If you have permission from your landlord, there are some brilliant budget garden ideas that will boost your outdoor space without breaking the bank. However, if you don’t, these rented garden ideas will serve you well if you’re not able to make any permanent changes.
1. Install a raised pond
Think all of your garden pond ideas have to wait until you own a property? Think again. In fact, Zoe has installed a raised pond (similar to the one seen above at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show) in The Renter’s Retreat, to help show renters that it is possible.
‘The brief I set myself was that everything had to be dismantled and be able to fit through a standard UK door,’ she says. ‘And, as renters can’t dig into the soil, I would have to work above ground.’
Explaining that her shady courtyard was designed to ‘give me the garden I wanted in my early 20s,’ she adds that she has included a raised pond ‘because it’s one of the most important wildlife features in a garden.’
‘I also wanted it because it gives people a sense of contemplation,’ she adds, ‘and it’s beautiful, too.’
2. Try rain harvesting
You can save money on your water bills (and keep your rented garden blooming) if you try your hand at rain harvesting.
‘Ask your landlord if you can attach a rain water diverter to the pipe,’ says Zoe, who has done exactly this in The Renter’s Retreat.
‘It will give you an excellent chance to top up the water reserves in your garden to water your plants and support wildlife over periods of drought.’
3. Embrace the Scandi trend of pelargonsjuka
Embrace one of our favourite Scandi garden design ideas and try your hand at pelargonsjuka: plant your pelargoniums and geraniums in pots, so you can bring them indoors for overwintering when the colder months take hold – or spirit them away to your new home when your tenancy is up.
‘Aim for a container garden on steroids,’ suggests Zoe, who has used plenty of potted plants and trees throughout The Renter’s Retreat.
4. Invest in some potted trees
If you love the idea of a woodland garden, but don’t fancy buying a tree and planting it in your landlord’s garden, then hack the system: shop one of the best trees for small gardens and keep it in a nice big pot.
‘One of the things everyone should have in their rented garden is, for me, a containerised tree,’ says Zoe, who has included this very thing in The Renter’s Retreat.
‘Make sure you’ll be able to fit it through the door, and you will be able to bring it with you when you next move. Hopefully, it should add a sense of permanence to the chaotic world of renting.’
5. Have a go at a hügelkultur mound
If you are looking for an innovative way to build a bed that a) doesn’t involve digging into your landlord’s garden or b) forking out for a raised bed, then have a go at making a hügelkultur mound.
A centuries-old, traditional way of building a garden bed, all you have to do is mark out an area for a raised bed, clear the land, and then heap up partially rotted woody material topped with compost and soil. Then, you can use it as you would a raised bed!
‘The only caveat is that this form of permaculture really works best over three or four years,’ says Zoe. ‘So it’s probably most appropriate for people who are in either a long-term tenancy, social rented housing, or somewhere where they feel that they’re going to hand over to the next group of people.’
The added benefit of a hügelkultur? Well, it improves the diversity and quality of soil, while retaining moisture and nutrients in the earth, reducing the need to water and significantly improves fertility, helping plants to grow while benefitting insects and other wildlife.
6. Try hot composting
‘Everyone who wants to garden sustainably needs some form of home composting in their rented garden,’ says Zoe. ‘Especially as you can buy super skinny ones.’
Thankfully, you don’t need lots of room to make your own compost, especially if you buy the best hot composting bin for renters with small gardens (it’s slimline, it doesn’t smell, and it makes brown gold for your beloved plant babies? Win!).
7. Plant raspberry canes in containers
That’s right: just as you can learn how to grow chillis in pots, the same is true with these deliciously sweet and moreish summer berries.
Better still, raspberries tend to be a very low maintenance GYO option, making it the ideal solution for time-poor renters who want to get in on the trend.
8. Turn your garden into a cinema
Hands up if you love chilling with a great movie! One of the best rented garden ideas is to invest in a projector (available from £60 on Amazon). They’re reasonably priced and you can easily set them up in the garden with an extension lead, large white sheet, canes to attach it to and a ladder.
Gather together comfy cushions, blankets and nibbles and you can have film night every night of the summer!
9. Create a cosy corner
Balcony and patio spaces are ideal for creating a styled corner for al fresco lunches and friends round in the evenings. This easy garden idea is all about choosing the right accessories that you can take with you when you move.
‘Complete your garden décor with a variety of outdoor TruGlow® candles placed upon table tops or on the floor, and select the optional 6 hour timer function for automatic illumination each evening.’
‘The gentle flicker of candlelight will uplift your outdoor living space, for a simple yet effective way to transform your garden for the summertime,’ says Emily Kelsey, Lights4Fun.
