Thinking about upgrading your backyard this spring but fearful of what it might cost?
From hardscaping to softscaping, there’s plenty of cheap landscaping ideas for your backyard.
Check out these ten budget-friendly ideas to beautify your backyard landscape without having to take out a second mortgage.
10 Cheap Landscaping Ideas for the Backyard
1. Use Mulch Alternatives
Mulching is a time and money saver as it reduces the amount of water and weeding your garden needs, but mulch itself can be expensive. That’s why one of the best budget backyard ideas is to use an affordable mulch alternative.
Low-Cost Mulch Alternatives:
- Grass Clippings: The next time you mow, rake up the clippings – and the savings – and spread them onto your flower beds.
- Leaves: Shredded leaves make a great, cheap mulch alternative and provide nutrients to your plants.
- 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 thickly, as too much can heat up your plants and damage them.
- Newspaper: After you’re finished with the Sunday funny papers, 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 can cut down your 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 can be 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 cheap landscaping ideas for your backyard 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
Love to garden but don’t have a ton of space – or money – to do so? Consider a vertical garden.
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 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.
- Turn your wooden fence into a vertical garden using a few pot hangers and wood screws.
4. Add a Splash of Color
Sometimes all it takes to make a backyard pop is to add some color.
This can be as simple as painting planters to give your garden a more contemporary look, or giving wood, metal or plastic chairs a fresh coat of paint. To save even more on this budget backyard landscaping project, reuse leftover paint from previous projects instead of buying new paints.
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 Useful Plants
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 low-cost perennial ground covers for your next budget backyard landscaping project:
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
7. Build an Outdoor Fire Pit
There’s no better way to bring the family together than with smores 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.
Here are a few affordable ideas to make your own DIY fire pit on a budget:
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 – and least expensive – backyard budget landscaping projects of all. All you need are a few digging tools, some mulch and the tree. Plus, having well-planned trees in your yard can end up saving you money in the long run, according to Steve Boehme of GoodSeed Farm Landscapes:
“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
Cheap outdoor string lights are a staple of budget backyard landscaping. 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 replaced. Once you’ve picked up affordable bulbs, try out these budget-friendly landscape lighting ideas:
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. Buy (or Build) Low-Cost Seating
Once you’ve finished your backyard budget landscaping projects, you’ll want a place to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But no need to run to the furniture store – you can easily search for used pieces online or make your own cheap outdoor seating right at home.
Cheap Outdoor Seating Ideas
- Search 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 searches 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.
Reuse and Recycle to Reduce Costs
The best backyard budget landscaping tip of all is to reuse and recycle items whenever possible. Visit your local thrift stores and check the classifieds online to find local garage sales. By purchasing used planters, furniture and even gardening tools to spruce up your lawn, you can save hundreds of dollars, and keep some really nice items out of the trash. Ultimately, to keep your backyard landscaping costs low, all you need is time and a little creativity.
Budget Dumpster’s Home Project Guides offer resources from budgeting for a kitchen remodel, decluttering your home or even framing a wall. Have a few of your own backyard ideas on a budget? Share them in the comments below!