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Small garden ideas on a budget

senior woman tending hanging basket

Always wanted a garden in bloom, but don't quite have the outdoor space? You're not alone! Having a small garden means you have to think extra creatively about how to use the space you do have - and limit (but not banish) your dreams of cascading roses and apple trees. As if it wasn't challenging enough to make do with a small space, maintaining a garden can be quite expensive. So here are our favourite budget small garden ideas and tips from gransnetters themselves...

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1. Plan, plan, plan!

"Whenever we have bought a house, we have taken a compass when looking around. With a small garden, it is important to know where the light is and whether parts are in shade (from fences and walls) at certain times of the day."

senior woman planning on pen paper

Firstly, think about what you want from your outdoor space. Would you like it to be a relaxing sanctuary - an outdoor living room of sorts - or an ongoing project which sates your green-fingered desires? Start by deciding on the main function of your space and plan from there. There are a number of ways you can map out your garden design ideas, from writing your goals down to making mood boards on Pinterest or on paper. Get family and friends involved, too, by asking for their creative and practical help. It could turn into a perfect bonding opportunity! Research is also an intrinsic part of the process, so don't forget to do it, and make sure you use reputable sources - the gung-ho approach normally ends up disastrously and costly - and put substantial time and effort into your planning.

 

2. Screens are perfect for privacy

"I bought some trellis higher than the fence and hung it by screwing cup hooks into the fence. No drilling needed!" 

garden trellis 

Worried about the prying eyes of your neighbours? Abate those fears with the gift that keeps on giving: screening. Not only is it cheap and easy to put up by yourself (just borrow or buy a staple gun, and buy some sturdy string), it's incredibly versatile as you have the option of painting it, hanging things from or even growing things on it! You can buy it fixed or in easy-to-assemble, portable panels, and can choose from materials such as bamboo, trellis, lattice and more. It's a simple, jazzy idea to add to your small garden design plan, which will give you that much-needed privacy without blocking light. 

 

3. Think vertically!

"Don't forget to think upwards. Hanging baskets are useful for growing Tom Thumb tomatoes and strawberries. Also, put herbs in window boxes in easy reach of the kitchen."

vertical garden ideas

What you're lacking in width, you can make up for in height; Vertical gardening is the gardening trend du jour. Think herb pots attached to leaning ladders, hanging baskets or plant crates, framed wall gardens and winding vines. In recent years, with increasingly smaller outdoor spaces in inner-city areas, landscaping design has had to get inventive to accommodate, but although novel ideas like the vertical garden might seem like a tall job, all you need is some inexpensive materials (your local tip is a handy resource), a blank wall and your creative thinking cap. The increasingly popular wall gardens are slightly more difficult to build,  but you could turn it into a fun activity with the grandchildren! This useful how-to guide from Gardener's World will also be your saviour! Succulents, small annuals, perennials and edibles are best suited to these lofty constructs, but the other vertical gardening ideas are far more flexible plant-wise. Gone are the days of horizontal flower beds!

 

4. Where to buy cheap plants

"Look at the sad plant shelves of the garden centres or Homebase. Often these reduced plants perk up considerably when looked after."

flower market

Your first port of call doesn't have to be your local garden centre - flower markets and car boots are also brimming with bright, blooming flora and fragrant greenery, at a fraction of the cost. However, don't avoid garden centres completely, because you can buy reduced stock at the end of each season, ready for next year. Got gardener friends? Ask them for cuttings. It might be a tad more effort, but a rewarding one at that! There are also well-stocked mail-order websites, such as J Parkers, and a great budget-friendly variety at certain supermarkets, particularly Aldi and Lidl. You can search even further afield by browsing school fetes, Facebook swap groups, Freecycle and neighbourhood street sales. You'd be surprised by how many off-grid places you'll find those pretty roses you so want for your garden . If you're a newbie to all of this, get yourself a reference book or download an app, such as B&Q Gardens: Outdoor Assistant, which is a concise guide to the magical world of plants. 

