9 budget small garden ideas to give your outside space a refresh

Erin Browne
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  • After being cooped up inside for the last few months, the arrival of spring 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 gives your a refresh.

    But fear not, as we’ve pulled together our top nine budget small garden ideas to get you set for summer.

    Budget small garden ideas

    1. Think vertically

    Image credit: Future Plc/Dominic Blackmore

    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.

    2. Create a lush look for a balcony

    balcony with bistro set and lush plants surrounding

    Image credit: B&Q

    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 them 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.

    Buy now: Apolima table and chairs Bistro set, £240, B&Q

    3. Combine planters with seating

    Balcony with bistro set and bbq on floor with lots of plants

    Image credit: Dobbies

    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. This set from Dobbies will slid into even the smallest of spaces, and could even work as an alfresco WFH spot.

    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.

    Buy now: Freya balcony set, £229, Dobbies 

    4. Squeeze in a mini-greenhouse

    small greenhouse on grass with pots beside and green wall behind

    Image credit: Dobbies

    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.

    Buy now: Wooden growhouse, £169.99, Dobbies

    5. Make your own private bar

    pallet bar in courtyard hung from wall

    Image credit: Future Plc/Tim Young

    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.

    6. Cheat more space with a mirror

    Courtyard with table and chairs and gothic style mirror on wall

    Image credit: Future Plc/Tim Young

    A well-placed garden mirror 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.

    7. Double up on window boxes

    Wooden window boxes below window filled with plants

    Image credit: Future Plc/Joanna Henderson

    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.

    8. Build ladder shelving for herbs

    garden pots in black wooden shelving

    Image credit: Future Plc/Colin Poole

    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.

    9. Upcycle old tins and jars as planters

    plants in old glass jars and tins

    Image credit: Future Plc/Colin Poole

    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.

    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.

    9 budget small garden ideas to give your outside space a refresh

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