Looking to upgrade your backyard without breaking the bank? We have you covered. From hardscaping to softscaping, use our 11 DIY landscaping ideas on a budget to complete this project without taking out a second mortgage.
11 Cheap Backyard Landscaping Ideas
1. Use Mulch Alternatives
While mulch reduces the amount of water and weeding your garden needs, it’s expensive and takes time to install. Try these mulch alternatives for landscaping to spruce up your backyard for a fraction of the cost.
Low-Cost Mulch Alternatives:
- Grass Clippings: Next time you mow, rake up the clippings and spread them onto your flower beds.
- Leaves: Shredded leaves make a great, cheap mulch alternative that give your plants nutrients.
- Pine Needles: Pine needles are a relatively low-maintenance mulch alternative that is lightweight and easy to spread.
- Compost: If you’ve already made your own compost bin, put it to good use in your landscaping. Just be careful not to layer it too thick, as too much can heat up your plants and damage them.
- Newspaper: Once you’ve read the Sunday paper, let your plants take a peek. Layer about five pages on the ground, water lightly and then cover with topsoil before planting.
- Stone: Stone mulch isn’t right for all plants, but if used properly, it will cut down weeding and maintenance costs in the long run. According to Steve Boehme of GoodSeed Farm Landscapes, it’s important to choose the right spot for your stone mulch.
“Stone mulch works especially well in clean environments like around in-ground pool decks, traffic islands and narrow beds between buildings and pavement. This is because grass clippings and other organic matter won’t be as likely to soil the stone mulch in such places. Also, stone mulch is less likely than wood mulch to wash onto pavements or blow into swimming pools.”
Steve Boehme | GoodSeed Farm Landscapes
If your heart is set on traditional mulch, it’s best to go with pine mulch, says Gene Caballero of GreenPal. “It’s way cheaper than hardwood mulch and is easier to transport and spread.”
2. Repurpose Old Tires
Tires are bulky and difficult to get rid of, as many waste haulers won’t accept them. Why not put them to good use in your backyard?
According to Michelle Bull of Lakin Tire, recycled tires are inexpensive and easy to find. “They can be picked up at a local recycling plant for a few dollars, but most people are willing to give away any old tires that they have on hand,” she says. Here are a few budget landscaping ideas using tires:
How to Landscape With Recycled Tires
- Cover with outdoor pillow casings or rope for durable, rustic patio ottomans.
- Stack and stagger tires to create decorative planters.
- Create a hanging planter by filling one half with soil and attaching to a wall or fence.
- Make a man-made garden pond using a tire as the base.
- Give your kids a fun place to play with a recycled tire climber.
3. Go Vertical With Your Gardening
If you’re looking for simple backyard ideas to spruce up a small outdoor space, vertical gardens are a good place to start.”
Vertical gardening, simply put, is using vertical space to grow plants. If you’re looking for small backyard landscaping ideas on a budget, vertical gardens are a good place to start. Not only do they make the most of limited space, but they can be inexpensive too, especially if you’re using recycled materials like old plastic bottles to make it.
DIY Vertical Garden Ideas
- Use a wooden ladder, terracotta pots and some wire for a rustic front porch vertical garden.
- Wash out old paint cans, fill with soil and hang them up to create a vertical herb garden.
- Repurpose a picture frame to create a vertical succulent garden.
- Waterproof an unused shoe organizer for a vertical garden that’s easy to move.
4. Add a Splash of Color
Sometimes all it takes is a splash of color to make your backyard pop.
This can be as simple as painting planters to give your garden a contemporary look, or giving wood and metal chairs a fresh coat of paint. To save even more on this budget backyard landscaping project, reuse leftover paint instead of buying new ones.
You can also add a quick splash of color in the form of flowers or foliage, positioning them on a deck, patio, at an entryway or tucked into a planting bed.
5. Plant a Functional Garden
Cut grocery costs in the summer time by growing your own vegetables and herbs right in your own backyard. From DIY herb gardens to plants that repel bugs, you can easily turn your backyard into a space that’s beautiful and functional with a few terracotta planters and the right placement.
6. Opt for Natural Perennial Ground Covers
Tired of weeding the lawn? Skip the weed killers and opt for dense spreading perennial ground covers instead.
According to Jonas Sickler of ConsumerSafety.org, weed killers can be both costly and hazardous to your health. “Harsh chemicals in Roundup can sicken pets and has been linked to cancer,” Sickler says. “Weed killers aren’t just bad for your health – they also pack a punch to your bank account at over $20 [per container].”
