Creating a backyard you love to relax in is easier—and cheaper—than you think. Here are nine do-it-yourself ideas for your best-ever backyard.

By Kelly Reilly
July 19, 2016

There's no need to shell out the big bucks to have the backyard of your dreams! These nine inexpensive weekend projects will make your yard the go-to hangout spot in no time. Entertain in thrifted chairs around a homemade fire pit, with string lights twinkling in the background. Or maximize your planting potential with hardy perennials that faithfully return each year, then divide them and share with friends. Follow our tips and tricks for a backyard you'll never want to leave.

1. Build Your Own Fire Pit

patio fire pit with outdoor chairs and teal cushions

Is there anything cozier than gathering around a crackling fire on a cool night? You can build your own fire pit for swapping stories and s'mores as a weekend project. This version is a wood-burning fire pit made of concrete and bricks, but you can also purchase premade walls to cut down on build time.

Select a flat site away from any potential hazards and surround your fire pit with a nonflammable material, such as pavers. You can even make the fire pit extra deep, which reduces the chance of fire spreading into the yard, and add an extra layer of retaining wall units before the coping row. When you're all done, add in a comfortable seating area around the fire pit for the perfect hangout spot.

Editor's Tip: Research local building codes before you start to be sure you can add a fire pit to your yard.

2. Transform Cast-Off Vintage Furniture

small deck table with umbrella hanging flowerpots and yellow vintage chairs
Credit: Kimberly Gavin

Hearken back to the days of sitting on your grandparents' porch by thrifting old metal chairs. Breathe new life into any old piece of furniture with a fresh, bright coat of paint. Repurposing furniture with a simple coat of paint makes use of outdated furniture, without breaking the bank. Even if a piece is a little rusty, you can revive it with a little sanding and by applying a primer with rust protection before you paint. Look for a spray paint formulated specially for metal.

3. Illuminate with String Lights

set table with white chairs and string lights on tree

Cast a warm glow over your evening get-togethers with versatile, find-anywhere string bulbs that offer plenty of light at little cost. String lights will brighten up any space you place them in, literally, and make it feel cozier than ever. Wrap the lights around tree trunks, wind them through branches, or string them over furniture. You can even light up the night with a canopy of large bulb lights strung above a cozy seating area. Look for sales on outdoor-use string lights after Christmas, then snag some to use throughout the year.

4. Divide Perennials and Double Your Inventory

dividing hosta plants for garden

Never buy new plants again! Dividing perennials on a regular basis isn't just a great way to save money—it's also good for your plants. Repeat patterns, fill in sparse areas, and bolster your flowerbeds with more of what you already have. Dividing perennials leaves you with more plants of the same variety—an easy way for adding extras to other places in the garden or trading with friends, family, or neighbors. Had your eye on a friend's prized peonies? Broaden your gardening horizons by trading her for some of your famous daylilies. You could even host a plant-trading party with a group of fellow gardeners.

5. Save Water with a DIY Rain Barrel

backyard rain barrel in garden

Cut down on your summer watering bill by capturing rainwater. In many areas of North America, you can collect over a thousand gallons of water a year! It then can be used to water your garden, houseplants, containers, and even your lawn. It's good for the environment AND your wallet. Avoid purchasing an expensive barrel at the store and create your own barrel out of a large plastic trash can—it's that simple.

Editor's Note: Rain barrels are illegal in some areas of the country. Check your local regulations before starting this project.

6. Plant Long-Lived Perennials

backyard garden filled with perennials flowers

Take the stress out of gardening and plant flowering perennials that will last and last. Peonies, daylilies, hostas—these plants are garden favorites for a reason. They're durable, low maintenance, and come back year after year with little fuss or delay. These tough perennials are rugged enough to grow and bloom in commercial landscapes, along highways, and even on steep hillsides. As a bonus, use native plants that are well-adapted to your local climate and won't struggle to thrive.

7. Create Your Own Stepping-Stones

painted cement stepping stones
Credit: Fabric covered stepping stones/Finished project

Add a fun garden project to your to-do list. Replenishing color and direction to your garden path has never been easier with surprisingly durable fabric-covered stepping-stones. The secret to these stones' longevity is using fabric designed for outdoor use and an exterior sealant. For an even quicker version of this project, start with store-bought pavers and simply affix the fabric decoration of your choice.

8. Build an Easy Bench Out of Concrete Blocks

patio with cement block bench with cushion and throw pillows
Credit: Better Homes and Gardens: Cletta CMR# 2728724

For just $30 and an afternoon, you can create a concrete-block bench. Stack blocks, seal with landscaping adhesive, cut and cover a plank with scrap fabric, and adorn with existing pillows for a comfy and character-filled seating area. When it rains or snows, just store the bench cover and pillows inside. Your concrete blocks will withstand the elements for years to come!

9. Install Your Own Dry-Stack Wall

stone stack wall around raised flower bed
Credit: Clint Farlinger

Design found or purchased stones together for a one-of-a-kind garden accent. Dry-stack walls work by themselves as a border to a garden bed, or can blend in with other non-botanical pieces of a landscape, and can easily serve as a border, retainer, or simply a focal point in your garden or yard. Even though dry-stack walls are not held together in place by mortar, an evenly placed design of stones can supply sturdy edging to divide up sections of a garden. Their freeform, natural design lends itself to more informal plant beds as well.

Editor's Tip: Keep in mind that a dry stack needs a small trench dug out for stability and shouldn't be higher than a few feet.

Comments (1)

May 3, 2018
Beautiful garden and great idea. What are the low growing yellow flowers on the edge. I need some low growing perrenials for my garden.