Quick and Easy Garden Ideas

Time-strapped gardeners can complete these quick and easy garden ideas before the sun goes down.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could spend countless hours tackling our garden to-do’s? In reality, while we balance careers, family and household chores, our garden aspirations are often left unfinished. Yet even the busiest of gardeners can spare a day, an afternoon or even an hour now and then. And in that chunk of time, you can accomplish a lot! These easy garden ideas are simple enough to complete in a day or less—and they won’t bust your budget, either.

If You Have an Hour…

Add flair to your chairs. A quick fix for dull outdoor furniture is a simple coat or two of paint. Have fun with it—no need to use matching colors. Lively hues work well in the backyard, especially near vibrant flower combos. For an extra pop of color, prop bright pillows on your chairs; buy them or make them from old fabric scraps.

Create a reading nook. Have a quiet, tucked-away place in the backyard? Set up a tranquil reading space with a comfy chair in a shady spot. No shade? Make your own with a homemade canopy or a stylish umbrella. Arrange an assortment of fragrant flowers in a container and place it nearby.

Quick-fix containers. For instant impact, start with a colorful container, or paint a pot you already own. Try out-of-the-ordinary containers like crates, old drawers, galvanized tubs, chairs or anything with drainage holes. Create a theme with your plant picks: make a purple container with pansies, petunias or heliotrope, or a butterfly garden with pentas, purple coneflower and salvia.

Brighten your nightlife. If you entertain outdoors in the evening, paint a few containers with glow-in-the-dark acrylic paint. They’ll brighten up your backyard in an unexpected way. Hang mason jars from tree branches with colorful ribbons. Fill them with candles for a fun way to light up the night.

Make your mark. Add a personal touch to your garden beds with homemade plant markers. Use objects you have around the house: wooden spoons, paint sticks, clothespins, painted rocks. These ordinary items become eye-catching when you add a little creativity.

Fill in bare spots. If you have an empty fence or a blank wall, make it pretty by hanging outdoor art or flat-backed planters filled with colorful plants.

If You Have An Afternoon…

Put an end to boring flooring. A concrete patio or a plain deck floor provides an opportunity in the form of a blank canvas. If you’re artistic, try painting a “rug” on your deck. Stain or paint a stamped concrete patio for a high-end look. Or simply buy a weatherproof rug to add some homey comfort to your outdoor space.

Install solar lights. They’re simple to install and add a lot of appeal to the nighttime garden. While you’re at it, plant a few white flowers nearby, like snowdrops, white tulips and moonflower, to make your garden glow in the moonlight.

One-day water garden. Find a watertight pot, or add a waterproof liner to a large container, like a whiskey barrel. Put pavers or bricks inside at varying heights and add potted water plants and accents like grasses and flowering plants. Install a pump to get the water moving for soothing sounds that also attract birds.

Do-it-yourself chandelier. Fancy up your dinner parties with a homemade chandelier to hang above your patio table. Add your own touches to an old chandelier base—jars filled with candles, jewels, ornaments or beads. If you don’t have a base, make your own. We’ve seen readers fashion chandeliers out of Christmas lights attached to an umbrella frame or a spray-painted hula-hoop. Brilliant!

Mosaics in a minute. If you’ve retired your old bowling ball, repurpose it into garden art. Glue on tiles, flat-backed marbles, coins or mirrors; let it dry and add grout or paint on a design. Or if your plain stepping-stones could use a makeover, add mortar and position mosaics on top.

If You Have a Day…

Elevate your entry. When you have a little more time for easy garden projects, try spruceing up your garden entryway (or adding a new one) with an arbor or gate. It’s a simple way to give dimension to your yard. Plant some fragrant climbing vines, like sweet pea, climbing rose or wisteria, or place some containers at each entrance.

Raised veggie garden. Planting a vegetable garden is simple when you use a raised bed. With just a few pieces of lumber, soil and compost, you’ve set the stage for growing your favorite veggies. For an added touch, paint the wood a fun color to pick up hues you already have in your garden.

Mulch and edge beds. Make your garden beds look polished with mulch. If you don’t already have a barrier (or if your edging needs an upgrade), it only takes a little while to edge your beds. Use bricks, rocks or pavers for a finished look that’ll also make mowing much easier.

Make a rain barrel. If you don’t want to buy a pricey rain barrel, it isn’t time-consuming to make or decorate your own. If the blue barrel look isn’t your thing, you can easily paint it to make it more appealing. We’ve also seen readers transform whiskey barrels and garbage cans into attractive rain barrels.

Add wow to your windows. An underused portion of the house lies underneath your windows. Installing window boxes instantly adds charm and value to your home. Make them with leftover lumber, then add your own personal touches and no-fuss flowers.

Crystal Rennicke
Crystal Rennicke is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin. She is fascinated by the journey of the monarch and her bucket list includes a trip to their wintering grounds in Mexico.