Spending time outdoors is increasingly being acknowledged as being good for mental health, even just spending time in the garden. But what about if you only have a very small space, or even just a tiny patio? Well fear not, there’s loads of ways you can turn your small space into a heavenly haven.

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You don’t have to spend a fortune either. Coming up with small garden or concrete patio ideas on a budget simply requires thinking more creatively. Upcycling is a brilliant way of saving money and great for the planet!

We’ve picked a few ideas to help you get inspired to turn your unloved outside space into your favourite hangout.

Keep it tidy – sort out your storage!

Before you start giving your small space a makeover, we’ve got one very important tip to try first – Tidy up!

We know it sounds boring, but many people end up inadvertently using their outside spaces as a dumping ground for things like bicycles, barbecues or recycling bins. Once this gets out of hand it can be tricky to see where to start your gardening journey. Spend some time finding your items a dedicated space to live and you’ll find it much easier to visualise your perfect plant place.

DIY small garden ideas on a budget

1. Create a living wall

Best for enclosed gardens

Living wall felt pockets

If you’ve only got a small space garden, it’s highly likely that you’re surrounded by walls or fences. As much as they’re necessary for privacy and security they can be a bit of an eyesore, as well as blocking off some of that all-important sun.

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One solution is to transform your unsightly fence or brickwork into a living wall! They not only look more visually appealing, but also create more space for plants.

There are a few different ways of making them yourself if you’re good at DIY. You can easily make a living wall using pallets or guttering.

But if you want to keep things simple, these living wall felt planters are becoming increasingly popular with all sorts of gardeners. As they’re made from eco-friendly felt, they’re breathable and have naturally good drainage allowing water to filter down to your lower plants.


2. Elevate your greenery with a DIY plant stand

Best for flat spaces

cinder-block-plant-stand

Plant stands are a great way of adding height to your garden or patio. By making your plant pots higher, you’re able to capture more sunlight and prevent certain plants from being crowded out or shaded by others. They also help to create a focal point and add different layers to your garden, compared to if you have all of your pots on the ground.

There are loads of different ways to make plant stands. Many can be made by upcycling materials you’ll already have at home.


3. Make a container pond

Best for wildlife

Make a wildlife pond

When it comes to concrete patio gardens, you might think having your own pond just isn’t possible. But actually you don’t need to do any digging at all to create a pond, as it’s really simple to make a pond from a container.

It doesn’t have to be huge, even an old washing-up bowl will do the job. You just need to add some pond plants to help keep the water from going stagnant and smelly. Don’t forget to add some bricks or rocks into your pond so that wildlife can get in and out.

Making a container pond will not only give your small garden some extra visual interest, but will also attract a huge range of beneficial pollinators that will help your garden bloom. I tried making one myself out of an old trug and now have frogs happily living in it!

More small garden ideas

If you’re after more inspiration for your petite patch, you can find loads of ideas plus plant profiles and other handy info in the RHS Little book of small space gardening.

RHS little book of small space gardening

4. Suspend your plants with a macrame hanger

Best for balconies and brackets

macrame plant hanger

Macrame plant hangers may be all the rage with stylish interior designers, but they also make a brilliant outdoor plant solution too! They’re really easy to attach to balconies or railings. You can also suspend them from a hanging basket bracket or even tree branches.

Make them using a synthetic cord and they’ll be able to stand up to the elements and last for years. Or if you want to get really clever and creative, you can hang them in tandem – suspending one hanger from the base of another. The best part of using a macrame hanger is that those pesky slugs and snails won’t be able to get to your precious plants!


5. Short on pots? Think outside the box!

Best for creative containers

While your outside space may mean you have no choice but to be a container gardener, you might be surprised to learn that many gardeners actively enjoy planting solely in pots!

There are many positive benefits to container gardening. You can easily control the watering and drainage, keep invasive or vigorous plants from spreading, as well as being able to move your plants to display them at their best.

You don’t need to head out to buy loads of expensive pots to fill your concrete patio. With a handy drill to make drainage holes, you can pretty much turn anything into a plant pot! From old colanders and broken-handled buckets, to plastic storage boxes and pull-along toy carts, the only limit is your imagination.

Upcycling can give your garden a truly unique look. Our stunning how to make a planter box tutorial shows how even an old toolbox can become a real feature!


