How to make your garden look nice on a budget

It can be amazing to have the space to have a great garden that you can look out on, your kids can enjoy and you can grow food.  Remove weeds, trim your plants, mow the lawn and pressure clean your paths. Read on for more tips to make your garden look nice on a budget.

Get rid of those weeds

Weeding is the best thing you can do in your garden that costs nothing but will make a huge impact.  Pulling weeds can also be very relaxing.  If your weeds have thorns or spikes then a pair of garden gloves are a great way to protect your hands.  Weeding is the number 1 way you can improve the look of your garden on a budget.

Trim your plants

Next to weeding, trimming or pruning your plants is a great way to improve the look of your garden on a budget. Overgrown trees can be trimmed back to a nice shape. Removing dead leaves from shrubs or small plants can make a big difference. The only tool you need is a pair of snips or secateurs. These are the tool that can transform your garden for next to nothing.

Wonderful lawn

One of the best and cheapest ways to make your garden look great on a budget it to trim your lawn.  Getting the edges neat, and the lawn trimmed to a nice height can transform a messy backyard into a dream.

Here is my tiny lawn after a quick trim

Pressure cleaning

Pressure cleaning can be a great value way to give life back to any paved or brick area in your garden.  If you have a friend you can borrow from this can work out to be completely free (except for the water and maybe a coffee in return).  Cleaning your yard in this way make the most of what you have and gives it a new lease on life on a budget.

Mulch

Adding mulch to your garden can transform the look of your garden on a budget. Mulching has the added benefit of protecting the soil and improving it over time.  As the mulch breaks down, it adds more carbon to the soil making it easier to grow amazing plants.

There are many things you can use to mulch your garden. Some are completely free, others have a small cost but look great. These are my favorite mulches for your garden.

Fall (Autumn) leaves: These are a great cover for your garden beds.  If you live in an area where there are lots of trees, collecting fallen leaves can be a great way to add cheap mulch to your garden.

Compost: compost that is either home made or store bought can be used as a great mulch for your garden.  Once it has broken down fully, you can apply this straight over the top of your soil.  It will add nutrients and structure to your soil as it breaks down.  Laying it on the top will help stop the weeds from appearing among your plants.

Bark chips – bark chips are my favorite mulch. These are usually made from pine tree off cuts. Some local councils will offer free mulch, but even if you need to pay, it is certainly good value.  If you have a small garden you can buy bark mulch in bags. These come in 40L bags, for around $10 at Bunnings. If you have a larger garden, you could pick this up with a trailer yourself from a landscape supplier or have it delivered.

Sugar cane or pea straw mulch – Compressed, bagged mulches like sugar cane or pea straw are also great value.  These are available from garden centers, hardware stores or even (at times) Aldi. They cover a large area and are relatively cheap.

Grow from seed

A great way to save money on plants is to grow them from seed.  This is by far the best value way to buy plants, especially vegetables.  Start with easy to grow types like peas, basil, lettuce, pumpkin and work your way.  If you let your vegetables go to seed, you can save these for the next year and start all over again for free.  Saving pumpkin seeds is a great start and a fun thing to do with kids.  Just place them on a paper towel to dry out, and the next year, then can go straight into the ground.

Buy for the long term

When it comes to buying plants there is so much to choose it can be overwhelming. What I recommend is to choose perennial plants rather than annuals.  Perennials grow for more than one season were as annuals need to be replaced each year. An investment of $8-12 now, will last year after year if you buy a perennial plant.  Generally annuals will be sold in small seed trays, over near the vegetable seedlings.  Perennials are usually sold in single pots and are grown to a bigger size.

In the short term it might seem cheaper to buy annuals but in the long-term perennials will work out the best value.

Divide it up

Some plants are great value because you can divide them up and get more than just the 1 plant you purchased.  Society garlic is a great example of a plant that you can divide up straight away after you buy it.  I recently bought 1 plant for $12, but could divide this up to 7 plants to spread out throughout my garden.

Mondo grass (in the front of the pic) can be divided up as it grows

Plant fruit and veggies

The best way to get the most out of your garden is to make it productive. Growing fruit and vegetables can be a great way to get something back from your garden and some money in the grocery store.

Plant a tree

If you have a small garden, this might seem difficult. But planting one feature tree, even if it is small, will give your garden a focal point.  Trees that grow to 2-3 meters are a great choice and there are lots of options.  The purchase of 1 tree can give you shade, homes for birds and a great place to sit on a warm day. A $20 tree can give back so much.

