Small Garden Ideas on a Budget – Improve Your Garden in a Weekend

garden decking area with the decking stencilled, festoon lights overhead, lots of bushes and trees and rattan furniture sat around a fire pit
I was very good at sticking flowers in a pot and that was the extent of my gardening skills. Whether they would survive another season is another matter…

I know it’s probably tipping it down with rain where you are at the moment and you’re looking out of the window at your garden thinking;

“Why on earth is Mel talking about small garden ideas on a budget? Mine currently looks like Glastonbury after a particular wet weekend, broken tent and all!”

But it feels like Spring is getting nearer, doesn’t it? And you’re probably starting to think about budget garden ideas.

I have learned in the last few years that it is always best to start planning your garden when it’s still cold and wet, that way you are a few steps ahead of everyone else and can get those coveted garden items before they sell out. Or get any more expensive!

Spring is on the horizon. Brighter and warmer days are coming and we can all soon enjoy the sanctuary of our gardens or yards instead of being holed up indoors with a furry blanket around our knees and a constant cup of tea in our hands to keep us warm.

a garden with tiled flooring, a black pergola with plants growing up it and a comfy seating area

I’ve never been much of a gardener. My gardening skills consisted of cheap garden ideas like flattening the garden, putting grass on it, and if the bees and butterflies were lucky, putting a few daffodils in a pot or a hydrangea bush in a corner somewhere.

I even managed to kill my hydrangea from over-watering which is somewhat ironic seeing as this plant is literally named because of its need for a lot of water. I’ve always needed a bit of guidance in the garden and that’s why consulting garden professionals like Michaelangelo Landscape and Design can help.

I have never been one to start preparing my garden for Spring, that’s for sure and I’m always on the lookout for easy small garden ideas!

garden with a freshly laid lawn, trees around the perimeter and a garden room in the back corner
The back end of our garden with our large garden shed/office.

We are blessed with quite a lovely garden where we currently live. It is 18.5m x 9m and not overlooked, which is a blessing in suburbia!

We have a large garden room in the corner which measures 3.5m x 5m but have never used it to its full potential, preferring to store all our junk in there.

Small Garden Ideas on a Budget

a trampoline in the back corner of the garden next to an outdoor room/office

Originally, we had a huge oversized trampoline in the back corner unfairly hogging all the sunshine. This was where we got the last of the summer sun and instead of sitting on our comfortable garden furniture, we would sit in camp chairs pushed up against the trampoline. 

Our seating area and garden furniture were on the decking around the side of the house, but we never used it as it was always in the shade and felt a little detached from the garden.

looking at the back of a house with decking around the side of it
This was the decking around the side of our kitchen extension, I was stenciling at the time. By 1 pm every day it would be completely shaded and often quite cold.
stencilled decking area with rattan furniture, cushions and throws, lots of bushes and trees and festoon lights in the garden
I really loved this space. I painstakingly stenciled the decking and it looked super stylish but we never used it!
rattand dining set on a stencilled decking with sunflowers in a vase

Small Garden Ideas

We sat in our camp chairs nestled up next to the trampoline one evening, having a BBQ and trying to enjoy the last bits of sun before the rays disappeared over the trampoline and suddenly, I thought, why are we doing this?

We have perfectly good garden furniture to sit on but it’s totally in the wrong corner. A plan started hatching in my mind…

kids roasting marshmallows over a fire pit in the garden
The camp chairs nestled up to the trampoline in the background. We would then huddle around the firepit to toast marshmallows and once again not use the decking because we’d probably burn it to the ground

The following weekend we ripped up the decking and moved the trampoline to the side of the house, gone but not forgotten (by the kids, unfortunately).

We then started researching small garden ideas and pricing up how to turn the corner of our garden that got all the sun into our own Mediterranean-inspired garden oasis in Sussex. 

kids sat on decking watching a man pull up decking slabs

The decking came up quite easily, it was nice to have the trampoline hidden out of view and see the trees and bushes from our house!

looking back towards the house with the trampoline being moved to the side of the house
The trampoline moved to the side of the house

Pricing Up the New Garden Area

We rang around several builders and garden landscapers and the quotes that were coming back were frankly ridiculous and a little eye-watering. Some people quoted us £2,500 to have new decking laid down in the 4m x 5m space, and the most ridiculous was £4,800 to lay a new patio in the area.

The builder tried to justify it by saying the area needed to be flattened (it was flat, we had previously paid a gardener to returf the whole garden so this had been done), take fencing panels down to get his mini digger in, put a retainer wall at the back and then lay the patio.

garden with the grass being killed off where the trampoline used to be
The space left once the trampoline had been moved! Look at those beautiful trees that had been hidden behind the trampoline for 3 long years! Also, flat…..

Considering we had already priced the patio slabs to be in the region of £500, he was quoting us around £4,000 for labour, skip hire, and equipment we absolutely didn’t need, so we politely told him to get on his mini digger and jog on.

I went back to the drawing board and started looking for more small garden ideas on a budget.

DIY – Cheap Garden Ideas

We realized, after several quotes, that it was probably best we tackled the garden ourselves. I started researching budget garden ideas and quickly realized that the cheapest way to create a small garden on a budget was to lay gravel.

I had seen several images with white Cotswold stone laid down in the garden and loved how it gave an Ibiza beach vibe. We went with Cotswold Chippings 20mm from and worked out we would need 2 x 850kg Bulk bag to cover the space at £91 each.

We also bought 2m x 10m membrane to put under the gravel to stop the weeds from growing through.

a girl holding gravel in her hands
My daughter doing her best to model gravel! 🙂

Laying the Gravel

It was pretty simple, to be honest. First of all, we made sure all the ground was flat and raked with no large rocks or vegetation.

