11 charming small garden ideas on a budget

June 4th, 2017
Posted In: Garden style & living

If asked for ‘small garden ideas‘, I wouldn’t normally start with advising you to plant a large cypress tree right in the middle of your  courtyard garden.

But one of the great pleasures of writing about gardens is discovering all the amazingly different ways people garden.

Open for Faversham Open Gardens and Garden Market Day

Jack and Carolyn have gathered together lots of charming small garden ideas on a budget. Many things have been collected from charity shops.

Make the best of what you’ve got

Jack and Carolyn’s garden is just 12 square metres. It is brimming with delightful, low-budget small garden ideas.

When they moved into their 1980s house four years ago, there was a large cypress right in the middle of the garden. And there was nothing else.

With remarkable restraint, they didn’t cut it down. ‘Although Jack’s always threatening to,’ says Carolyn.

Ideas for a small garden

The cypress tree in the middle of the garden creates a secluded seating area, and divides the garden up.

The effect is fascinating, because the tree prevents you from seeing the whole garden at once. Going round Jack and Carolyn’s garden is an adventure of discovery, and the tree is part of it.

Don’t let size curb your ambitions

Wildflowers for a small garden

A central bed of wildflowers, self-seeders and other plants flourishes – although the bed is shared with the cypress tree.

There is everything the gardener could want in this small space. It includes two mini-wildlife ponds,  self-seeders, wild flowers, containers of all kinds, sculpture, ‘garden paintings’, bird feeders, places to sit and abundant, gloriously healthy plants and flowers.

There are some good ideas for planting in small gardens here.

Don’t have a lawn in a small garden

There is a wide path around a large central bed, plus wide beds around the edges of the garden. There are two places to sit, but no lawn. That greatly increases the space to grow flowers.

10 small garden ideas on a budget

There’s a central bed with a wide path around it, then deep beds around the edges. This gives the garden an abundant feel.

Paving and paths are initially probably more expensive than a lawn – but you won’t need a lawn-mower!

And a lawn is hard to maintain in a small space – it quickly gets bald.

Use the walls – it doubles the growing space

The fences have ivy, clematis and other climbers, but they also host works of art. Jack calls them his ‘garden paintings.’ He hangs picture frames on the fence, and uses them to frame  hanging pots.

Small garden, big ideas

‘Garden paintings’ – a picture frame hung on a fence to frame a garden pot.

Raid the charity shops for small garden ideas…

The picture frames and many of the other quirky touches in this charming garden come from charity shops. Faversham is a great place for charity shops, vintage markets and other second-hand shops.

Search charity shops for garden pots and tools

There’s a mix of pots, picture frames, troughs, vintage gardenalia and lots more in Jack and Carolyn’s garden. Much of it comes from charity shops.

If you never seem to find the bargains in markets or junk shops, you need a strategy. This video has 14 expert tips for shopping for pre-loved items:

Mix second-hand chairs with garden furniture

If you buy chairs and tables from junk or charity shops, you’ll probably be less worried about whether they’ll rot. Paint your metal garden furniture with a good all-weather paint to help stop it rusting.

A mix of garden furniture in a corner of Jack and Carolyn’s garden. Collect it over the years, and paint it.

Painting garden furniture generally helps it withstand the elements.

Cut the plant bill by letting weeds and plants self-sow

If Carolyn likes a flower, she lets it set seed. So the garden is marvellously colourful and relaxed. Purple loosestrife is considered a weed in many gardens. But here it is part of the colour scheme. It probably counts as one of the cheapest small garden ideas you’ll find.

Self-seeders and pretty weeds fill a garden for free

Purple loosestrife mingling with other garden plants, filling the garden for free.

To find out more about allowing weeds in your garden without letting them take over, see the new approach to weeds and why you need it.

Upcycle your shed

Jack and Carolyn’s shed is an installation in itself. It’s painted, covered in old CDs and has window boxes and signs. In the sunshine, the CDs glitter.

Read this for more fun easy ideas for transforming your shed.

Decorate your shed in a small garden

The shed has been painted, covered in CDs and hung with blue window boxes where Jack and Carolyn grow lettuce. Could CDs be good anti-snail deterrent, perhaps?

