Designing a gorgeous garden on a shoestring isn’t impossible. By embracing a host of cheap garden ideas, you can cobble together an outdoor space that’s beautiful, inspiring and affordable. Cheap doesn’t have to mean shabby. Gardening actually lends itself to thriftiness, and frugal gardeners are a dime a dozen. The fact is most cheap garden ideas just make sense.

Every great garden starts with great soil. One of the best cheap garden ideas is not to skimp on soil preparation. The adage is to tuck a $5 plant in a $10 hole. Definitely spend money on making sure your soil drains well and encourages healthy plant growth, especially if you’re planting trees.

Make your own compost so you can maintain well-draining soils rich in organic matter, especially if you’re growing edible crops, roses or beds of annuals. Nothing is cheaper than homegrown compost, especially when you make it from kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and autumn leaves that litter your property.

Always buy soil additives in bulk, if you can arrange the use of a truck. You’ll save a small fortune over bagged items. For larger deliveries from landscape companies, team up with neighbors to split delivery costs. Many companies can divide the truck bed to split loads; just be sure to inform them of your intention when you place your order.

Dividing existing perennials—in your yard or a neighbor’s—is another cheap garden idea that saves you big bucks. Many people are happy to share plants, especially if you offer to help with digging. Many gardeners also gladly share seedlings of spreading perennials. Strike up conversations with neighbors who garden, and don’t hesitate to ask for a start of something. Most greenthumbs are thrilled to share the wealth.

Shop for plants in the off-season. Scour temporary and discount store garden centers in late spring-early summer for deals. Look for early spring perennials that are entering summer dormancy, like bleeding heart and Virginia bluebells. Stems may appear dead, but roots should be lively—and prices will be dirt cheap. Don’t plant these beauties in the heat of summer. Just stash them in a partially shaded area back home. Plant in fall, and your garden will leap out of the ground next spring.

In late summer to early fall, look for deals on perennials. Most nurseries have a discount area. Learn where it is, check it often, and cash in on the price slashing. Another cheap garden idea is to let plants set seed. Larkspur, Verbena bonariensis, blackberry lily and hollyhock are just a few of the plants that happily set seed and spread through the garden. Grab seedpods and toss their contents where you want new plants.

Hardscape is vital for a beautiful garden, but can be pricey. Forego expensive edging by digging a shallow trench around planting beds. It’s a snap to maintain with a lawn edger or string trimmer and looks fantastic. Develop paths over time. Start with grass paths (make sure they’re wide enough for your mower), and slowly graduate to more permanent surfaces as funds and time permit. Follow the progression from grass to bark mulch to gravel. Ultimately aim for a hard surface, such as bricks, flagstones or pavers.

Purchase garden furniture during post-July 4 sales or search out bargains at estate and yard sales. A wire brush, spray paint and elbow grease is all you need to revitalize classic wrought iron furniture. Or build your own bench using concrete pavers. This simple technique saves big money and no one will guess it’s a cheap garden idea.

Choose a DIY firepit design to chase the chill on autumn evenings, and build your own water garden. With research and a free or low-cost seminar at a local garden center, you can craft your own dream garden.

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