You can put down a herbicide to prevent anything from growing but as this area of our garden had been under a trampoline for 3 years, it was pretty much dead anyway.

We created a border between the grass and the patio area with some old bricks we had dug up from the ground when we leveled out the space. 

laying membrane on mud in the garden and pouring gravel on top
We laid down some membrane and then covered it with gravel from

We laid the membrane in place first, making sure it covered the whole area, and then placed some paving slabs we already had to make a path from the grass to the door of the garden shed. We then tipped the gravel straight on top.

You can buy membrane pegs to hold it in place, but seeing as we were tipping nearly 1 ½ tonnes of gravel on top of it, I was pretty certain it wasn’t going anywhere.

paving slabs in a gravel garden leading up to an outdoor shed
Creating a path with paving slabs.
the gravel laid in the garden with an adirondack chair on top
The gravel is down! It’s amazing how it brightened up this space instantaneously

Painting the Fence

I wanted to add a bit more color to the garden and one of the best ways to update your small garden on a budget is to paint your walls or fence! I had already started painting our fence in Cuprinol Iris (I wrote about Cuprinol garden shades here).

I wanted to add some color to our garden all year round and found the brown fence quite unsightly as there was a lot of it! I chose Iris as it reminded me of the blues of the Mediterranean and the white gravel looked absolutely perfect next to it.

blue fence in the garden with lots of plants
I still can’t get over how much I love this Cuprinol Iris blue fence

Furniture on a Budget Garden Ideas

Once the fence was painted and the gravel down, we moved our garden furniture into the space. We already had the Seychelles garden sofa by Argos, but we found we never used the dining table as it was a little too high for use in the garden.

If you are looking for easy and cheap garden ideas, creating furniture out of pallets is the way to go!

With the pallets leftover from the delivery of the gravel, I decided to paint them in Cuprinol Iris and bought some Melia tiles from Wickes to place on top of the pallets to stop things from falling through. I secured the tiles with gorilla glue and a year on they are still holding on strong!

painting pallets blue
Painting the pallet Cuprinol Iris
using pallets to create a garden table
Waiting for it to dry before sticking on the tiles
Melia victorian tiles from Wickes
Beautiful Wickes Melia tiles
corner sofa in the garden with a blue fence, festoon lights and lanterns hanging from the trees, a blue and white outdoor rug and a pallet table with tiles stuck on the top
Finished result! Simples. We rested the pallet on top of another pallet but will buy wheels eventually to put on the bottom. Quick and cheap garden idea!

I always get a lot of compliments about this table, you can see how I did it in my blog post about how to turn pallets into a table!

The Finishing Touches

To complete this area, I hung up some festoon lights and lanterns (our festoons are mains powered, the shed has electricity to it. But you can get battery-powered festoons) and added an outdoor rug as my kids love to run around barefoot and the gravel is not kind to little feet!

All that was left to do was to add my potted plants (that were still alive), candles, cushions, and throws and that was us for the whole of the spring and summer. We had the best time in this space and were extremely happy we created our small garden on a budget. It all came in under £300! 

Price List

And the Rest…

Now time to relax and enjoy our small garden on a budget!

Well, as much as you can enjoy the garden in Spring. If last Spring was anything to go by, I’m hopeful for a warm one and making the most of this space again.

I am not exaggerating when I say this little corner of our garden was an absolute game changer last year and we spent just as much time eating, entertaining, and relaxing out here as we did in our house. And before anyone asks, most of the items you see in my images can be left outside in the garden, apart from a few cushions.

We still have the large garden room so if it does decide to rain heavily, we’ll throw the cushions and blankets in there. And if we don’t? It’s not the end of the world, everything can be washed and thrown back out into the garden to dry again.

corner of a garden with gravel, rattan corner sofa, eucalyptus trees, festoon lights, pallet table andlots of cushions and throws
Another area of my house/garden to faff with! 🙂
garden with gravel, corner rattan sofa, lots of cushions and throws, festoon lights, lanterns and adirondack chairs
Adding all my potted plants for more colour
garden with gravel, corner rattan sofa, lots of cushions and throws, festoon lights, lanterns and adirondack chairs
Gin o’clock
garden with gravel, corner rattan sofa, lots of cushions and throws, festoon lights, lanterns and adirondack chairs and peonies
Peony season
garden with gravel, corner rattan sofa, lots of cushions and throws, festoon lights, lanterns and adirondack chairs
I love all the pink in our garden
garden with gravel, corner rattan sofa, lots of cushions and throws and plants
Seating area.

Not Just for the Daytime

We also love this space in the evenings too! You can’t go wrong with lighting for cheap garden ideas. With the help of the solar-panelled lanterns and festoon lights, we probably spent more time out here at night than during the day.

The best addition was our outdoor cinema which was really easy to set up. Pop on a movie for the kids and the adults could sit at the back chatting over a G&T. This space has it all and is another bonus to our small garden on a budget!

garden with gravel, corner rattan sofa, lots of cushions and throws, festoon lights, lanterns and adirondack chairs with silver birch trees
Our silver birch propping up all the lights.
garden with gravel, corner rattan sofa, lots of cushions and throws, festoon lights, lanterns and adirondack chairs with the festoon lights lit up at night
The back seating area all lit up at night. Budget garden ideas can sometimes be the best ideas
outdoor cinema showing Wizard of Oz
Our outdoor cinema. Guess the film?

I think the best thing about researching small garden ideas on a budget is that the outcome was better than if we had thrown money at it! There is a huge sense of achievement when you do it all yourself.

Our garden was certainly £300 well spent. We can now spend all the money we saved from the most outrageous quotes on a nice big hot tub for this summer!

how to transform your garden for under £300
Small garden ideas on a budget

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