DIY Summer Garden Projects

Summer invites us outdoors to create gardening spaces inspired by gorgeous social media images. But the costs of gardening supplies have risen along with everything else, so it might feel like having our dream gardens is out of reach. 

Fear not, budget gardeners! There are some great DIY summer garden projects that won’t break the bank – and we’re sharing some of our favorites. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a small balcony, you’ll discover a mix of upcycling, thrifting, and bargain-shopping ideas for beautifying your space. 

1. Budget fairy garden 

It’s easy to source free and natural items for a fairy garden. Whenever you’re outside, be on the lookout for: 

  • Pinecones 
  • Moss 
  • Small stones 
  • Pebbles 
  • Twigs 
  • Shells 
  • Sea glass 
  • Driftwood 

A bonus find would be an old bird’s nest no longer in use. Just be sure to clean and sterilize it! 

If you’re an urban dweller without a garden or even a balcony, don’t worry! Fairy gardens can be for indoor or outdoor spaces. Browse online for fairy garden ideas to fire up your creativity. 

2. Upcycled planters 

You can use all kinds of objects as planters if you think outside the box. Here are some of my favorite common household items you can upcycle to grow plants in: 

  • Tin cans 
  • Coffee cans 
  • Buckets 
  • Wooden crates 
  • Teapots 
  • Boots or shoes 
  • Pots 
  • Colanders 
  • Teacups or mugs 
  • Plastic bowls 
  • Trash cans 
  • Laundry baskets 
  • Wooden drawers 
  • Pallets 
  • Tires 

Most plants need adequate drainage, but if you can’t drill drainage holes in your upcycled planter, you can still use it to grow succulents. 

3. Pinecone bird feeders 

This one is a great project if you have kids! Gather pinecones and slather them in peanut butter or shortening, then roll them in birdseed that’s suitable for the birds in your area. Hang them with string or twine and watch the feasting begin! 

Be sure to have enough pinecones to make new feeders throughout the season because your feathered visitors will love them. 

4. Herb spiral 

Herb spirals are popping up all over social media because they’re a great way to create “microclimates” for planting herbs with different growing needs. They’re also an innovative vertical gardening technique ideal for small-space gardens. 

Do you have a bunch of old bricks or lots of rocks you don’t know what to do with? Use them to build a spiral herb garden for your favorite culinary or medicinal herbs. 

5. Seed bombs 

Seed-bombing has become popular for bringing greenery to spaces in urban settings. These are small balls of soil, clay, and seeds people toss into bare, neglected outdoor spaces. Eventually, the seeds germinate and grow into beautiful plants. This is sometimes called “guerilla gardening” to describe throwing the seed bombs as you walk by areas needing some gardening help. 

Seed bombs are easy to make, and you can customize the seed mix to include wildflowers and pollinator plants that are native to your area. You can also make seed bombs as gifts for friends who don’t have their own gardens. 

6. Wooden birdhouse 

Few garden projects are as iconic as building your own birdhouse. If you’re not much for woodworking, simply buy an unfinished wooden house from a craft store and decorate it yourself.

Before committing to a pre-made birdhouse: 

  • Inspect it to make sure it’s sturdy with the necessary ventilation and drainage birds need. 
  • Make sure the design will keep birds safe from predators. 
  • Measure the opening and the interior dimensions to ensure the birdhouse is suitable for the bird species you’d like to attract. 
  • Remove any perching posts to prevent other birds from heckling the residents once nesting begins. 

If an unfinished birdhouse meets these requirements, you can feel good about hanging it in your yard. When you decorate it, keep your bird friends safe by using non-toxic paints or stains. 

7. Modify your walkway 

One of my homes had a boring concrete sidewalk running along the side to the backyard. I used a sledgehammer to break it into pieces I arranged to create a stone path look. The spaces in between were filled with low-growing herbs and fragrant ground cover plants. When I walked through the side yard, they released a pleasant scent. 

Getting the pieces leveled was tricky and took adjustment over time as the soil settled, so use caution if you decide to do this to any well-traveled walkway. 

8. Add whimsical items to your garden 

If you’ve got old items in your home and no idea what to do with them, try using them as garden features. Here are some of my favorite ideas: 

  • Paint an old chair a vibrant color and place it in a corner of your garden with a potted plant on the seat. A cascading or tall spiky plant variety makes a striking look! 
  • Use the previous idea for tables or dressers. You can even grow plants in the dresser’s drawers (just be sure to anchor it so it won’t tip forward). 
  • Place an old chain-link gate vertically in your garden and grow vining plants like sweet peas around it. They’ll wind through the gate as they grow longer. 
  • Use an old stepladder as a trellis for climbing roses, jasmine, honeysuckle vines, or for vertically growing beans, cucumbers, or tomatoes. 
  • Hang old mirrors on fences or trees. A cleverly placed mirror can create the illusion of space in a small garden. 
  • Use old pottery or dishes to create mosaic designs in garden beds. 

Nearly anything can find its way into a garden if you use your imagination! 

Affordable DIY summer gardening projects for every budget We hope you’ve been inspired by our budget-friendly DIY projects that prove you don’t need big bucks to have a great summer garden. If you’d like more ideas for affordable gardening, check out our posts on starting a garden on a budget and low-cost garden hacks.

About the Author

Bree Ewers has contributed to Advance America since 2023. Writing from her home office in Portland, Oregon, she shares a relatable perspective on the financial triumphs and challenges many readers face.

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