Check out these cheap ground covers that are beautiful and low-maintenance:
Cheap Natural Perennial Ground Cover Options
- Creeping Periwinkle – $1.07 per plant
- Walk-on-Me Thyme – $3.99 per plant
- Moss Phlox – $4.59 per plant
- Violets and Pansies – Seeds range from $0.95 to $2.95
- Early Snow Glories – $2.40 per plant
Pro Tip: If your backyard is full of big, beautiful trees, you may want to choose shade plants that can handle living in their shadow, as not all plants can tolerate full or partial shade.
7. Build an Outdoor Fire Pit
There’s no better way to bring the family together than with s’mores over a fire pit. But you don’t need to spring for a contractor to put one in – with one trip to the home improvement store, you can have your own backyard campfire station in just a few minutes. If you need to get rid of rocks from another project, building a fire pit with them is a great way to do it.
Here are a few ways to make your own fire pit without overspending:
Fire Pit Ideas on a Budget
- Concrete retaining wall blocks – about $1.25 per block, total cost of $50
- Cinder block caps – about $1.50 per block, total cost of $40
- Concrete fire bowl – about $3 for one bag of concrete, $56 total
- Dirt floor fire ring – free, if using natural stones from your own woods
8. Plant a Tree
Planting trees is one of the easiest, least expensive backyard landscaping ideas of all. All you need are a few digging tools, some mulch and the tree. Plus, you’ll end up saving even more if you plant trees in the right places.
“Planting shade trees is a common-sense solution that will save you money and make you more comfortable. Trees are simply a wise investment in future comfort and energy savings. Just take a minute and sit under one on a ninety-degree day and you’ll understand this perfectly.”
Steve Boehme | GoodSeed Farm Landscapes
9. Use Affordable Lighting
Outdoor string lights are a staple budget backyard idea. Their soft, ambient glow can turn any patio into a chill summer hangout. White twinkle lights cost about $6 per strand, or for a more modern look, you can pick up a strand of clear globe lights for around $9. Though slightly more expensive, globe light strands are usually more durable than twinkle lights, and the bulbs are easily replaceable. Once you’ve picked the kind of lights you want to install, get creative with your backyard lighting using these tips.
Cheap Backyard Lighting Ideas
- Wrap strands around outdoor pillars to create columns of light.
- Run lights from house to tree using an eye bolt and an insulated cable to tie on a branch.
- Create Texas lamp posts using wood posts, whiskey barrel planters and a little concrete.
- Edge your flowerbeds with rope lights so you can see your hard-earned blooms even at night.
- Drape your trees in lights for a charming, glowing backyard grove.
10. Spruce Up Your Frence
Not crazy about how your fence looks? Whether you have a wooden or chain link fence, there are several ways to make it visually appealing. Use these budget landscaping ideas to beautify your fence, especially if it encompasses your entire backyard.
Ways to Upgrade Your Chain Link Fence
- Paint it. A fresh coat of paint is more effective than you might think. We suggest choosing a color that matches the rest of your house.
- Cover it with an awning. Find a fun fabric at your local craft store, measure it and drape it over your chain link fence. Make sure the material can withstand the elements!
- Cover it with vines. While it may take a while for vines to cover your entire fence, the finished product is well worth the wait.
Ways to Upgrade Your Wooden Fence
- Install hanging baskets. You can never have enough flowers. All it takes is an “S” hook and your hanging basket of choice to add a pop of color (and beauty) to your fence.
- Install decorative fence caps. Upgrade the top of your fence posts with cast iron balls or a pointy cap. If you’re going for a whimsical look, plant a fake bird or solar light at the top of a post or two.
- Change the color. Try staining the wood a different color with an airless sprayer or roll-on stain. It won’t change anything too drastically, but a little goes a long way!
11. Buy (or Build) Low-Cost Seating
After you’ve beautified your backyard, you’ll want to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But there’s no need to run to the furniture store – you can easily search for used pieces online or make outdoor seating in the comfort of your own home.
Cheap Outdoor Seating Ideas
- Search Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist or Letgo for used patio seating. Check the “Free Stuff” sections often and be prepared to move quickly – good items will go fast.
- Don’t limit your search to outdoor furniture. With a little waterproof sealant, you can turn regular indoor chairs or barstools into patio-worthy seating.
- Not finding anything you like? Make your own cinder block and lumber bench.
- Turn a tree stump into the perfect reading spot by attaching a waterproof cushion on top.
- Use a leftover tire to create a durable seat with storage for kids.
- Fix weatherproof cushions to milk crates for portable seating that can be easily stored.
- When all else fails, drag a few old logs around your new fire pit for easy campfire seating.
Additional Budget Backyard Ideas to Consider
When it comes down to it, the most effective backyard ideas are the simple ones. Once you’ve made these small but impressionable changes to your outdoor space, you can move onto bigger projects. Whether you’re looking to install a new patio or plant a new flower bed, we have you covered.