Complete Guide to Cheap, Quick Landscaping & Garden Ideas for Renters
There’s nothing like the comfort of having a backyard to spend time in, especially when the weather outside is nice. For ambitious decorators, the yard can act just like an extension of your home, translating your unique style and savvy into a fun and fabulous outdoor space. But, for folks who rent rather than own their spaces, finding cheap decorating ideas for your garden or yard that won’t incur the wrath of your landlord can be a challenge.
And, it turns out a lot of us are facing this problem. In fact, the Pew Research Center reported last year that the percentage of renters in the US is currently the highest it’s been in over 50 years with a 36.6 percent renting level. Personally, I live in a postage stamp of an apartment in New York City and don’t have a yard, but for those of you who do, there’s no reason not to make the absolute most of it!
Still, it’s important to be careful with any landscaping and gardening choices as you may need your landlord’s approval or you may run the risk of losing your security deposit if you make alterations that cause permanent damage or can’t be reversed.
Plus, you’ll want to keep costs down as much as possible since you’re living somewhere that might not be your permanent home. Thankfully, there are plenty of easy, affordable ideas for renters to landscape, garden, and decorate without angering your landlord or risking the loss of your deposit.
That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide to cheap, quick landscaping and gardening ideas for renters. Even if you're renting a home, you can still make it your own with the cheap landscaping & gardening ideas for renters we’ve offered here. Here’s what you’ll get in this guide:
- 5 of our best general landscaping and gardening tips for renters
- 6 affordable plant and gardening items for your yard and where to buy them
- 6 next-level landscaping items and where you can buy them for cheap
Landscaping and gardening tips for renters
Avoid anything permanent
This one is probably a no-brainer, but any fixture that is installed permanently or will cause irreparable damage when disassembled should be avoided. For example, instead of using screws or nails to attach a planter, consider a non-permanent clamp or bracket to affix the box to your wall, window, or fence.
If your yard doesn’t have a ton of square footage, think about building up rather than crowding your already minimal space. This includes things like planting in vertical boxes, making vines a centerpiece, and using hanging plants.
Consider the climate
The types of plants you can grow will depend on the general temperature of your space, how much it does or doesn’t rain, and the amount and type of sunlight that your plants get. Do some research and make sure you choose plants that will thrive in your yard.
Repurposing is your friend
Buying new items for your yard can really add up, especially if you’re not sure how permanently you’ll be living in your rented house or apartment. Get creative with items you already own, or scour garage sales to find functional and decorative items for your yard. This article from Country Living has some great ideas.
Play to your yard’s strengths
Your yard might not be in top shape now, but it’s likely that there are some positive attributes that you can really play up to take it to the next level. Whether it’s setting up seating under the shade of your favorite tree, or organizing the space to accentuate a great view, you can definitely find a way to make the most of your yard.
Gardening tips for renters
Many plant enthusiasts are turning to hydroponic gardening, a method where you can grow herbs, vegetables, and other plants with just light, some nutrient solution, and water.
It’s a great option for renters because you can grow food that you can actually eat without having to dig into the soil in your yard, risking your security deposit. It’s also a popular growing method because it doesn’t require fertilizers or pesticides, has a much higher yield than soil-grown plants, demands very little work from the gardener, and can be set up just about anywhere.
A great feature about hydroponic systems is that there are many ways in which you can build them yourself. DIY hydroponics setups are cheap and have been steadily gaining popularity as a simple, low-maintenance way to grow plants for yourself. These are some great free guides for making your own hydroponics setup for your yard or home:
- 16 Easy DIY Hydroponic Plans You Can Build in Your Garden This Weekend from Green and Vibrant
- How to Assemble a Homemade Hydroponic System from DIY Network
- DIY Hydroponics 101 from Bob Vila
There are also tons of options for systems that are already all set up for you. Here are a few cool products to help you get started growing hydroponic plants:
- Viagrow Deep Water Culture Hydroponic 4-Plant System. Get this setup to grow up to four plants at once from Home Depot for $107.69. Save $5 when you sign up for Home Depot’s mailing list.
- Hydroponics Grower Kit, PATHONOR. This system works indoors or outdoors and can support up to 11 plants. Find it on Amazon for $49.99.
If you’d like to have flowers or other plants in your yard, raised beds are a simple way to add those plants, again without having to dig into any soil. With a raised bed, you’ll simply build a structure that can hold the soil necessary to keep your plants happy, then either plant seeds or transfer your flowers, herbs, or vegetables into the beds.
