We all have that one garden we can’t stand looking at—a neglected space full of weeds, old furniture, and piles of dirt? Maybe you just don’t like gardening because it seems so hard (it really isn’t), but there is hope! You could make some changes for cheap using household items around the house. Here are 19 cheapest way to improve your garden.
Table of Contents
- 1. Add a bird feeder
- 2. Place planters near water sources
- 3. Plant flowers and herbs in pots
- 4. Use decorative rocks as plant labels
- 5. Grow plants on the patio or deck
- 6. Make your own raised bed
- 7. Create an herb spiral
- 8. Build yourself a chicken coop
- 9. Go vertical with a trellis
- 10. Don’t forget about seeds
- 11. Ditch the weeds
- 12. Plant a vegetable garden
- 13. Get some worms
- 14. Use compost as fertilizer
- 15. Grow your own food
- 16. Raise your plants
- 17. Start a pollinator garden
- 18. Build a greenhouse or cold frame
- 19. Grow an herbs garden
1. Add a bird feeder
If you live somewhere where birds aren’t welcome, consider adding a birdfeeder instead. They cost less than $20 per square foot, which means they won’t break the budget if you put them anywhere outside — such as on top of a shed.
And since the birds will be eating bugs, not planting their eggs on top of your roof, chances are good that other animals won’t find these enticing enough to mess with them either, keeping them safe from squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and more. Plus, any extra food scraps you leave out when you’re done feeding the flock will help keep critters away too.
2. Place planters near water sources
Plant containers also serve another important purpose: creating small islands along waterways, helping block unsightly views of overgrown lawns and unwanted greenery.
If you live by the ocean, look no further than those little terra-cotta fish baths you’ve got sitting in the corner of your living room. Or, if you prefer lakeside locations, why not fill tall plastic bins with soil and use them as mini ponds? Just add gravel or pebbles inside and place them wherever you want.
Anytime the weather warms up, you can let the waters run free, filling them again once temperatures drop back down.
It’s the perfect solution for sunny spots that get hot during summer months but then freeze solid during winter. This trick works well in places where there aren’t natural streams flowing into the area, but does require you to dig a hole big enough for the container to sit comfortably in.
3. Plant flowers and herbs in pots
You already know how much better fresh cut flowers smell compared to dried ones, right? So why buy them year after year only to stick them on a windowsill under fluorescent lights? Instead, try this inexpensive hack: Fill empty clay flowerpots with potting mix and plant them directly in the ground next to your favorite rose bushes.
For added color, sprinkle handfuls of dry grass clippings around each potted plant before you bury the tops. The tiny bits of green mixed with the bright red blooms should provide a nice burst of color throughout the growing season. To save money even more, reuse used coffee grounds rather than buying expensive bags of fertilizer every time you need to replenish your petunias’ nutrients.
4. Use decorative rocks as plant labels
Rocks placed strategically within a garden can do wonders for its overall appearance. Not only do they add texture and visual interest, but they’re also great conversation pieces for visitors who might stop by for a peek. Simply take scissors and trim off portions of larger stones until you’ve created individual labels for each new flower seedling. Once they sprout, move them closer to sunlight to encourage growth.
5. Grow plants on the patio or deck
A few years ago I decided to grow my own tomatoes on a concrete slab beside our front door. After digging holes for dozens upon dozens of tomato plants, I realized why people always complain about bad smells coming from gardens: Tomatoes give off a stinky chemical called ethylene, which causes fruits and veggies to ripen faster.
What’s worse, though, is that that same scent attracts insects that swarm toward the blossoming tomatoes, making it difficult to enjoy them while trying to avoid being eaten alive.
Luckily, I found a simple fix for this problem: Covering the soil beneath my plants with heavy duty aluminum foil kept me pest-free for several weeks. Now I’m able to eat the delicious rewards of my labor without worrying about annoying pests ruining everything.
6. Make your own raised bed
Raised beds allow us to maximize space by taking full advantage of our gardens’ hillsides. They’re easy to build and maintain, plus they offer numerous benefits including increased air circulation, easier access to watering cans, and improved drainage.
All you need to create one is a wheelbarrow, tarp, wooden stakes, lumber, and lots of composted manure. Then simply divide large plots of land into smaller sections of dirt, line them up side-by-side, and start building!
7. Create an herb spiral
An herbal spiral is basically a long piece of lattice fencing covered in creeping thyme vines. Each section acts as a miniature greenhouse, allowing you to harvest tasty leaves, stems, and roots year round.
Best yet, it costs significantly less than purchasing pre-packaged bundles of thyme or mint at the grocery store. Just follow these steps: First, remove the existing fence posts and wire grid from the ground and lay them aside.
