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20 Cheap Landscaping Fixes That Look Expensive

Fake it until you make it with these cheap landscaping fixes that look expensive.

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water fountain

Add a Small Water Feature

With minimal materials and effort, you can build this beautiful artesian fountain in just two days. And—bonus—once it’s built, you don’t have to worry about maintenance. Here’s how to build it yourself.

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flower bedAlinaMD/Shutterstock

Carve Out a Slice of Lawn for a Flower Bed

Putting in a flower bed doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. Just some simple edging, good soil and colorful flowers will do. Get even fancier with a raised garden bed.

Did you know gravel can make a good flower bed filler? Learn the pros and cons of a gravel flower bed here.

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landscaping boulder

Roll in a Boulder

Boulders are eye-catching and provide a natural location for adding grasses, flowers and other garden plants. You’ll find huge piles of boulders to pick through anywhere that sells landscaping supplies. Prices vary with size, less for breadbox-size ones and more for giant boulders that you’ll have to have delivered and placed. Whatever sizes you choose, nest the boulders into the ground a bit. They should look like they were left from a receding glacier—not like they were just rolled off the back of a pickup.

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Grow Self-Seeding Flowers Luke Miller

Grow Self-Seeding Flowers

Self-seeding flowers, like the hollyhocks seen here, are a real money saver for the home gardener. Buy a packet of seeds now and have flowers forevermore. The secret is to sow them where they have a chance to succeed (consult seed packets for recommendations) and then allow some of the fading flowers to go to seed. Resist deadheading—at least near the end of the season, when a new crop of seeds is needed. Some great self-seeders include rudbeckia, sunflower, cleome, zinnia, calendula, bachelor's buttons, poppies and cosmos.
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wrapped planterPhoto: Courtesy of Melina Gillies

Use Cheap Planters, but Dress Them Up

Garden twine is a useful tool for any gardener, especially as a cheap and cheerful addition to any planter. With a little hot glue and some imagination, you can create almost any look you like. Wrap an entire run-of-the-mill plastic planter with twine for an industrial look, or cover only a portion to give your decorative planters a modern edge. Twine is also easily painted, so consider adding a colorful stripe to the middle section of twine with spray paint for an extra pop of color, or group pots together with assorted colors to accent your other outdoor decor. The only limitation to any planter is to ensure that the size of the planter matches the size of the plants you want to display. Check out four more ideas for dressing up a cheap planter.

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Affordable Garden Path IdeasFamily Handyman

Go with a Gravel Path

Adding a garden path provides interest and a place to walk through your landscape. But rather than installing an expensive concrete or paver pathway, opt for less-expensive gravel or mulch.

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FH10APR_GUTPLA_01Family Handyman

Mount Small Planters on the Deck

In a little under an hour, you can make this simple railing-mounted planter. All you need is some standard gutter parts. Get the plans for this deck planter here.

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Family Handyman

Build a Rustic Arbor

You can make this garden trellis from just $25 of steel rebar. And you won’t have to weld a thing. We’ll show you how to bend the arches and attach the decorative circles with wire. When you’re done, cover it with climbing plants for an attractive addition to your garden.

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seedlings growing in plastic clamshell container from salad bar

Repurpose Containers for Starting Seeds

Reuse a plastic clamshell container from the salad bar as a mini greenhouse for starting seeds in the spring. After washing the container, punch a few holes in the top. Fill the bottom with potting soil and plant your seeds. Close the lid and place the container in a sunny spot. It acts like a mini greenhouse, allowing the sun to reach the plants while holding in moisture.

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fire pit

Put in a Backyard Fire Pit

Build a fire pit for not much more than the cost of a flimsy store-bought fire ring. With tips from a veteran bricklayer, we’ll show you how.

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Save on Potting MixFamily Handyman

Save on Potting Mix

Name-brand potting mixes can set you back quite a few dollars when you're filling large containers. Use less of the expensive soil mix (and save weight so you can move the containers more easily) by lining the bottom of large containers with packing peanuts before filling with soil mix. Put the packing peanuts in a sealed plastic bag or cover with landscape fabric to prevent them from mingling with the soil (a hassle if you ever dump the pot). Read more.
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Save Your Tender Bulbs

Save Your Tender Bulbs

A lot of northern gardeners treat tender bulbs — such as calla lilies, caladiums and gladiolus — as annuals, allowing them to die at season's end. Instead, overwinter them so they'll be fit and healthy in the spring. To make it simpler, plant tender bulbs in containers. After frost kills the tops, whisk the containers into cool storage in a basement or attached garage. Water sparingly — maybe once a month — while they're dormant so the soil doesn't totally dry out, and bring the containers back out in spring.
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filling grass seed broadcaster

Recycle Berry Containers for Lawn Care

When it’s time to clean out the refrigerator, be sure to save those plastic berry containers. You can toss the mushy raspberries, but wash and dry the container—it’s perfect for spreading grass seed on your lawn!

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Family Handyman

Make Your Own Planters

This 3-season planter box uses plastic containers or liners to keep moisture and dirt away from the wooden parts, meaning it will survive the outdoors a lot longer than other planters. Learn how to build the 3-season planter box here.

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Family Handyman

Add Mounds to Flat Areas

If you’re stuck with a perfectly flat yard, a mounded “island” of earth is a great place to isolate and display plantings, yard ornaments, boulders or other eye-catching features. A yard with contours looks more natural than a flat yard. Order a dump truck’s worth of topsoil, or use fill generated from patio or pond excavations.

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Family Handyman

Go For Green

Unless you’re a seasoned gardener, get help with selecting and placing plants. Bring photos or a scale drawing of planting areas to the nursery and enlist the help of a knowledgeable salesperson. Your goals are to choose a variety of plants that lend color throughout the season (including winter), and to position them well, so their mature growth heights and widths fill in the planting beds and blend well.

You’ll enjoy gardening even more after learning these tips to make garden easier.

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Family Handyman

Erect Stone Entry Walls

Low stone walls are striking features that can define your entry and guide visitors up the walk. Natural stone is ideal but difficult to set. The decorative concrete units shown here are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. They subtly separate seating areas from public sidewalks and streets. And they’re also great places for casual seating and potted plants.

Find out how to pick the right material for a retaining wall.

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Family Handyman

Put in a Small Patio

A simple flagstone or paver brick patio furnished with an outdoor dining set is the perfect spot to watch the kids play in the yard and entertain guests. Practically speaking, patios help drain water away from the house and are a great solution for areas that won’t support grass. Check out some incredible outdoor bars that you’ll fall in love with after seeing.

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cleomeS. Mahanantakul/Shutterstock


Cleome is just one of the many self-seeding annual plants that come back year after year without any effort on your part. Also called spiderflower because of the spiderlike flowers, it grows 4 feet tall or better and brandishes large pink, purple or white flowers. Although it is a vigorous self-seeder, unwanted seedlings are easy to pull when they’re young. Because of its size, cleome is not a plant to be ignored. That size also makes it a great back-of-border plant in a flowerbed. Discover 10 wildflowers that do well in the city or suburbs.

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Celosia is another rampant self-seeder that makes itself at home in your garden year after year. If so, consider yourself lucky, because the vividly colored blooms on this plant are a pure delight. They feature a variety of colors—from burgundy, red, magenta and pink to cream, orange and yellow. Celosia offers different flower shapes, too. There are plumes, crests and spikes. No wonder this annual is loved by so many gardeners. There’s a size to fit any garden, from 6-inch dwarfs to 3-foot-tall specimens. Meet dramatic Dracula celosia and other unusual annuals.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.

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