11 charming small garden ideas on a budget
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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. And Jack volunteers at the Cancer Research Charity Shop in West St.
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.
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.
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.
You can be wildlife friendly in a small garden
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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