Frugal Tips

Frugal Tips Friday #11: Affordable Outdoor Living

Today for Frugal Tips Friday #11 we’re discussing affordable outdoor living. This could mean patio living, as is the case with me. It could be a gazebo or any space where you sit and reflect or gather with friends in your outdoor space and gardens.

Every year I look forward to getting my patio up to snuff. This means cleaning a bit of the winter dirt that’s collected and rearranging things. I always have places to sit as well as a place to set a coffee cup or glass of iced tea.

Look at your outdoor space as an extension of your living space. Therefore no matter how small a home you live in, that outdoor space also serves to be a place to relax or sit with friends, neighbors or family. Or simply be alone and reflect or read a book.

I’ve had a few different looks over the years. There was the year I had the green gazebo, which lasted only a year due to the Oklahoma winds tearing it down. That was sad because I really loved to sit in the shade and gaze out at my flowers.

Here’s a photo from that year.

The next photos are from other years on my patio in the five years (next month) that I’ve been living here. Below was last year’s patio.

The photo above was also from last year, where the wild morning glories took over the fence bordering the alley behind the strip mall.

Also you see the raised container garden I added about three years ago. I ordered the raised container kit from Gardener’s Supply. I don’t know if they still sell this same product or not. Doubt it.

The garden is filled with hostas, which you don’t see in this photo because it’s later in the summer and they’re underneath other plants like mint. Hostas aren’t that fond of heat, so they are prettiest in springtime.

Lemon balm and various forms of mint became a ground cover, and that was fine by me. Many gardeners don’t like to just let mint spread, but I like the scent. And more importantly bugs do not!

The photo below was early on when I had two trees in my patio space. They had to cut them down because they were causing a lot of problems with their roots.

I’ve had loads of fun on this patio with whatever plans I come up with for each year.

Now is the time when I start to plan. What you can always count on is that there will be lots of flowers and herbs in my gardens and subsequently in my photos.

I usually also try to add something different every year. Perhaps a different ornamental grass or a tree, as I did year before last.

In terms of being frugal, which I haven’t said much about here yet, of course any garden space is going to cost money.

But you can find outdoor furniture at estate sales and end of season sales that are affordable. I always like to have a seating space. Last fall I gave away two of my oldest chairs to make room for more plants.

You can also often use furniture outdoors that might not be meant for the outdoors. If you have a porch roof or gazebo, etc., that will often work. I’ve also seen lots of items for outdoor living at the antique mall for cheap.

Someone commented that they haven’t seen outdoor furniture that is affordable, but broaden your horizons and think outside of the box. Of course if you walk into a store and buy an outdoor sectional or matching seating set, it won’t be cheap.

I don’t shop that way. I look for pieces here and there and work with that. Pick up or skim through one of those Flea Market Outdoor decorating magazines and you will see lots of flea market style ideas that are affordable and creative.

Once you’ve purchased or acquired your pots or containers, you won’t have to buy them again unless you add more plants than you have containers for. I found those big green pots for around $10 last year at Home Depot.

Also, keep in mind that anything that holds dirt can usually be used as a garden container. Try repurposing items you may already have.

I’ve seen herbs planted in colorful cans that you would normally throw away. Hammer a nail in various places in the bottom of the can for drainage.

I like rocks scattered in my garden. You can drive out to the country or many other places and find rocks free of charge to bring home to your outdoor space.

I typically re-use potting soil, but I dig out much of last year’s soil and add new potting soil. There are also soil amendments you can add to your existing soil. I’ve purchased it before at Gardener’s Supply and done that as well.

I haven’t decided if I’ll order amendments from them for this year. But here is the link to the page at Gardener’s Supply.

I have ordered quite a few things from them over the years and have been pleased with their products.

Other frugal ways to start plants is to divide what you have or sometimes you just get lucky and they come up on their own. Oftentimes birds scatter the seeds for you.

I consider gardening and outdoor living to be one and the same, because I wouldn’t have one without the other!

What affordable or free ideas do you have for frugal outdoor living?

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41 Comments

  1. Such great ideas, I don’t think I have anything to add! I have found most of my garden and patio items either on sale, at thrift shops, or junk/antique shops. I also like repurposing different sorts of containers to use as plant pots. I’m glad my husband keeps a big compost bin in the backyard – free potting soil! And much better than the store stuff, of course.

