The arrival of spring and summer on the horizon means alfresco living is back on cards. And we are here for it! No matter what size your outdoor space, whether a tiny terrace, bijou balcony or little lawn, our budget small garden ideas will transform your space without having to break the bank.
With the cost of living on the up (and up and up and up!) we all want to save as many pennies as we can, so budget garden ideas are a great place to start. But if your 'garden' is more postage stamp than football pitch in size, you might be wondering what can be done to give your small garden ideas a refresh.
But fear not, as we've pulled together our top twenty budget small garden ideas to get you set for summer.
Brilliant budget small garden ideas
From container gardening to vertical planting, upgrading your fence ideas to adding a mirror – we have plenty of budget small garden ideas that will help transform your garden into a wonderful place to be this season.
1. Go nautical with a printed sail shade
Even in this country it can get hot – well, we can live in hope anyway! So be prepared with an affordable garden shade idea. While you can invest in a parasol, choosing a length of fabric that you can hang up as a sail-style shade will not only be more affordable but take up no floor space in a small garden.
If you have a nautical theme then opt for one in shades of blue, it will tie in perfectly with the rest of the scheme.
2. Give your fence an update
Painting your fence and existing wooden furniture will give your small garden a lift without breaking the bank. If you choose a pale colour it will help your outdoor space feel bigger too.
'There is no one perfect colour for a garden fence, it all depends on the mood you want to create, the size of space and the kind of plants you have. Pale shades inspired by nature that reflect the light plus white and cream will always make small gardens look bigger – but strangely so does black – which makes the borders of your space visually melt away,' says Marianne Shillingford, creative director, Cuprinol (opens in new tab).
Creative Director of Akzonobe, Marianne Shillingford’s core objective in her role is to help people to be more confident about using colour in their projects. That might involve everything from working on new colour ranges and tools to writing press features and recording videos.
3. Source vintage furniture
Add character to your garden by buying secondhand furniture that can be used for storage outside. Car boots, antique fairs and flea markets are all good sources for furniture and they often have old Bristol sinks too that can be used as planters.
Sideboards can double up as potting benches and be used for storing tools in during the colder months.
4. All in a row
Often, simple is best and placing pots and planters along the top of your wall can have a great effect. Not only will it add interest, but colour and texture too.
Do check with your neighbours if there are some the other side of the wall, but if they're keen gardeners they might welcome the extra height and floral colour too.
5. Paint your garden chairs in an accent colour
‘The best thing about summer is BBQs but before you start hosting – you’ll want to make sure your garden is looking it’s best. Just one colourful piece of garden furniture can liven up your garden – and it’s the perfect excuse to upcycle that old garden chair,' says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer, Crown Paints (opens in new tab).
Although greens and blues are synonymous with gardens, why not think out of the box and opt for a bright red? This is a smart way to transform your best garden furniture for under £50.
Justyna has been bringing her expertise in colour trends and showstopping interior design skills to Crown Paints for over a decade. She has a wealth of experience in colour phycology and has an eye for helping customers to create beautiful living spaces.
6. Sow your own flowers
There's nothing more satisfying than sowing your own flower seeds and watching them grow. We asked Nick Hamilton, owner, Barnsdale Gardens (opens in new tab) for his expert advice:
'Many varieties of vegetables and flowers are now bred specifically for container growing. Keep an eye out for those that are perfect for pots but still give a successful harvest.
'Use old newspaper to make your own pots, these are the perfect sustainable choice as they will simply rot away in the ground after planting. Get prepared for next year and collect seeds from dried seed cases of flowers. You can save them in envelopes ready for sowing in early spring. Always ensure that they are kept in a cool, dry, dark place if possible.'
The son of renowned gardener Geoff Hamilton, Nick is a respected horticultural expert in his own right. After Geoff passed away, Nick took over ownership of Barnsdale Gardens, which his father established in 1989. These idea-filled gardens continue to provide inspiration for home gardeners today.
7. Chalkboard painting fun
Don't forget the kids – for a lovely family garden idea give them a fun corner in the garden where they can have messy play in. Chalkboard paint is a fabulous idea that will keep them entertained for hours, all you need is some wood and chalkboard paint for a striking feature. You can create a theme with a sandpit too.
