17 Budget-Friendly Ideas for a Small Garden

DIY, Decor & Tools Garden Design Ideas
A small garden in partial shade. It has a curved border filled with plants and reclaimed items, and a paved patio.

Looking for budget-friendly ideas to freshen up your small garden? With savvy purchases and clever design hacks, you can easily transform your small garden space on a budget.

Maximizing space in a small garden…

If you’re looking to maximize space too, check out our list of small garden design ideas to make the most of your space. It includes tips on placement and color choices. These don’t cost any extra, but they can make a big impact on your small garden design.

How to make small gardens look good on a budget

You don’t need to spend lots of money to completely transform your space. With a few mini modifications, considerate plant choices, and applying a few clever design features you can easily create a perfect garden oasis on a budget.

17 small garden ideas on a budget

Discover some of the most budget-friendly and cost-effective ideas to freshen up your small garden.

1. Check out the discounted plants section 

I love browsing the discounted section at garden centers. You never know what you might find there! Some of my best buys were a discounted olive tree and a straggly hydrangea that bloomed beautifully the next year. Most garden shops and nurseries will have a discounted section for plants, so see what you can find.

These plants are often perennials at the end of their season. They may look a little worse for wear now, but with a bit of care, they’ll transform the following season. Not only does this give a plant a second chance, you also save yourself a bit of money!

A discounted Ajuga reptans (Bugleherb). It's a small plant in a gray pot. It looks a little worse for wear, with brown outer leaves. But the center has young, vibrant pink leaves. It should easily be revived!
A discounted Ajuga reptans (perennial)

2. Take cuttings and collect seeds

Instead of re-buying seed packets or plants each year, take cuttings or harvest seeds! Collect the seeds of your favorite annuals, like sunflowers, hollyhocks, marigolds, or cosmos. Or take cuttings of annuals like fuchsia, impatiens, coleus, or geraniums to overwinter indoors.

Just note that not all annuals will propagate from cuttings, so do some research before chopping and planting up your cuttings.

My left hand holds out about 12 hollyhock seeds in my palm. My hand is resting against the dried hollyhock flower head that I collected them from.
Collecting hollyhock seeds in my garden

3. Gravel vs paving 

Looking to replace a lawn? For budget-friendly ground cover, gravel is generally a much cheaper option compared to paving. You can generally find landscape fabric (to prevent weeds) and a bag of gravel for a much lower cost than a stack of stone paving.

A small garden gravel path with rounded beige and gray stones. It has two borders on either side filled with different textures of foliage.
Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

4. DIY vertical planter ideas

There are lots of ready-made vertical planters out there that you can buy. But they usually come at a steep price point. Instead, try creating your own DIY vertical planters as an inexpensive way to create your own vertical vegetable garden.

A row of DIY vertical planters made from planks of wood. They're filled with pink and purple petunias. Another wooden planter just out of view on the right is filled with peach colored roses hanging over the side.
Photo by Fallgregg

5. Recycle old containers

You can use almost anything with sides as a planter, as long as it has good drainage. From old work boots and buckets to bathtubs! Reusing old containers and objects in your garden is a budget-friendly idea that adds character while keeping costs down.

A wall covered in vertical planks of bark. Attached to each plank are rows of tin cans, some rusty others a bright sky blue. They're filled with a mix of small, trailing, foliage plants.
Photo by Heli Ruiz on Unsplash

6. Invest in evergreens

Filling a border with beautiful annual flowers each summer looks gorgeous. But as annuals only last for one season, you’ll have to repeat this buying process year after year (unless you happen to have something that easily reseeds).

Mixing budget-friendly evergreens into your plantings not only keeps the space looking lush and full year-round. It also means you won’t have to spend excess money replacing plants that die back each year.

A close up look at the silvery blue foliage of the Blue Spruce conifer. Dwarf conifers in varying shades of green can be seen to the right behind it.
A colorful mix of conifers

7. Browse secondhand sites

You can find an amazing variety of secondhand gardening tools and items on resale sites like Craigslist or Gumtree. From compost bins and containers to garden sculptures and even paving slabs!

A stepped terracotta strawberry planter. It's urn shaped, with alternating holes for plants to be placed in. My arrangement of other container plants is out of focus behind.
My stepped planter from Gumtree!

8. Reshape your borders

A simple way to enhance a small garden on a budget is to reshape your borders. It’s a landscaping technique that doesn’t require an expert level of skill. Curved borders work especially well in a small garden as they add a softness and a distraction from the size.

If you don’t have borders, change your placement of containers. Instead of placing them in a single row, group them together to create a fuller arrangement.

9. Outdoor rug

It’s amazing what an outdoor rug can do to a small garden space. It brings in that element of ‘bringing the indoors outdoors’ and can add a relaxed, luxury style without the need to invest in elaborate patio designs or fancy garden furniture.

10. Pathway alternatives

Stepping stones are a stylish and budget-friendly alternative to laying an entire paved pathway. Other budget-friendly pathway materials for small gardens include:

  • Reclaimed bricks or paving
  • Wood chip
  • Poured concrete with embossed designs

11. Get the paintbrush out

Instead of investing in something new, sometimes a coat of paint is all it takes to freshen up a garden space. Get the paintbrush out to revamp furniture, fences, or a garden wall.

Painting an outdoor wall white is also a great way to brighten up a shady garden space. You may be able to find open but unfinished outdoor paint tins on a website like Gumtree or Craigslist. But you can usually find outdoor paint cans for pretty reasonable prices in DIY stores.

A small border of plants with a painted white stone wall behind it.

12. Choose plants for your environment 

A costly mistake that lots of gardeners make is choosing plants that don’t match their climate or their garden conditions.

If you have a shaded garden, opt for shade-loving plants like impatiens or paper plants. This brings us to our next budget-friendly idea for a small garden…

13. Buy young plants!

Larger plants usually come with a large price tag. Choosing smaller and younger plants can help you save money. You’ll have to wait a little longer for them to reach a mature size, but by buying plants young you can often save a lot.

Some plants will grow quickly, so you may only have to wait one or two seasons until they reach their full potential.

Buying annuals earlier in the season is also a great way to save money. For example, many nurseries will sell hanging basket plants early in the season in a smaller size. You can buy these at a cheaper price, pot them on, and then have big healthy plants when you’re ready to plant up your hanging basket.

14. Solar lights 

Adding lighting to your garden allows you to enjoy the space at night and can even help to add depth. Solar lights are a good budget-friendly option. By absorbing the power of the sun’s rays throughout the day you don’t need to spend extra on your electricity bill!

A close up of fern leaves and solar powered fairy lights at dusk.

15. Decorate your plant pots

If you’ve inherited or reclaimed a random mix of planters and want them to look a bit more cohesive — paint them! Painting planters and containers is a great way to freshen up a small garden space on a budget.

A rectangular concrete planter painted a soft, cottage green with small yellow daises random placed. It sits on gray gravel with a red metal fence behind. The planter contains chives.

16. Make your own compost

One of the best budget-friendly ideas for your small garden is to make your own compost! Secondhand sites like Gumtree or Craigslist usually always have someone selling an old compost bin.

Creating your own compost saves you from buying a bag of compost each year for new plants — depending on how much you make. You can even compost on a balcony too with contained compost bins.

My left hand holding a handful of crumbly compost above my green compost bin.

Featured Image: Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

  • Hey there! I'm Hannah from Mini Garden Spaces.

    I'm a gardener currently based in Gloucestershire. Balconies, patios or windowsills... no matter how small your garden, you'll find top tips on growing beautiful plants and tasty veg in your mini garden space.

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