We moved into our house 18 months ago and after having lived in a 2nd floor flat for over 8 years we were so excited to finally have our own garden. It’s only small but the most important thing was having some outside space for Little H.
Unfortunately there was more moss than grass, and absolutely no drainage, so it ended up like a swamp every time it rained.
We moved in during the winter and the garden looked like this:
Like most people find after just moving house we didn’t really have any spare money to do anything with the garden at first so we made the best out it last summer, by adding some colour, my parent’s old garden furniture, and just had to put up with it being a bit of a mess.
This year however we had big plans and really wanted a proper garden by the time the nice weather came round so we could spend time outdoors and invite friends and family round for a BBQ. Due to booking a holiday we still didn’t have a very big budget for a big garden make-over but we’ve managed to pull of quite an impressive make-over (if we do say so ourselves!) without spending a fortune.
I thought I’d share our small garden make-over with you all, to inspire anyone with a small garden and/or a small budget.
So if you are looking for some ideas on how to improve your small garden without spending much money, here’s how we completed our small garden make-over on a budget.
How to pull off a garden make-over on a small budget
For the re-design of our garden we decided that we needed somewhere to sit and eat (and subathe!) and somewhere for Little H to play. We already had a playhouse and swing that took up quite a lot of room, as well as the shed which couldn’t be moved.
Our garden was made up of a small patio area by the back doors which leads up to the shed, and a patch of grass that went from the back of the house to the fence.
The garden is north facing so we don’t get a huge amount of sun, and the sun we do get in the summer is at the back of the garden by the fence, so we decided we wanted some decking here to put the table and chairs on. This would also help us to get rid of some of the grass/moss that was causing us such trouble.
My in-laws had lots of extra decking left over from their garden which they kindly donated to us. We had absolutely no idea where to begin so we roped my parents into helping us, and my husband and dad watched a few YouTube videos to learn some new skills!
I won’t explain how to fit decking as I’m by no means an expert, but if you’re thinking of doing it yourself then I would recommend watching a video on how to fit decking yourself like this one.
In total it took 2 full days to install the decking, and we spent the following money…
- Decking – Free
- Sand & Gravel – £20
- Membrane – Free (donated with the decking)
- Decking stain/protector – £25
Total – £45
Grass / Astroturf
Our grass had just turned to mud last autumn and had never really recovered, any amount of rain caused a mud bath – here’s an example of our garden after some heavy rain a few weeks ago.
It was clear there was no point laying new turf until we’d sorted the drainage problems, so we decided to sort that out first and then put down some artificial grass. We read up on how to add drainage to the lawn and we added some trenches lined with landscape fabric. If you have drainage problems on your lawn, take a look at this DIY lawn and garden drainage guide.
Decent artificial grass isn’t cheap, for our small area of approx 4.5ft x 3ft the quotes were coming out at around £300-400 for decent quality grass. My mum had seen a local garden centre selling off-cuts so we headed over and managed to find 2 bits we could put together to fit our small garden .
Again we had no idea how to lay artificial grass, so once more we watched YouTube videos and read up on a few tutorials. If you want to do it yourself try watching this video and check out this guide.
Laying the grass took 2 days (possibly would have been less if we hadn’t had kids in the garden at the time!) and was relatively easy.
The costs of laying AstroTurf were as follows:
- Grass – £150
- Sand and gravel – £30
- Membrane – Free (donated with the decking)
- Tape – £20
Total – £200
We got rid of the water butt in the corner of the garden as without grass or many plants this wasn’t really needed any more. This gave us a little bit more room to extend the paving slabs further across the garden to the side fence and allowed the grass to be a rectangle rather than a more awkward L shape.
There’s a drain cover in the corner of the garden that we need to be able to access so we couldn’t extend the paving slabs all the way to the fence. We weren’t really sure what to do with this redundant part in the corner but we found a wooden pallet in the pile of scrap wood at the garden centre which was exactly the same size as Little H’s playhouse and we (well, my mum) had a brainwave.
The pallet fit the empty area perfectly, and sat over the drain cover. It would be easy to lift up if we needed to get to the drain.
We covered the pallet in a few bits of the left over AstroTurf, nailed one of the spare decking panels to the side of the pallet, and sat Little H’s playhouse on top.
The cost of putting the extra patio together was:
- Paving slabs – £70 (you can get cheaper but we needed to match the ones we already had)
- Crate – Free
- Left over grass – free
Total – £70
The End Result
And here is our finished garden…
We have spent another £50 on plants and bits & pieces so altogether the garden makeover has cost us approximately £350, which I don’t think is bad at all for such a drastic change.
If you don’t have access to free materials try Gumtree – there are lots of people trying to get rid of old materials for free or very cheap just so they don’t have to take them to the rubbish tip.
We’ve already had our first BBQ of the year, and Little H and I sat out there most days after school last week. We’re really looking forward to finally having a usable garden for the summer – let’s just hope we get some decent weather this year
So as you can see you can achieve a garden make-over on a budget. You don’t need to spend thousands or employ professionals – you might just have to rope in your family or friends to help!