15 Cheap DIY Garden Ideas For Those On A Budget -

15 Cheap DIY Garden Ideas For Those On A Budget

cheap diy garden ideas

Being landscape contractors has its benefits. One of those is knowing how to save money when planting gardens. We want to expand our knowledge and give you some cheap diy garden ideas that you can implement around your own property.  We have used all of these ideas in one form or another throughout our landscaping careers.

While these ideas might be cheap, they are certainly not cheap looking. Indeed, your gardens can still look just as classy and beautiful with these budget friendly tips as with top-of-the-line materials.

We are not devoting this list to craft ideas; that is, recycled and renovated items. For that you can hit up Pinerest or any number of other websites that are devoted to crafty gardening ideas and there are plenty of them out there - way too many to mention here.

We want to concentrate on how you can use budget friendly methods to implement the gardening advice within this site -  with all the plants, flowers and hardscapes that come along with it, but do it for less money than you might think.

Here then, is our top 15 cheap diy garden ideas you can use today to save money.

#1 - Mulch For Free:

Sure there are ways to purchase mulch for less. Many stores offer lots of different brands at different price points - some less than others. The question then becomes, "should you buy a cheap mulch?"

There is one important reason why the answer to this question is NO. Wanna know why? Read this article to find out.

There are however, creative ways to get mulch for free.

  1. Your town or township: Many towns around the U.S. pick up tree and shrub debris and trimmings (ours calls it brush pick up) then grind it into mulch and offer it for free to residents. It's a great program and a great way to recycle landscape debris. Our township does this and the mulch looks pretty darn good.

    The one downside to this program is this free mulch may not be treated for weeds. It depends on where they get it, what they allow to be discarded and how it's treated, or if it's treated at all.

    If this is something you're interested in, we'd urge you to call your town offices to find out the details and if they offer this service, it's an excellent way to get some great looking mulch for free.

  2. Other "natural" mulch is also free such as leaves and pine needles. We often use both during the winter as a way to keep our gardens insulated, then in the spring, we switch it out to regular mulch. However, you don't have to do that. You can use it all year.

    Natural mulch looks especially good on log cabins or other woodsy type of gardens.

  3. Stone is another alternative to wood mulch. Stone can be pea gravel or better yet, 2-3 sizes.

    Now, you might say that stone will cost money, and yes that's true. However, it's a one time cost. Once it's in place, it will be there forever. You'll save a lot of cash if you don't have to purchase mulch every year.

cheap garden diy garden idea pic of pine straw and pine cone mulch

In this photo you can see an example of pine cones mixed in with pine straw.  This makes a great mulch and will usually be a natural ground cover under pine trees.  Rake some up and use it elsewhere on your property to give the cohesive look.

Pro Tip: Get your stone at quarries, building supply centers or stone stores that sell stone in bulk. We have a building supply center near us and we always get stone for our jobs here. If you have a way to transport it, you're savings will be substantial! You can save 10x from buying stones packaged in bags and sold at stores such as Home Depot and Lowes.

#2 - Perennials For Free:

As cheap diy garden ideas go, this is probably the best. Getting perennials for free is a great way to fill your garden with lots of beautiful plants.

Simple go to your friends and/or relatives and ask the if you can "steal" some of their perennials. Of course, when we say "steal," we mean in the friendliest way possible.

Perennials naturally multiply in the gardens in which they are planted. As a consquence, most gardeners need to thin them out every few years. Why not do them a favor and dig them out yourself - then replant them in your own gardens? You can and you should.

We've done this time and time again and have filled our own gardens with lots of variety that would have cost us, literally, thousands if we would have purchase the plants at the store. For us, we have a large lot and lots of large gardens, so purchasing everything would have been cost prohibitive.

You can divide and transplant perennials at any time during the growing season. However, fall is the best time because it's cooler and the roots will have many months to get established before hot summer weather. Be sure to water them regularly through the end of the growing season. This is especially important in the hot summer when they could dry out quickly and die.

We've transplanted perennials at all times of the year and as long as they get enough water, they will do well.

Perennials that divide and transplant well include...
Hosta
Loriape
Cone Flower
Black Eyed Susan
Blue Bell
Coreopsis
Pachysandra
Bleeding Heart
Lillies
Lilly Of The Valley
Peony

Of course this list hardly touches the number of perennials you can transplant, but these are some of the most popular and a good place to start, especially if you're just starting out and getting your first garden growing.

#3 - Divide Your Own Perennials:

You can do the same thing with your own perennials. Divide them and transplant them into another garden.

