While a backyard may not be part of your home, it is definitely part of your living space. Redesigning this outdoor area can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be! With some ingenuity and elbow grease, you can transform your backyard into an oasis without emptying your wallet.
Focus on One Area
If you can’t afford to redo your entire backyard, focus on the one thing that will improve how you experience the space. If you don’t spend as much time in your backyard as you would like due to a lack of privacy, add a fence or trees. If you’d like to entertain there, add a sitting or dining area. If you need more shade, add a pergola, sun sails or something as simple as a patio umbrella. If you want a space for your kids to play, add a sandbox, kiddie pool or a jungle gym (and don’t forget that a simple sprinkler is as fun for kids now as it was 50 years ago). Focusing on the one area that will make the space more enjoyable for you is a quick and easy way to revamp your backyard on a budget.
Make it Multifunctional
Whether you’d like to entertain guests or just want a nice space for your family to enjoy, you will get more bang for your buck if you make your outdoor space multifunctional. You could add a sitting or dining area, but it would be even better to design a space that can be used for lounging and dining. Furniture that serves more than one purpose — like a bench that is also a lounger or seating with built-in storage for items that need extra weather protection or are used infrequently — is not only practical, but also saves money.
There are many ways to do it yourself. Honestly, not all DIY projects save money, so choose your projects and materials with care. A number of DIY furniture projects involve pallets, but I wouldn’t recommend those for outdoor use. Pallets are usually made of the cheapest wood and the individual planks easily warp, not to mention the wood needs to be treated regularly to protect it from the elements. A much better alternative is concrete block, which is naturally weather-resistant, uniform and can serve a variety of purposes in an outdoor setting. Examples include as a table base, a seating base, plant stands or a decorative border.
If that look isn’t for you, consider refinishing the furniture you already have or can buy second-hand. Rusty metal tables and chairs can be redone to look like new for a fraction of the cost of a new set. Sometimes all you really need is new cushioning or pillows, which you can buy or make yourself.
Add Some Lights
Lighting can have a wonderfully dramatic effect on an outdoor space. Not only is it cozy and romantic, it can also extend your use of the space well into the evening. From solar-powered lights to battery-powered LEDs to large bulb string lights, there are many options designed for use in outdoor spaces. You can hang the lights from trees, from a pergola, suspended between your house and a pole or tree, or any way that works for your particular space.
Though they require more care and attention, firepits, candles and tiki torches are a fun option — as long as good visibility isn’t a high priority for you. If you have kids, these may not be the best options, though a citronella candle is always a great way to ward off mosquitoes.
Choose Your Landscape Plants Wisely
Plants add a lot of comfort and character to a space, but there’s nothing to fear if you don’t have the greenest thumb. There’s no rule book stating you have to have a professionally landscaped backyard with 50 varieties of plants and a state-of-the-art irrigation system. Adding just a few plants of limited variety will make your outdoor space look cohesive and refined. Visit a garden center near you to find out what grows quickly with minimal care for your lighting and climate conditions. If you are only seeking two or three types of plants to add to your landscape, look for options that work well together, have similar requirements and can fill the space. The contiguous United States mostly comprises climate zones 3–10, and certain plants do well in certain zones. If you’re not sure what your zone is, you can enter your ZIP code for the USDA Hardiness Zone Map to find out.
To get you started, here are a few options that work in a wide variety of climate zones:
- Hostas —- Zones 3–9
- Sedum — Zones 3–10
- Butterfly Bushes — Zones 5–10
- Hydrangeas — Zones 3–9, depending on the variety
Beyond these tried-and-true plant friends, your best bet is to find plants that are native or naturalized to your state or region. They will thrive in your particular conditions with little attention from you.
Container Gardening and Hanging Baskets
Your landscape plants provide the finesse and framework for your space, and with containers and hanging baskets, you can add bursts of color with that “wow” factor. You can choose perennials (which come back year after year) or annuals (which will last for a season or until winter), depending on how much variety you want over time. With containers exposed to weather, you’ll want to ensure they can withstand the weather and that they have proper drainage. For those protected from rain, you’ll need to make sure they are regularly watered and still provide drainage, of course.
Some plants form a gorgeous, spilling mound when planted on their own, and some look their best when paired with companion plants. Follow the thriller-filler-spiller method of container gardening for a lush, high-end look.
No matter what technique you employ to revamp your backyard on a budget, rest assured that you can create a space that is both enjoyable and affordable — all it takes is a little creativity, resourcefulness and some carefully chosen accents.
For the last 16 years, Rachel Kinbar has been a writer of articles, blog posts, white papers, essays, infographics, web copy, sales copy, scripts, poetry, lyrics, and more. She has keen research skills that she applies to a wide variety of topics, and she especially loves topics related to design, history, and sustainable living.