Garden Design on the Cheap ($50 and Under)

Simple, frugal gardening tips for making the most of your budget.
Garden Color

Garden Color

Jazz up your yard with a different sized containers and seasonal plants.

Photo by: Photo courtesy of Bloem

Photo courtesy of Bloem

Jazz up your yard with a different sized containers and seasonal plants.

A tiny budget can blossom into a gorgeous garden or yard, with savvy choices and creative thinking. Horticulture experts shared their top tips for making the most of a limited garden budget of $50 or less. 

1.  Update your annuals or perennials

For an immediate update, use $50 to buy a basic container or two, potting soil and annuals or perennials, depending on your preference and the prices. An inexpensive four pack of annuals could be on for sale as cheap as a dollar, if it’s at the beginning of the season. Or you could spend $6 or more for a hibiscus, geranium, specialty petunia and other popular flowering annuals. “You may decide that a punch of color is really the most effective route to go,” Dorn says. 

Consider these tips:

  • Buy 1-gallon and 2-gallon plants, but instead of spreading them out to different spots of the yard, place them together. “Stay in one little spot and put all your money into that one little spot and kind of get more bang for your buck, so to speak,” says Gail Hansen, an associate professor in the Environmental Horticulture Department at the University of Florida. “When you first put them in the ground, they will be small and won’t look like much, but they will grow quickly.”
  • Popular perennials such as heuchera plants can be a smart option because of their striking large rounded or heart-shaped foliage and the added benefit of a bloom, Dorn says.
  • Find out where you can buy direct from the grower in your town, and arrive early before they sell out. That way, you won’t miss out on deals such as 3-gallon mums for $8, an 18-pack pansy flat for $8, or five 1-gallon lantana for $10. Also watch out for garden club plant sales.

2. Propagate plants

Invest in propagation supplies, including sharp pruning shears, rooting hormone and seed flats. “With a little patience and a little know-how, you can grow a lot of things yourself pretty easily,” says Sheri Dorn, extension horticulturist in consumer ornamentals for the University of Georgia and coordinator of the Georgia Master Gardener Extension Volunteer Program.

3. Hunt for freebies

  • Upcycle wood pallets as planting beds.
  • Trade plants with friends or fellow garden club members. Some clubs will hold plant giveaways when members have too much of one plant in their yard, Hansen says.
  • Ask coffee shops for their old grounds, which can be used in beds or compost.
  • Recycle two-liter bottles into cheap containers.

4. Go for accessories

Accessorize with items that will draw you – and possibly other creatures – to the garden. 

  • New birdfeeders, birdhouses and butterfly houses are available for less than $25, or look for castoffs at thrift stores and yard sales. Purchase one with a design and style you like, or buy a plain birdhouse and decorate it yourself, with friends or with kids.
  • Go yard sale or thrift store shopping for a sculpture that could define the look of your garden, or you may find an unwanted birdbath that could serve as a focal point.

5. Educate yourself

If you can resist buying flowers right now, spend your $50 to learn about gardening and the best options for your property. You can buy a basic gardening book that is specific to your region with color photos of plants, go on a local garden tour, or join a garden club. Horticulture experts with universities, botanical gardens and Master Gardener groups have published handbooks and guides as well. “That would be a good investment that would save the money later on,” Hansen says. “They wouldn’t make mistakes buying the wrong plants.”

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