 

5. You can still grow your own!

"I have a tiny deep bed that gives us salad and spinach all year round. During spring, I often buy a cheap 'living salad' from the supermarket and plant it out. In autumn, I sow lamb's lettuce to make winter salads. I usually add some tumbling tomatoes and dwarf french beans during the summer."

vegetable garden grow your own ideas 

However small your space is, don't let it stop you from growing your own fruits and vegetables - you can still have that dream vegetable garden, just on a smaller scale! Shop around for a pot or container to fit your space, and research which will provide optimal growth. Terracotta and ceramic are steadfast and stylish; plastic is best for ledges with a drop; metal must be lined to protect from sunlight. Other than pots, you can also grow herbs in containers in windowboxes, harvest delicious salad in hanging plant crates and nurture a diverse mix in a compact raised bed. There's plentiful advice on what you can grow at certain times of the year, especially in the Gransnet gardening A to Z, and it's always worth experimenting yourself in order to learn what does and doesn't work. 

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6. Go crazy with colour

"I used some sandpaper and a tin of blue paint to revive an old garden bench. It looks amazing!"

garden paint colour ideas 

Ah, colour. Hated by some but loved by others, the latter being gardening experts who believe just a flush of fuschia or a splash of blue can truly accentuate an outdoor space. We have to agree, just the slightest contrast in hues or the way the light reflects from a painted wall can really compliment other components within that space. Your back garden is the ideal place to get creative, compared to your front garden, where you might have to be slightly more conservative with your ideas. Think of the way a subtle green palm tree is emphasised by a bold pink background or how lavender sits so prettily amidst green grass. There are myriad ways to add colour, from painted potted plants to the plants themselves, or simply sprucing up that old bench with a lick of tinted lacquer. To stay within your budget, buy own brands from Homebase, B&Q and Wilkinsonsor even try Freegle and Gumtree for other people's leftovers.

 

7. Smart storage ideas

"A good quality wooden shed, providing it is treated with preservative every few years, will look good and last for years."

garden storage ideas 

Though you might feel like you've already utilised all of your outdoor storage space, we guarantee you won't have thought of at least one of these affordable options: a nifty bench from Argos? Wayfair tool shed? Under-decking space? You see, there is still room to house your growing collection of garden tools, bike and wellies. Imagine lifting up a panel on your brand new decking and having a secret area to store all of your bits and bobs? There are plenting of decking ideas to help you save space.

 

8. Folding furniture

"You will need a bench or some sort of seating too - that's what gardens are for!" 

 folding garden furniture

If you've got enough space for a seating area, finding furniture to fit really isn't tricky as there's plenty in the way of flexible furnishings these days. Foldable, extendable, collapsible, you name it, they (the shops) have it. Argos and Ikea are great places for low-cost bistro table and chairs sets, and offer traditional wooden styles or more modern plastic or metal styles. These look great on a patio or deck, creating an idyllic al fresco feel. If you're nifty, you might get lucky in a second-hand store or market, and your bargain could give you an enjoyable renovation project to complete. Paintbrushes at the ready!  

 

9. Lighting

"My husband bought me some solar-powered strings of lights - little stars. They cost just £5 per box and three boxes complete a section of the garden. They never fail to make me smile!"

outdoor garden lighting 

We can't stress how important lighting is as a final touch to your outdoor haven. Not only is it pretty but it can give the illusion of your space being far bigger than it is, if placed properly. Try draping fairy lights around plants, trellis and walls for a warm, atmospheric glow, or line your pathways and plant beds with long-life LED lanterns. As the nights get warmer, you might want to relax or entertain outdoors, which is the ideal time to light some pretty tealights in mason sand jars (another fun craft activity!). Lights are great for emphasising focal points - you can uplight one of your quirky ornaments and create a shadow backdrop, or highlight that stunning rose bush. Just be cautious where you place leads and make sure to keep those candles out of small hands' reach! 

 

10. The finishing touches

"Water is also a must! We have a feature that works by solar gain and recycles the water, so no electricity or plumbing needed. If possible, a little pond could be made from an old bath or tub." 

outdoor garden decorative ideas 

This is the part where you can really personalise your space, whether that be with quirky ornaments (hello, garden gnome!), mosaics, mirrors, or hand-painted pots. You can also give your garden the wow factor with various features. How about a curved path? If made from pebbles or gravel, it's inexpensive and will give the impression of a bigger space. Don't forget about water features, either. You can easily dig a mini pond, line it and add a pump, creating a stunning talking point - one that attracts beautiful butterflies and insects! If you're a wildlife fan, hang a birdhouse or feeder and relish the visits from your new winged friends. There are so many economical ideas you can test out to really make your small garden come to life, aren't you excited to get to work?!

 

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