Most of us will agree that one of the best things about the warmer months is spending more time outside enjoying green spaces. So if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, summer can be the perfect time to give it a mini makeover or freshen up.
Luckily, injecting some life and vibrancy into your outdoor space doesn’t have to be expensive – there are plenty of cheap and easy ways to make it more practical and beautiful.
From growing herbs and veggies to having fun with accessories and creating a DIY bar, here are 13 cheap and easy garden design ideas.
1. Get creative with pots and containers
Pots and containers are incredibly versatile, which makes them a great addition to any outdoor space.
They can be helpful for adding greenery to patio or decking areas, making more space for plants by stacking or hanging them vertically, and – if you use bright pots or choose to decorate yours – they can bring colour and personality to your garden.
Not only that, but pots and containers also come in an endless assortment of sizes, patterns, and designs; so you can treat the process of choosing and arranging them like an interior design project.
Plus, it can be fun to consider what objects you might have indoors that you could turn into a garden container – such as old tins, welly boots, or even an old bath!
To get inspiration for how to arrange your garden pots and what to put in them, you might want to check out this list of 12 container gardening ideas from Homes & Gardens. Or, for more specific tips on how to create your own DIY garden containers, check out this article from A Piece Of Rainbow.
2. Add a water feature
Many people consider water features to be elaborate and expensive but they don’t have to be. It could be as simple as adding a bird bath to your garden, which will also increase your birdwatching opportunities!
You can find plenty of ideas on how to make your own bird bath – such as painting and stacking terracotta pots and topping them with a water-filled plant pot saucer – in this article from Morning Chores.
You could also consider building a pond in your outdoor space, as this can add interest to your garden and is an effective way to attract more wildlife, such as frogs.
The materials needed to build a pond are usually inexpensive and easy to get hold of. For example, in this handy guide from Wildlife Trusts, all you need is a plank of wood, a pond liner, a variety of pond plants, some large rocks, and some building sand.
Your pond can be as big or as little as you like! For advice on how to build a tiny pond (think washing-up bowl size), this page from the RSPB is particularly helpful.
3. Plant, bright, affordable flowers
Bedding plants are an easy way to add some instant colour to your garden and can be bought for as little as £3 at garden centres. You can add them to hanging baskets, flower beds, and plant pots – and in the spring and summer months, they’ll usually spread and bloom quite quickly.
If you want to use bedding plants that’ll produce bright flowers for much of the year, try violas and pansies.
Or, if you don’t mind waiting a little longer for your splash of colour and want to get more for your money, you could consider planting seeds, bulbs, or sprouts instead. Cornflowers, marigolds, and petunias are good options.
4. Give old fences and garden furniture a fresh coat of paint
If your garden furniture or fences are looking a bit worn and shabby, you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy new ones to keep your garden looking nice. Instead, you could freshen them up with a coat of paint – and there’s plenty of room to have fun with different colour schemes.
You might want to experiment with bright colours like oranges, blues, and yellows – or keep things classic by sticking with something neutral like black or brown. You’ll find a variety of garden paint colours and ideas in this article from Dulux.
For best results when painting old, wooden garden furniture, you’ll likely need to take steps to prepare and repair the wood. Scrubbing it with a stiff wire brush beforehand to remove loose paint, applying glue to damaged areas, and sanding it to make it smooth are all helpful treatment tips.
After painting, there are also things you can do to make sure your work withstands the elements as much as possible – such as adding a coat of lacquer.
Check out this guide from Lazy Garden Furniture for more tips on how to repaint wooden furniture.
5. Build your own garden bar
Gardens are wonderful places to entertain loved ones or enjoy a quiet glass of wine or homemade lemonade in the sun. If this sounds familiar, an outdoor bar could be the upgrade you’re looking for.
It’s the sort of DIY job where you can use up old wood that you might have lying around. In this video from DIY On a Budget, for example, the presenter uses pallets to make a freestanding bar.
Or, if you want to spend a little more and create a bigger bar with shelter and extra shelves, the video below from Wickes will show you how to build your own garden bar out of decking and fence posts.
Once your bar is complete, you can also have fun decorating it. Paint, fairy lights or lanterns, or creating your own bar signs and menus, are all good options.
6. Look after your lawn
Lawns often get overlooked in gardens but how full and green they are can play a significant role in how lush your garden looks.
Mowing your lawn regularly and removing weeds as they crop up are a couple of the best things you can do for your lawn to promote healthy growth.
You can also collect and store rainwater to keep your lawn hydrated during dry spells. And if it’s looking particularly sparse in places, try adding grass seed. Though, it’s important to skip this step if you have a dog, as grass seeds can cause injuries.
For more lawn care tips, check out this article from Gardeners’ World.
7. Add candles, lanterns, or solar-powered lights
If you want to create cosy, ambient vibes in your garden after dark, why not try adding some candles, lanterns, or solar-powered lamps?
