24 free garden ideas – simple ways to improve gardens without spending a penny!

These free garden ideas will enhance any outdoor space at zero cost to you
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Having a garden, whether large or small, is a real bonus for any home right now. Not only do gardens provide a welcome and safe space to venture outside, breaking up the monotony of being stuck indoors – they also provide a great source of jobs to keep busy.

    These easy-t0-do jobs can help to spruce up gardens with no costs involved. Totally free garden ideas – win, win.

    Related: Brilliant budget garden ideas to boost outdoor spaces without breaking the bank!

    As we all look to cut back on unnecessary spending right now, handy tips to give gardens a zero budget garden makeover have never been more welcomed. Here’s how you can spruce up your garden without having to spend a penny.

    How can I garden for free?

    You can garden for free by making simple and savvy changes to the way you tend to your outdoor space. Improve the garden without spending a penny by firstly just giving everything a really good clean, from the garden furniture to the patio or decking area.

    A fresh start each spring will awaken the garden ready for use throughout the warmer months. Try growing your own from seedlings and splitting plants to make them go further. Plants are not cheap, therefore taking cuttings and cultivating your own is ideal when on a budget.

    Upcycling is set to be the buzz word for 2021. Giving a new purpose to an unloved piece of indoor furniture  can go a log way to provide free gardening solutions. From old kitchen shelving fashioned into a handy potting bench to a cot mattress base being reimagined as a vertical planter, the possibilities are endless. All it takes is a little imagination.

    Free garden ideas – ways to improve any outdoor space

    1. Pick self-seeding flowers

    Free-garden-ideas-self-seeding

    Image credit: Colin Poole/Future PLC

    Whether you’re a hands-off gardener that doesn’t have the time or inclination to propagate plants – or you simply don’t have the budget to buy them – self-seeding plants are your friend.

    Once you have your first batch of seeds, which you can likely scavenge off a friend or neighbour for free, you simply sew, and let them do their stuff. As they die back, they’ll drop new seeds – self seeding – and you’ll see brand new blooms the following year. All without spending a penny.

    But which flowers are self seeding, I hear you ask? Try meadow cranesbill, poppies, verbena and forget-me-nots.

    2. Landscape with beachcomber treasures

    Urban city garden with mature trees and raised beds

    Image credit: Lizzie Orme / Future PLC

    Make your own garden rockery by using beachcomber and foraged find. This landscaped garden uses recycled whelk shells to light up the ground, hiding the dark soil beneath an impressive Acer tree – making a feature of it in the process.

    3. Make your own compost

    Easy-garden-projects-compost-heap

    Image credit: Polly Eltes

    Be organised, and you never have to shell out for bags on compost at the garden centre ever again. Instead, have a go at making your own – just read our guide to how to make compost and you’ll see how easy it is to feed your garden for free.

    You can start any time, collecting food scraps like peelings and egg shells, and when you come round to potting up your plants in spring, you’ll have a plentiful supply.

    4. Mow the lawn

    free garden ideas garden with freshly mowed lawn

    image credit: Claire Lloyd Davies

    Never underestimate the difference a freshly mowed lawn can have on the rest of your garden. Scott Chandler, former Kew Gardener says ‘Simply mowing the lawn will turn a scruffy garden into a purposefully rustic outdoor area.’ He advises, ‘If you have grass, keep it short’, for the best way to keep it neat and tidy.

    5. Make time to tidy up

    Image credit: Talbot Photography

    It won’t add anything new to your garden, but giving the space a good straighten up could help you give your outdoor space a new lease of life. Many of us put off the nitty-gritty gardening chores, but de-weeding your patio or fixing that wonky fence panel will transform the space in an instant.

    6. Deep clean the patio

    rear extension with glass doors

    image credit: Chris Snook

    Start with a clean slate, quite literally. If you have a patio or decking in your garden use a pressure washer to spray away any dirt and slime that might have built up over the winter months.

    A thorough clean will ensure it’s much more pleasing on the eye when it comes to sitting outdoors to enjoy the garden.

