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7 Cheap Landscaping Ideas for The Backyard that Look Great

I don’t know about you, but I wanted so many things to decorate my backyard that it kept me from actually doing anything.  So I decided to look for ways to get the look I wanted without going into debt. Here’s what I came up with: several cheap landscaping ideas for the backyard that not only keep you on the budget but look great as well.

yellow and pink flowers behind wooden logs edging

Cheap Landscaping Ideas for The Backyard

1. Versatile bloom boxes beautify your backyard on the cheap

a bloom box filled with pansies and lavender

There’s no real hard definition for a bloom box. If you have some old lumber or pieces of wood lying around the house, you can easily tack together a rectangular or square box that serves as a planter. Make it the home to your favorite flowering plants, and you’ve got a bloom box.

If you’ve seen a window box planter, you know what I’m talking about. This can help you beautify the side of your home while inexpensively improving the look of your backyard. The key here is to think about versatility. You don’t just have to put these under your windows. Make them any shape or size and keep them portable.

Instead of permanently attaching them to the side of your home, you can move them around your yard. These portable planters are simple to make on the cheap, and you can decorate them anyway you like. What I really like is the ability to move them around to create different landscaping looks.

Smaller bloom boxes can be used as centerpieces if you’re throwing an outdoor party. You can use them to line walkways or to spruce up the look of your patio and outdoor kitchen. Another thing I like about these inexpensive homemade planter boxes is that it’s easy to take them inside when nasty weather is headed your way.

wooden planter with flowers sitting on the sidewalk

Don’t worry about perfection. You don’t have to be the most talented carpenter or do-it-yourselfer. A hammer, some nails, and some extra pieces of lumber that have been collecting dust in your garage can create a rustic, unfinished look that helps you beautify your backyard.

2. Add some inexpensive landscape lighting

man adding a landscape light

Discussing cheap landscaping ideas for the backyard without talking about backyard lighting would be a mistake. There are so many inexpensive ways to brighten up and improve the look of your lawn simply by adding some lighting. This is one budget landscaping idea where you definitely don’t have to break the bank. In some cases, you don’t have to spend any money at all.

Are you a Christmas junkie? Do you love decorating your home for Christmas and other seasonal holidays by using string lights? String lighting is a simple and inexpensive way to brighten up just about any area. If you already have some that you use every year, break them out the next time you give a garden party.

Many traditional string lights that are used for Christmas decorating are dark green in color. I’m not talking about the light bulbs themselves, but the wire coating and the housing for the bulbs. This makes them perfect for adding to so many backyard landscaping projects.

Their dark green color is virtually invisible in trees, shrubs, and around other plants that are similar in color. This means you don’t have a gaudy and unattractive appearance when the lights aren’t being used. You can also paint string lighting any color you want so it fits into your particular situation.

By the way, there are so many different types of string lights. You have different sized bulbs and plenty of shapes and colors to choose from. These days many string lights use LED bulbs, so you save on your energy costs while beautifying your backyard. This is a cheap way to improve the look of your lawn, and string lights can be put up and taken down so you can create a number of looks.

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3. Crushed stone, pebbles, and rocks make a nice addition

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Let’s turn to mother nature for this cheap backyard improvement. One thing I really like about using crushed stone and pebbles in landscaping projects is that they require no maintenance.

Rocks can survive any type of weather. You almost never have to do anything with them, which is the exact opposite of how much care you have to give so many plants.

You find the stones, gravel, or rock you’re looking for, and you put them where you like. That’s pretty much it. You don’t have to worry about approaching storms or seasonal weather issues ruining the way they look.

I also like that crushed stone and other types of rocks and pebbles are incredibly versatile. You can use them to create a terraced waterfall effect with a cheap water pump. Different types of stone can be used for walkways and paths, bordered and without borders. Eastern cultures have been using rock gardens literally for thousands of years to enhance peace and tranquility.

rock garden landscape

If you’re worried about cost, there are a few things you can do to keep from spending too much money and blowing your budget. Gravel is very cost-efficient. That’s because it’s so common. You’ll find there are plenty of different types, sizes, and consistencies of gravel.

Where to get free gravel, rocks, and stones for your backyard projects

Piles of old bricks on a demolition site

If you want to go the super cheap route (I’m talking about free), you can do that too. Always keep an eye open for construction projects. Anytime you see new construction going on, residential or commercial, you might be looking at a free source for gravel or other rocks. Strike up a conversation with the project manager and tell them what you’re looking for.

If someone is tearing down an old brick home, you could get tons of complete and broken brick pieces. Offer to haul the old bricks away and you might score hundreds or even thousands of dollars of material for your backyard landscaping redo.

Tell your friends and neighbors know you’d appreciate information about free sources of rocks and gravel.

Let the manager of your home improvement gardening section know you’re always looking for a great sale. It’s true that the more you look for something the more it seems to appear, so keep your eyes open and your next gravel purchase could be very budget pleasing.

4. Use ground covers for stress-free maintenance

ground cover made up of pink flowers

You might think I’m lazy when I say that I’ll prefer easy over hard every time. Who wants to spend all their time on installation and maintenance if they don’t have to? I surely don’t. When you’re thinking about improving the look of your backyard, laying down new sod might be one of the first things that come to mind.

For a lot of reasons, you might want to hesitate before you order that sod delivery. Since we’re talking about giving your backyard a new look on a budget, there’s something you need to know. The National Gardening Association tells us fresh grass sod can cost as much as $0.35 per square foot. 

That’s the cost if you install the sod yourself. If you get a professional landscaper to lay the sod, it will cost you double that price or more. Even if you have a small backyard, you can see how this job can get expensive in a hurry.