Whether you have a tiny patio, a balcony, or the full works, lighting can work wonders to make your evenings more magical.
You can also get creative with the types of lighting you choose and how you arrange them. For example, you could use solar-panelled lamps to light up a pathway at ground level, present lanterns and candles in clusters on tables or walls, or drape fairy lights across fences.
Though, with string lights, it’s always best to put them somewhere where birds and other wildlife won’t get tangled up in them. If you live somewhere with a large glow worm population, it’s best to avoid coloured lights, as these can confuse them.
Garden lighting can be bought quite cheaply from places like Amazon and Wilko – or you could have a go at making your own DIY lanterns by punching holes in tin cans or placing string lights in a glass bottle.
8. Repurpose old furniture
Old interior furniture that you no longer want or need could have plenty of uses outdoors instead. As mentioned earlier, bathtubs can easily be turned into planters and decorated in any way that you like – for example, by using paints or mosaics.
You could also sit plant pots right down in the seats of broken chairs, or plant greenery in the old chest of drawers or desks. Check out these 30 brilliant ideas from Your Garden Design to get inspired.
Old step ladders can also make ideal homes for potted plants and herbs, and palettes can be used to make outdoor sofas or armchairs. Take a look at the creative examples in this article from Huffington Post.
9. Create borders
If you want to add some stylish touches to your garden while keeping the cost down, why not use garden borders? This can also be a helpful way to keep your outdoor space neat and tidy by dividing areas into separate ‘rooms’.
There are various different ways you can create borders or edges but the most common is to add traditional lawn edging in stone, picket fence, wicker, or many other decorative styles. It’s usually stuck in the ground with stakes in between your flower beds and lawn.
Alternatively, you could separate areas of your garden using large rocks, stones, shells – or by digging a border and filling it with pebbles. Gabion garden wall edging (a square or rectangular metal cage filled with rocks) is also becoming a popular option. Some people even use long grass or bedding plants to create borders.
To see some of these ideas, plus plenty more, head over to the Digs Digs website.
10. Have fun with accessories
Things like statues, hanging signs, wall art, and cushions can go a long way to making your garden feel more cosy and personal.
Budget stores like Wilko and The Range sell everything from Buddha statues and garden mirrors to wind spinners and decorative thermometers at a variety of price points. Poundland can also be great for garden decorations and accessories.
To get tips on how to choose and position garden ornaments and sculptures, check out the video below from The Middle-Sized Garden. Though many of the sculptures in this video are quite large – which won’t be for everyone – Alexandra’s tips still offer inspiration and insight into how to experiment with different textures and materials.
There are also plenty of garden ornaments and decorations that you can make yourself – such as succulent monograms and dragonfly fence hangings. This article from DIY & Crafts has these and plenty more projects to get stuck into.
11. Grow herbs and veggies
If you want to make your garden as functional as it is beautiful, you could think about planting some herbs and vegetables.
You can plant herbs in flower beds or pots. Flower beds can offer more space but pots are better for drainage. There’s much debate over which is better – so we’d love to know what you think in the comments below!
The RHS recommends avoiding herb plants that are sold in supermarkets – as they’re usually grown under glass and are often too ‘lush and stressed’ to adapt well to life outdoors.
When it comes to veggies, there are plenty of seeds that can be sown in summer, such as pak choi, spring onion, and spinach. To see which vegetables you can plant and when, check out our planting calendar.
12. Add a gravel path
Adding a path to your garden can create interest and intrigue – and it’s fairly easy to do, even if you’re new to garden landscaping.
The reason that we’ve chosen gravel is because it’s cost-effective, versatile, hard-wearing, and looks appealing in most gardens.
A gravel path also has practical benefits, such as the fact that it allows rain to permeate through it and soak away into the soil – meaning it won’t become waterlogged. Plus, it isn’t too difficult to reverse later, should you wish to change your garden layout.
After you’ve decided where you want your path to be and marked it out, the next few steps are simple. Start by digging out a channel of a depth of 100mm and edge it with timber.
Then, to create a base for your gravel, line your channel with landscape fabric and add a layer of sub-base (which will support the weight of the gravel and any foot traffic through it). Then you can add a layer of gravel.
This tutorial from Wickes will take you through the process in more detail.
13. Introduce climbing plants
For gardens that are in need of a lift – including small gardens with limited space – climbing plants are a must-have.
Climbing plants can be trained to grow up trellises, along pergolas, around archways, or across fences and sheds. You could even train climbing plants to grow around an old step ladder, if you’d like.
Or, if you want to buy and plant some climbers, clematis and rambling roses will produce stunning blooms in the warmer months. Both of these can be planted any time of year but will need plenty of water if planted in summer.
We hope that this article has shown you that there are plenty of ways to tap into nature and make your garden look beautiful without breaking the bank.