If you look out into your backyard and it doesn’t make you want to enjoy the outdoor space you have, you really need to do some landscaping to change the way you feel. Your backyard is supposed to be an inviting space that you can feel proud of when you have visitors.
Everyone always thinks landscaping is this expensive bank account-draining process that requires experts and a team of workers, but that’s just not true. There are many ways to landscape on the cheap, and in this article, I am here to help with my list of 9 cheap ways to landscape your backyard.
1. Upcycle Items into Garden Features
If you’ve never heard of upcycling, it’s a simple concept where you use old discarded items, and you give them a new purpose. What makes upcycling so amazing is that you get a unique piece of art to show off in the yard while you are also being environmentally friendly by re-using.
Each upcycled item tells its own story, adding character to your backyard. Here are some popular upcycling landscaping ideas for yard:
- Old Tires: Whether painted in bright colors or simply left in their rustic charm, old tires can be turned into chic planters. Stack them up, fill with soil, and watch your flowers bloom from what was once considered waste.
- Wheelbarrows and Wagons: These can make for beautiful, mobile garden beds. Fill them with an array of colorful blooms or even aromatic herbs. The older the wagon the more unique it looks in the yard!
- Vintage Bikes: A bike, especially with a basket, is not only a testament to times gone by but can also be a perfect perch for cascading flowers.
- Wooden Crates: These can be transformed into raised garden beds. Whether you place them upright or on their side, wooden crates add a rustic touch.
- Boots and Paint Cans: Imagine a line of old boots or paint cans, each with a different plant sprouting from them. It’s quirky, fun, and oh-so-economical.
- Chairs: An old chair can be the perfect support for your climbing plants. Remove the seat, place a planter, and let nature take its course.
- Bathtubs and Sinks: These can be turned into miniature ponds or large planters, adding a whimsical touch to your garden.
- Wagon Wheels: Whether used as a decorative feature against a fence or incorporated into the design of a pathway, wagon wheels scream vintage charm.
- Kettles and Tin Cans: Small plants or succulents can find homes in old kettles or tin cans. Hang them, place them on a table, or make a quirky pathway lined with these little planters.
You can find these items to upcycle at yard sales, thrift stores, online marketplaces, and more! You may even find them for free on the side of the road, especially during clean-up weeks in your city. Expect to pay between $100 to $0 for upcycling.
2. Grow Plants Native to Your Region
Sprucing up your garden doesn’t mean you have to go to the local nursery and purchase exotic expensive plants to make your yard look better. A smart and economical choice is to embrace the beauty right under your nose: grow native plants in your local region.
Here’s why turning to local plants can be a better choice for your wallet while still creating a stunning landscape:
|Cost-Effectiveness||Native plants, already adapted to the local soil and weather conditions, often require less care. This means savings on soil amendments, fertilizers, and special treatments that exotic plants might demand.|
|Reduced Watering Needs||Many indigenous plants are naturally conditioned to the local rainfall patterns. They may need significantly less supplemental watering than non-natives, which translates to lower water bills.|
|Less Dependence on Pesticides||Being in their natural environment, native plants have built up defenses against local pests. This can reduce or eliminate the need for expensive pesticides and treatments.|
|Perennial Savings||A good number of native plants are perennials, meaning they return year after year. Invest once, and enjoy their beauty for many seasons without repurchasing.|
|Local Seed Exchanges||Joining local gardening clubs or community groups can offer opportunities for free or low-cost seed exchanges. This way, you can diversify your garden without breaking the bank.|
|Natural Growth Patterns||Native plants, growing at their natural pace and pattern, often need less pruning and maintenance, saving both time and potential costs in gardening tools or services.|
|Disease Resistance||Adapted to local conditions, native plants tend to be more resistant to local diseases, reducing the need for costly treatments.|
|Discounted or Free Plants||Check out local conservation programs or community plant sales. Many offer native plants at a discount, or even for free, as they promote local biodiversity.|
3. Plant Ground Covers
A lush green lawn might be the dream for many, but it often comes with a hefty price tag, both financially and environmentally. Regular maintenance, watering, fertilizers, and mowing take tons of time and add up in costs.