6. Reuse your kitchen waste with worms

Best for free fertiliser

A compost heap is a must for any serious gardener, but not everyone has the space for one. But there is a way of home composting on a smaller scale – with a wormery!

A wormery is a self contained environment into which you can put your kitchen food waste and small amounts of garden waste. Special tiger worms then eat that waste, converting it into both a compost and liquid (known as worm tea), which you can then use as a fertiliser in your garden!

You can make your own wormery using plastic storage boxes, and there are plenty of wormeries in all shapes and sizes available online. Whether you decide to make or buy a wormery, don’t forget to buy your worms. And yes, they are different to regular earthworms so you can’t just dig some up from the garden!

Make even more from your waste

While composting and wormeries are great for making the most of your kitchen scraps, you can’t compost meat, fish or dairy. However, you can with a Bokashi bin - a clever method that is odour-free and makes a great organic fertiliser!

7. Add the illusion of space with a mirror

Best for walled gardens

How-to-upcycle-a-mirror

Walled gardens can actually be quite good for gardening. Traditionally they were used to create their own eco-spheres and protect against frosts and winds. However, if you’re living in a city or terraced house, it’s more likely your walls are for security… and possibly not pretty either.

One trick to make a small walled garden seem bigger is to add a mirror. It’s a technique that’s often used indoors to make a room feel bigger, but works equally well in the garden. Position it so that your plants are captured in the reflection, but if you want to soften the effect try placing grasses or tall plants directly in front of the mirror so that you just catch glimpses of it.


8. Make a cold frame

Best for plant protection

How to make a cold frame

A greenhouse is almost synonymous with gardening, but unfortunately you need a pretty large garden to be able to fit one in. You can get smaller freestanding plastic greenhouses, but the reliability of these varies – they’re not the strongest in windy spaces.

So how do you protect your plants in a small garden? With a cold frame! Essentially, it works the same as a greenhouse does, with a glass top that captures the warmth of the sun's rays. You can buy cold frames online in a wide range of shapes and sizes, but it’s not too difficult to make a cold frame yourself with some wood and an old window or sheets of clear polycarbonate.

They’re also perfect for overwintering plants, as well as hardening off young plants and seedling in spring.


9. Get more life out of old furniture

Best for upcycling fans

Macrame chair upcycling tutorial

Once you’ve got your garden looking tip top, you’ll want to put your feet up and admire all of your hard work. Garden furniture can be pretty expensive, but you can save on cash by getting crafty!

You can easily save old furniture from the scrap heap with a bit of upcycling. Transform old seats with our how to upcycle a chair tutorial, and by switching to a waterproof paint you can ensure it’ll last forever.

But it’s not all about just a simple lick of paint. If you’ve got an old folding chair hiding in the garage, give it a new lease of life by turning it into a DIY macrame chair.


10. Paint your pots!

Best for adding your own style

nail varnish marble plant pot painting

Finally, if there’s one way to really make your small garden your own, it’s by giving your pots a makeover to reflect your own style. This might be painting them in rainbow colours, adding abstract or geometric shapes, covering them in glitter or even just adding your name onto them!

Get your tools in order

Secateurs, scissors, twine, labels – your gardening tools need a home. There are various containers you could keep them in, but I like to be fancy and keep my gardening tools in a bolga basket, a hand woven dried grass basket originating from Ghana.

bolga basket

Make these small garden ideas your own

Now that you’ve got plenty of inspiration, it’s time for you to take these ideas and get creative. Much like picking which plants go in your garden, it’s down to you which colours and styles you prefer.

Remember it’s your garden and as such, you make the rules! But while you’re having fun with all these ideas, don’t forget about the plants!

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Save your seeds – the ultimate thrifty garden idea!

Upcycling and getting creative are great for saving money in the garden, but nothing will save you more than collecting your own seeds! We show you how to make your own seed envelopes as well as inspiration for a pretty shoebox seed store in our seed storage box tutorial.

Authors

Matt SpiersDigital Assistant, Gathered

Matt Spiers is a crochet artist and designer who has been overseeing Gathered's crochet articles for over 2 years. He previously worked as Digital Assistant for Simply Crochet magazine and is our in house video editing pro. What started as a hobby a decade ago led to Matt developing a passion (and then a career) with crochet. As well as still regularly writing and designing for Simply Crochet magazine, Matt is a crochet artist in his own right, having displayed and created crochet installations at festivals and fibre events across the UK. You can keep up to date with Matt at @onemancrochet on Instagram.

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