  2. I have a small bunch of pussy Willow branches in water so they’ll root. I’ll then plant them outside. I take a sprig from many different kinds of herbs and just root them in water too, I find it less expensive and easier than dealing with seeds. Right now I have potatoes in water on the window sill rooting. I love the vines from potatoes. A cute idea is to use the large empty can of tomatoes as planters for herbs. I just bought a very inexpensive sturdy old stool at Restore that I’ll use to hold a couple potted plants. Thrift stores are great for finding things for outside.

  3. Enjoyed reading all these…maybe I will try a few more things this spring (other than plants to deter mosquitos that deer will not eat).

  4. Brenda, I love your picturesque, rustic, outdoor garden space ! I especially like the old galvanized washtubs hanging on the fence ! It has such a cozy atmosphere, which is just what we would expect from you !

    I love my outdoor covered porches. Both are quite large, and I have room for some furniture, and some plants. The back one is always in the shade, and overlooks my large backyard gardens, for the kitchen garden, the perennial flower beds, some fruit trees, and a cutting flower garden at the back, so I planned it all to be both beautiful, and handy. After being here a few years, I had some pinkish coloured large patio stones put down, so I have paths through the gardens where I walk a lot. I was slipping sometimes on wet straw mulch, or in the mud before, and that is just too risky with a bad knee, and quite a bit of arthritis.

    In the hot summer months, my back porch is the perfect place to sit in the afternoon on a zero gravity lounge chair with a footrest, and read, or just birdwatch. I also have a small rug out there on the plastic lumber, carefree, floor, and I can put my yoga mats down and do my morning routine out there when it is warm enough. It is good to have a small table near each chair, so one can have a place for a book, magazine, or a cup of tea. I also have an old metal magazine rack which is handy. Many places, like libraries, give away home decorating magazines like Martha Stewart, and I like to collect them, and read them on the porch.

    The front covered porch is about 10 ft. by 14 feet, and again I had the grey old porch coloured carefree plastic lumber floor installed, and have never regretted it. I have other chairs, and a small table out there. I got two zero gravity loungers on sale a few years ago at Canadian Tire, and they have served me well. The other furniture came mainly from yard sales, and did not cost much, but it has character. One thing I found at a yard sale last year was a red plaid picnic blanket with a heavy dark green plastic on one side. I thought I might want to put it down on an outdoor bench that might be a bit damp, when I eat one of my day trip outdoor picnics. I hardly ever buy anything in a restaurant anymore, and on a nice day I want to be outside, and not waiting around by myself in a restaurant, spending more than I have to. I think it will work fine for this, but I also use it on my lounge chair. It is cozy and warm, and the plastic breaks the wind. There always seems to be a breeze going through my front porch, which is nice in the summer, with the scented plants nearby, but on a day like today, when it is only 3 degrees above freezing, I bundle up to sit in the sun for a bit, and I like having that blanket to completely block the breeze, which would hit my back.
    On nice days, I usually putter around in my garden for a bit in the morning during gardening season, then I head for one of my porches for at least part of the afternoon. Sometimes I light a citronella candle and sit out there at night too in the summer. It is especially pleasant to watch the fireflies. They put on quite the light show on a warm summer night !

    Almost all my planters have been collected over the years at yardsales, thrift stores, auctions, and even in an old farm dump ! I like the rustic country kind of look. I found an old milk separator at an auction. A few of the parts are missing, but it makes a wonderful piece of sculpture standing on a small brick patio in my veggie garden, near the back porch. I have it, and some of my old black cast iron pots covered with green tarps right now, but soon I will be taking all that off, as part of my spring routine. A nice man at the auction brought the separator to my garden free of charge, in his truck, on his way home. I could not have bought it even at a bargain price otherwise. I gave him some nice homemade preserves as a thank you, and later I visited his secondhand business way out in the country. I found a few bargains in his barn, and he was happy for the business, so that worked well. I even found an extra walker for $5.00 that I could leave outside, and use in the garden when I was recovering from surgery. That is unusual garden equipment I know, but it worked for me !
    I hope everyone is soon enjoying being outside again !