Next, dig a trench approximately three feet wide and four inches deep through whatever type of earth you choose to work with. Lastly, insert the lattice frame horizontally between two newly dug rows of dirt and firmly secure it with metal anchors. That’s it! A single spiral takes about six hours to complete.
8. Build yourself a chicken coop
Chickens love scratching and dust bathing in dirt, so what happens when you combine these traits with a traditional henhouse design? Well, you end up with something very similar to a modern barn, except this structure would likely last much longer and require fewer materials to construct.
The best part is that chickens produce plenty of organic matter for rich compost, meaning you’ll never need to worry about mixing it ever again.
9. Go vertical with a trellis
The beauty of having a vegetable garden is knowing exactly which types of crops you’ll reap come harvest time. However, most vegetables don’t appreciate the benefit of overhead support systems, especially taller varieties like cucumbers and squash.
In order to coax these high-elevation veggies downward, think vertically! Arrange thick twine among sturdy sticks and attach it to a nearby pole. Before attaching it to said pole, however, drill four 1/16-inch diameter steel wires spaced roughly 2 feet apart into the wood itself.
These “nodes” will hold the strings securely in place. Finally, wrap string tightly around each node, tying it onto the bottom ends of the twine strips. Voilà — instant trellis.
10. Don’t forget about seeds
Seeds are probably the easiest way to bring life to lifeless areas of your garden. Even novice gardeners can successfully cultivate beautiful leafy greens, juicy berries, fragrant roses, colorful peppers, and sweet potatoes.
But did you know that many different foods actually begin to develop underground themselves? Take parsley, which grows naturally in dark, damp conditions. When planted in light, nutrient-poor soil, it produces flat, soft leaves that taste awful. Yet, when buried in richer dirt, it develops strong root structures capable of pulling vital minerals straight out of surrounding rock particles.
Another example includes carrots, whose taproots extend hundreds of feet below the surface in search of moisture, nitrogen, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, copper, iodine, bromium, strontium, and molybdenum.
11. Ditch the weeds
There is no better investment in gardening than spending time removing unwanted plant growth from your garden beds. If you don’t want to spend hours pulling out all those pesky weeds by hand, there are various tools available to make it easier.
One popular option is a weed wacker. But if you’re looking for something more powerful, consider investing in a gas-powered string trimmer. It can be used to cut down any size of vegetation within reach — including trees! (Just keep it away from flammable materials.) We’ve also got tips for using these tools effectively here.
Price range: $30-$100+
12. Plant a vegetable garden
Planting vegetables may not exactly qualify as “improving your garden,” but they will certainly help increase its productivity. You’ll probably need at least one square foot per person. A family of four would require approximately 20 acres to produce enough fresh fruits and veggies to sustain itself.
So why do so few people actually try? For starters, many people simply lack knowledge about which types of foods grow well together. This video shows how easy growing a small kitchen salad mix can be with just three simple steps. Then, there’s the matter of space; even urban dwellers struggle to find room to work their plots.
The key to success is planning. Take advantage of free resources like Garden Paths’ virtual seed library where you can research what grows best in your climate zone. And don’t forget soil preparation either. There is much science behind organic versus chemical fertilizers, so take a class yourself when planting season arrives next spring. Or check out these top books on gardening.
13. Get some worms
Wormeries are great because they eat dead leaves and other organic material that could otherwise pile up around your garden. They also excrete nutrients back into the ground through castings, helping to nourish living roots.
Some species dig tunnels under mulch while others devour fallen fruit or leaf litter. Wormeries also provide shelter and nesting sites for beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings. To encourage healthy populations, add lots of wood chips, straw, peat moss and shredded newspaper to your worm farm over winter.
When springtime comes, feed your worms mealworms, crickets, grubs and black soldier fly larvae. Once summer rolls around, start harvesting the worms right off the hook. Wrap them up in cheesecloth and hang upside down until ready to use.
Next, rinse the wriggly critters clean and then lay them on shallow layers of dampened dirt along with handfuls of grass clippings, dried leaves and bits of paper. Cover the heap with another layer of dampened dirt.
Continue adding layers of dirt, greens and scraps of paper until you fill a jar potting container to about two inches deep. Place a piece of mesh across the mouth of the jar and place in the sun and water daily. After three weeks, remove the lid and watch the tunnel emerge. In most cases, worms will begin burrowing toward light sources.
