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A place you can relax and unwind, spend time with friends and family, or enjoy an afternoon tending your flower beds, a garden is an important extension of your home.

While updating your garden can be expensive, with our stylish and cost-effective tips you can enhance your outdoor space for less than you might think. Read on to find out how to improve your backyard on a budget!

How to Transform a Garden on a Budget

Garden PolytunnelBefore getting started it may be a good idea to consider function and decide on a budget. Thinking about how you use your garden and what you want from the space can help you make designing decisions throughout the process, while setting a spending limit could assist when purchasing plants and finishing touches.

When you’ve done this, here is how to transform a garden on a budget.

Step 1: Clear the Clutter

Although you may be eager to begin, before implementing your plans dedicate some time to clearing your garden. This process can include sweeping away leaves, tidying furniture and removing children’s toys, as well as sanding paintwork, removing weeds and turning soil.

While this can be time consuming, dedicating a day to clearing, tidying and preparing the space will provide the blank canvas you need. It’s also very budget friendly as this process only requires manual labour.

Step 2: Divide and Conquer

Wooden Raised BedsNow that your garden is ready it’s time to alter the layout. To provide purpose and differentiate individual areas, it may be a good idea to divide into sections. This could include separating through the placement of paths, arches, hedges, raised beds, screens and trellis, or adding designated seating areas with decking and patio, or how about altering the shape of the lawn to create a focal point.

Taking these steps and re-designing the layout can enhance the overall design of your garden, making it feel more high-end without the premium price tag.

Step 3: Style and Accessorise

Next comes the fun part – decorating and dressing your garden. This is where you can inject some style into the space, bringing all your hard work together. Although you could visit a garden centre, there are DIY alternatives that could help you improve your garden, even on the smallest of budgets.

Here are some creative styling and accessorising ideas to get you inspired:

Small Garden PolytunnelRe-purpose Planters and Pots

Rather than buying plant pots, re-purposing household items is a cheaper alternative. This includes glass bottles and jars – place gravel in the bottom to provide space for draining, while drawers and sinks are ideal for use as planters.

Update the Fence

Fences require regular maintenance and are usually stained or varnished. Instead, consider updating with paint. Whether a bright shade or pastel tone, this can instantly make a garden feel more stylish.

Add Outdoor Accessories

Accessories can finish off your garden, making it feel more styled and enhancing the overall feel. Adding cushions, lanterns and fairy lights can help your garden look like it’s been designed by a landscaper.

Upcycle Unused Furniture

Rather than buying a new outdoor garden set, you can revamp unused tables and chairs for a fraction of the cost. Sanding, painting and adding a waterproof lacquer could save you hundreds of pounds.

Polytunnel for GardenGrow Your Own

Adding greenery elevates any garden, but buying plants can be expensive. A cheaper option is to grow your own flowers, fruits and vegetables. This also provides delicious produce, which could help to reduce your food bill – installing a polytunnel will also allow you to do this all year round.

Low Cost Garden Transformations

From small yards to large green spaces, there are a variety of budget-friendly, cost-saving garden solutions. Rather than spending on a professional landscaping service, all you need is some imagination to completely overhaul your garden.

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Polytunnels can be a great investment for gardeners, helping to extend the growing season. They can also allow you to be more self-sufficient by increasing your yield and allowing you to grow more exotic varieties.

If you are considering buying a polytunnel, a kit can be a great way to go and save you hundreds of pounds on installation. Additionally, building a polytunnel from scratch is probably easier than you think – we often say that building a polytunnel is a bit like putting together giant meccano. To build a standard polytunnel kit, you will need an additional pair of hands and some basic tools. Many customers build their tunnels over a weekend, but there are a number of factors that determine how long it takes – the size and specification of the polytunnel, digging conditions, weather, and DIY skills all factor into the time it takes to build a kit.

Follow the instructions set out in this guide to learn how to build a polytunnel DIY style.

DIY Polytunnels

Before you get started, it’s important to carefully read the kit’s instructions and check that you have all the components listed. Providing the ground is reasonably level, the only site preparation you will need to carry out is a simple site clearance. After doing this, you can begin:

How to build a polytunnelFoundations are the first step. Ensuring each of the foundation tubes is placed correctly is crucial, so take your time marking the positions and ensuring they are correctly and evenly spaced.

Next, placing a wooden block between the tubes and the hammer to avoid damage, drive the foundation tubes into the ground. Alternatively, if building on hard ground like concrete, you will need to drill and bolt base plates into place to hold the polytunnel hoops.

Now you are ready to connect the hoop sections together. These will form the tunnel’s hoop frame structure and can be slid into place over the foundation tubes.

Once the hoops are in position, it’s time to connect the ridge tubes together and install the ridge to the underside of the hoops in the centre. Corner stabilisers are then fixed in position at each corner and, if part of the kit, door rails are placed on the two end hoops.

Lastly, it’s time to put up the timber door frames and hang the doors, making sure they are accurate and straight.

Prepare the Plastic Cover

With the foundations and standard kit construction in place, the next stage is to cover with polythene. This is crucial to the success of your polytunnel as the plastic sheet must be fitted with a taut, drum tight finish in order to avoid storm damage and to provide an optimal growing environment for your crops.

Here is how to cover:

Firstly, check your hoops to ensure there are no rough edges and that any fixings, such as screws, nuts and bolts, are on the inside of the frame – this will prevent damage to the plastic sheeting. Apply anti hot spot tape to the hoops – the smooth surface of the tape allows the cover to be pulled easily over the frame without catching or tearing.