  5. I like to garden as organically as possible. Around my hostess I sprinkle coffee grounds and ground up egg shells to deter the slugs. I also save my tea bags and place these close to the roots of my plants as they soak up moisture and dispense it slowly and the tannin acids in the tea deter bugs. As the tea bags and coffee grounds decompose the worms enjoy these to eat and the worms are nature’s aerators breaking up the soil and aiding decomposing of things like banana skins in the soil.Why not feed your soil which rewards you with food or flowers ! I also like to start my seeds by taking a flat pan or reuse the top of an old tote and place moist paper towels down and then start a seed or two in a moistened tea bag. The tea bag and plant can then be planted together when the seedlings are the correct size… usually two or three leaves formed. There are also formulas on Pinterest that will give you a formulation on how to make your own Miracle Grow much cheaper than purchasing from garden centers. Big Lots and Ollie’s are two other discount stores that sell beautiful pots much cheaper than garden centers and even cheaper at the end of the season. My local library recently had an adult class on how to take a pretty tea cup and make it into a bird feeder. So pretty and unique to have near your patio. There are ideas all around us if we just keep looking and sharing. One thing I’d like to do in the near future is set up at the edge of my yard a Little Free Library to encourage literacy at all ages and especially among the young ones in my neighborhood.

    1. I think I wrote a post at one time about homemade Miracle Grow. I just took coffee grounds out to my raised bed yesterday. I love to use what I have and will not use chemicals.

  6. Lots of great ideas here! One thing I did last year in the name of thrift was to first take cuttings from my geraniums and root them and also brought the original plants inside for the winter. They’ve done pretty well as I have an east window that gets the sun and I plan to replant them in my containers this year.

    I use all manner of containers to plant in. I have an old washtub and some crocks that I use every year. I also have an old coal scuttle that I use. I’ve planted in an old wooden tool box and even an old wooden rocking chair that the woven seat had torn out. I just lined the hole with chicken wire and the stuff used in hanging baskets and dirt and planted petunias in it. I think the chair is coming apart now so I probably won’t do that again. Unless I find another old chair! And I always save my hanging baskets to reuse, replacing the linings if needed. I never buy already planted hanging baskets but plant my own. A way to use less soil in large containers which was mentioned on this blog a while ago is to fill the container half full or so with packing peanuts or pinecones and add enough soil on top of them to plant in. This also makes the containers lighter weight so you can move them more easily.

    One way I obtain plants for cheap is to attend a plant-swap in the area where my daughter lives. You take starts or plants of your own to trade and then take what you want from other “swappers”. There isn’t a plant swap in my neighborhood so I am thinking of holding one this year. I think the one I’ve attended before is held in May.

    Writing about this topic makes me all the more anxious to get out there and plant! I will be flying to Arizona for ten days the 2nd of April and when I get back I am going to be so ready to dig, dig, dig in the dirt and plant, plant, plant!!

    Have a great weekend, Brenda! Pats for the fourleggeds~

  7. I feel lucky as we live on a farm where my in-laws never threw stuff away. They always laughed at what I took to make planters for my annuals. I found an old pump in the junk pile we call it and hung an old metal pail I found in the milk house. Looks nice with something tall and something hanging. I took an old double washtub and fill it every year with geraniums I saved from the previous years. Just re pot in containers in the fall and I put in my basement and they take a little while to get started in the Spring but eventually they catch up. I have old chicken feeders that hold tiny tiny bushy zinnias and bloom throughout the season. I think they are called Zahara zinnias. If you go to your local nursery they will sell you or sometimes GIVE to you the black plastic containers that they had trees or shrubs in and they are great to plant in. You can paint them if you desire another color. I put old unuseable garden tools upside down in my planters for vines that I want to grow with my annuals. The kids old bicycles I put small baskets between the handle bars and plant annuals in. The baskets I get at re-sale shops or at yard sales. I find old tool boxes at yard sales and they are neat to plant your flowers in to. I figure it it has at least 6″ of depth I can plant into the container
    I have used old children’s wagons, old garden carts as containers and move them around as the season moves along.
    I’ll be honest most of this at the beginning I found in our junk pile but things disintergrate and I’m always searching. Have fun! Someone else’s junk is someone else’s treasure.

    1. I wish I had a double washtub. I’ve been looking for one for years that isn’t pricey. At the nursery where I buy my plants, they have lots of medium sized black pots that are used and thrown in a bin for people to take for free.

