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How to Design a Garden on a Budget: Top Money-Saving Tips

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Since I live in an area full of rocks, the planters I built myself cost very little. They are really helping to beautify my garden!

This little raised bed section is filled with plants grown mainly from cuttings or seed and is also under planted with cheap bulbs with differing flowering times for year round interest.

This little raised bed section is filled with plants grown mainly from cuttings or seed and is also under planted with cheap bulbs with differing flowering times for year round interest.

Tips for Gardening on a Budget

Despite what all the garden makeover shows would have us believe, you don´t have to have expensive paving and decking, water features, statuary, and state-of-the-art lighting to make your garden a beautiful haven for you and the local wildlife to enjoy. Once upon a time, it was the actual plants that were the stars of the show in a garden.

It´s all very well watching a team of experts getting stuck in and transforming a weed-ridden plot into a show garden in 48 hours with no expense spared, but how many of us are likely to have that luxury handed to us on a plate?

Making a lovely garden can be very expensive, and the initial preparation can be hard work; it´s not something you can achieve overnight. However, if you have the will to succeed, a little know-how, a few ideas, a strong back and patience, it is possible to create your dream garden. I will give you some tips on how to do this and keep within a budget.

Learn the Basics of Gardening Before You Start

If you are new to gardening, it´s important you learn something before making a start to avoid costly mistakes. All the information you need is out there.

Another good way to learn is by joining a local gardening club. Good for learning from experienced gardeners and with the added possibility of some free plants or seeds or cuttings.

Taking on a New-to-You Garden

If you are taking on a new-to-you garden, for example, after moving to a new house, you may be faced with what looks like a jungle or even a building site.

Taking on someone´s neglected garden will probably make you feel like getting the weed killer out, but if you do this, you may be destroying some real treasures.

Instead, I would advise that you give the garden a good tidy and cut back anything overgrown, and then sit back and see what the garden produces in your first year, or even just wait to see what pops up in the spring.

Give yourself time to get a feel for the plot and what you think would work well for you, and then start drawing up your plans.

Grow Your Own Plants

Growing from seed, taking cuttings, and dividing plants is not rocket science. Anyone can do it and the beauty is that you can increase the stock in your garden at no or very little cost.

If you really get into it, and I´m sure you will once your first cuttings strike or your first sowing of seeds appear and flourish, then you can start swapping with friends or even sell some.

If you are friendly with other gardeners and you see something in their gardens which really takes your fancy, just ask them if they wouldn’t mind saving a few seed heads or a few cuttings or a portion of the root when they are doing their autumn or spring tidy up.

Of course, producing your own plants does take time, but the whole point of this article is to save you money, and growing your own plants will save you a fortune.

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Looking for Bargains When Buying Plants

If you are looking for an instant garden (if such a thing does indeed exist...I´ve been gardening for 20 odd years and still haven´t managed one!), then you need to buy large specimens to fill it. This is expensive, and it´s amazing how much bare soil you will still have showing even when you have been out and spent an absolute fortune on plants.

Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

Normally plants are priced by the size of pot they are in, in other words, a plant in a 3-litre pot costs a lot more than a plant in a 1-litre pot so the 3-litre plant has been grown on until it´s bigger. Hence the increase in price.

But once you have bought and planted the 1-litre pot sized plant (and especially if you have done a good job of preparing the planting hole and you keep it watered until it gets its roots established) unless it´s something renowned for its slow growth, such as box hedging, for example, it will soon attain the size of the 3-litre pot plant anyway.

Hassle for a Good Deal

Another way to buy plants cheaply is to look around your local Garden Centre or the garden section of your DIY shop. You will often come across plants that have been neglected and therefore the price reduced.

Most of the time all these sickly-looking individuals need is a good water and feed. If you think the price of these bargain-basement plants is still too high, do a bit of haggling with the sales assistants, you never know.

I bought two hardy geraniums this way, both looked very sorry for themselves and one had no label so I didn´t know what to expect when it flowered. Both bloomed their hearts out after a little TLC and became real show stoppers.

Sunday Shopping

Car boot sales and gardens open to the public can also yield some great bargains, and you could be picking up some real rarities too.

If you live in the UK, look out for a copy of the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) "yellow book of gardens open to the public for charity," not only will you pick up some great ideas for your own garden, but there will be loads of plants for sale too. Many of these gardens contain national collections, so if you are into a specific type of plant, go along and have a real feast.

