbs and succulents – paint mismatched pots in a unifying colour, as above, to create the look of a matching set.

5) Create a gravel path

A stunning gravel path winding through a garden lawn
A stunning gravel path winding through a garden lawn

If your garden is a boring square or rectangle of grass, consider making a gravel path to break it up, and add depth and interest.

Perhaps your path could lead to a seating area or a vegetable garden at the bottom of your garden.

Flowering perennials can also be added on the border of paths to add colour year after year.

You can purchase gravel from garden centres, builders’ merchants or DIY stores.

Creating a path is as simple as marking it out with stones, digging up the turf, and filling it in with gravel.

6) Add borders

Garden borders make an ideal area to plant
Garden borders make an ideal area to plant in

Borders are a great way to create a professional, landscaped look in your garden.

Use them to separate your lawn from a path, or to divide flower beds and veggie gardens.

Borders can have the added benefit of stopping plants from spreading to unwanted areas.

You can buy cheap wooden or plastic borders from DIY stores, which you can drive into the soil between your flower beds and lawn.

Alternatively, make your own borders using rocks and stones.

7) Plant pretty, affordable flowers

Red, yellow and purple pansy flowers
These colourful pansy flowers are loving garden life!

An easy way to improve the appearance of your garden is to plant flowers, which will fill your space with colourful blooms during their flowering season.

You can plant them in a container, so you can move them around and indoors during winter, or choose varieties that are hardy to the UK climate and plant them in the ground.

Some good varieties to consider for this includes violets, pansies and periwinkle.

These ground-covering perennials come with the advantage that they smother weeds, meaning you can save yourself the time and money of having to spray and remove them.

8) Grow herbs and veggies

A collection of herbs amongst a watering can
Herbs can save money from your supermarket expenses

Growing your own herbs and vegetables in your garden is not only highly rewarding and adds to the look of your garden, but it can also save you money on your food shopping during the summer months.

Veggies can be grown in containers, or in the ground.

There are a wide variety of vegetables which grow well in the UK, including peas, potatoes, onions, salad greens and runner beans – or if you’re short on space, why not create a herb garden, to provide basil for your pasta, chives for your homemade potato salad, or mint for your Mojitos!

9) Paint tin cans

Spotted tin cans painted and used as plant pots
Spotted tin cans painted and used as plant pots

There’s really no need to spend money on plant pots – recycled tin cans, such as those used for fizzy drinks and baked beans, can also make excellent plant holders for small flowers and herbs.

Paint them bright colours to create an attractive look, and punch holes in the sides for a string, which you can use to hang your new plant pots from a fence post or bracket – perfect for small spaces.

10) Plant a tree

A crab apple bonsai tree grown outside in the UK
A crab apple bonsai tree grown outside in the UK

Planting a tree in your garden and watching it grow can be an incredibly rewarding experience – not to mention it will help purify your air, provide a home for wildlife, and offer shade in the summer.

You can purchase a sapling from a garden centre for a small cost. Some good types of native trees to grow in the UK include Ash, Hazel, Hawthorn and Silver Birch.

For smaller gardens, there are varieties suited to container growth, such as the Malus sylvestris (crab apple bonsai tree) pictured.

11) Create a ladder garden

Step ladders painted yellow and used for plant pots
Step ladders can be recycled and saved from the tip!

A step ladder can make a unique and stylish plant stand and add a focal point to your garden.

If you haven’t got an unused one lying around, have a look online for people selling one in your area, or pick up a cheap one from a DIY store.

To really make your ladder an attractive feature, paint it a bright colour using weatherproof exterior paint.

Place a wooden plank between the corresponding rungs to create a shelf and add a plant pot or container filled with trailing flowers.

12) Make tyre planters

Old tyres painted and used as planters
Old tyres painted and used as planters

Used tyres are another widely available and cheap (or free) resource that can be recycled into funky garden planters.

Try spray painting them in bright or pastel colours, for a stylish look.

Fill the centre with potting soil and plant your favourite shrub or flowering plant.

How do I change my garden on a budget?

There are lots of ways to change your garden on a budget. Here are some of our top tips:

  • Repaint old furniture with weatherproof exterior paint and use it outside.
  • Make your own plant pots from recycled plastic bottles or tin cans.
  • Source free or cheap wood pallets, to create garden seating or plant stands.
  • Build your own fire pit from old bricks and paving slabs.
  • Look for second-hand garden furniture in charity shops, and on online marketplaces, such as eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace.
  • Shop around to find the best prices before purchasing plants and compost – check your local garden centre, and online.
  • Choose a few small accessories, such as outdoor cushions or an outdoor rug, to easily and affordably transform your space.

How much money can you save by growing your own vegetables?

Growing your own vegetables will undoubtedly save you money – exactly how much will depend on a number of factors, including what vegetables you’re growing, cost of compost, how many seeds you plant, and how good a harvest you enjoy.

To give you an example, it is possible to buy a packet of 5 potato seeds for around £1 and expect them to yield up to 45 potatoes.

The same quantity of potatoes in a supermarket can cost upwards of £10 – so there are significant savings to be made.

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