    7. Use eggshells to start off your seeds

    Not all eggshells need to go into the compost heap. If you can save any intact, you can use them to hold seedlings in an egg box. Eggshells contain calcium, which will enrich the soil, helping your seedlings to grow.

    8. Divide your plants

    garden border flowers

    Image credit: Mark Bolton

    If you’re looking to up the number of flowers and plants in your garden, without any additional cost, now’s the ideal time to divide or split summer-flowering plants. By dividing your plants, you’ll be able to add more colour to your garden whilst also making
    your original plants healthier by making sure they don’t overgrow.

    Experts recommend, ‘Primroses, daylilies, asters, geums, heucheras, hardy geraniums and Japanese anemones’ – as  all suitable for dividing. ‘To separate your plants, dig up the clump whilst gently loosening the soil. Using a trowel or hands, carefully pull the plant apart. Making sure each section has plenty of roots still attached. Then simply replant these new sections in your garden and water well.’

    9. Rearrange the furniture

    garden with tiled flooring and garden furniture

    Image credit: Dobbies

    Simply repositioning the furniture can alter the garden layout – instantly refreshing the space, making it feel like new by creating a different perspective. Non-fixed outdoor seating allows you to change things up at your leisure.

    Related: 9 simple ways to revamp a rented garden on a budget – all without upsetting your landlord

    10. Move a mirror

    garden mirror

    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    Doesn’t every household have a mirror they can afford to move into the garden? You’ve amazed at the difference it can make, moving such a simple accessory.

    Garden mirror ideas can help to totally transform the garden, making it feel more like an extension of the indoors but more importantly it can help to make it look bigger by reflecting light and scenery back into the space.

    For more ways to visually grow your space, our tricks for How to make a small garden look bigger are a must-see.

    11. Raise up your planting

    Easy-Garden-ideas-colourful-plant-pots

    Image credit: Joanna Henderson/Future PLC

    Change the landscape by rethinking your plant pots. Move freestanding pots to create a more curated display, that will fill any empty gaps on the patio to add greenery and colour.

    Elevate smaller pots on side tables and plant stands to gain a different perspective, adding depth to the overall feel of the planting arrangement. A cluster of potted plants surrounding a seating area is a great way to make the experience of sitting outdoors feel more immersive.

    12. Paint your garden buildings

    Image credit: David Giles

    Winter can take its toll on garden buildings. Use the free time now to check sheds and greenhouses, making sure they are still in good stead. ‘A fresh lick of paint and regular ventilation now the weather is improving will help your garden buildings and plants within them stay healthy,’ advise the experts.

    To do this for free, put shout outs for leftover paint on Facebook and other social media, and ask around. It won’t necessarily match, of course, in which case pick a striped multicolour look, or try painting a mural.

    Top tip: If your outdoor buildings provided extra storage in the winter, now’s the time to do a bit of decluttering. Even better transform the extra space to a home office or home gym.

    Related: Shed gym ideas – create a space to keep up your fitness regime at home

    13. Create garden zones

    Before-and-after-from-characterless-plot-to-a-multi-zoned-sophisticated-garden-planting-main

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Creating different themed zones can help to make the space feel bigger. This can be easily done by moving garden furniture such as chairs or outdoor tables into one section to create a seating space and children’s play items into another section to create a mini play area.

    These simple measures can go a long way to ensure the whole family can take time for themselves,  and get a much-needed break from the indoors.

    14. Welcome colour to walls

    garden with organge painted wall

    Image credit: Dobbies Garden Centers

    Nothing invigorates a tired garden more than a splash of colour. Beyond your summer bedding choices you might want to add colour on the walls to create the perfect backdrop for your planting.

    Check if you have leftover paint in the shed to add even a slither of striking colour on one wall or fence – a little can go along way to enliven the space.

    Failing that you could check what’s being thrown out at your local tip in the paint section, always ensure you gain permission first. Another idea for a free fix is to use chalks to add colour to the wall, even a mural perhaps?