The only downside to this is repeating the plants too often. Do you really want every single garden around your home to be filled with the same variety of hosta, considering the wide variety of hostas on the market?

You get the point.

#3 - End Of Season Sales:

This is a great way to save a lot of money - probably 50% or more.

Most garden centers and big box stores run sales at the end of the year to clear out stock. This is, of course, an excellent time to purchase plants, and if you're thinking this is the wrong time to plant, that would be incorrect.

Fall is a great time to plant your gardens, especially shrubs.

The reasons we choose fall are many:

  1. After planting, you won't have to worry about watering as you would during the hot summer.
  2. As we said, you can get plants for at least 50% off.
  3. Once planted, most plants will survive using the nutrients from their root ball. They'll just sit there in a dormant state and won't have time to expand into the surrounding soil. As long as they're hardy to the cold in your area, they will survive. Then, once spring arrives, they will have the chance to get established before the hot summer sun.

Here's another reason to shop end of the year sales (LINK)

#4 - Pots With Multiple Plants:

Another cheap diy garden idea is to buy pots that include multiple plants, then split the plants up to plant them individually in your garden. This will usually fill a space much larger than the pot in which they came.  This means less money to fill the same space.

How many times have you seen people purchase hanging baskets or pots of plants, then plant the entire pot in the ground as is?

This is not only a waste of money, but not a desirable way to plant a garden. Depending on the plants in the pot, most of them are crowded together in the pot. You'll want to seperate them in your garden to give them space to grow. Otherwise, as they grow, they will crowd themselves out and the less agressive ones will die.

This concept also goes for planting summer annuals such as impatiens, begonias, petunias, etc.

If you take a notice, different stores offer annuals in a variety of different sized pots. Some are 1 plant per pot. Others have 3-4 plants per pot. Still other larger pots may have more.

pots for sale of multiple plants

In this image you can see multiple plants in these baskets.  These could be used as is which would make a great statement.  However, they could also be broken apart and each plant planted seperately in a garden of your choosing.

Pro Tip: We always determine the cost per plant by figuring out how many plants are in the pots, then dividing the cost of the pot by the number. For instance, if a pot has 4 plants and they pot is $4.00, then obviously you'll be paying $1.00 per plant. This is a great way to compare prices and figure out which stores offer the best buy on plants.

#5 - Don't Buy Plants In Decorative Pots:

This is a pretty obvious tip, but if you see a decorative pot loaded with plants, the price will also include the pot. You can usually do better by buying the plants seperately and even better, the plants in the pot are sometimes offered individually at the same store.

Garden centers do this often.  They plant pots with the inventory they are carrying then sell them for more money.

If you have a decorative planter you like, but you see one in the store planted beautifully, purchase the plants seperately and copy the design in your own planter or pot.

Of course, you can still purchase the pot as is in the store because you like the container too, but that won't be a a cheap diy garden idea, now will it?

#6 - Big Box Store Bargains:

If you've been gardening for a number of years, you may have noticed that big box stores tend to have cheaper prices on plants.

This isn't always the case of course, but it could be. Being frugal means comparing prices and finding out for yourself.

The downside of big box stores is that they might not care for the plants with the same dilegence as the garden centers.

As an example we've seen happen, big box stores might have slipped on watering during a hot spell, then the plants dried out. If this happened, they may have brought them back to life by watering and you may not notice because the plants still look healthy. However, the stress from the drying out may mean the plants will eventually die and you'll wonder why.

We must point out though that Home Depot and Lowes are much better today at caring for plants than they used to be because the nurseries that supply the plants actually take care of them. Just be aware and take notice over time at how your local stores care for plants.

The other downside to getting cheaper plants at big box stores is they generally don't have the space to carry everything, so they carry the plants that are most popular. If you want a specialty item, your garden center may be your best choice and you'll pay for it.

#7 - Create Rock Gardens With Free Rocks:

Cheap is good. Free is better. A good DIY garden idea is to use rocks in your landscape.

If you live in a rural area, or even live on a large property, you can probably find rocks sitting around. Maybe there are enough to create rock walls, or rock edges for your gardens, or just place a few here and there within your gardens.

When you dig in your home gardens, do you dig up rocks? Don't throw them out. Collect them and use them.

I can tell you first hand that we've created many rock walls around our property, all from rocks we either dug up or found laying around.

Pro Tip: As of this writing, another great source for free rocks is Facebook Marketplace. It seems many people have piles of rocks or rock walls on their properties that they no longer need and are either offering them for free or at a cheap price. Go figure. Who would've thought?