Add hooks to the fence so they can hang up their buckets and spades and pop in a little stool and cushions.
8. Make the most of every inch
When space is tight, sometimes we need to think creatively about how to utilise what we have available.
'You don’t have to have a huge garden to enjoy relaxing during those bursts of Spring or Autumn sunshine and those long summer days – you just need to make sure the space works for you. Opt for furniture that is a real space-saver, like a beautiful bench which fits round a tree trunk. This can look decorative and be a practical addition to the garden – this semi-circle bench is perfect for creating a focal point in the garden as well as providing a comfortable shaded area,' says Simon Glanville, founder, A Place For Everything (opens in new tab).
Simon Glanville is founder and managing director of storage & organisational retailer A Place For Everything. Living and breathing storage for over 20 years, Simon’s APfE retail brand now has one of the largest selections of stylish storage solutions in UK.
9. Go bold with colour on your walls
'It can be a challenge to create an inspiring garden when you have limited outdoor space. The easiest and most cost-effective way to create a bright and positive space is to add colour.
'Artificial grass is available in a variety of different shades and textures, which you can pair with a vibrant accent colour, to create an uplifting design. A concise bright palette is key. You can paint your main wall or fence and add simple accessories such as bistro table sets and decorative planters and pots to create an inspiring space,' says Sarah Hooper, grass buyer, Carpetright (opens in new tab).
10. Grow your own veg
'There are many varieties of vegetables that are good for planting in small spaces, balconies or patios in containers. The blight-resistant tomato varieties such as the one below are great as they can be grown outside. ‘Veranda Red’ is a dwarf determinate bush variety with a very adaptable plant habit,' advises Andrew Mellowes, commercial director, Burpee Europe (opens in new tab).
'This remarkable variety is suitable for growing in pots as small as 11cm but will also fill a 2 Litre (16-17cm diameter) pot. ‘Veranda Red’ is eminently suitable for growing in patio pots and three plants in a 30cm diameter container will provide a pleasing effect with a crop of fruit from late July to early September if sown in mid-April. Plants do not require staking or supports if they are grown in a sheltered location. It has good resistance to Fusarium, Verticillium and some resistance to late blight,'
Andrew Mellowes joined Burpee Europe as Commercial Director in January 2023. He has worked in the garden industry for many years, most recently in the role of General Manager at Woodlodge Products Ltd.
11. Go tall with your planting
Cheat your way to making your small garden look bigger – whilst on a budget – by planting tall varieties in your borders. It will zone a patio area and separate it from the lawn. This will help to create the illusion of more space due to the two areas it creates.
Choose foxgloves, grasses, snapdragons and alliums to create height and the wildlife will love them too.
12. Think vertically
Your outdoor space might be lacking a large footprint but you can always make the most of a vertical space instead. Living vertical walls are big business for both residential and commercial properties across the country and look super-smart too. To create yours, use an old wooden pallet and make a simple, rectangular box planter. Fill with soil and then plant up a mixture of trailing plants, grasses and hardy succulents. Attach to a wall or fence, or lean on a ledge in a vertical position.
13. Create a lush look for a balcony
Traditionally balcony gardeners would plant up pots and troughs to make their space look appealing from the outside. But instead of hanging planters to face away from you, turn your balcony garden ideas towards you and plant up with trailing plants that will cascade down your balcony rails. This way you will save on plants that other people will enjoy more than you will!
Potted plants look fab arranged in small huddles of three, five or seven and playing with the heights and sizes or them will create a jungle-vibe too.
14. Combine planters with seating
Save money and space by investing in furniture that will work harder for you. A dining set that also incorporates space to plant up herbs and grasses, or hold drinks for guests in an ice-filled trough is a great solution. You can invest in one like this one from Dobbies, which is currently on sale for £68.70 (opens in new tab). Alternatively, construct your own with a second-hand bistro table and attach a planter.
If your outdoor space doesn't get great light or you're just not green-fingered, fill a planter with a collection of faux plants instead, to cheat the look.
15. Squeeze in a mini-greenhouse
No matter how wee your space, don't let it stop you from growing an array of fruit and veg. Mini greenhouses are great for keeping plants warm, but can also double up as mini sheds too. If you're going to be storing all your gardening paraphernalia inside too, think about adding some frosted or fluted film to the glass to blurb out any clutter you're storing.