Look Out for Plants With More Than One Season of Interest

It´s also worth considering what seasons of interest your plants, shrubs and trees will give you, e.g., will they just give a nice show of flowers in the spring and that´s all, or will they give you a nice show of flowers, gorgeous autumn colours, and a reasonably good structure when the leaves eventually fall?

Borrow a Neighbour's Tree

Another crafty and free trick you can use is to borrow a neighbour’s tree! Figuratively speaking, that is. If you find somewhere near your border or even in the distance, a tree you particular like the look of, plant some shrubs at your side of the fence which would look well as a contrast and in time your fence will not be visible and so it will be hard to tell that your neighbours tree isn´t in fact growing in your garden.

Likewise, you can also borrow a nice vista.

Grow Some Veggies

Create a vegetable patch or grow some in pots or a greenhouse, or you could go old cottage garden style and just plant some in your flower borders. If you do the latter check up which plants will actually protect your food plants from attack by garden pests. It´s called companion planting.

4 Golden Rules About Planting

Here are four rules to keep in mind when planting.

1. Always prepare the planting site well.

Make sure your site has been well dug and conditioned. Dig a nice big hole . . . I once heard it said the best way is to dig a half-crown hole for a sixpenny plant . . . for those of you too young to remember money before decimalisation. It would equate these days to digging a 50 pence hole for a 5p plant.

Sprinkle some plant food on the soil you have removed and this will go into the hole when you in fill. Give the site a good water, puddling it around the base of the plant, and then water regularly until the plant has spread its roots a bit and become established.

2. Always take account of the plant's needs and eventual size.

Many plants labelled as requiring some shade will do perfectly well in an open sunny position . . . especially in the UK and cooler climate zones. But there are some plants that will not tolerate the wrong soil conditions so it´s worth investing in a soil testing kit to find out the ph of your garden, and it´s important to do this in a lot of different areas as you could have acid in some places and alkaline in others.

Again, it´s not rocket science, and you don´t need a master's degree to carry it out. Don't despair if there´s a particular plant you like but your soil wouldn´t. You can always grow it in a pot.

3. Don't plant things too closely together.

A common mistake especially when you are new to gardening is to plant things too closely together . . . read the label and give plants and particularly shrubs the room they need to spread. It will save you a huge amount of hard work in the long run.

You can sow annual seeds in the spaces which have been left for the shrub to fill out, or even stick in some canes and grow some sweet peas or even runner beans for a year or two. If I wasn´t advocating creating a garden on a budget I may suggest you fill in the gaps with bedding, but this can be a costly way of going about things as they will only last one season and I much prefer perennials anyway.

4. Make sure you plant at the correct time of year.

Some plants, for instance, trees and shrubs, will not do well if planted in summer, whilst other plants will die very quickly if planted in the winter.

Make Your Own Compost and Plant Feed

Making and using your homemade compost is easy and a real treat for your soil.

Compost bins can be easily made using fencing posts and chicken wire or an old dustbin perforated with holes, or your local council may provide them free or for a reduced price.

Remember to layer what you are putting on the compost heap; basically, just layer it up with woody stems and things that break down slowly, followed by vegetable household waste, eggshells, coffee grounds and trimmings from garden plants. NEVER WEEDS, THOUGH.

Compost heaps do need turning occasionally and keeping moist . . . and here´s a money-saving tip for those who dare, don’t waste money on expensive compost accelerators; urine does the same job and costs nothing!


Look out for this, it´s quite often free to those willing to bag and transport it, and one of the best things you can do for your garden is to spread a good layer over your soil in the autumn, letting the worms bury it, or dig it in when preparing a bed in the spring.

Be aware that unsterilized manure does carry weed and wild flower and grass seed though and might be more suitable for a veg plot where the soil is regularly hoed. Only use it on a flower bed if you are prepared to spend time weeding.

Money-Saving Ideas for Hard Landscaping

Decking and paving can be very expensive, especially if you also have to pay someone to lay it. Bark chippings or gravel or pebbles bought from a builder’s merchant can be a much cheaper alternative and easily laid.

Another hard-wearing solution for these areas is, of course, concrete.

Plain concrete is rather boring, so why not nip along to your local tile shop and see if they have any smashed tiles you could take off their hands for free and design your own mosaics to cheer everything up. Pebbles and stones, pieces of slate, etc., can look very attractive too, and you may be able to find all this actually in your garden.

Make stepping stones with any leftover concrete.

If paving is what you really want, have a look in the classified ads section or even post an ad yourself.