Build a DIY PolytunnelWith a helper (or several depending on the size of polytunnel), roll the cover out along the side of the tunnel and pull the polythene over the entire frame, ensuring you have the same overhang down each side and end of the tunnel.

The next step is securing. There are two ways of doing this:

The standard method is to dig a trench around the polytunnel, then bury the polythene in the ground to deliver tension and keep it in place.

Alternatively (and necessary if constructing on hard ground), install a wooden or aluminium base rail around the base of the framework and secure the polythene cover to the base rail using timber battens and nails or PVC infills. (When using this method for fitting the cover, it is important that the foundation tubes are secured into the ground with the use of anchor plates or concrete to prevent the framework from lifting in strong winds).

The polytunnel plastic is secured on the ends of the tunnel by being fitted to the door frames using timber battens and nails.

Preparing Your Polytunnel Interior

With your polytunnel build complete, you can prepare the interior ready for planting. The work required will depend on how you intend to use the space. For example, you could plant directly into the ground, opt for raised beds, or grow in pots.

How to build a polytunnelIf you choose to plant directly into the ground, break up the soil using a fork and improve its condition using compost. Alternatively, raised beds can offer a variety of advantages such as better accessibility and a higher working point, while growing bags or pots can be moved around, providing a more flexible environment.

When you’ve selected your preferred method and are ready to plant, this RHS guide details all you need to know about more than 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables. While our yearly planner shows you when to sow, plant and harvest.

Further Tips and Advice

Building a polytunnel from scratch can be a rewarding process, allowing you to fulfil your gardening ambitions and grow more of your own veg.

Need some more help with learning about how to build a small polytunnel? Take a look at our construction advice, which covers everything from anchor plates, base plates and base rails, to orientation and relocation. You can also watch our collection of construction videos on our YouTube channel.

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If you’ve been growing your own fruits and vegetables and are looking for ways to boost your harvest, you may be considering investing in a polytunnel or greenhouse. Providing cover from harsh weather conditions and reducing pests, these can be ideal for extending the growing season, but which option should you choose?

In this guide, we have outlined the differences between polytunnels and greenhouses, as well as a variety of factors to think about when making your choice. Want to know which one is best for both your growing needs and your garden? Read on to find out!

Polytunnel or Plastic Greenhouse: What’s the Difference?

Essentially, both structures work in a similar way, providing a warmer environment to enhance growth during the summer and allow lower temperature plants to thrive in winter. This can help you grow a larger variety of produce (including more Mediterranean crops), in greater numbers and for a longer period. But what are the key differences?

Polytunnels are constructed from galvanised steel hoops and tightly covered with clear or diffused plastic. Cheaper to buy, polytunnels require a smaller investment; at only the third of the cost of a greenhouse, polytunnels are excellent value for money. Polytunnels are usually built straight onto a soil base, with the only site preparation required being a simple site clearance. They’re also easier to dismantle, move and reassemble. The galvanised steel frame will last for 20 years and more, with the polythene generally needing to be replaced every 7 to 10 years. Polytunnels are available with a full range of additions and accessories to allow you to customise your polytunnel to suit the particular needs of you and your plants.

Greenhouses utilise an aluminium or metal frame glazed with glass or polycarbonate plastic. These can be expensive, especially if you choose toughened safety glass (recommended for family gardens or homes with young children). Greenhouses are also time consuming to construct, usually needing a solid base to stand on, and once erected they are difficult to dismantle. On the other hand, they’re hard wearing and durable.

Polytunnels and Plastic Greenhouses

No matter which you choose, options can be ideal, particularly if you’re new to growing your own fruit and vegetables and are interested in becoming more self-sufficient.

A small polytunnel or greenhouse can be assembled relatively quickly, is perfect for growing popular plants like tomatoes, and can be a great way to get kids into gardening. Additionally, they’re a great option for smaller outdoor spaces, from yards to cramped city gardens.

Big Polytunnel or Large Plastic Greenhouse

A big polytunnel or large plastic greenhouse is an excellent choice for those who need more growing space. Whether this is because you’re a more experienced gardener and want to increase your variety of crops or require extra room for a commercial venture.

Whatever the reason, a larger size will allow you to take your growing to the next level, both for personal and professional needs.

Factors to Consider

When deciding between these two structures and selecting the size, consider these factors:

Purchase price: Polytunnels are generally cheaper and require a smaller investment than greenhouses.

Construction time: Depending on the size, greenhouses can take longer to construct.

Site preparation: Ground must be level for a greenhouse while rougher ground can be more easily accommodated for a polytunnel.

Lifespan: Greenhouses can potentially last a lifetime, providing the glass doesn’t break or get blown out of the frame, whereas the covers on polytunnels will need replacing periodically, at a low cost, to maintain their efficiency.

Heat retention: Greenhouses often require more heat during the winter months, whereas a polytunnel covered with a Thermal polythene and without the drafts of a greenhouse, can help if you’re considering over-wintering crops.

Sun and shade: A diffused polythene sheeting on a polytunnel helps to prevent heat spots, but you may have to paint greenhouse panels to avoid sun damage, such as leaf scorch, to your produce.

Transportability: While both can be moved, greenhouses require more time and glass panels may present a higher risk of damage and injury.

Essentially, your choice will come down to your budget and requirements. However, we hope these tips will help you select the right growing option for your needs.

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