#8 - DIY Planters For Free:

You've probably seen the images - especially on Pinterest.

Instead of buying expensive pots and/or planters, why not use some old container lying around as a pot? This is an excellent way to reuse and recyle.

Things you can use include your child's red wagon, coolers, dead tree stumps, old chandeliers, birdbaths, old kitchen pots, etc. etc...

...and don't forget the paint - to dress them up.

You're limited only by your imagination.

Because we don't usually do our own diy planters, we can't give you advice here.  However, click on the image below to see this and other cool planter ideas:

https://www.hgtv.com/design/design-blog/outdoors/diy-outdoor-planter-ideas

#9 - DIY Fountain For Your Garden, Deck or Porch:

Here's a great cheap diy garden idea. Create your own fountain for very little money.

If you've priced commerically for sale fountains you know they're not cheap. They could easily run in the hundreds. Here's a way to do it on a budget and get a very classy looking fountain to boot.

Take an ordinary flower pot and use it as a fountain.

Simply fill the drain hole at the bottom with silicone caulk meant for outdoor use to keep it water tight. Fill with water. Add a pump and fountain head and voila - instance foutain!

Be sure to use a pot that's large enough to fit the pump and fountain... and if you use a decorative pot, it will look fantastic!

#10 - Cheap Pond DIY Idea:

Here's another cheap way to get a water feature, but this time, an actual in-ground pond. This is a diy garden idea that can be done in a day and will give you rewards for years to come.

Step 1: Dig a hole in the ground.
Step 2: Line the hole with pond liner.
Step 3: Surround the hole with free rocks (see above).
Step 4: Fill the hole with water.
Step 5: Add a pump and fountain, or use a water spitter.

This project is the simplest and cheapest way to build a pond, for all frugal gardeners everywhere.

As a side note... this pond will not be suitable for fish because it does not include filtration so if you want fish, this is not the option for you..

You'll also need to clean it out once or twice a year or when the water gets cloudy - unlike a pond with filtration that, when installed properly, should never need cleaning.

The only costs are the pond liner, pump and fountain, which should be under $100.00

We've also used pre-formed ponds, which are another alternative.

If you go this route, you won't need the pond liner and you're hole will need to match the contours of the bottom of the pond. This makes it a little more tricky than just digging a random hole, but it's certainly a valid option.

We've had much success with this type of pond - having installed several over the years. We've never had to clean them during the year, only at start-up in the spring.

#11 : Use Perennial Ground Covers

Here's a garden idea that will save you money because you won't need as much mulch - plant ground cover perennials that will expand and cover the gound.

You may find that purchasing ground cover may get to be on the higher side, price wise. However, you'll save money on mulch every year, which will put you ahead very quickly.

Plus, you can actually dig up others' perennial ground covers and plant them in your own gardens as described in #2 above which will cost you nothing.

Ground covers add beauty in their own right but also bloom at various times during the year, giving even more vibrancy.

Some ground covers that are popular include:
Phlox
Pachysandra
Adjuga
Creeping Jenny
English Ivy
Euonymus (Moon Shadow Variety)
Sedum
Candy Tuff

cheap dyi garden idea for ground cover

In the above photo, the light purple plant is phlox ground cover.  The dark spikey plant is adjuga.  Both are blooming in the photo, which was taken in the spring.  However these plants will keep their green leaves the rest of the year and cover the ground completely - no mulch needed.

#12 - Used Outdoor Furniture:

It's no secret that outdoor furniture is popular today. There's no denying it can create an impact and give a restful spot to sit and admire nature.

If you look at photos on the web, or watch HGTV, you'd be tempted to think that unless you own an outdoor furniture set that looks expensive and IS, your garden wouldn't be worthy.

We want to tell you... nonesense.

There is a lot of used outdoor furniture for sale on Craigs List, Facebook Marketplace, or other classified ads websites.
When we say a lot we mean A LOT.

From garden benches to tables, to plant stands and everything in between - all for next to nothing.

Sure they may be a little worn and need some elbow greese to return them to their former glory, but if you want a cheap DIY garden idea, this one is up there with the best of them.

Search for photos online or come up with your own creative use and recycle used outdoor furniture. The environment will love you.

#13 - Cheap Irrigation:

Before getting started as a landscape contractor, I would see corporate landscapes or other large expensive home with in-ground irriagation and think that was the only way to water automatically.

As you probably know, this is not the case today.

DIY irrigation timers are sold in most garden centers today, all with varying degrees of functions.

