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Small garden ideas on a budget

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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 small garden ideas and tips for when you're on a budget...

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1. Plan, plan, plan!

senior woman planning

Firstly, think about what you want from your outdoor space: a relaxing sanctuary for reading and dining, come warmer weather, 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 strategise, from writing down goals in a step-by-step format to making visions boards on Pinterest to the good old-fashioned way of sticking magazine cut-outs onto paper. Why not get your friends involved, too, and ask for their creative opinion and to pass on any inspiration they come across? Research is also an intrinsic part of the process, so 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

garden screens 

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 idea which will give you that much-needed privacy without blocking light, as well as adding character to your cosy outdoor cocoon.  


3. Think vertically!

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 a leaning ladder, hanging plant crates, framed wall garden and winding vines. 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 constructs, but the other vertical gardening ideas are far more flexible plant-wise. 


4. Where to buy cheap plants

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. 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, to guide you through the identifying and buying process. 


5. You can still grow your own!

raised beds with plants 

Don't let your lack of space stop you from growing your own vegetables - you can still have that dream veggie patch, just on a smaller scale! Shop around for a pot or container to suit 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. See? Your options are endless!

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6. Go crazy with colour

outdoor paint 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. 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. You can buy own brands from Homebase, B&Q and Wilkinsons to stay within budget or even try Freegle and Gumtree for leftovers!


7. Smart storage ideas

outdoor storage idaes 

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 wooden decking and having a secret area to store all of your bits and bobs?  Genius!


8. Folding furniture

outdoor folding table and chairs 

Finding furniture to suit your humble garden 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. If you're nifty, you might get lucky in your local second-hand store or market, and your bargain could give you an enjoyable renovation project to complete. Paintbrushes at the ready!


9. Lighting

outdoor 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

small garden accessories 

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 shy away from 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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