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Nine free ways to freshen up your garden

Looking for cheap garden ideas? We round up simple, low-cost ways to improve your outdoor space

Nine free ways to freshen up your garden

Getting your garden together doesn’t need to cost a fortune. In fact, there are plenty of ways you can spruce up your outdoor space without spending a penny.

Choosing low-cost or free materials will not only save you money and help the environment, but it can also provide a healthier, more sustainable habitat for your plants and the wildlife that visits.

From recycling water bottles and bed slats to picking the right plants, see below for our top tips for frugal gardening.


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1. Make your own compost

Woman making compost

Homemade compost is the most natural way to improve the health of your soil. It also helps the environment by allowing you to recycle things that would normally go to council bins, such as kitchen scraps, household waste paper and grass clippings. Plus, it’s totally free.

However, it does take about six to 10 months to make, so you’ll need to plan ahead.

See our step-by-step guide on how to make your own compost.

2. Collect seeds

Collecting seeds from flowers

Keep an eye on your flowers. When the seed heads start to ripen, catch them before they fall. You can then sow them straight away to get a new batch blooming – it’s always best to sow while the seeds are fresh, so don’t wait around.

Gardening through the year – find out what gardening jobs you should be doing this month. 

3. Propagate by taking cuttings

Propagating plant cuttings

Make the most of the flowers you already have by taking cuttings and overwintering them indoors.

  • Choose a healthy plant and pick a green, non-woody stem.
  • Cut just below a leaf and remove the bottom few leaves so none go into the compost when inserted into the pot.
  • Stick the cutting in some Best Buy compost for raising young plants. You can pot more than one cutting in the same soil but make sure the leaves aren’t touching.
  • Keep the cuttings moist and let them root before repotting and watching your free flowers grow.

Many flower varieties can be propagated including pelargoniums, fuchsias and hydrangeas. This is also a great, low-cost way to share your favourite plants with friends.

Discover our best plant varieties and how to grow them.

4. Buy self-seeding flowers

Foxgloves in a garden

If you’d rather take a back seat and watch your garden grow naturally, you should invest in self-seeding flowers such as poppies and foxgloves.

You might need to buy the first batch of seeds – or get some from a friend – but once they’ve grown, they’ll drop new seeds, and more flowers will bloom.

See the best place to buy plants and seeds online.

5. Fertilise lawns with clippings

Mowing the lawn

You don’t always need to spend money on expensive fertilisers if your lawn’s looking a little tired. Instead, feed it naturally by trimming your grass with a mulching mower.

The mower will drop the clippings, and as they rot down they’ll act as a fertiliser. Try to cut it regularly so the clippings are small – large clumps will take too long to decompose.

Find the best lawn mower for your garden using our lawn mower reviews

6. Use a rain barrel

Rain barrel in a garden

According to the Energy Saving Trust, hoses and sprinklers typically use about 1,000 litres of water an hour – the equivalent of more than 12 baths.

Instead, cut down your bills by using a water butt to harvest rainwater for use outdoors.

If you want to use the water you’ve collected with a hose, you’ll also need to install a water butt pump.

See our round-up of the best garden hoses.

7. Stock up on free pots

Plastic garden pots

Lots of garden centres now run recycling schemes where you can return and pick up free plastic pots and trays, so you don’t need to keep buying new ones, and the old ones won’t end up in landfill.

That’s good news for your wallet and the environment.

Stay comfortable while you garden by using a pair of our best garden gloves and a garden kneeler.

8. Upcycle old household objects

Garden trellis

Before you throw away worn-out furniture or household rubbish, think about what you could use it for in your garden.

  • Old bed slats or scrap wood can easily be made into a trellis to house climbing plants or provide some privacy in your garden.
  • Plastic water bottles are perfect used as plant pots. In fact, a lot of household that can be used to grow plants, including that old, chipped teapot in your kitchen.
  • Colanders make ideal hanging baskets. Just make sure the bracket you use is strong enough to hold it up.
  • Use a worn car tyre for grouping plants in your garden. Or, if you’ve got a big tree with a sturdy branch, why not make a homemade swing?

If you’ve got leftover plastic that can’t be upcycled, follow our guide on how to recycle in the UK

9. Shop in the sales

Garden sale

Many garden centres host sales in autumn and, while you’re unlikely to bag a freebie, you will find lots of great items at reduced prices.

Keep an eye out for perennials and shrubs, as these will return each year. But avoid buying compost – it might be cheap, but it won’t be fresh when you come to use it next spring.

Gardening tools and accessory reviews – if you have to buy items for your garden, make sure they do the job properly and are built to last, by reading our independent reviews. 

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