While you can find mini greenhouse options to buy at DIY stores and garden centres, you could also have a go at making you own, using old windows sourced from a scrap yard.
16. Make your own private bar
Having a bar area outside will create your own little entertaining zone, and this clever bar is made from just a couple of pallets. Cut the top section from the pallet to use as the flip down section and attach using two strong hinges and lengths of chain. Finish with a piece of wood to act as your serving board. Attach to the wall and enjoy sundowners with friends whenever the mood takes you.
17. Cheat more space with a mirror
A well-placed garden mirror idea can do wonders to enhance any outdoor space, and will make your garden look bigger than it really is by tricking the eye into thinking it goes on and on. Create your own by using an old gate or some painted trellis mounted onto a piece of mirrored board and hang on the wall, or prop up by a shed.
18. Double up on window boxes
If you're lacking on flower beds a great way to introduce more colour and greenery is with window boxes. Traditionally they would with hang below a window, or sit along a sill, but throw tradition out the door and go for two hung on top of each other for maximum impact.
Try filling the top box with pretty, colourful flowers while the bottom one would be reserved for larger, lusher plants, and even a few trailing plants too.
Make the boxes from leftover wood planks or pallet boards to keep costs to a minimum.
19. Build ladder shelving for herbs
Make the most of the space along fencing and build some simple ladder shelving. Use pieces of leftover wood from a previous project, or an old pallet board cut up into lengths. Attach to your fencing and paint in the same colour so it seamlessly blends into the background.
Terracotta pots are inexpensive and can be picked up for very little at charity shops, car boot sales and from second-hand websites too.
20. Upcycle old tins and jars as planters
Just about any vessel can be used to plant up flowers, herbs and succulents, so think outside the box. Old tin cans, glass jars, jugs, tea cups and even pots and pans can all be used, they just need a couple of drainage holes punched in the bottom. With glass jars, line the bottom with gravel or small stones and fill the sides with moss to hide them.
Arrange your planted vessels in trios around your outside space and watch them grow into an oasis.
What is the best low maintenance garden?
A garden with simply a patio or decking with no lawn would be the most low maintenance choice, but if you want to have some greenery and interest then opt for hardy shrubs and evergreen plants. They will give life to your garden without the work – so you will have more relaxation time instead!
Other options include planting some herbs, grasses and bulbs and you could create a meadow by scattering meadow mix seeds – the wildlife will love it and you won't have to do a thing expect enjoy it. Water features are another consideration, they instantly elevate a garden and don't require much effort once installed.
How do you make a small garden look nice on a budget?
There are plenty of ways to make a small garden look great on a budget, it's just about thinking smartly! First and foremost, utilise what you already have, to avoid having to part with your cash. Walls and fences can benefit from a lick of paint, furniture given a good clean and a varnish and dead leaves can be cleared to reveal a tidier space. Pulling up weeds and removing moss from pathways will both help to make any garden space look nicer.
Bark and wood chippings are cheap and will fill a space much more cost effectively than expensive plants will. Gravel is also a cheaper way to line the edge of a lawn and old bricks can be used to create a winding pathway.
Outdoor rugs are great for hiding tired patios and decking areas while cushions dragged from the house can be piled up high for a relaxing sun-bathing spot.
How do I make a nice small garden?
Have a little think about elements you want to include in your garden, being realistic about size restrictions. For smaller gardens, scrapping the lawn might actually give more space. Paved patios or decking areas can be utilised more efficiently and provide a space to relax, entertain and play.
Containers and planters filled with flowers and plants will give create an instant transformation, but they can be pricey. Try asking friends and family for clippings or surplus seeds and build your dream space slowly. Garden lighting is another way to make a small garden space feel nice, so be sure to include plenty of this so you can use your space after dark too.
Holly Walsh has been Content Editor at Ideal Home since 2021, but joined the brand back in 2015. With a background of studies in Interior Design, her career in interior journalism was a no-brainer and her passion for decorating homes is still as strong as it ever was. While Holly has written for most of the home titles at Future, including Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, Homes and Gardens and Style at Home, Ideal Home has always been her ideal home, and she can be found sharing her expertise and advice across both the printed magazine and the website too.
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