Related article: 11 Ways on How to Get Rid of Whiteflies on Plants Naturally
14. Use compost as fertilizer
Compost is made up mostly of decomposed organic waste products left after cooking, washing, chopping, etc., but it’s also rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Many experts recommend making your own compost rather than purchasing commercially produced bags of “compost” fertilizer.
Here are a couple reasons why: First, commercial products often contain chemicals or pesticides that can harm plants. Second, homemade compost has greater value to farmers who sell their excess organic waste product than does yours truly. With that said, however, compost is still worth having on hand. Simply put, compost doesn’t go bad — it keeps getting richer and healthier every day. Try incorporating compost into your lawn care routine this fall.
You’d think this was going to hurt your wallet, but surprisingly, it really isn’t. All you need to do is build a raised bed. Raised gardens improve drainage, allow air circulation, and discourage slugs and snails from settling below.
Plus, they look nice too. Depending on the size of your garden, you might only need a single 4 x 8 foot board to raise your box, or you may need several smaller boards arranged end-to-end. Either way, you can purchase inexpensive wooden planks online or at local hardware stores. Check out this guide to building a DIY raised garden bed.
15. Grow your own food
Growing food organically means avoiding synthetic fertilizers and fungicides while maintaining natural pests and disease control. An added benefit is saving money on grocery bills since you know exactly where everything came from. However, starting from scratch requires a significant amount of upfront cash. Luckily, there are plenty of low cost options to choose from.
Community supported agriculture (CSA) memberships offer weekly deliveries of freshly picked ingredients ranging from carrots to kale. Local farms offering CSA plans include: Evergreen Harvest Coop, Green Mountain Organics, Sprout Brookfield Farm, and Sweet Earth Food Co-Op.
Other options include joining co-ops, subscribing to farmer’s markets, and choosing heirloom varieties instead of hybrids. Lastly, remember that home grown foods tend to taste better because you aren’t exposing them to toxins during shipping.
16. Raise your plants
Raising houseplants is becoming increasingly common among city residents. Why pay exorbitant prices for succulents, cacti, and other exotic foliage when you can easily maintain them indoors without worrying about watering holes, pest infestation and seasonal changes outside? As long as you follow proper guidelines, indoor plants should thrive as nicely as outdoor ones.
These helpful guides to caring for indoor plants will show you how to select the healthiest specimens for your needs, create the perfect environment, and spot treat potential problems before they occur.
The downside to raising plants inside is that they don’t flower. That being said, if you live alone or prefer flowers in the bedroom anyways, buy some silk plants or artificial flowers. No monthly trips to the nursery required.
17. Start a pollinator garden
Pollinators play essential roles in ensuring sustainable agricultural systems. Without bees, butterflies and birds, our crops wouldn’t be able to reproduce themselves. Unfortunately, these creatures are currently facing threats from habitat loss, pesticide exposure and parasites.
Fortunately, growing native wildflowers offers additional benefits. According to researchers, bee population numbers increased by 50% last year thanks to flowering meadows created specifically for honeybees.
By planting nectar producing plants, you’re creating ideal habitats for all kinds of bugs and animals. Also, certain pollinator favorites such as milkweed are in short supply. Consider donating extra supplies to community organizations that support pollinators, and spread word via social media.
18. Build a greenhouse or cold frame
A greenhouse provides warmth, protection and allows sunshine to shine directly onto the plants. During the colder months of autumn and early spring, you can supplement sunlight with supplemental lighting tubes called cold frames.
Both structures consist of plastic sheets draped over poles or sticks. Cold frames are usually constructed from scrap lumber or old window screens. Alternatively, you can build a permanent structure with glass panels. Most professional nurseries already have cold frames and/or greenhouses built in, but unless you already have access to the materials needed, you may have to order custom parts.
With a greenhouse or cold frame, you can extend the harvest period beyond what nature intended. Keep reading to learn how to prevent blights and powdery mildew.
19. Grow an herbs garden
An herbalist once told us that “eating is believing.” While eating delicious meals filled with colorful flavors sounds heavenly, sometimes you just want to pick a bunch of mint to sprinkle atop hummus. Thankfully, growing your very own herbs saves you both time and money.
Not only are homegrown herbs fresher than store bought versions, they’re usually less expensive. Herbs are easy to grow and require minimal maintenance. Just give them adequate amounts of water, nutrients, sunlight, and ventilation. Learn more about selecting, storing and preparing different herbs here.
Remember to wear gloves whenever handling loose dirt or sand. Both contain harmful chemicals that can irritate skin and eyes. Also beware of pesticides sprayed directly on plants. Many homeowners unknowingly ingest dangerous substances via rainwater runoff. Try collecting storm drains to catch contaminated fluids before flushing them down toilets.