11 inspiring ways to enhance your backyard – without breaking the bank

Give your outdoor space a refresh this year with these simple, inexpensive design ideas

A wooden bench on a patio with glorious summer planting
(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs / Future)

Is your plot crying out for a makeover? These low-cost landscaping ideas demonstrate how a fabulous new look needn't be expensive to achieve.

Perhaps your backyard boundaries need an update, or you fancy a smart new flower bed. Or maybe, a new seating zone for relaxing and entertaining in style is exactly what your backyard needs. 

Whatever the case, many will be pleased to hear that there are plenty of backyard landscaping ideas that won't cost the earth. Because, let's face it, a garden makeover can sound like an expensive ordeal. And in fact it often is - unless you've got a bit of know-how and creativity up your sleeve.

10 budget landscaping ideas that will rejuvenate your plot

'When it comes to landscaping on a budget it's all about the little touches that, when combined, will give a huge lift to a space,' says deputy gardens editor at Homes & Gardens, Teresa Conway.

'Boundaries and patios are a good place to start as the eye is often drawn to them, particularly if they're a little lackluster at present,' she says. 

Teresa Conway headshot
Teresa Conway

Teresa has been creating and editing a variety of rich garden content for over six years, across many brands including Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors and Living Etc. She was Deputy Editor on Gardeningetc.com as well as a judge on the panel at the prestigious Society of Garden Designers awards.

1. Don't pay for a new patio

Outdoor rug on a patio in front of bifold doors

Pep up your patio with a chic rug

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Rather than paying for a new patio to be installed, simply disguise tired paving or decking with one of the best outdoor rugs. The majority are made from woven polypropylene and come in a whole host of different patterns and colors. 

Warm and comfy underfoot, they are the easiest and ideal way to bring pattern into your outside seating space and make a handy focal point to arrange furniture around, too. What's more, they are easy to look after, can be left outside during rain showers, and are quick to dry. 

Choose from monochrome geometrics, large-scale tropical motifs, or the very latest faded Persian-style rugs.

Shop outdoor rugs

2. Lay a DIY path

Pavind stones fixed into a lawn to create a paved pathway

Walkways can be comprised of simple pavers

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs / Future)

Quick and easy garden path ideas don't have to be expensive or arduous. From bark nuggets and slate chippings to gravel or pea shingle, there are a number of easy-lay options that are also practical underfoot and good-looking, too. 

You could simply lay them straight on the ground or onto a hard surface (think concrete hardstanding or an existing ugly paved area) and rake them level. But in most cases, it makes sense to put down a landscape membrane first and then the aggregate on top. This will both stop the aggregate from being pushed down into the soil and prevent weeds from growing up within the path. 

One idea is to make a woodland-style log path. Made from cross-sections of sawn logs, it's natural paving at its best. Place the circular sections onto a firmed and leveled pathway and arrange them as stepping-stones. Fill any awkward gaps with smaller discs from younger branches and fine bark chippings.

3. Get existing shrubs in order

Shrubs growing in large containers in a neat border

Try your hand at topiary to give a brand new look to your plot

(Image credit: Annaick Guitteny)

Bring fresh form and structure into your garden by reshaping large, unruly shrubs. It's quick and easy to do, and it won't cost you. Plus, not only is it an opportunity to get creative – perhaps with some topiary – but it can also let more daylight filter in, encouraging other plants to grow. 

'Topiary works best with dense evergreens,' says Teresa. 'Boxwood is a classic topiary shrub along with many other hedging plants. Plus, topiary will reward you year round,' she says.

4. Up the sensory appeal with a budget-friendly water feature

Sparrow perched by the side of a bird bath drinking water

Adding a DIY bird bath for rustic charm

(Image credit: Andi Edwards / Getty Images)

Adding a water feature to your plot is an instant way to bring a whole new dimension to your outside space, and doesn't have to be expensive. Sun or moonlight reflecting off the still water will always be a mesmerizing sight.

Choose a shallow yet wide and open container. Yes, there are some gorgeous metal reflection bowls available, but a vintage enamel basin or plastic plant saucer will do the job.

Place your DIY bird bath on level ground or raise up on a simple brick or timber plinth, away from trees or shrubs. Fill to the brim, ideally with rainwater, and enjoy the reflection of scudding clouds overhead and visits from thirsty birds and wildlife.

5. Reshape your flower beds

A curved shaped planting bed with evergreen plants

A neat edge elevates this border

(Image credit: Mark Bolton / Future)

Something as simple as redefining or altering the shape and size of your flower beds can hugely revitalize your garden. Costing nothing more than an hour or two of your time, and maybe a bag of compost, it's a great way to get creative and reimagine your space. 

Consider introducing some sweeping curves to introduce movement and drama into your plot, or a series of sharp geometric beds, set on an angle, for a more contemporary vibe. Whatever your design ambitions, a good quality, sharp edging tool, like this Colwelt Saw-Tooth Hand Edger at Walmart, is required for this job.

