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Landscaping on a Small Budget

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

We all know a beautifully landscaped yard is the way to increase your home’s curb appeal. A well-planned design not only increases the value of your home, it also provides enjoyable outdoor spaces in which to spend time with family and friends. In fact, some neighborhoods even stipulate minimum landscaping requirements for residents.

Landscaping need not be elaborate to be beautiful.

Landscaping need not be elaborate to be beautiful.

Even if you are feeling a bit cash strapped after closing on your house, you should consider stretching your budget a little further to make the yard presentable. If you purchased a foreclosure, your yard may be in desperate need of attention. On the other hand, perhaps you bought in a brand new development with only sod and a couple of twig trees. Either way, you need to spruce things up with a budget-friendly landscape plan.

Use willing friends and family as cheap landscape labor. Reward them with a barbeque and beer!

Use willing friends and family as cheap landscape labor. Reward them with a barbeque and beer!

So, you need to put together a landscape plan that will look like a million, but won’t break the bank. Here are some money-saving tips to get you started!

Do It Yourself

Whenever possible, do the work yourself. Invite friends and family to help. You’ll be surprised how much cheap labor you’ll attract by offering up a barbeque and beer party as payment. Sure you’ll all be dirty, sweaty and tired at the end of the day, but your yard will look fabulous!

Use the Right Plants

It is easy to get carried away at the garden center when looking at all of the gorgeous plants. I know from experience. I hate to think of the money I’ve wasted over the years purchasing plants that didn’t make it through one season.

Do some research before you hit the nursery. Find out which plants do well in your growing zone. Determine areas of your yard that get full sun, partial sun or are completely shaded throughout the day. Use plants that are suited for the different conditions in your yard.

The perfect plants for Florida, but not for Minnesota.

The perfect plants for Florida, but not for Minnesota.

Shop for native plants that don’t require much in the way of maintenance or water. That will save you a lot of time and money in the long run and you’ll create an eco-friendly landscape at the same time!

Get Creative With Planters

Utilizing containers on the front porch or patio is a great way to incorporate a few colorful annuals into your landscape plan. You can pick and choose your favorite blooms to suit each season without having to buy flowering plants en mass.

An old galvanized tub gets new life as a charming planter!

An old galvanized tub gets new life as a charming planter!

If you have priced decorative planters lately, you know they are expensive. Why not repurpose items you have on hand or pick them up for a song at garage sales. Old buckets, tubs, wooden crates, watering cans or even a wheelbarrow can be easily fashioned into creative planters.

Another alternative is to stick with utilitarian clay pots. Simply paint them a color that coordinates with your exterior paint and you’ve got an expensive looking container for a fraction of the price. Painting clay planters also makes them less porous. Plants will not dry out as quickly as those placed in untreated clay pots.

Incorporate Gravel and Mulch

You can add style and architectural detail to your budget landscape plan by incorporating gravel or mulch into the design. Garden paths are a nice touch to break up expanses of lawn and planting beds. Instead of using expensive pavers or hiring a crew to pour concrete, consider using crushed stone, shells or mulch to create a meandering pathway through your yard.

A mulch path using plantings as edging.

A mulch path using plantings as edging.

Draw out the path with spray paint. Remove sod (to reuse in another areas) and take the length and width measurements to the garden center or supplier to purchase the right amount of fill material. Always start by covering bare soil with landscaping fabric to inhibit weed growth.

Place edging along the sides of the path to prevent material from spreading into surrounding areas. An economical option is bendable plastic edging. Or, for a natural look, use plants as your path edging. If using crushed stone or gravel, use a hand tamper or roller to compact the material.

More Great Tips for Landscaping on a Budget

Use What You Have

If you are working with existing landscaping, preserve healthy plants and trees to help save on costs. You can easily move and transplant smaller shrubs and trees. Divide rhizomes like lilies, irises and agapanthus and reestablish them in beds in other areas of the yard. If you have inherited plants and trees you are not familiar with, do some research to educate yourself about proper care and maintenance.


Agapanthus can easily be divided and planted in other areas of the yard.

Agapanthus can easily be divided and planted in other areas of the yard.

Take Advantage of Free Stuff

Many cities around the country have programs that offer residents free mulch, compost and trees. In return, they expect homeowners to use these materials to beautify their yards and neighborhoods. Check with your local officials to find similar programs in your area.

Get bricks from a building demolition site. They're great for edging and paving!

Get bricks from a building demolition site. They're great for edging and paving!

If you are in need of brick and stone for your landscaping project, check out demolition sites as a free source for materials. Obviously, you’ll want to get permission from the job site owner before taking anything!

Make End of Season Purchases

The best deals on landscape plants and supplies can be had at the end of growing season. Late summer and early fall are best times to purchase shrubs, trees and perennial plants. You may even be able to find deals on mulch and soil before the first snow flies!

Just make sure the plants you purchase in the fall will be hardy enough to make it through the winter months. Most trees and shrubs do best when planted in the fall—this gives them time to establish a good root system before the heat of the summer.

Quick Tips for Budget Landscaping

1. Make an Inspiration File: Just as you would prepare for an interior decorating project, look through magazines and websites for ideas that will inspire your landscape design. Clip and print photos and make a file to refer to before you begin work.

