You do not need to spend a fortune to transform your garden. It is easier and cheaper than you might imagine to create a beautiful, thriving and productive space for you and your family to enjoy. The things that you will need can largely be found for free in the garden itself, and in the surrounding environment. Those things that you do need to bring in, you can often find for free or very cheaply through connections with your community, or online.
Remember, no matter what you choose to do to transform your garden, it is important to garden organically. In addition to all the other benefits to people, wildlife and the planet that come from not using harmful chemicals on your land – choosing not to use herbicides and pesticides will also immediately cut an expense out of your budget.
Transform your garden wisely and well by keeping the five ‘R’s in mind. In order to keep costs down, think about the many ways that you can refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. Work with nature rather than fighting it, and you will be able to create a beautiful garden that requires few inputs, and will cost you very little over the years.
Source Seeds & Plants For Free
Buying bedding plants is the most expensive way to stock your garden. You should, where possible, consider growing from seed, or propagating your own plants through cuttings and division. Here are some tips to help you save money on stocking your garden with a wide range of plants:
- Ask friends, family or neighbours whether they have seeds or plants to spare.
- Save seeds from organic produce that you buy to sow in your garden.
- Regrow fruits and vegetables from scraps.
- Take cuttings from their existing plants in your garden. (Or ask permission to take cuttings from other people’s plants.)
- Divide perennials to make new plants, and replant runners, suckers or plantlets elsewhere in your garden.
- If you do buy fruit trees, opt for bareroot trees rather than pot grown, as these are less expensive.
- To keep saving money over time, save the seeds from the plants that you grow. You can then consider swapping or sharing seeds with others.
Source Tools & Equipment For Nothing Or Next To Nothing
Buy only what you really need. Make a list of the basic tools you really require, then, to save money, ask around friends and family to see whether they have what you need.You can also:
- Consider joining a tool sharing scheme.
- Source free tools on Freecycle, Freegle etc..
- Look for cheap second-hand tools online.
- Look in reclamation yards/ second hand stores etc for old tools that you can fix up and use.
Choosing a few good quality tools that will last for years is far better than buying a tool for everything, and having to replace them in short order. So remember, if you do buy any new garden tools, to select quality options. Tools with wooden handles are a more eco-friendly choice, and can be repaired rather than thrown away if the handles break.
Make Your Own Compost, Mulches & Liquid Feeds
Transforming your garden on a budget is not just about thinking short term. It is about making sure that you can maintain your garden without too much additional outlay over time. The number one thing to do to save money in your garden is making your own compost.
Making your own compost will save you from having to buy it in, and that’s kinder on the environment too. In addition to making your own compost, however, you should also consider:
- Making leaf mould.
- Creating natural mulches from the natural materials around you. (E.g. wood chip/bark, straw, grass clippings, leaves, seaweed etc..)
- Making your own liquid plant feeds, such as comfrey liquid feed, compost liquid feed, nettles liquid feed, multi-purpose weed feed, seaweed liquid feed etc..
Using free plant resources in these ways can help you protect the soil in your garden and grow in it successfully and cheaply for many years to come.
Use Other Natural Resources at Your Disposal
If you are trying to transform your garden on a budget, making your own compost, mulches and liquid feeds is not the only way to make the most of the natural resources that you might find around you. You might also, for example:
- Use logs and branches from your garden or surrounding area to edge paths or growing areas. You might also use natural wood to make hugelkultur mounds, support structures and fencing, or even use it to make your own charcoal (to use to make biochar, or for barbecues). Wood pruned from garden trees might also be used for crafting a wide range of useful items, from tool handles to furniture, that you could use to transform your garden.
- Utilise rocks and stones you find in your garden to make walls, bed edging, paths, path edging etc..
- Use clay/ mud from your garden to make a charcoal burning oven, outdoors pizza oven, or to make cob/adobe to create a wide range of walls, path edges and other garden structures.
These are just a few examples of the ways in which you can use natural resources to transform your garden without spending much money – if you spend any at all.
If you have a metered water supply, you can also save money by harvesting your own rainwater on your property. Remember, rainwater is a natural resource and even when there is plenty of it, it is not something that should be squandered.
Upcycle Old Items & Reclaimed Materials To Transform Your Garden
It is also worthwhile considering other sources of materials that can be collected for free (or for next to nothing). Upcycling old items and reclaimed materials can also help you transform your garden on a budget. For example, you could make:
- Your own row cover, mini greenhouse or polytunnel using reclaimed materials.
- A DIY cold frame to extend the growing season.
- DIY vertical gardening structures to make the most of your space.
- New planters or raised beds from old furniture, sinks, tubs, barrels, troughs, tyres etc..
- Decking or patio furniture from wood pallets or other reclaimed wood.
- Hammocks, chairs, shades etc from reclaimed fabrics.
- Garden dens for kids using things that might otherwise be thrown away.
- Make a scarecrow from reclaimed materials.
- Use reclaimed wood to make bird feeders, bird boxes and other wildlife friendly additions for your garden.
Again, these are just a few examples of the many ways that you can reuse things in your garden that might otherwise have been thrown away.
Reuse Plastic Packaging & Other Household Waste to Transform Your Garden
You can also reuse any plastic packaging and other household rubbish in your garden to cut costs and be kind to the planet. For example, you could:
- Make cloches for plants from old plastic bottles.
- Turn old plastic food trays into a home-made propagator for seeds.
- Poke holes in plastic yoghurt pots etc. and use them as containers.
- Make a vertical garden by stacking, hanging or stringing up plastic containers in which to plant your crops.
- Make a windmill/ bird scarer from scrap plastic.
- Use an old milk bottle to make a watering can.
- Use scrap plastic to make plant labels or garden markers.
- Use tin cans to make containers or bird scarers.
- Use old glass bottles/jars as bed or path edging, either on their own, stuck into the soil, or held together with clay/ cob.
- Use toilet roll tubes, cardboard, newspaper or other scrap paper to make biodegradable plant pots.
These are just a few of the many ways that you can move towards a zero waste lifestyle and save money when transforming your garden. The set up costs and continuing expenses will be far lower if you, as discussed above, garden organically, DIY, and follow the five ‘R’s.
Have you succeeded in transforming your garden on a budget? Share your success stories, tips and suggestions in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.