From patios and plants to play areas, the possibilities for transforming a backyard are endless.
According to landscaping authority and Adbri Masonry ambassador Jason Hodges, there are countless ways to create an exceptional outdoor space that you and your family can enjoy – regardless of the state of your backyard or your bank account.
In fact, he believes when it comes to home improvements, a garden and outdoor makeover will give you one of the best returns on your renovation dollar. “It will cost you far less per square metre to do up the back or front yard compared to the lounge room, bathroom or kitchen,” Hodges says.
Landscape designer Ben Carter of Boodle Concepts agrees, adding that planning is key when approaching a backyard makeover on a budget: “We usually start with determining what style of garden will best suit your property and the surrounding area.”
To help with this, Carter says, it’s useful to compile an online image folder featuring gardens you’re inspired by (and eliminate the ones that don’t resonate with you).
From there, “a garden consult can help to develop your preferred style, such as formal, resort, minimalist or native garden, for example”, he says.
Priority one is a functional and attractive entertaining area. It’s a must-have for every Aussie home, given that getting together for a barbecue or meal outdoors remains one of our most popular backyard pastimes.
“If you already have a paved or decked area, a thorough cleaning is an inexpensive way to inject new life,” Hodges suggests.
Or, if you’re starting with a blank canvas, low-cost solutions like modular decking or DIY paving are easy to install, will update your backyard and allow you to personalise it.
“A new deck the same level as your indoor flooring helps with better indoor-outdoor flow,” Carter says. “Consider using environmentally friendly composite decking boards – they require minimal maintenance and are often made from a combination of over 90 per cent reclaimed timber, bamboo and recycled plastic.”
Hodges says a paved area surrounded by greenery is an affordable addition to your home that will get better with age.
“Surround it with an easy-to-grow evergreen like La Mancha for flowers, or Lilly Pillys for privacy, and as the garden grows and develops, the outdoor space will look more and more like part of the home.”
Carter points out that, for homeowners on a tight budget, backyard renovations often revolve around priority tasks, such as obscuring neighbouring properties or unsightly walls. This can be achieved by choosing the right plants and maintaining them correctly.
“Hedging or screening will best shield problem areas,” he says. “We often construct mesh trellis to add height and a visual distraction. Native wisteria (Hardenbergia comptoniana) is a fast-growing vine, ideal for trellises, and suitable for dry conditions.”
As for your garden beds, “Australian natives are sometimes thought of as being messy or scrappy, but you can actually create a stunningly tidy, low-maintenance garden using just a handful of reliable native plants”, Carter suggests. “Try a mix of natives like Lomandra tanika, Doryanthes excelsa (gymea lily) and Viola hederacea (native violet) to achieve a light, bright and hardy combination on a budget.”
He also recommends thinking long-term to save money. “Prioritise quality manure and compost – the healthiness and appearance of your new plants will amaze you. And finishing with a fresh topping of mulch will really make your plants pop.”
Don’t let budget constraints keep you from including one or two unique elements in your backyard, Hodges says.
“In recent years, fire pits have become immensely popular as functional landscaping features that allow you to use the outdoor space in winter,” he says, pointing out that creating your own backyard fireplace isn’t expensive.
“The best option is a family-friendly fire pit made with concrete barrier blocks. These look great and provide extra safety by creating an attractive barrier around the fire, keeping flames out of reach of children and pets.”
Carter suggests using lighting to create a simple and eye-catching focal point. “To extend the enjoyment of your garden at night, add low-wattage garden lighting like festoon string lights,” he says.
Kid-friendly features are also high on the agenda for many families – sandpits or veggie patches are top ways to create a yard your little ones will love. Best of all, they cost very little to construct using a handful of the right materials and simple methods like raised garden beds or stacked concrete blocks.
“The beauty of the backyard is its diversity,” Hodges says. “With a little effort and a dash of creativity, it can be transformed into a space which is perfect for you, be it a Zen garden or sleek entertaining area. Plus, it can reap financial rewards when selling.”