You can easily build raised beds with new or repurposed wood, newspaper or leaf bags to line the bottom, and chicken wire or some other type of fencing to keep out pesky critters. If you want instructions on how to build your own raised beds, these articles are a great resource:
- Build Your Own Raised Flower/Vegetable Bed from The Pioneer Woman
- How to Build a Raised Garden Bed from Lowe’s
Of course, you can also buy pre-built raised beds at many hardware and home goods stores. Here are a few affordable options to consider:
- Miracle-Gro Unfinished/Natural Cedar Raised Garden Bed. This raised bed can be assembled without tools and is under $50 at Lowe’s.
- Coral Coast Bloomfield Wood Raised Garden Bed. This item is a little bit more stylish, and would look great in any yard. Grab it from Hayneedle for less than $50.
Clamp-on, clip-on, and bracket window boxes
Window boxes are a smart way to think vertically in a small space as they allow you to have more plants without sacrificing ground space. They also add a really lovely decorative touch to your windows. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for placing window boxes on your windows, walls, or fences without using screws or nails. Some clamps and clips are even designed to create a firm grip on siding and brick, making them an extra versatile option that works with a lot of different wall and window configurations.
Check out these options to add a window box to your outdoor space:
- Self-Watering Window Box. Garden Supply Co sells this easy-to-install window box with a self-watering feature, cutting down on work for you. It’s $39.95 and you can get 15% off when you sign up for Garden Supply’s mailing list.
- Clamp-On Flower Box Brackets, Set of 2. You can get these brackets for under $30 on Houzz. They can be adjusted to attach to your window sill, brick, and a number of other surfaces.
- Brick or Siding Clips. From LTD Commodities, these clips can attach to siding, brick, or steel, and are available for less than $10 per set.
You might have to bring them in yourself, but it’s also possible that you have vines growing naturally in your yard since they’re actually an invasive plant. When pruned correctly, vines are a great option for covering up an unsightly fence or wall and adding some really lovely character to your yard. Not only do vines bring life to a dull space, but they also don’t require too much care beyond a little trimming and cleaning up here and there.
These are some articles with great decorative ideas for your vines:
- Vines and Climbers: A Field Guide from Gardenista
- How to Choose, Plant, and Grow Flowering Vines from HGTV
And, here are some places where you can purchase vines if you want to add new ones to your fences, walls, and yard:
- Home Depot sells a nice variety of vines. Check at your nearest location!
- Nature Hills bills itself as the largest online plant nursery and has tons of vines available. Get free shipping for orders over $125.
As with your indoor space, potted plants can add a touch of lush greens and beautiful flowers to your outdoor space. And, the greatest advantage of opting for potted plants in your yard or lawn is that all you need to do when it’s time to move is pick them up, pop them in the moving van, and bring them to your new space. Plus, potted plants come in all shapes and sizes, meaning you can add little decorative touches with small plants, or choose something like a tree to be more of a focal point.
These articles have some great ideas for choosing potted plants:
- 10 Plants for Year-Round Containers from Fine Gardening
- 12 Best Patio Plants for Container Gardening from Plant Care Today
- 16 Easy Container Gardening Ideas for Your Potted Plants from Good Housekeeping
Another great idea for thinking vertically is to opt for hanging plants. Plants can be hung from fences, verandas, or any other higher surface that can support a hook. They can also be hung from from posts or from brackets, requiring no screws or nails to put them in place. Again, hanging plants can add an interesting element to your yard, utilizing vertical space and adding multiple layers of heights and depths to your backyard terrain.
Here are a few articles with great ideas for choosing great hanging plants:
- The 11 Best Flowers for Hanging Baskets in a Garden from The Spruce
- 18 Plants Perfect for Hanging Baskets from Bob Vila
When it comes to hanging baskets, you’ve got about a billion options. These are just a handful of good ones:
- Flare Self-Watering Resin Hanging Planter. The best feature of this is the fact that it’s self-watering! Grab it for less than $30 from Wayfair.
- Home-X Set of 4 In-Ground Shepherds Hook. You can get this set of four adjustable hooks for hanging plants on Amazon for less than $12.
- Target has a bunch of hanging baskets like this Galvanized Planter available for $12.99.
Landscaping tips for renters
Landscaping might seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re a renter with a potentially impermanent living situation. However, there are a number of small, simple tweaks you can make to your yard or lawn to make it more visually pleasing as well as functionally effective. Let’s take a look at some of the best landscaping ideas for renters.
Nothing quite compares to having a nice, grassy and lush green space to fill out your lawn or yard. But, growing grass requires a lot of water and upkeep, plus it typically needs to be mowed on a regular basis. However, there are plenty of options to add that touch of green to your space without having to use grass at all.
