Beautify Your Backyard Landscape on a Budget

beautiful backyard landscape

As spring approaches and we say "so long" to Jack Frost, it’s time to put the snow blower away, get out the mower, and begin rebuilding your yards.

Landscaping projects, large or small, can be quite overwhelming. There are so many things to take into consideration when starting. One of the first considerations is the size and scope of the project. Then you have think about how much it will cost to bring your project to life.

Let’s break down the project into smaller components and help take some of the worry out of over spending and getting what you are looking for in the completed project.


One of the most important steps to landscaping on a budget is to develop your plan and put it on paper. Your project may take several seasons to complete but with your plan you can continue right where you left off. A nicely landscaped property will add value to your home and the satisfaction of you knowing it was done on a budget.

drawing for backyard landscape

Get a piece of paper with grid lines on it and draw the borders of the projected area onto the grid paper. With this type of paper, you can use each block as a length, such as one box equals one square foot of your yard. Thorough planning will save time and money. It will give you a visual of what the finished area would look like, and if it’s not what you’re looking for, changing anything is much easier on paper, and you won’t be planting and uprooting plants.


One of the first areas to consider is the labor for completing your project. A professional landscaper will also have his or her own ideas on what would work in your yard. This is good if you're on the fence about certain aspects, but can be frustrating if you have your heart set on a certain look.

Of course, you also have to think about the costs associated with hiring a professional landscaper. Yes, he or she may be great, expertise comes at a high price. So, hiring a professional to do the work will either drive your budget up or decrease the size of the project.


Choosing to take on your own backyard landscape transformation project can save you a large amount of money that hiring a professional would cost. Plus, it isn't as hard an undertaking as you may think. All you need is a little hard work and gardening knowledge. Luckily, you can find answers to all your questions online, or you can go to your local gardening store to ask experts.

Free advice and the satisfaction of a job well done are sure to work better within your budget than hiring professionals.


When deciding on plants, be sure to determine where the sun is or if shade from a tree or other permanent structure will cover your flower bed or shrubbery. Plants that do not survive can drive up the cost of your project, as you’ll have to spend money to replace, relocate, or redesign the backyard space.


When looking at plants, perennials over annuals are more cost effective in the long run. Perennials will continue to bloom year after year, thus eliminating the cost of replanting. A lot of perennials will also spread and continue to fill in the flower bed so that you have a lush area. Pampas grass is a great example. Tufts come in white or pink and can give a rustic, country-like charm to your yard. You can buy a nice size from $15-20, depending on availability at your local gardening store or department. Pampas grass is also a hardy option and can grow up to 20 feet tall, making it an excellent plant for creating backyard privacy from neighbors.

blue irises

Irises are also a good perennial to have in your landscape plan. Although there are different types of Irises that come in a variety of colors, blue Irises tend to be a popular choice. Irises are planted as bulbs, and you can often purchase 50 bulbs for $10. If you are fortunate to know someone with a garden with Irises already growing, transplanting a few to your project may be an option. Many perennials like the grasses and irises can be transplanted to other beds as time goes on which in turn, continues to lower the cost of the initial plant.

Rose beds are another colorful perennial that can beautify any backyard landscape. They can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of other plants, and with a little maintenance, roses will come back year after year. A nice Knock Out Rose runs about $15-20 for a one gallon pot in bloom with soil that can be replanted in your flower bed. With proper pruning and fertilizer, roses will return for a number of years.


Although perennials cost less long-term, annuals can be used in smaller areas to add color to a bed, if you’re up to the cost and effort of annual replacements.

zinnias in garden

Marigolds and Zinnias are inexpensive, colorful flowers that can be planted as seeds in the spring. You can often find seeds on sale, two for $10.

If you would prefer plants over seeds, purchasing hanging baskets, such as Petunia, and breaking them apart to plant can save money over buying individual plants.


Trees are a wonderful addition to any backyard landscape. They are good for the environment, improve air quality, and offer shade on hot summer days. Larger trees can be spaded in for around $500-1,000 per tree. Unfortunately, this cost usually is more than a tight budget can handle.

maple tree in fall

Small trees can be purchased for under $100 each. Smaller trees are far more affordable when working with a tight budget. However, it’s important to know that different woods grow at different rates, so you could be waiting a while for that shade. For example, hard wood trees, such as oaks, grow more slowly than softer wood trees, such as maples; a mix of hard and soft wood will create a beautiful landscape with ample shade.

Of course, when planting smaller trees, take under consideration the size of the tree once matured. The growth of a tree will change your landscaping if you don’t account for growth.


Walking paths throughout the yard are an inexpensive, attractive way to add color and help break up the space.

My favorite path is to clear two to three feet of grass from the proposed area for the path. This helps control the grass from growing back into the path. Next, level the path by skimming down high spots and filling low ones to make a nice somewhat level walking area.

Brick pavers are an inexpensive option for creating a beautiful path or patio area. Watch out for sales at the local hardware store; sometimes you can find pavers for as low as $1 each.

stone pathway in yard

Most areas have native rocks or pebbles that are abundant and easily purchased from the local sand pit by the ton. Keep in mind that .5 cubic foot of lava rock is $3 at the hardware store. This might work for a small project, but it would take a number of these bags to create a pathway or flower bed. Decorative rock from the sand pit is a fraction of the cost of what the local greenhouse offers. Call your local sand pit for prices. Once you’re ready, it’s best to put down a barrier under the rock or pebbles before spreading out the path. Rake the rock to smooth out and create a decorative and functional pathway.