10. Add a moveable pizza oven
Nothing beats pizza at the best of times, so having your own portable oven ensures you can make your own in your rented garden. Many of the best pizza ovens can easily be placed on temporary stands so your landlord can’t grumble.
‘Purchasing a freestanding or portable oven for your garden is a fantastic investment as you can take it to your next home when your rental term is complete,’ says Vicky Naylor, general manager, ACR Stoves.
‘The great thing about pizza ovens is that they aren’t just for pizza! Anything you can make in your regular oven or on the grill, you can make even better using your pizza oven. Bread, fish, meat, desserts and vegetarian dishes, the list is endless.’
11. Opt for double use solutions
If you’re looking for small garden ideas for your rental, doubling up seating and storage is a great solution. Benches with a high back can be used for hanging baskets from, planters and useful items like watering cans.
Some might even come with storage under the seat that can hold gardening paraphernalia like tools, cushions or blankets. Pop a cushion on your bench and enjoy an evening cocktail or two.
12. Add impact with colour and pattern
Treat your rented garden space as you do the interior. If you adore colour and pattern then follow the same approach outside for a cohesive look.
‘We make it part of our daily routine in the summer months to create a beautiful outdoor living space, and bringing our cushions outside is a quick fix that makes the difference between us choosing to sit indoors or outside. The addition of a rug really helps to zone the space, adding style and comfort and making it feel more like a room,’ says Jamie Watkins, co-founder, Divine Savages.
Divine Savages have recently launced a new collection of outdoor rugs with the masters of luxury vinyl Beija Flor, are waterproof and highly durable making them ideal to use outdoors. Alternatively, machine washable rug brand Ruggable has an amazing range of outdoor rugs loved by the Ideal Home team.
13. Perk up your side return
It might be that all you have is that awkward side return space that comes with a Victorian terrace, but fear not as they can be prettied up with a spot of masonry paint (get permission first). Then pick pots that fit – tall and narrow for the corners, a beautiful camelia in a large pot for colour and train a climber up a trellis.
Raised planters are a smart addition to add a variation of height in your greenery. However, an outdoor chair is an affordable alternative to a new plant stand that can look just as stylish.
14. Add in tip top shelving
If you’re a keen gardener – which is totally allowed in a rented garden – then you’ll welcome a storage system that’s simple and stylish.
‘Our ingenious String Outdoor is a flexible system that allows you to furnish your outdoor space with beautiful and timeless functional furniture,’says Bo Hellberg, CMO, String Furniture.
‘Easily attached to a wall or fence, the system is ideal to keep compact spaces clutter-free. But it can also be freestanding, single or double-sided. Even the smallest of spaces need plenty of storage and with its unique shelving, you will have a natural place to keep all your garden tools pots and other rough objects all year round.’
15. Get crafty with moveable pallet furniture
The beauty of this rented garden idea is that it’s a great value option and if you pop wheels on each piece then you can move it whenever you want within your garden, and onto a removal van when you move.
Pallet furniture ideas can be left rustic or sanded down and painted, zone them with a paved area and group them around a coffee table as a focal point.
16. Give your fencing a refresh
A super quick update and one that most landlords will love is to paint your fence. Rather like painting interior walls, it’s an instant improvement and can quickly change the feel of your rented garden.
‘Before you start just make sure you get the permission of the landlord – you wouldn’t imagine there would be an objection to improving things but they might not want you to go too crazy,’ advises Ben Thornborough, director, Thorndown. ‘You may have noticed with garden makeovers on TV they start by painting the fence, it has a massive impact on the look and feel of the garden.
‘Simply refreshing a traditional brown can really tidy up worn and weathered areas. Greys look spectacular in urban areas and really set off planting and tubs, and you can zone areas and have brighter spaces that can cheer up a socialising space,’
17. Pick a bijou bistro set
Bijou bistro sets are the best garden furniture choice for smaller rented gardens. This is because they take up less space physically and visually – due to their sleek lines and slimline form.
They’re usually stackable too, or choose designs that can be left outside all year round. Cosy them up with seat cushions and blankets. The table can be used as a makeshift potting table during the day and the most perfect dining table in the evenings with candles.
18. Keep it simple in a compact yard
Small paved gardens can be tricky at the best of times, let alone when they’re rented. Keep furniture compact yet practical and if you can, utilise the top of a built up border as a seat too, just pop some cushions on it for extra comfort.
Ask permission from your landlord first and if you get a yes, plant up the borders with plenty of lush plants that grow tall like foxgloves, snapdragons and stocks to add interest.
19. Add a portable garden bar
For those handy with a power tool, this is a simple and inexpensive DIY job that will turn your garden into a social haven. Dismantle a palette, saw it in half and reassemble it with a hinges and strong chains, so that it can drop open and fold shut.