Whether you’re thinking about putting your home up for sale, or just want to give your place some curb appeal, don’t assume that it’s going to cost a ton of money to improve the appearance of your yard. With a bit of sweat equity and some inexpensive purchases, you can turn a so-so yard into a showplace!
Here are 13 easy and cheap ways you can make your yard look a lot better:
1. A Good Clean Up
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how easily a mess can accumulate if you’re not keeping on top of things. Start by raking leaves, mowing the lawn, and collecting any debris that’s lying around your yard. If you’ve got a hedge, you will often find random trash that’s blown in or been discarded by passers-by trapped underneath.
Get into the habit of making the rounds once a week to deal with clean-up, and never walk past litter without picking it up and throwing it out.
You’ll want to gather up twigs, sticks, rocks, and everything that is not a part of your garden decor to really get things started. This is a totally free option that comes back to a good bit of hard labor.
2. Trimming Plants
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Throughout a single growing season, trees and shrubs can really get out of hand. You should spend some time every winter or early spring trimming back vegetation to maintain a tidy appearance.
However, don’t get carried away and start pruning in late summer or fall! That’s the very worst time to cut, as it will encourage new growth that will get zapped by freezing winter temperatures, and possibly kill the whole thing. A dead shrub will look worse than an untrimmed one.
3. Lawn and Garden Edging
Crisp, trim lines between the various elements of your landscape can do a lot to make it look good and professional. Whether you use a sharp garden spade, or rent an edger for a day or two, you can transform the look of your yard with just a bit of your own labor.
And don’t forget to clean out the gaps between pavers or walkway stones simultaneously!
4. Use Mulch
Mulch is one of the easiest ways to quickly give your yard a more finished look. Spreading a layer a few inches thick of shredded bark or wood chips will not only make your garden beds look better, but will also suppress weeds and help retain moisture in the soil.
Mulch is not very expensive as a bag goes a long way compared to soil. Get a few bags of mulch, and you can totally transform your yard.
5. Container Gardening
Even when they’re mulched, flower beds do require some ongoing care, and buying the plants can get expensive. Consider instead planting flowers, herbs, or even small shrubs in large planters. Grouped together on a patio or porch, or perhaps framing a front walkway or entrance, you can get a big impact with a modest investment.
6. Reuse & Recycle Materials
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Look around to see what you can find to upcycle into new landscape amenities, whether from your own backyard, or from yard sales, second-hand stores, or online marketplaces. Often, people will be happy to have you haul away old bricks or pallets just to save themselves the trouble of disposing of them themselves!
Old bricks can be laid to make garden paths or raised beds, and pallets can be turned into patio or garden furniture! I made a garden furniture bench using pallets, watch my YouTube video here!
7. Plant Perennials
If you have your heart set on flower beds full of lovely blooms, the best way is to plant perennials. It may take them a year or two to fill in, but once you’ve got them, they’ll come back year after year without you having to spend any more money. You may be lucky enough to have friends willing to give you divisions from their own gardens, saving you even more cash!
8. Buy Used Patio Furniture
Patio furniture can be a big expense, but you can often find bargains by looking around your area. People are always selling old sets on Facebook or at yard sales, and with a bit of paint and elbow grease, you can make them look as good as new without spending a fortune.
9. DIY Compost Area
If you don’t know what to do with raked leaves, grass clippings, and assorted plant materials, it’s time to learn about composting. Build a compost bin out of old pallets, and tuck it away in a corner of your backyard. Once things have rotted down, you’ll have a beautiful, rich soil to add to your flower or vegetable beds, saving you money on buying fertilizer or bagged compost!
The compost area itself isn’t beautiful; it’s what you get from having a compost area. You get to throw all your yard waste in it, plus you reap the benefits of the organic compost you can add to your lawn and garden to have beautiful grass and healthy growing plants.
10. Add Some Lighting
It used to be that if you wanted landscape lights, you had to bury electrical cables and install permanent light fixtures. That got expensive really fast, and you were stuck with the existing layout unless you dug things up and moved everything around.
Now, solar-powered garden lights are not only easy to use, but also very reasonably priced! You can even get them at the dollar store. Whether you’re looking for strings of lights to add ambiance to your patio or deck, or stakes to stick into the ground next to walkways or drives, this is an easy and cheap way to upgrade your yard.
11. Refinish, Resurface, or Paint
Don’t give up on things that are looking dingy. You’d be amazed at how easy it is to give them new life with a coat of paint or stain. Whether it’s a concrete patio, wooden deck, or patio tables and chairs, all it takes is some resurfacing to make them look great.
Start by giving them a thorough cleaning; a pressure washer comes in handy for cleaning concrete patios and wooden decks. For patio furniture you can clean them with a degreaser like Krud Kutter.
For wood surfaces you should sand them clean and smooth before adding a stain or paint.
Then, you can use the appropriate finish to seal or paint them. For instance, on a wooden deck you’ll probably opt for a penetrating sealer that you brush or spray on, while plastic lawn chairs will look as good as new with a couple of coats of spray paint. A concrete patio can use a good couple of coats of patio paint.
12. Rejuvenate Your Lawn
A good-looking lawn goes a long way to making your yard look great, so it’s worth putting some effort into making it look its best. Obviously, if your area is under a severe dry spell, watering may not be an option, but if your lawn is healthy to begin with, it will weather a drought better than a neglected lawn.
Start by aerating in the spring, and feeding the grass to maintain its health. Organic options such as a thin layer of mushroom compost will not only provide nutrients, but improve the soil quality so that it will retain more moisture. Watering once a week when there hasn’t been significant rainfall will help keep it looking lush and green.
13. Add a Bird Feeder or Bath
Few things add as much beauty and charm to your property than the presence of birds. They’re not just decorative, either; most wild birds are voracious consumers of insects and will help keep down the populations of pests that would otherwise damage your plants. You can attract birds to your yard by putting up bird feeders.
Suet and seed feeders will keep winter residents happy, and then in summer, switch to nectar feeders to draw in hummingbirds and orioles to delight you through the summer months. A birdbath, preferably with a solar-powered fountain, will satisfy their need for water to splash in
You can always do a DIY birdhouse or feeder project as a budget-friendly option.
Taking your yard from so-so to wow! doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money or hiring expensive contractors. Begin by keeping it as neat and groomed as possible, and then start looking around for ways to enhance its appearance that are either free or cheap. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to give your property real curb appeal!
Janice is a retired High School teacher who is spending her leisure years keeping busy with all sorts of projects. Aside from freelance writing, she’s an enthusiastic amateur chef, home wine maker, and tends a large raised-bed vegetable garden, while at the same time running a Bed & Breakfast.