    15. Upcycle a potting bench

    easy garden ideas 2

    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    Turn something old into something new. Rather than throwing out a piece of old furniture see if you can repurpose it to fit for a job in the garden. An unwanted set of shelves could be perfect for creating a budget friendly potting table.

    To keep it looking its best we advise adding a coat of weatherproof shielding, be it varnish or garden furniture paint. Check the shed to see what you already have to hand, in order to keep the task free.

    16. Entice wildlife into the garden

    Image credit: Lizze Orme

    From birds to bumble bees, there are lots of free and easy ways to make your outdoor space more inviting to wildlife. Tying a bunch of hollow stems like bamboo together with string and placing them in an old terracotta plant pot or open wooden box will create a lovely new bee hotel for your garden – helping to preserve the dwindling bee population.

    Or another way, and a good one to get little ones involved, is by stacking a pile of wood in a shady area as a habitat for small mammals, amphibians and insects.

    Read more: Wildlife garden ideas – 13 easy ways to turn your outdoor space into a haven for wildlife

    17. Fashion a free trellis

    Traditional garden fence jazzed up with a pink trellis

    Image credit: Jamie Mason

    We started to see the rise during last summer’s DIY frenzy – homeowners were recycling old slatted bed bases to make ingenious vertical planters. Simply remove the base, cut to size and securely attach to the garden fence.

    Read more here: Mum wows with ingenious idea to reuse little one’s cot bed in the garden – and it cost just £6

    18. Get weeding without chemicals

    garden weeds

    Image credit: Amateur Gardening

    Help you garden kicks a weed habit with ease. Forget expensive, and more importantly, harsh toxic weedkillers – try this savvy bin liner hack to rid your garden of weeds.

    Gardening gurus suggest simply covering the problem area of your garden with a domestic bin liner or sheet. Weigh whatever method you use down with rocks, to keep it firmly in place. Leave the area covered long enough to deprive the weeds of sunlight, and viola – no more weeds.

    19. Turn old tyres into something more

    Before you drive that old spare tyre to the nearest tip, consider if you could give it new life as a garden swing. All you need is a sturdy branch and some rope, tied around the swing at 12am, 4pm and 8pm positions for balance.

    Alternatively, tyres make great containers for flowers, plants or vegetables.

    20. Find a new use for coffee filters

    Free-garden-ideas-coffee-pots

    Image credit: Future PLC

    Potting up plants? Before adding soil, pop your used coffee filters inside to line your pot. It will prevent any soil from escaping and will help hold the water for longer, yet it will still be able to drain away so your greenery won’t be waterlogged.

    21. Upcycle plastic bottles as a cool display

    Budget-garden-ideas-plastic-bottles

    Image credit: Amy Cutmore

    This display appeared at no less prestigious an event as the Chelsea Flower Show. So if it’s good enough for the great and good of gardening, it’s good enough for you!

    To recreate it, take your plastic bottles, cut off the tops and pierce a few small holes at the bottom. Add gravel for extra drainage, before plant up in compost. The look is surprisingly effective.

    22. Remember, anything can be a plant pot!

    Free-garden-ideas-teapot-planters

    Image credit: Tim Young/Future PLC

    Your pretty plants don’t always need fancy planters. Be imaginative when finding homes for you plants – that chipped teapot or rusty may not be any good for your kitchen any more, but they’ll make fine homes for flowers and shrubs. For free!

    23. Make a colander hanging basket

    Free-garden-ideas-colander-planters

    Image credit: David Brittain/Future PLC

    Talking of colanders, due to their amazing drainage, they make great hanging baskets or strawberry planters. How’s that for a free garden idea? Do remember though, they may be heavier than a standard design, so make sure your existing bracket can take the weight.

    24. Re-use broken pots

    garden edging idea with terracotta tiles

    Image credit: Amateur Gardening

    Create the quickest-ever rock garden simply by nestling broken terracotta pots into a gravelled border, and plant low-maintenance succulents inside.

    All the latest from Ideal Home