  8. After I retired I splurged and bought a 10 x 10 metal gazebo that is anchored to my concrete patio. It came with removable screen netting. I am a bug magnet and my “Shezebo” has saved me from being chased indoors by hungry mosquitoes and pesky flies. I bought some curtain panels at Family Dollars a few years back and use large safety pins to hook them to the little hooks on which the screen netting is hung. I get a ton of sunshine in my backyard and shade only in the very early mornings and late afternoons, which most of my plants and my grass loves but it’s not good for my skin, which has been made even more sensitive by some of the medications I take for a heart condition. Hanging curtains to provide shielding from the sun is a must for me (the Shezebo roof does its job but the open sides don’t block sunshine). I’ve also used full-size flat sheets. I thought about getting a less permanent structure, but the thought of having to hire somebody to put it up for me int he spring and take it down every fall – nope! I scored a great deal for a bit less than $1,000 on sale at Wayfair with free shipping, and hired a 2-man team to install it and anchor it permanently to the patio, that cost about $400. It’s been a great investment. My Shezebo is now entering its 4th season and it is sturdy as a rock. It’s withstood winds of 70 mph plus and Wisconsin snow loads. The screening comes down for winter. It’s easy to remove and put back up. I have a pair of adjustable high-backed plastic chairs that I bought years ago that need a paint job this year – they’re very comfortable with the adjustable backs and wide arms. After I bought my Shezebo I waited until end of the season and got a good deal on two wonderfully thick-cushioned chairs with matching ottomans from Home Depot. It was a hoot to put them together with two other women and we ended up putting the arm framework on backwards – they’re still on backwards by the way 🙂 Amazingly enough, it hasn’t seemed to affect the functionality of the chairs which are rockers. Nothing better than kicking back inside my shaded Shezebo on a hot sunny afternoon, settle back in one of my chairs with my feet up on an ottoman, a glass of wine nearby, and reading while my little 11 inch Acer plays smooth jazz in the background. The cost was so worth it because now I can be outdoors without worrying about excessive sun exposure and being eaten alive by bugs. Just about everything else I have and use in/on my outdoor retreat was either already owned for years, repurposed items given new life with or bought at my local Family Dollar (or ordered online on clearance). Because it’s just me using my things, they seem to last forever. The snow has nearly all melted here now. I’ve begun clean-up where I can. There is a LOT to do out there because winter came fiercely and unexpectedly this season, and I have more to clean up than usual. We need a good week of sunshine and no rain to dry things out more before I can go full-tilt. I didn’t think that winter would ever go away this year! But it has – sort of. The temperatures are still yo-yo but we are slowly trending upward, and the sunshine feels fabulous, dahlings! Like so many of you, I am antsy as all get out to start polishing up my outdoor paradise.

  9. We have a large deck added by the previous owners. Most of what we have on the deck was thrifted: large glass-top table and 4 matching chairs, $100. Two wicker chairs from Goodwill, $10. Two metal with mesh chairs, Goodwill, $8 each. All of my flower pots, which are all rather large, came from yard sales for $1 or less.
    Target: Umbrella and umbrella stand – @ $100.
    And Al’s grill came from Lowe’s years ago, can’t remember what it cost but I’m sure we’ve gotten more than our money’s worth.
    I love thrifting!

  10. I’m not a gardener – huge brown thumb. ;-(
    I am searching for simple and inexpensive outdoor furniture so my dog, Cooper and I enjoy our small outdoor space. May be consider dressing it up a bit with some simple things, as well.

    I am enjoying everyone’s tips! I’d love an opportunity to sit and enjoy your lovely patio space, Brenda. Always so inviting!

  11. I am not a great gardener, but I love to plant my containers. Over the last 10 years I have tried many plants and I have narrowed my ability to keep alive, herbs, geraniums, sweet potato vines, ferns and boxwood. I typically buy the geraniums on sale for 9.99 in a hanging basket and then plant them and i get them from my local hardware store. As for frugal tips, go to TJMAXX and Marshalls for gorgeous containers. Many of them a from Vietnam and you can get some beautiful colored ones for $24.00 which is a great deal because I have seem the same ones at garden centers for 50.00. Also, check out Aldi for seed! They have a ton of them this week and they are $.49 cents.

    Brenda, I hope that you and Charlie and Ivy have a great weekend.

    Thank you for coming to visit my blog

  12. Craigslist is fabulous for free or cheap things to use as others have said. I am on Facebook and see tons of stuff on Facebook market. Don’t forget to check garage sales. I also look for what I have in/around the house that can be re-purposed for outside. For plants, how about exchanging plants and seeds with friends & neighbors or even joining an exchange group online. Most of us have plants we can divide and by sharing, we can incorporate types in our gardens that we might not want to splurge on.

    One of the things I’ve re-used for bird feeders is those wrought iron holders that have glass cups in them. I’ve hung them on the fence in various areas. Filled the cups with bird seed and there ya go! You can leave these as they come or paint them. I do have to fill the cups often, but I’m already outside piddling in the garden, so this just takes a minute.