That’s why I recommend going with a ground cover! They are a cost-effective lawn alternative that looks good and is practical. Here’s why investing in ground covers is an economical choice for your garden:
|Low Maintenance||Ground covers typically require less attention than regular grass. This means less frequent mowing, fewer tools, and reduced maintenance costs over time.|
|Water Savings||Many ground covers are drought-resistant. They can thrive on minimal water, cutting down your watering costs significantly compared to a thirsty lawn.|
|Natural Weed Suppressants||Ground covers can effectively choke out weeds, reducing the need for regular weeding sessions and costly weed killers.|
|Erosion Control||They act as a natural barrier against soil erosion, potentially saving you money on landscaping repairs and soil replenishments.|
|Reduced Fertilizer Needs||Many ground covers enrich the soil as they grow, reducing or even eliminating the need for additional fertilizers.|
|Multipurpose Beauty||Besides being functional, ground covers offer an array of colors, textures, and blooming patterns. This means you get a visually appealing garden space without investing in various ornamental plants.|
|Extended Lifespan||Many ground covers are perennial, meaning they’ll grace your garden year after year without the need for replanting.|
|Affordable Start||Starting your ground cover garden can be quite economical. Many varieties can be propagated easily from cuttings or divisions, meaning you can cover a large area with a small initial purchase.|
|Natural Pathways||Instead of investing in expensive pavers or pathways, use ground covers to design natural, soft walkways that blend seamlessly with your garden.|
4. Cheap Plants or Free Plants
A thriving garden doesn’t mean you have to empty your wallet. For those with a bit of creativity and luck, the world has many opportunities to source plants that are either incredibly affordable or downright free. Here’s how you can populate your garden without breaking the bank using free or cheap plants:
|Local Plant Swaps||Community plant swaps are a fantastic way to diversify your garden. Not only are they cost-effective (you’re essentially trading plants you have for plants you want), but they also offer a great opportunity to connect with fellow garden enthusiasts who can provide valuable advice and insights.|
|Propagate Your Own||Why buy when you can multiply? Many plants can be easily propagated from cuttings, seeds, or divisions. By using this method, a single plant can lead to dozens of new ones over time, all for free.|
|End-of-Season Sales||Many garden centers and nurseries slash prices at the end of the planting season. It’s their way of clearing out stock, and it’s your ticket to scoring some significant discounts.|
|Freecycling||Online platforms like Freecycle or even local community boards often have listings where people are giving away plants for free, usually because they’re moving, redesigning their garden, or have excess growth.|
|Volunteer at a Nursery or Botanical Garden||Some botanical gardens or nurseries offer free plants to volunteers as a token of appreciation. Not only do you get to learn while you’re there, but you’ll also be rewarded for your efforts.|
|Wild Transplants||While it’s essential to be aware of local regulations, sometimes, wild plants or those from abandoned areas can be transplanted. However, always ensure you have permission and are not disturbing any endangered species.|
|Collect Seeds||After flowering, many plants produce seed pods. By collecting and storing these seeds, you can have a new generation of plants ready for the next season. It’s nature’s way of gifting!|
|Neighborhood Divisions||Often, mature perennial plants need to be divided for their health and to control their growth. Neighbors and friends with established gardens can often have plants that need dividing, and many are happy to share the extras with|
5. Buy Used Pavers or Bricks
Garden pathways, patios, and borders don’t have to cost as much as you would expect. Some of the most charming and character-filled hardscapes can be made with used pavers or bricks that come with an affordable price tag.
Reusing old pavers or bricks saves them from ending up in a landfill and gives your garden a unique aesthetic. Each brick or paver has a story, and it’s yours to retell!
New pavers and bricks can be pricey, especially if you’re covering a large area. Opting for used materials can cut these costs significantly, allowing you to invest in other areas of your garden or simply save money.
