Cheapest Way To Landscape A Backyard

Been thinking about beautifying your backyard landscape but think you can't afford it? Well, we have some outstanding tips to help you landscape on a budget.

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Been thinking about beautifying your backyard landscape but think you can't afford it? Well, we have some outstanding tips to help you landscape on a budget.

The cheapest way to landscape a backyard is to get what you need for free. When that’s impossible, things like starting from seeds, buying younger plants, planting perennials and installing cheap lighting and low-cost DIY seating are great ways to save you money while improving the look of the yard.

In today’s article, we discuss three ways to get what you need for free to update your backyard’s landscape. We also cover five low-cost alternatives to expensive landscaping designs that make your yard look good and be more functional. Prepare to learn some DIY landscaping tips that will give your backyard some pizzazz.

Personally, I believe that I’m one of the cheapest people I know. My entire landscape, from the front yard to the back, is constantly being improved with a budget in mind. I actually pride myself on gardening on a budget. So, I am always looking for ways to improve my landscape without creating financial chaos in my home. I’m sharing some of those tips with you here today.

Table of Contents

3 Ways to Landscape Your Backyard for Free

There are things you can do to beautify your backyard landscape for absolutely free. No, I’m not kidding. Check out the three free ways to improve your yard’s function and look without spending a dime:

1. Use Mulch Alternatives

Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your soil and plants. It reduces the need to weed your beds and helps capture moisture so you don’t have to water as much. But straw, hay, wood chips and other types of mulch sold on the market can be expensive.

Using a mulch alternative is a great way to cut those costs from your landscaping budget. The following items work great as mulches and many of them are already on your property. You can even get them for free from neighbors or local professional gardeners and landscapers:

Free Mulch Alternatives

  • Compost – If you make your own compost, use it as an alternative to mulch. Just be sure not to layer it on too thick. You know how compost heats up when it’s thick in your compost bin. You don’t want that for your plants.
  • Grass Clippings – Mow your lawn and save the clippings. Use them to mulch your backyard flower beds and garden beds.
  • Leaves – Don’t throw away those leaves when you rake your yard. Instead, lay them on top of your soil as mulch. Or you can ensure that they break down and become compost for the soil faster by shredding them with the lawnmower first.
  • Pine Needles – Do you or someone you know have a pine tree? Rake up those pine needles and mulch your soil with them.

2. Use Local Community Mulch

There are multiple ways to get free mulch within your local community. Here are some sources for getting your hands on free mulch:

Your City

Many cities trim trees in the fall and spring. They take those tree cuttings to a processing center where they are shredded in woodchippers and transformed into mulch. Then, they offer it to their local residents for free.

You will need a truck to pick up the mulch and haul it home. And usually, it’s not bagged. So, bring a shovel with you because you have to get it into the truck yourself.

A typical bag of mulch sold in stores covers about 20 square feet and runs you about $10. Therefore, getting free mulch from your city can save you quite a bit of money over a growing season.


What is ChipDrop? It’s a company that matches tree companies and arborists trying to get rid of wood chip mulch with people in their local communities who need it. The service is absolutely free, and so are the wood chips.

How does ChipDrop work? You sign up for the service online and place a request for mulch. They add you to a list of people in your local community who are also interested. Each time a tree trimming company needs to get rid of a load in the area, a delivery is made to someone on the list.

For some, there are two major downfalls to using ChipDrop to get free wood chip mulch:

  • No Warning – They don’t warn you ahead of time that they’re coming with your load. If they happen to be in your area and your name is up, they just drop the mulch off without even a phone call. So, you may come home from work one day and your entire driveway is blocked with wood chips.
  • Quantity – As noted above, you never know how much mulch you’re going to get. It all depends on how big the company’s job was for that day. So, unless you have a super huge landscape, I recommend finding a neighbor to share the load with you.

3. Utilize Homemade Compost

It’s important to plant your fruits and vegetables in rich soil full of organic matter. This leads many gardeners to spend hundreds of dollars on potting soil, raised bed soil, gardening soil and soil amendments trying to get it right. But you can cut the amount of soil you buy in half by simply composting your family’s organic scraps.

I know. I know. Creating your own compost is not always as easy as the gardening YouTubers make it seem. But you don’t have to overcomplicate the process. If you just don’t have the patience to use the best composting techniques, just deal with kitchen discards alone.

The key is to understand that everything that comes from the earth is good for the earth. Make your own compost and use a 50/50 mixture of DIY compost and soil when planting crops.

5 Cheap Ways to Landscape Your Backyard

Improving your backyard’s landscape takes a lot of planning and hard work. There’s nothing simple or quick about it. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive, and in some cases, outright unaffordable. So, here are five tips for creating a backyard landscape worth enjoying:

1. Buy Young Plants

Have you noticed how your eyes are immediately drawn to larger plants when shopping at big box stores? That’s because they are visually striking which draws consumers to buy them. However, they tend to cost two… three… sometimes four times more than smaller plants of the same variety.

So, save yourself some money and buy smaller ones. Then, just nurture them properly. They will grow to size in no time.

2. Start Plants from Seeds

The cheapest way to landscape a backyard with softscapes is to simply drop some seeds. Starting plants from seeds is the most cost-efficient way to start a garden. Seeds typically cost under $2 per pack. You can’t beat that when you can get over 30 cucumber seeds for such a low price.

3. Plant Perennials

Over time, annuals cost more than perennials. Why? Well, annuals give you one good season and their time is up. That leaves you stuck with a bunch of gaps that you’re eager to refill. Perennials, on the other hand, come back in full bloom each year.

Initially, perennials are more expensive than annuals when buying starts at a home improvement store or your local nursery. But it’s worth the cost when you consider that these plants will become permanent fixtures in your garden. Take care of them properly, and you’ll never have to replace them.

4. Install Affordable Backyard Lighting

One of the cheapest outdoor lighting media would have to be string lights. They are a hot item for backyard landscaping on a budget. These lights give off an ambient, soft glow that creates a ‘chill’ atmosphere for you and your guests during summer nights.

So, go out and get yourself a $9 strand of globe lights. Or better yet, save a couple more dollars by grabbing a $6 strand of twinkle lights for your backyard. Then, use the tips below for ideas on how to hang them:

Backyard String Light Ideas

  • Drape the lights throughout your trees
  • Wrap them around your backyard pillars
  • Run the lights from a tree to your house
  • Use the lights to edge your garden beds

5. Create Low-Cost DIY Backyard Seating

Once your backyard starts becoming the outdoor oasis you’ve dreamed of, you’ll need a place to sit back and take it all in. But patio furniture can be really expensive, even if you buy it online. Here are some tips to help you create affordable outdoor seating for your backyard:

Cheap Backyard Seating Ideas

  • Used Indoor Furniture – Grab those old barstools and indoor chairs you’ve been storing in the garage for years. Brush them down well with some waterproof sealant. Now you have patio-worthy furniture in your backyard.
  • Tree Stumps – Search your garage or local stores for cheap waterproof seat cushions. Then, tie them down onto those old tree stumps in your yard and you have yourself a unique reading chair.
  • Milk Crates – Get your hands on some milk crates. Turn them upside down and tie weatherproof cushions or pillows to them. This is a great DIY low-cost outdoor seating trick.

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