2. Research: Consult with local colleges and county extension agents when planning your landscape. Their free advice may prevent costly mistakes! Don’t forget to check the library and reputable websites for valuable gardening information.

3. Comparison Shop: Don’t buy plants and supplies at the first place you stop. Check with a variety of local nurseries, garden and home centers before making your purchases. Prices and quality can vary greatly from one to another.

4. Keep Emotions in Check: Don’t get suckered into buying colorful exotic plants just because they remind you of your Hawaiian vacation. Be realistic and make sure the plants you choose make sense for your growing zone.

5. Buy Used: You’d be surprise at the gardening deals you can find at garage and estate sales. Not only can you purchase tools and basic supplies, you can even score plants on occasion!

6. Avoid Overplanting: When planning where and how much to plant, keep in mind mature plant sizes. Don’t make the mistake thinking every square inch of your beds must be covered in plants. If you do, you’ll be removing and transplanting overcrowded plants next season!

© 2013 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 22, 2020:

Dolores, the free mulch and organic soil helps with the landscaping budget!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on January 22, 2020:

Love the tips! When I had a larger vehicle, I used to go to our local dump for free mulch as well as composted soil. It was a lot of work but great to get the freebies!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 01, 2019:

Roberta, I'm not doing as much yard work because of my lower back pain. We have hired a really good local budget handyman that takes care of our landscape and house exterior.

RTalloni on August 31, 2019:

Glad to see this nicely updated post again. An injury has me rethinking needs on our property. Not only is this good info for small budget landscaping, many of your tips are helpful in thinking through easy care.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 01, 2016:

Sarah, you are welcome! Hopefully you got some good ideas for your garden redo. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on May 24, 2016:

Margie, drought-tolerant plants are a smart choice for almost anywhere in the country. With extreme drought conditions everywhere it just doesn't make sense to plant anything that requires a lot of water. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Margie's Southern Kitchen from the USA on May 24, 2016:

Great information, We always look for plants that do not take a lot of water.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 21, 2015:

Congrats on Editor's Choice. Really useful tips. I used to have a tiny yard but I filled it with small trees. I enjoyed it so much that I go there each morning to check what surprise it has for me.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 26, 2015:

Great idea georgiagal1984! Love the thought of recycling planters. They are so expensive. I normally pick mine up at end of season sales and get pretty good deals--but free is way better! Thanks for stopping by!

Penny Pincher from United States on August 25, 2015:

Great tips! I have found a lot of nice planters on the curb and then get great deals on flowers and vegetable plants when they are on sale in the Spring. Take care~ :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on August 03, 2013:

That's one of the things I love/hate about the landscaping here in Vegas. Gravel is a cheap and an environmentally friendly alternative to grass, but it does get tiresome to look at after a while. I long for leafy trees and lush lawns. So happy you liked these suggestions, vespa!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on August 03, 2013:

Landscaping can get very expensive, so I appreciate all these ideas...especially the inclusion of gravel and mulch. Sometimes we forget how much they can also add to the garden. Thank you!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on June 09, 2013:

Pamela glad you liked these tips and hope you can incorporate some of them into your landscape! :)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 09, 2013:

These are all great suggests to have a beautiful yard without too much maintenance after the initial work. I am definitely going to follow some of your plans to spark things up a bit.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 22, 2013:

Thanks teaches! I've done galvanized tub plantings--it's such a nice look. Just make sure to provide proper drainage. Thanks for the read and comment! :)

Dianna Mendez on April 21, 2013:

I love the galvanized tub idea, this would go well on my back patio. Great tips and ideas for cultivating a small landscape design on a budget.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 06, 2013:

Thanks, Carol! I think I wrote this Hub 'cause I'm missing not having a yard to putter in. This time of the year always makes me want to dig around in the dirt! I appreciate the pin and votes. :)

carol stanley from Arizona on April 06, 2013:

Some really great ideas here and I love the photos. I keep looking at our bare yard and want to spruce it up. As always you make things work so well. Voting up and pinning.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 05, 2013:

RTalloni, I love the idea of doing a plant swap with neighbors! Another great way to add beautiful new plants...for free! Thanks for sharing this great idea and thanks for the comment and pin. :)

RTalloni on April 05, 2013:

A fabulous look at landscaping on a small budget. There's no reason not to have a delightful yard throughout the seasons! Once the yard is established and growing, it's fun to swap plants with other gardeners in a neighborhood. This post will be helpful to any who want to begin making the most out of their property, no matter the size. Pinned to one of my gardening boards.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 05, 2013:

Rebecca, like I mentioned in this Hub, I too have wasted a great deal of money over the years on plants that weren't the best match for my climate. I'm sure we've all had to learn that the hard way! Thanks so much for the votes and share. :)

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 05, 2013:

Jackie, I think your idea of putting trees in planters is great way to have nature close at hand. I'm sure it makes your outdoor spaces like an oasis! Thanks as always for stopping by for a read! :)

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 05, 2013:

These are just the coolest ideas! And you are so right about matching plants to your growing zone. I have learned not to order anything online. It really pays to get youplants from a local garden center. Thanks! Shared and all vote +

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on April 05, 2013:

Great tips. I am getting into the planters close to the house, patio, etc, big time. I have trees I normally would have put in the ground by now but the planter is keeping them from taking off and I have that beauty close by to enjoy. You have a library of great things, I come back and look at them often. Thanks.