Where to Find Them:
The Facebook marketplace and local buy/sell groups have become a shopping zone for gardening enthusiasts. Regularly, you’ll come across listings of people giving away or selling their old pavers and bricks for a fraction of their original cost. Keeping an eye on the marketplace listings can secure you some fantastic deals.
Also, construction or demolition sites have excess materials they want to dispose of. With the proper permissions and safety precautions, you could source pavers or bricks from these places. Always remember to ask first!
Let your friends, family, and neighbors know that you’re on the lookout for used pavers or bricks too. Word of mouth can sometimes lead to the best discoveries.
While it’s a budget-friendly option, checking the quality of the bricks or pavers you’re acquiring is important. Make sure they are not too worn out or damaged to serve their purpose in your garden.
6. Opt for a Gravel Area
Gravel is a silent hero in the world of landscaping. It’s a super versatile material that can create pathways, patios, or even low-maintenance garden beds. Going with gravel is an excellent choice to consider if you’re looking for an affordable yet stylish solution for your outdoor space. Here’s why opting for gravel areas can be a boon for budget-conscious gardeners:
|Cost-Effective||When compared to other hardscaping materials like concrete, pavers, or bricks, gravel is considerably less expensive. The price per square foot is often a fraction of what you’d pay for more traditional landscaping materials. Pay $0.50 up to $2.50 per sq ft of gravel.|
|Easy Installation||Setting up a gravel area is straightforward. There’s no need for professional help or specialized tools. With some basic preparation, such as laying down a weed barrier and outlining the area, you can spread the gravel yourself, saving on labor costs.|
|Low Maintenance||Once set, gravel areas require minimal upkeep. They’re excellent for drainage, reducing the chances of pooling water, and weeds find it harder to penetrate through.|
|Versatility||Gravel comes in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Whether you want a sleek modern look with fine white gravel or a rustic charm with chunky, multicolored stones, there’s something to fit every aesthetic.|
|Expandable and Modifiable||Should you decide to expand a gravel area or change its shape, it’s as simple as adding more gravel or rearranging the boundaries. This flexibility is especially beneficial for those who like to update or tweak their garden layout periodically.|
|Sustainability||Gravel areas are permeable, which means water can seep through and replenish the groundwater. This permeability reduces runoff and erosion, making it an eco-friendly choice for gardens.|
Local garden centers or stone yards typically offer a variety of gravels. But for those on a tight budget, keep an eye out on online marketplaces, local listings, or even construction sites that might have excess gravel they’re looking to part with.
7. Add Fresh Mulch Beds
Mulching is one of those gardening steps that, while often overlooked, offers many benefits, both aesthetically and functionally. If you aim to refresh your garden without spending a furtune, then ging with some fresh mulch beds is an incredibly smart cost-effective choice. Let’s look into mulching and I will explain how it can be both budget-friendly and beneficial for you:
|Affordability||Mulch, when compared to many other landscaping materials, is relatively inexpensive. Depending on the type and source, you can acquire substantial amounts of mulch without spending much. Some cities even offer free mulch to residents from local tree trimming operations. Expect to pay $0.15 to $0.60 per sq ft of mulch.|
|Aesthetic Appeal||Fresh mulch instantly revamps the look of garden beds. It provides a neat, uniform appearance that contrasts beautifully with green plants and vibrant flowers, giving your garden a polished, professional look.|
|Conservation of Water||Mulch acts as a protective layer over soil, reducing evaporation. This means you’ll need to water your plants less frequently, saving on water bills in the long run.|
|Weed Control||One of the peskiest challenges in gardening is the constant battle against weeds. Mulch acts as a barrier, preventing many weeds from getting the sunlight they need to grow. This not only reduces manual labor but also cuts down on the potential expense of weed killers.|
|Enhances Soil Health||Over time, organic mulch decomposes, adding nutrients back into the soil. This can reduce the need (and subsequent cost) for fertilizers.|
|Temperature Regulation||Mulch acts as an insulator. It keeps the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, offering plants a more stable environment.|
While garden centers and home improvement stores sell mulch, for the budget-conscious gardener, there are other options. Check with local tree services, as they often have chipped wood available at a reduced cost or even for free. Community composting sites, municipal recycling programs, and online marketplaces are other potential affordable or complimentary mulch sources.