You can be wildlife friendly in a small garden

Bird feeders and garden art in a small garden

Bird feeders and bird boxes are mixed with the ‘garden paintings’

Think about how your garden can offer food, water, shelter and access. Bird and bat boxes, bug hotels, feeders, mini-ponds all fit into the smallest of gardens. And don’t forget that fences and hedges need to have some gaps to allow small mammals and amphibians to access several gardens at once.

Find out how to create a good wildlife garden here, even in a small space.

Pots, pots, pots…

There is a wonderfully eclectic collection of pots and upcycled containers in Jack and Carolyn’s garden. Wooden boxes, old teapots, and more.

Pots work well in small gardens because they give you lots of flexibility. You can replace plants when they’re ‘over’ and change arrangements around.

Upcycled and vintage pots and troughs

A mix of pots, troughs and upcycled planters in Jack and Carolyn’s garden.

Re-use all kinds of containers

An old teapot full of succulents looks charming on the table.

See here for recommendations on the best plants for low maintenance pots.

Recycle a container to make a small pond (or two)…

Even the smallest garden can have a pond or two. You can make a pond out of anything waterproof, from a bucket or barrel to big plastic tray.

Below is a container pond, with bog plants in it. It’s important to make sure that creatures can get in and out of container ponds, so have different levels of planting and also vegetation.

Also make sure that babies and toddlers are protected. A very young child can drown in a few inches of water.

See here for how to make a mini wildlife pond.

Mini wildlife pond in a container

Don’t forget to have one or two mini-ponds – wildlife need water. There are two mini-ponds in this small garden. One is the square central planter in this photograph.

One of the ponds is the top of a recycling bin. Remember when we all had to put the bottles in a large tray at the top of the bin, then the newspapers went underneath?

Now recycling technology has advanced and we can throw all the different recycling elements in together. The black tray at the top has become redundant. Jack and Carolyn have used it to make a mini-pond.

More vintage and upcycled garden ideas

Garden writer and stylist Francine Raymond is brilliant at finding things in junk shops and car boot fairs. She’s adept at styling them so that they look good in your garden. She shares her tips in How To Style Your Garden.

Small garden ideas on a budget - make use of charity shops and vintage finds in your garden #gardening #gardenideas

Charity shop finds displayed on the fence.

And another Faversham resident has some amazingly resourceful ways of creating a really unusual garden on a tight budget. Find out how she uses Freegle and Freecycle (and gentle persuasion!) in 15 Ways to Transform Your Garden With Upcycled Junk.

And see this post for ideas on landscaping a contemporary garden without spending too much.

More money-saving garden ideas

If you’re planning a garden makeover, see this post on how and when to save money on garden design.

And here are some tips if you want to save money on your regular gardening.

Shop my favourite garden books, tools and products

I’m often asked for recommendations, so I’ve put together some lists of the garden tools, books and products I use on the Middlesized Garden Amazon store. For example, there’s a list of what to buy for wildlife-friendly gardening, and also the essential garden tools and brands I use.

Please note that links to Amazon are affiliate, see disclosure.

Pin to remember small garden ideas:

And do join us on the Middlesized Garden blog. See here for a free weekly email with tips, ideas and inspiration for your garden.

10 easy, enchanting ideas for a small garden


10 comments on "11 charming small garden ideas on a budget"

  1. Tonya says:

    I love, love, love this article and am always looking for new and clever ways to upgrade my own garden. Thank you so much for this, you have truly inspired me.

    1. It’s been one of my favourite gardens this year, too – just so great to see people making a great garden with whatever they’ve got to hand.

  2. Mary James says:

    Love all the different ideas. Will steal a few! Old cd use is great. Thks. Pity I can’t visit, live in Northumberland!

    1. I think they’ve been so clever with their garden, it was such a pleasure to photograph it.

  3. Clive says:

    Hi Alexandra, I love the upcycled CDs on the shed – what a fab idea!

    1. Isn’t it? I love it, and think the whole garden is very clever.

  4. Lucie says:

    Lovely photos and article.

  5. A date for the diary! Some super ideas. I love the succulents in the teapot!

    1. Thank you – hope to see you there.

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