Have a look round a reclamation yard.

Consider fake stone paving. This is much cheaper than the real deal, and it´s hard to tell the difference.

How to Make Compost

I thought these Hollyhocks grown from free seed had been destroyed in a wildfire, but after cutting everything hard back and waiting I am delighted to see they came back better than ever. Mother nature is a wonderful thing.

I thought these Hollyhocks grown from free seed had been destroyed in a wildfire, but after cutting everything hard back and waiting I am delighted to see they came back better than ever. Mother nature is a wonderful thing.

Garden Furniture

It´s nice to have somewhere to sit and enjoy actually looking at the garden you have made. Eating and entertaining outside is a joy, weather permitting of course. Or just somewhere to sit and rest your weary bones and enjoy the fresh air after a long day in a stuffy workplace.

There´s no reason why equipping your garden with seating and eating furniture should cost you an arm and a leg. Once again I am thinking of second-hand bargains and skip finds. (Please ask permission before removing anything from a skip). Or you could look in your local DIY store for end-of-season bargains in the garden section.

Tables and chairs don´t have to be specifically labelled “garden furniture” as a coat or two of external paint or varnish will protect them from the worst of the weather

In my last garden in the UK, I needed a small coffee type table on which to place a homemade cake and coffee cups, so I was more than delighted to find a discarded cable reel which I painted with fence paint and made a cover for out of an off cut of pretty fabric. It did the job I wanted it to do and cost me practically nothing.

Make a Pergola Out of Wooden Tree Stakes

I wanted a pergola in one of my gardens and couldn´t afford a ready-made self-assembly one, but wooden tree stakes made a marvellous alternative, and my climbing roses and honeysuckle didn´t mind one bit that their support cost a fraction of the price.

Make the Best of What You Have

Work with what´s already in your garden and try to look at the positive aspects.

For instance, if you have a garden that seems to grow rocks . . . great! Dig them out and use them to make raised beds, which you can then fill with rock-free soil, allowing yourself the opportunity of growing things that need an easy and deep root run.

Heavy clay soil . . . fabulous! Dig in plenty of shingle and manure and you have a good moisture-retaining and nutrient holding medium.

After a wildfire destroyed all the trees lining the track leading to my house I built a lot of field stone planters to pretty everything up. They cost very little to make as I gathered all the rock from nearby fields and my own land.

After a wildfire destroyed all the trees lining the track leading to my house I built a lot of field stone planters to pretty everything up. They cost very little to make as I gathered all the rock from nearby fields and my own land.

The Last Word

I hope this article has inspired you to have a go at creating your own garden on a budget. And I also hope that you create your garden within organic guidelines. Wildlife comes free if you do and this is an added bonus.

Remember your garden will be unique to you and doesn´t have to have all the latest designer ideas to be beautiful.

Happy gardening to you all!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Anne (author) from United Kingdom on November 23, 2016:

Nell Rose

Hi Nell.

I´m fine thanks but still trying to find a buyer for the villa! Hopefully this year. xx

Nell Rose on November 22, 2016:

Good to see you! hows everything going?

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on February 18, 2015:


Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

I really do feel that sometimes garden makeover shows concentrate too much on expensive architecture. All that stuff should take second place to the actual design and plants I feel.

poetryman6969 on February 17, 2015:

Some good tips. Especially on avoiding all the fancy architecture stuff.

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on June 19, 2013:

Hi Marieryan.

Lovely to meet you and I´m so pleased you found inspiration from this hub.

Here´s another tip for you, try mixing your bought plants with some wildflowers when you get around to making your borders, I have done this in my own garden and it has worked very well. As you know there are some beautiful wildflowers growing here in Spain and actually they are things you would buy in a nursery in the UK. Beware also of what you buy. I know in some of the garden centres around me they sell plants which are totally unsuited to the climate and conditions here. If you are unsure it´s better to check the labels and then keep these plants in pots so that you can regulate what they need with ease.

Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on June 19, 2013:

Thanks so much for this. I am so pleased I found your article which has inspired me.When I first moved into my new house, also here in Spain, but in Málaga, Andalucía, I inherited a jungle and didn't know how to cope. I had it paved over as soon as I could, but now that I have more time I'm regretting that badly. At the moment I am trying to fill the boring, empty space with pots and plants but, it is taking a lot of cash to even just make a small impression! I am certainly going to use some of your money-saving suggestions.