    Love everyone’s ideas. Brenda your patio is beautiful.

  13. Brenda, I’m sending a blog e-mail from Mountain Mama, another blog that I read daily. She has lots of ideas, food, gardening, and shopping for “cheap” garden items, and making items for the garden out of every day things. If you don’t already have this blog site, I think you’ll enjoy hers. I did not get permission to send this on, I believe she would not mind. Hope you get to see her blog today, it fits right in with yours. Bonnie in WI. Temp today at 34, next week in the 50’s..YAY!!!!! http://www.mountainmamaonline.net/

  14. Great ideas on today’s post and comments. I bought my iron table, chairs, and glider for front porch at a junk/antique store. Couldn’t have afforded it otherwise.

  15. Basil seems easy to grow, even on an apartment balcony. Once the plant has grown full, I cut it all down and make a big batch of pesto, which I love. I freeze it in ice cube trays from the dollar store. I buy plants based on price and favor bright colors. All the better if they attract hummingbirds and butterflies!

  16. I see outdoor furniture ALL the time at estate sales. So worth checking out. If you aren’t in a hurry to buy, come back on the last day and really bargain the price down if it’s still there. . Otherwise, if you really want it then, always ask what they are asking and offer at least 30% off. It’s expected that you bargain so don’t be shy. Check for anything wrong with it because if it’s something you can live with, use it as a bargaining tool to bring down the price a little more.

  17. If you’ve never done it before – this may be the time to grow Herbs from seed. I have sage, chives and thyme in the garden, but all of which will thrive in pots…. this year I am going to grow arugula (referred to as rocket in the UK) for salad. I’s a cut and come again plant, andif you like that peppery taste, for the price of a packet of seeds you can have this all summer long.

  18. I love your gardens each year. I love how you maximize your space and make it homey. The last few years I have used seeds and bulbs which was less expensive than seedlings or plants.

  19. I just put up a post about up-cycling items to create garden art – I’m sure some of your readers would find a few ideas there! I bought a lot of my patio furniture the first fall I was separated – end of the season, sale at Lowe’s. The chairs were $5 each (I got 8) and the tables were I think 40 for the large one and 20 for the small one. I also got a swing at the same time, also on clearance, although I can’t remember how much it was. The fall is the best time to buy garden furniture, and you can also get great deals on planters then. I re-use some of my potting soil each year (in the larger pots) – once I dig out the plants from last year, I amend it with the same stuff you used (I told you about that stuff, love it, use it every year!) and then top it up as needed with fresh soil. Because I garden organically, my soil doesn’t get stripped like it does when people use synthetic fertilizers. We got another snow storm last night but I’m still thinking about spring!!!

  20. I live in an apartment and my front door is in the hall. I only have a patio door. When my friend buys new work boots I take his old ones and fill them with dirt and make planters out of them, placing them by the sliding door so it looks like he’s come in and left his boots outside. They usually last 3 to 4 years. I also get my plants from Ronas Hardware as the plants haven’t been pampered like in Garden Stores and are harder as they are accustomed to neglect.

    1. Well, when you have a small space you have to make do with whatever area you have in which to garden. Good for you for figuring it out!

  21. It’s always fun to browse back through photos and see what you did/or didn’t do. We are going to tackle a shade/wet space this summer that has been a bone of contention for years—I never take photos of this area—! LOL. Very nice post for those of us who need to be prodded into thinking!

  22. My hard plastic adirondack chairs are now in their 6th spring season (purchased two of them at ACE for under $35.00). I have spray painted them several times and they still look great. Next door is a charming bungalow type motel; the owner purchases new wicker chairs every other season and I grab the old ones, clean them up and they last at least a couple of seasons.

    Also, I check Craigslist often for the Curb Alert items — lots of outdoor items offered such as pavers, outdoor dining sets, plant containers, fencing, accent tables, etc. Most of these items are free — you just go by and pick them up from the curb at the address listed. I found a metal bakers rack several years ago that I cleaned up/painted and now use this as my potting bench.

    I usually re-plant hanging baskets each year — sometimes I need to re-spray the metal baskets from season to season but the baskets are quite durable. I just purchase new liners and inexpensive annuals (such as the 4 or 6 packs that are on sale).

    Since I live on the coast, I have several containers of shells and sea glass I have picked up on my walks mixed in along with the plants.

    I am so looking forward to the warmer days ahead.

    Take care and have a great day.