How to Design a Garden on a Budget

If you’ve read my story or seen any of my other posts so far, you might think I had some kind of budget to get the garden you see on the homepage. Well, I didn’t. I didn’t have a budget to design my garden – at all. I HAD to design my first garden pretty much from savings in the next few months. Why? Because I wasn’t expecting a wiped-out field where nothing could grow, I had expected what had been seen in the past photos of the house (Details here, it’s a hilarious story btw – do try to give it a read!). Once you know your garden, the next steps are pretty exciting:

Here are some tips, most from experience, to help you get the most out of your garden without causing a big dent in your savings:

Prioritize your necessities. Getting a hose is more important than a decorative garden mirror. It is difficult to rationalize when all you want to do is buy that gorgeous outdoor Victorian mirror with its aged, rustic borders. But rationalize and prioritize you must. One way of doing this is keeping a log of things you would want to get later. This is a way of assuring yourself that you can certainly come back to these ‘wants’ later and splurge when you have some more saved. Once you’re designing the garden on the decided budget, you can revisit your savings or try to go through other cheap options (see below).

Invest in plants that offer year-long interest and spread/naturalize easily, thus filling up space without the need to buy more. These include Japanese Anemones, Montbretia, Chasmanthe Floribunda, fast growing climbers such as Jasmine, Passionflower, etc. Larger specimens of these aren’t necessarily easy when you’re designing a garden on a budget but you should be able to find small specimens.

Buy small plants instead of large specimens. Patience is key here. In some cases, this adds the benefit of your money not going to waste if the new plant doesn’t do well/gets diseases or pests, etc. For example, I bought 2 apple trees, relatively mature but they got a severe case of rust due to which I had to move them and treat them with organic anti-fungal solutions (which don’t really work), now forced to leave them to their own devices and praying they recover from this fungal disease. Rust is a disease transmitted from various other trees to fruit trees and the spores can be transmitted up-to a range of 2 km. I had no idea about this or that my garden was prone to the disease due to the neighboring trees. Had I known, I might have invested in a disease resistant variety or gone for another fruit tree altogether.

Look for freebies/used stuff. One of the most common methods when designing a garden on a budget, is to look for leftover building materials at your local council’s waste disposal area, facebook marketplace, gumtree, preloved, local charity shops, vintage markets, etc. You’ll be surprised! I once saw someone asking people to come to their house and dig up their cherry blossom and fruit trees and take them away for free! Of course, you’d need appropriate transport. I managed to get quite a lot of slate slabs for free from someone’s leftover building work and ended up using these temporarily to edge the flower beds. Don’t shy away from visiting reclamation yards and recycling centers. Here is a helpful video from one of my favorite bloggers on how to shop from charity shops/flea markets.

Share plant cuttings with your neighbors and eventually, you might get some too!

Try to grow plants from seed. This is not only rewarding but also extremely gentle on the pocket. What’s best is that the plants, once established, keep giving you even more seeds to sow on or give to friends or family!

Get creative with old furniture or wood. Try using old furniture or wood from pallets to make raised bed, planters, etc. You could convert an old cabinet into a potting table. You could convert an old plastic tub into a pond or old drawers into planters- the ideas are endless! DIY gardening is fun!

Don’t throw away plastic pots. These are the ones your plants came in. Apart from reducing waste, there’s a whole lot you can do with them to recycle them. You can decoupage them and use as indoor planters/pencil holders, etc or you can spray/paint them to use as outdoor planters.

Use art to decorate. If you can find inexpensive wall decor, great. If not, try to paint the fences and/or the walls yourself – either plain or with murals. Leftover paint, old copper wires, left over paint are fabulous alternatives when designing a garden on a budget.

In a small garden, get rid of a lawn if possible. Gardening in small gardens can sometimes be challenging but if you try to eliminate the lawn, you’ll have more seating and planting space. In the long run, you will be getting rid of the lawn maintenance costs altogether.

Use your vertical space. Whether hanging baskets or standalone shelves for plants, use these to grow your own ornamental plants and produce from seed.

Wait for the sales. Always wait for the sales. I cannot stress on this enough. One, because obviously it’s MUCH cheaper to get plants in sales. And secondly, because most of the ones in sale need just a tiny bit of TLC and they spring back to life. If we didn’t buy them, they would most certainly be left to die. However, be wary of buying plants outside of their growing season.

Make your own compost. Honestly, it’s so easy and so rewarding. You pretty much have everything you need already, except maybe a compost bin. You can make one yourself out of old containers/pallets,etc.

Use homemade organic fertilizer. This can either be fertilizer made from the weeds you dig up or from Comfrey tea. Here’s how to make fertilizer from weeds and here’s how to use Comfrey tea. However, be warned that these methods involve some bad smells!

Keep a regular eye on your local grocery stores. This isn’t just the local Tesco. In fact, it usually isn’t. It’s the local Wilko, Aldi and Lidl which have the greatest deals. Their gardening tools, planters etc keep getting replaced by new ones and the stocks run out pretty fast. The flowering bulbs are the cheapest and do very well. I have always bought tubers and bulbs from Wilko and they never disappoint! Aldi and Lidl also have live plants which are sold at ridiculously low prices. I got two Buddleja plants from Aldi, in 15 cm pots, for £3 each. They are now both over 180 cm tall and flowering profusely within 5 months!

Recycle existing materials and plants. If there are mature shrubs, see if division or propagation is possible. In addition, moving them around the garden is another option for a new look. Also try to re-use materials such as bricks. If you want to get rid of an old raised brick bed, you could use these to create edging for a new bed.

Ask friends for help. Throw a party and tell you friends and family to help you out in exchange for an evening of fun with some music, win and dancing (or whatever floats your boat!).

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