There are the simple timers that can connect one hose. Then there are the others that can connect 2, 3 or up to 6 hoses to one spigot. Plus, if you really want to get creative, you can use a "y" on your spigot and connect 2 timers, one to each side of the "y."

This set-up means you can run several watering zones to different areas of your property - which is great if you have a large area that needs watering.

The only expense to this method is the timer(s) and hoses, all of which combined is much cheaper than having professionals run underground irrigation lines.

We use irrigation timers all the time on client's new installations. In fact, we won't do an installation without one because we guarantee results and we can't do that if we rely on our clients to water.

The only downside to this is that when you're using timers, the connections to the spigot must be tight! If you have an older spigot that might be worn and the connection not as tight as it should be, water will leak 24/7. This is because your water valve will be open all the time so the timer can turn the water on and off.

We'd highly recommend irrigation and if you are looking for cheap diy garden ideas, this one is so important it should at least be considered because after all, water is essential for plant life.

#14 - Outdoor Lights On A Budget:

We have an opinion on lights that we're going to state here, although it may be a little controversial.

You've probably seen those $5.00 solar lights sold at Walmart and other stores. Don't buy them unless you're willing to replace them several times per season.

Dozens of our clients use them and dozens of lights have been rendered useless every year - either by weather, by being stepped on, or just not working.  See what we mean in the photo below, which was taken on our first outing just after winter to one of our client's homes.

broken solar lights

Although we all like to save money, these lights could end up costing you more than other, higher priced lights in the long run.

That being said, there is a way to add lighting to your landscape if you're on a budget.

First, you can purchase other solar lights that are better made and will last longer, and this is what we recommend. You'll save money in the long run because you won't be replacing them every few months.

You can also do the unthinkable...hang white miniature Christmas lights and light them during the summer (Horrors - I can hear the collective "no way" right now!!)

Yes, you can do this and in our book, it's OK - especially white miniature lights.

Here's a question... Have you ever been on vacation at some tourist area or a resort and seen white minature lights lighting up different areas, say, a pergola, a restaurant ceiling or any other areas? If you answered yes, did you ever think of those lights as inappropriate because they were Christmas lights?

I can tell you we've seen them and we think they are very appropriate. They look great, especially over a deck arbor or within deck railings or even lighting up trees.

However, we know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder so if you disagree, we understand and respect your views. We just happen to like them.

#15 - Using A Cheap Tiki Theme:

White miniature or solor lights are not theonly a way to add light to your landscape.  Tiki torches also add light but in addition, they instantly create that feeling of the tropics and paradise - like you've gone to the tropics.

Now, if you live in the tropics, then this tip is mute for you but for everyone else, it's a cheap diy garden idea that should be put high on your list of things to do.

If you're goal is to provide light and that flickering torch feel, then tiki torches are the place to start.   However all torches are not created equal.

Have you ever used the cheaper bamboo torches that are available everywhere in the spring?  These cheap bamboo torches provide very litle light if any at all and the flame just sits there like a candle without a breeze.

Trust us, we have tried different tiki torches and there is only one that acts like the ones you see at restaurants and bars in the tropics.  This i our favorite by far.  It will provide actual real light and give you a large flickering flame.  What is it?  It's called the Island King Torch. Go here to check them out now.

In addition to torches, many plant retailers carry a wide variety of tropical plants that will add that carribean feel. Many of these are quite cheap. For instance, you can get small palms for under $20.00 plus there are many other options.

Keep in mind that tropical plants will need to be brought indoors in winter. Unless you live in a warm climate such as in planting zones 9 and above, you'll need to do that, which you may consider a hassle. Of course, you could just sacrifice your plants every year and purchase new ones, but this wouldn't be a cheap diy garden idea.

In addition, many retail outlets sell inexpensive tiki decorations for outdoors. It will only take a few purchases of decorations to get that tropical feel.

Art and I have our own collection of tropical plants and decorations that were purchased once and used over and over for years. Everything comes indoors during the winter and goes outside in the spring, summer and fall. We create an absolutely stunning outdoor escape for zero money each and every year.

Is it a hassle? Yes maybe but for us, it's worth the effort in spades! Try it!

More Cheap DIY Garden Ideas:

This is certainly not the definitive list for cheap diy garden ideas. Indeed you'll find many others online. Many involve crafty projects to add to your garden.

For more ideas, check out our ask the pros landscape consulting videos, where you can ask your quesitons live.

Ask The Pros Landscape Consulting – Answering Your Urgent Questions

We'd certainly encourage you to browse around to get even more ideas but better yet, site back and invoke your imagination to come up with your own creative ideas.

Happy gardening.

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