Buy affordable materials, and do it yourself. That’s Sara Bendrick’s advice for anyone looking to update their outdoor space.
As the owner of Sarita Landscape Design, she speaks from experience. Bendrick wrote the book on it—Big Impact Landscaping, a collection of 28 budget-friendly DIY projects—and starred in DIY Network’s I Hate My Yard, empowering viewers to make over outdoor spaces themselves.
Here, she’s priced out five outdoor elements that you can use to liven up your landscape just by breaking a sweat—not the bank.
Plant a fruit tree
For a consistent return on a relatively small investment, plant a fruit tree. Citrus is perfect for San Diego’s climate and you can usually find a tree in a 15-gallon container for under $100. Plant it in a hole twice as wide as the pot you purchased it in but the same depth. The tree will become a permanent resident in your yard, so plant it in a spot that receives full sun but where you’ll want shade, such as a picnic area where you can impress guests with freshly squeezed lemons literally at your fingertips.
Add a big succulent bowl
Much like that statement piece of art or decor inside your home, your outdoor space is worthy of a head-turning element. Enter the oversized planter. Splurge on a container with a design that evokes your personality or decorative tastes. Fill it with soil and around five different types of succulents for some low-maintenance foliage. Bendrick suggests placing the pot at an entryway or in an area where you entertain. Just be sure it can get full sun. Water by hand once or twice a week.
Create a stone pathway
It doesn’t get much more affordable than using rocks as decor. For an element that encourages you to traverse your landscape, put in a flagstone pathway. It’s as easy as picking up five or more pavers, 1 to 2.5 inches thick and about 2 feet wide (easy to lift for most). Lay them right on top of a dirt path or lawn to create a walkway, perhaps through a garden or to the entrance of your home. If the slabs wiggle, put some sand below them. For aesthetic brownie points, place mulch or plant a ground cover around the pavers.
Install a redwood garden bed
Sure, you can purchase a plastic raised garden bed at any big-box store. But for a long-term, aesthetically pleasing option, make your own out of redwood. Bendrick buys her lumber from local supplier J&W, where they’ll cut it to size for your project. She suggests 2" x 8" boards cut 8 feet long for the sides and 4 feet long for the ends. Stack the boards upright on their sides and at least two boards high to create enough depth to plant ornamentals or edibles; you can simply screw the boards together at the corners.
Erect a panel wall
Think of it like an accent wall in your home, but freestanding and weather resistant. Bendrick is a big proponent of fastening decorative panels together to partition off a section of your yard for additional privacy, or to create a backdrop for a garden. Carlsbad brand Outdeco offers Australian hardwood panels in 16 patterns and two sizes. The installation requires setting posts in the ground with concrete and then mounting the panels to them with screws, nails, or strong wood glue.