'Reimagining the typical straight flower bed shape can give a really interesting look to your garden,' says Teresa. 'Curved edges can create a soft sweeping look to your backyard as opposed to the more formal feel of straight borders and make a space feel bigger,' she says.

And once you've tidied up their shape, try collecting some free seeds to boost your planting at no extra cost.

6. Divide your space into zones

Patio seating area at the rear of a garden with a lawn in front

Creating a smaller patio will save on costs

(Image credit: Future)

When considering your new low-cost landscaping ideas, think about the different areas you need for the activities you want to do. For instance, rather than paving a huge space (and splashing out on tons of pavers), plan a smaller patio area in one corner for your outdoor seating. The rest of the plot can be reserved for cheaper materials, such as lawn, bark chipping or gravel garden paths, or flower beds.

Similarly, a fancy privacy fence might look beautiful but could cost you a pretty penny if you use it around the entire perimeter of your plot. Instead, install it around the zones which will benefit most from the heightened look and sense of exclusivity. 

7. Sow a lush lawn from seed

House and landscaped backyard with shaped lawn

A verdant lawn isn't too tricky to achieve

(Image credit: Mint Images / Getty Images)

If you love the idea of a lush lawn for summer picnics or for the kids to have a run around, then you're in luck. These favorite garden features are cheap and relatively easy to create. 

Whilst using rolls of turf may be quicker, it's definitely more expensive. So, if you've got a bit of patience, learning how to plant grass seed is the way forward. You'll need to prepare the ground first, removing any weeds or stones and leveling it out before re-compacting it and raking the top. 

Don't forget to factor in the costs of a lawn mower, there are plenty of budget versions available that will do the job just fine. Our buying guide to the best lawn mower is a good place to start your search.

If you already have a lawn but it's looking a little worse for wear, it's easy and inexpensive to repair patches in grass and get it back to looking its best.

Why not add a border of blooms for extra visual appeal? Although buying lots of plants at the garden center can be expensive, growing your own from seed, as with grass, is a much cheaper approach. 

8. Upcycle objects for new garden features

Garden area with upcycled barrels

This stylish setup is full of upcycled materials

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography/Future)

Head down to your local reclamation yard and you might be surprised at all the inexpensive treasure you find that has upcycling potential. This setup demonstrates lots of great ideas at play.

Corrugated metal sheets can be used for screening – embrace the raw industrial look or give them a makeover with a lick of exterior metal paint. And if you're keen on adding more sustainable garden features to your plot, a reclaimed barrel or two makes a statement water butt for recycling rainwater. We also like the DIY bench in this scene for a simple seating solution or platform for plants.

Keep an eye out for large containers that can be used for garden planters, too. In smaller plots these can be an important part of your layout as they can be used as garden zoning.

9. Source reclaimed bricks for edges and patios

Garden path made by reclaimed bricks in a curved shape

These red bricks create a pleasing pattern amongst the gravel

(Image credit: Tim Winter/Future)

Reclaimed bricks offer a vintage charm that's perfect for country-cottage gardens, and they're durable too. Often they can be found online – or ask around your local area – you might just pick up a bargain.

If you manage to get your hands on a large amount, you could use them to create an entire patio space. Alternatively, they're a smart garden edging idea for your borders or paths for an extra sense of definition. Combine with gravel – another budget-friendly material that also looks great and is good for soaking up rainwater, too.

10. Paint your boundaries rather than replacing them

Pink and gray painted flower beds and garden fence

These walls are painted in 'Knightsbridge 215' and 'Carmine 189' Intelligent Masonry Paints, both from Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

If your garden fence or wall is looking a little lackluster, then you might be tempted to rip the whole thing out. However, before you fork out on a brand new style, consider whether the existing design can be improved or repaired.

Maybe just one or two fence panels have rotted or broken, in which case you can just replace those. And sometimes, a good clean and a lick of fresh paint can do wonders at brightening up the dullest of walls. 

There's a huge spectrum of exterior paint colors available these days, from soft blues, deep ochre and warming terracotta to on-trend charcoal or gray. To make a real style statement, paint your raised beds in a complementary hue, like in this smart example above.


What are the cheapest paving materials?

'Gravel and slate chippings are a cost-effective landscaping idea and an easy way to cover a large area,' says garden writer Jill Morgan

'Creating an attractive and tactile surface it works with most gardening styles. It's also easy to cover any less-than-lovely features such as tired concrete or crazy paving,' she says.

'One other option for your cheap paving ideas is to use compacted crushed stone. Often used as a base layer for laying slabs and outdoor tiles, it can look pretty smart on its own, especially when smoothed down,' says Jill.

Highly durable it’s a practical surface for furniture too, plus you can always pave or tile over it when budget and time allows.

Jill Morgan
Jill Morgan

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Gardeningetc.com. 

If budget landscaping ideas are working for you then think about ways you can multiply your plant stocks. Learning how to divide plants is a great step towards increasing your plant collections.

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for Gardeningetc.com for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.