There are a number of different plants that grow much more easily and effectively than grass. Many of these plants require far less water and less tending to grow and thrive. And, most of them make great options for areas where you might have foot traffic.
Here’s a list of plants that are great, low-maintenance grass alternatives:
- Ornamental Grasses
- Creeping Thyme
- Sweet Woodruff
Astro turf and artificial grass
If you’re like me, you might think that astro turf is kind of a tacky solution for decorating your lawn. But, astro turf has been making a comeback recently as a eco-friendly yard option that doesn’t require any water, fertilizer, or significant upkeep. Plus, astro turf manufacturers have upped with ante in recent years, creating astroturf products that look much more like real grass than their less attractive predecessors you might remember from your high school football field.
Artificial grass is generally quite affordable, especially compared with some of the other options that are available. It’s also fairly simple to remove should you decide to move. Check out these cheap astro turf options:
- Everlast Sequoia Fescue Cut-to-Length Artificial Grass. You can get this from Lowe’s for around $36 for a 15 foot by 5 foot length of grass. It’s cut at random to give a more natural grass feel.
- TFD 70 Special. This item from Turf Factory Direct is a realistic grass alternative and is available for $1.90 per square foot.
Yes, rugs can go outdoors, too! A solid outdoor rug is a great way to cover up imperfections in your yard or place on a deck or underneath a patio table to add a nice pop of color. It’s important to get a piece that can not only hold up in varying weather conditions, but also won’t fade or age too quickly from exposure to the sun. Check out these fabulous outdoor rugs:
- Sarang Light Gray Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug. Wayfair has this simple gray indoor/outdoor rug available for $44.99.
- Ikea hosts a nice selection of outdoor rugs, most of which run between $30 and $100.
You might not be aware that there are removable tiles you can place over your deck to give it a fresh new feel, but it’s true! Whether you’re looking to cover your deck with a warmer wood finish, or trying to give your deck a smooth new patio feel, deck tiles are a relatively cheap renovation that can drastically improve the appearance of your deck. And, one of the best features about deck tiles is that they don’t require any screws or nails to stay in place, but rather are designed to interlock with one another through rings and pins attached to the base of each tile. When it’s time to move out, all you’ll need to do is detach the individual pieces--- easy as that!
Of course, there are a million different deck tile options out there. But, these are a few good quality and super affordable options:
- Cadsden Eucalyptus Interlocking Deck Tile. Wayfair sells this attractive, natural-look tile for just $3.50 per square foot.
- Garden Winds Twelve Slat Classic Wood Deck Tiles. Walmart sells these parquet-style, square foot wood deck tiles in sets of 10 for just $44.99.
Pavers are decorative outdoor tiling typically made from concrete, stone, rubber, or another hardy material that can withstand the elements. They’re typically used to cover over unsightly parts of a yard or to create meandering paths through your outdoor space. You’ll need to be careful that you place pavers where they won’t harm the soil or grass that they cover. But, tricks like using stones or pebbles to act as “grout” are a simple way to put in place pavers without doing significant damage.
Pavers are generally a fairly cheap option as well. Here are some affordable options for pavers:
- Square Gray Patio Stone. Lowe’s sells these classic, simple pavers for $1.85 per square foot tile.
- Menards has a ton of options for paving bricks, stones, and tiles, many of which are less than $1 per stone.
You’ve got a plethora of options when it comes to covering up soil, unhealthy grass, or other less than fabulous spaces on your yard. Here are a few great choices:
- Mulch. Mulch is typically placed around plants in order to discourage the growth of weeds and help retain moisture. This article from Good Housekeeping is a great guide for deciding what type of mulch you should use and how to use it. You can find mulch at stores like Lowe’s for under $4 for two cubic feet of coverage.
- Wood chips. Wood chips are a variety of mulch made from shredded up pieces of wood. You can use them around plants, create paths through your yard with them, or use them to cover up uglier parts of your yard. Wood chips are also pretty affordable, running about the same price as mulch.
Even if you’re renting your home rather than owning, you can definitely have a beautiful lawn, yard, or garden space without risking your security deposit. Take inspiration from the ideas we’ve listed here or do a little research on your own to find the best cheap ways to landscape your yard as a renter. So get out your tool kit, get decorating, and enjoy your space!
We’ve got a bunch more useful articles like this one on the Knoji blog to help you beautify your life and space, find inspiration, and save money on just about everything. And, while you’re here, head over to the Knoji homepage where we’ve answered literally thousands of questions about how you can save money at your favorite retailers, including home goods and hardware stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, and HomeGoods.