Another financial requirement when considering sod is ongoing maintenance. Grass drinks up a lot of water. You might have to consider fertilizer and other treatments to keep your lawn looking great. This means even if you get a sweet deal on some sod and you lay it yourself, you’re looking at ongoing maintenance costs that might be more than you’d considered.

What’s a simple fix here? Use cost-efficient and low maintenance groundcover instead of grass. There are plenty of plants that love to creep along the ground as they grow. In most cases, they require zero maintenance, as they get everything they need from mother nature.

Here are a few cheap and hardy ground cover plants

Ground elder (also known as bishop’s weed) is one plant you may want to consider. It stays low to the ground and doesn’t need much care.

bishop's weed flowers

Creeping thyme builds a low-growing mat of sturdy ground cover. It doesn’t mind the cold and produces beautiful white or purple flowers in the spring. You can place it in direct sunlight and even if you don’t have the best soil, this hardy little spreader does well. As a wonderful side benefit, you can use thyme leaves in so many recipes.

creeping thyme flowers

Dead nettle is a perennial that’s also known as lamium. It produces leaves with silvery accents and blooms in the spring and early summer. You can choose from pink, white, or purple flowers, and this is the perfect inexpensive ground cover if you have a lot of shade in your backyard. Lamium prefers shade but will put up with a little sunlight now and again.

silvery lamium leaves and pink flower buds

Sedum, Epimedium, mondo grass, and oregano are other excellent sources of budget-friendly ground cover. Yes, I’m talking about that oregano. A lot of people don’t know that oregano grows in dense groups. You’ll enjoy flowers in the summer that bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators love. Of course, with oregano as ground cover, you’ll never have to pay for this versatile spice again.

blooming oregano plant

5. Homemade stepping stones are another cheap landscaping idea for the backyard

Homemade hand prints garden stepping stone

I really love this one. The first time I did this, I bought stepping stone molds and patterns from my favorite gardening center (I LOVE this one!). You can certainly do that. They have a wide variety of shapes and patterns so you can make your stepping stone pathway as unique or traditional as you like.

The problem is that you may only use stepping stone “cookie-cutter” molds one time. They’re definitely not that expensive. But even so, purchasing something I use only one time doesn’t always make my pocketbook happy. So I started searching for smart and inexpensive or free alternatives, and that’s exactly what I found.

Instead of paying for molds, make them yourself. How do you do this? Head to the garage or that closet where you keep everything and look for some cardboard boxes. Pour cement into the cardboard box for a cheap mold. You can also use plastic containers, as well as scraps of wood you can “design” your mold from.

When you’re done you just cut or peel away the cardboard, plastic container, or wood mold.  The results are stepping stones in shapes, sizes, and patterns which you can make unique and one-of-a-kind.

If you don’t have any old cardboard boxes laying around, stepping stone molds are rather inexpensive. You can find them online at sites like Amazon. They give you a uniform appearance that can be used over and over, and all you do is mix and pour the cement.

Either way, making your own stepping stones for your backyard rather than purchasing them can save you some considerable money.

6. Join the Arbor Day Foundation for free (or nearly free) trees

For a medium-sized tree of 12 to 15 feet, you could pay several hundred dollars. Then you have to worry about installation and labor costs. You can choose saplings instead to save money, and I’ve done that myself. But what would you say if I told you there was a way to support a great cause and get free trees at the same time?

That’s exactly what you do when you join the Arbor Day Foundation. For just $10 you get a 6-month membership. That money is going to such a good cause. You’re supporting the planting and conservation of trees around the world.

When you join, you get to choose 10 free trees. You can send them to your home address or as a gift to someone else. Your selection is widespread. Choose from wild bird garden trees or oak trees, Douglas firs, or white pines. There are plenty of other trees to choose from as well. I like this idea because I get to support a worthwhile organization while also getting a great deal for myself.

Getting 10 trees for $10 is a no-brainer choice for me, especially since I’m helping out a great organization.

You can also check your local home improvement stores and nurseries in the days and weeks leading up to Arbor Day and Earth Day. They will often give out seedlings in exchange for you signing up for their email newsletter.

Of course, you can get free trees by simply asking your neighbors. They may have small seedlings popping up on their lawn that they would be happy to have you take away for free.

(Arbor Day in the United States is the last Friday in April. Earth Day is April 22 every year in the US.)

7. More budget landscaping ideas to use in your backyard

You can turn just about anything into a planter. Instead of hauling your unwanted items to the junkyard, why not turn them into planters? A little creativity and some paint and your junk can become home to flowering plants to beautify your backyard.

a wooden used as a planter with pink flowers

Buying plants in bulk is a simple way to lower your per-plant costs.

You can save more money by buying plants at the end of the season. Gardening centers are anxious to get rid of seasonal items and price these items accordingly.

Another money-saving tip is to get to know the manager of your local gardening center. There are so many ways that this connection can pay off for you and your backyard landscaping project.

Put your brainpower to work. Look at your backyard in a different way. Keep your mind open and don’t just stick to traditional landscaping practices.

Remember, cheap landscaping ideas for the backyard are only as limited as your imagination and creativity.

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Cheap landscaping ideas for the backyard

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Best Landscaping Ideas For Your Home

Sunday 29th of August 2021

[…] 7 Cheap Landscaping Ideas for The Backyard that Look Great […]

Cheryl Weatherford

Wednesday 6th of January 2021

I've been a gardener all my life but I enjoyed this site a lot.it easy to read and gave me several ideas.