Buy small, get value

There are lots of options when buying plants but what I recommend for most varieties is to buy a small plant and wait.  Saving money by buying a smaller plant can pay off in the long tern as they often grow incredibly quickly. 

I recently bought a small lemon tree for around $15, and it has doubled in size in only 1 month.  This plant cost me half as much as the larger trees for sale, and in no time will be the same size. I love buying small plants and watching them spring from the soil.

My new lemon tree, the light green shows all of the new growth in just 1 month.

Take cuttings

Another great way to get free plants is to take cuttings.  You can take cuttings from plants in your own garden or from a friend.  I recently took cuttings from my friend’s snake plant.  This is the best plant to start with as it is hardy and grows really well. Another great plant to start with is rosemary. 

Cut a small piece (about 10cm) and put it into some potting soil or seed raising mix.  Keep the soil moist and after a little while (maybe a few weeks) it will start to grow new shoots for completely free. You can then keep this and plant it out or share or swap it with friends.

A snake plant cutting from a friend

Upcycle

Upcycling old future or crates can be a fantastic way to add great features to your garden for minimal cost.  Crates can be a great potholder or can be stacked up to be made into an outdoor table. Cafes are jumping on the crate trend and you will often see these in suburbs as cheap street furniture.  They can be painted in bright colors or left in their natural state.  If you are going for the hipster look this is definitely the way to go.

Simple paths

Adding paths to your garden can add interest and help to save your plants from being stepped on.  A great value way to create a path can be with pavers with rocks or gravel in between.  Spreading pavers out like this can reduce your costs and also looks great. 

If you want to save even more money, use only gravel or better yet, mulch such as pine bark.  This will break down over time but looks great, and costs only around $10 per bag. I love mulch paths, they feel soft under my feet and allow the soil to breathe.  It is also a great place for worms to hide and grow, they add to the microbiome of the soil making it healthier and your garden happier.

Make friends with other gardeners

This is my number 1 tip for adding plants to your garden for free.  Making friends with fellow gardeners is a great way to learn more about what grows well in your area.  You can also share plants and cuttings between each other.  Friendly advice from neighbours and friends who have been gardening in your area for a long time can give you great clues and tips for success in your own space.

Recently I was given 5 Clivias that were divided from a friends yard.  These plants grow well in shade and because they grow in a clump, then are the perfect plant to share around.  As they grow bigger they can be lifted and shared with your friends. Agapanthus are another great plant that can be shared around once they grow.  Another plant that can be divided is the Canna Lilly. These grow from a rhizome so can be split up and shared around with friends. 

Cuttings can be taken from mint easily. Try and get some of the roots in your cutting and remember to always keep this in a pot.

Research for free online

Gardening is a journey of discovery and I have learnt over time that the best gardeners have made many mistakes.  Learning from others is a great way to avoid expensive plant choices that are not suited for your garden.  Researching the best plants for your area, when to plant them, tips on growing seeds and how to take cutting are all important to get yourself started and avoid spending money on things you don’t need to.

A word on tools

Garden tools are one of the biggest expenses that a gardener has.  To save money you may think that choosing the cheapest shovel or secateurs is a good choice. But if you ask any gardener they will tell you that when buying tools, get the best you can afford.  These can last you a lifetime or beyond.  Another great way to get good value tools is to head to garage sales or Facebook marketplace.

If you are lucky enough to have grandparents who gardened, sometimes inheriting these tools can be the best gift you can get.  Looking after garden tools that have been passed on through the generations can be a great thing to share with your children and remind you of the history and story of your family.

Gardening can be a great way to relieve stress, enjoy the outdoors and get back to nature.  I feel like that investing money into my garden by buying mulch, plants or organic fish fertilizer is a good way to spend my money.  Buying a perennial plant can give back year after year, and a good tree choice can last for generations.

Gardens can also add amazing value to your home. If you have space for a veggie patch, this will be an extra attractor for potential tenants. Since Covid, families are looking at ways to grow more from home and to do something productive together that doesn’t cost the earth.  Home veggie gardening is a great way to spend time with family, so homeowners and tenants alike are looking for spaces that they can grow more food from home.

There are some simple changes you can make that will make your garden look amazing and add value to your home.  Simple changes that cost almost nothing are the best way to start.

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