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on May 01, 2013:

Hi Ignugent. I hope your garden gives you pleasure this year too, and you have good weather in which to sit out and enjoy it. Lovely to hear from you and many thanks for taking the time to read and comment :)

ignugent17 on May 01, 2013:

I always admire beautiful gardens. I do hope this year I will have a good one. Thanks for the ideas your shared. :-)

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on April 23, 2013:

Hi Daffodilsky and many thanks once again for linking this to a hub of yours, I really appreciate that. Have a fantastic day, I know you are enjoying some much needed sunshine :)

Helen Lush from Cardiff, Wales, UK on April 23, 2013:

Great hub - voted up! Will link up with my own garden hub as promised. This is full of sensible and useful advice :)

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on April 14, 2013:

Hi Better yourself. It´s good that you have had time to think before making a start, planning is crucial in the garden to avoid costly mistakes and save yourselves back breaking work at a later stage. Check out my hub on field stone planters for more low cost ideas. I hope you enjoy getting stuck into your gardening work and it gives you pleasure for years to come. Many thanks also for taking the time to read and comment, I really appreciate that. Happy gardening :)

Better Yourself from North Carolina on April 14, 2013:

Great hub! Our yard has been a blank canvas since we moved in and we've been planning ideas for a while and are excited to finally get started. This is great info you've shared!

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on August 13, 2012:

Hi Deborah. Thank you for your great comments, much appreciated. I know you love gardening too and hope you have had a good summer in yours :)

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on August 13, 2012:

What a comprehensive hub full of great gardening tips! It's a great resource for anyone who wants to tackle a garden project. Good job.

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on July 05, 2012:

Hi Red, Thank you so much for your support. Along with some other people who Iam following I feel I have a real connection with you and all support is vital at this time, and very much appreciated. I am going to make some changes to the garden after the clean up, I need to make it lower maintenance anyway.

Good job I know what I'm doing lol xx

Redberry Sky on July 04, 2012:

Oh my God, Annie, that's utterly terrifying for you and the thousands evacuated from the city. I had no idea until I just read this from you, and went to look at the BBC coverage - you're right, they had nothing on it as far as I could see (though most of the newspapers have picked it up). I hope you're all right - your lovely garden will grow back in no time, don't worry - as long as you're not hurt, that's the main thing. I hope you're getting over the shock. Thinking of you, Red x

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on July 04, 2012:

Hi Red. Thank you so much for dropping by, sorry I took so long to get back to you, but we have suffered a terrible forest fire where I live ( Valencia) and I have been really badly hit. My garden now is burned and so is the surrounding countryside which was really beautiful ,It now looks like a scene from hell. I will pick up though and the garden will be back to it´s former glory at some stage.I know there has been no coverage on British TV about this major disaster, but information is on canal nou 24 hour news channel on the internet. Your praise for my hub came at a good time. Thankyou.

Redberry Sky on July 02, 2012:

This is fantastic information, Annie, I can't believe I've not spotted this Hub before - I've been looking for ideas and help with gardening because my own has become incredibly wild and unruly. I think I'll have to call in a professional to clear the first haul (it really does look like a magical haunted forest right now!) but when it's a little more under control I'll be back to get all your gardening secrets from you! :)

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on June 15, 2012:

Hi Tillson. Many thanks for dropping by, and your great comments and votes. Glad you enjoyed this hub. Happy gardening to you :)

Mary Craig from New York on June 15, 2012:

You really packed this hub full of information, all of it good! You surely don't have to break the bank to start a garden and if you think ahead in a year or two you'll have a lovely flower garden you can be proud of.

Your own compost is not only inexpensive but always accessible.

I enjoyed reading this as I am a gardener through and through!

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2012:

Good for you...with those kind of ethics your business will surely bloom !!

DS Duby from United States, Illinois on May 07, 2012:

ME neither even as a contractor, I've always tried to find my customers value and beauty without spending the big money.

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2012:

Thankyou so much DS Duby. I´m so not into buying into what I call " designer mentality"

DS Duby from United States, Illinois on May 07, 2012:

awesome garden and you are so write about letting the plants be the stars, there's no reason to buy into all of the expensive landscaping accessories when a natural living look is so much more beautiful. Up vote with an awesome, great writing.

Anne (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2012:

Thank you so much for your comment. I am new to all this and you are the first person to give me some positive feedback on-line. wow. Thanks also for your tip.

Georgina Crawford from Dartmoor on May 07, 2012:

You created a very pretty garden. Nice writing and I like the visuals too.

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