8. Choose DIY Planters Over New Ones
Today DIY (Do It Yourself) projects have gained massive popularity; your garden can be a canvas for your creativity, especially when it comes to planters. New planters from stores might look polished, but they often are costly.
On the other hand, DIY planters offer a chance to create something unique for a fraction of the cost. Let’s explore the budget-friendly world of DIY planters and how they can make a difference to your bank account:
|Cost Savings||One of the primary reasons to opt for DIY planters is the sheer savings. You can repurpose items you already have at home or acquire materials from thrift stores, yard sales, or even discarded items from friends and family.|
|Originality||DIY planters give your garden a personal touch. Every handmade planter tells a story, be it an old pair of shoes turned into a quirky home for succulents or an aged wooden box now housing a vibrant set of flowers.|
|Repurpose and Reuse||Have an old basket, tin can, or even a plastic bottle? All of these can be transformed into planters with a little creativity. Not only does this save money, but it also promotes sustainability by giving new life to what might have been waste.|
|Customization||When you make your own planters, you’re in complete control. You decide the size, shape, color, and overall design. This ensures that your planters perfectly suit your garden’s aesthetic and your plants’ needs.|
|Community Involvement||Engage with your local community by organizing or participating in DIY planter workshops. It’s a great way to share resources, learn new techniques, and even trade planters with neighbors. Plus, it’s a fun, budget-friendly activity that brings the community together.|
|Reduced Environmental Impact||Commercially produced planters often come with a carbon footprint due to manufacturing processes, transportation, and packaging. By repurposing materials or using locally-sourced items, you’re making a greener choice.|
Aside from searching your home for potential planter materials, keep an eye on online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and local buy/sell groups. Often, people are giving away or selling items at a low cost that, with a little creativity, can be transformed into beautiful planters in your yard.
9. DIY Backyard Fire Pit
There’s something magical about sitting around a fire pit on a cool evening, sharing stories, and gazing into the flames. Commercially available fire pits can be pricey, but with some elbow grease and creativity, you can create a welcoming fire pit in your backyard without spending too much money.
Here’s why and how a DIY backyard fire pit can be your budget-friendly solution:
|Budget-Friendly Build||Purchasing a new fire pit can easily set you back a significant amount, but constructing one yourself often requires only basic materials like bricks, stones, or old pavers. Sourcing these materials can be surprisingly affordable, especially if you look in the right places.|
|Repurposed Materials||You might be surprised where you can find suitable materials for your fire pit. Old bricks from a demolished wall, stones from a previous landscaping project, or even broken concrete slabs can be repurposed for your fire pit. Not only does this reduce costs, but it also gives a unique and rustic look to your setup.|
|Customization at No Extra Cost||One of the joys of DIY is the customization. You decide the size, depth, shape, and overall design of your fire pit. Whether you want a simple round pit or an elaborate square design with a seating area, the choice is yours without the added cost of customization.|
|Sourcing Materials on the Cheap||Check out online classifieds, Facebook Marketplace, or local buy/sell groups. Often, people doing renovations are looking to get rid of excess materials, sometimes even for free. Likewise, contacting construction sites or local businesses can sometimes yield free or cheap leftover materials.|
|Skill Building and Satisfaction||There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from building something with your own hands. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also acquire valuable skills and the satisfaction of a job well done.|
|Safety on a Budget||While prioritizing budget-friendliness, it’s essential to not compromise on safety. Ensure you’re following safety guidelines, like choosing a spot away from flammable structures and always having a water source nearby. A safe DIY fire pit doesn’t require a huge budget, just a bit of planning.|
Invite neighbors or friends for a fire pit building day. Pool resources, share labor, and in the end, enjoy the warmth of the fire together. It’s a cost-effective way to foster community spirit while achieving a shared goal.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.