Category: How To’s & Quick Tips

DIY Concrete Planters

If new and stylish planters aren't in your budget this spring, save your money for soil, plants... and patio pavers! That's almost everything you'll need to recreate these flower boxes.

DIY Concrete Planters

Large planters for your deck or patio can be very pricey, so it makes sense to build your own. If you like the look of concrete but would rather not mix and pour your own, patio pavers make a genius shortcut. That’s what Angela from Life in Velvet discovered. With the right tools and materials, you can create patio paver planters that will bind and stay together. Find the how to below.


- (5) 16X16 patio pavers {per large planter}
- (5) 12X12 Patio Pavers {per small planter}
- Gorilla Glue
- Clamps
- Patio paint


Lay out four patio pavers to form a square, with edges overlapping. The fifth paver is used as a base.


DIY Concrete Planters - gorilla glue

Apply Gorilla Glue to the edges of the pavers, then clamp together until dry.

Note: The only thing to be afraid of with Gorilla Glue is that it expands about 3x, so use thin lines of glue between pavers, and use small dots to adhere the sides to the base to allow for drainage.


DIY Concrete Planters - paint

Once dry, use remove the clamps and apply patio paint of your choice.


DIY Concrete Planters - add soil

Add soil and plants! We have a very small back yard, so I’m using each of these as a mini raised garden. I planted a variety of shrubs and flowers in shades of purple, pink and red to keep everything interesting and cohesive.

DIY Concrete Planters - finished

Thanks, Angela! For more DIY ideas, check out Life in Velvet.

DIY Pallet Planter

As long as it's not chemical-treated, a pallet can make a great planter for a few seasons—and this project makes us want to drop everything and grow strawberries today.

DIY Strawberry Pallet Planter

When Tanya, from Lovely Greens looked to Pinterest for some spring inspiration, she came across lots of ideas for strawberry pallet planters. That’s when she decided to create her own take on the pallet planter using a heat-treated (not chemical-treated) pallet. Read on to discover how you can make your own, too.


- Pallet
- Jigsaw or hand saw
- Power drill
- Screws (1.5″ and 3″ lengths)
- Chisel and mallet
- Paint (optional)


DIY Pallet Planter - cut

Cut the pallet into three equal pieces. The easiest way to do this is to lay the pallet so that the long planks are in parallel with your own position. If your pallet has nine planks, like mine did, then count over three planks and then saw the wood between the third and fourth planks. Saw right in the middle, to keep things easy and to ensure that all of your proportions remain correct. Remember that you’ll have to saw in the exact places on both the front and back of the pallet.


DIY Pallet Planter - trim

Trim and remove excess wood pieces. You’ll have three pieces of pallet now, all of the same height and width. Two of the pallets will be formed from the top and bottom and will have chunky blocks securely fixed to them between one of three planks on the front side and the single one left on on the other. You’ll want to trim off the excess wood jutting up from each one of these wooden blocks.


DIY Pallet Planter - build

Fix the two end pieces to the middle part of the pallet. Screw in from the other side of the middle (bottom) piece. The two end pieces will be the sides of your planter and the middle piece is the bottom. Though the image shows the structure right way up, it’s actually easier to flip it over in order to fix the bottom piece to the sides. You’ll want to screw or nail the bottom piece into the wooden blocks still attached to the side pieces.


You should have three to four of these pieces that were removed from the centre piece of the pallet. Separate them into individual blocks and planks. This is easier said than done if you don’t have the right tools. Since pallet wood that has been heat treated can be brittle if you try to pull the plank off with the tongs of a hammer. If you have a heavy duty chisel then I recommend that you use it to separate the block and the plank and sever the nails in two. If you’re planning on doing any more pallet projects you could really save yourself a lot of tears and invest in one along with an iron mallet down at your local hardware store. If any of your pieces have bits of nails sticking out then try to hammer them flat.


DIY Pallet Planter - feet

Now assemble the rest of your planter box, including adding the feet. Attaching the wooden blocks as feet can be a bit tricky and in the end I drove very long screws in sideways to attach them to the bottom of the planter. Putting feet on the piece will help with drainage and slow down the process of the bottom rotting. I think they also make the planter look nicer.


Turn your planter right way up and have a look at it. Does it feel sturdy? Are the feet wobbly? Are there extra bits of wood sticking up that you could trim back? Once you feel the planter is complete then either plant it up as is or use a non-toxic outdoor wood paint to paint the exterior. Being wood, this piece will eventually rot down but some TLC now can help extend its life.


Grow Strawberries - pallet planter

Soil and compost will erode through any unprotected opening in the sides or bottom of the planter. Putting down your choice of barrier materials will help keep that soil where it’s supposed to be. I chose to line the bottom of my planter with scraps of wire then a layer of gardening fabric that will let water out but keep matter in. Since I placed my planter against a hedge I also chose to roll the black material up the back since I won’t be planting any strawberries on that side. On top of the fabric and running up the sides I used straw as an organic erosion barrier.

The easiest way to plant your strawberries is to work your way up from the bottom. A layer of compost, mixed with manure and slow-release organic fertilizer went in first. Then I placed the plants in the bottom slots along with straw. Another layer of my compost mixture and then I repeated the process for the next set of slots. You’ll also notice that I’ve spaced my plants out far more than you’ll see in most other pallet planter tutorials. If you want strawberries to produce well, it’s recommended that you place the plants at least 14″ apart. I’ve also made sure that each plant will be able to grow and spread out without smothering any plants underneath.

DIY pallet planter - finished strawberries

Thanks, Tanya! Check out Lovely Greens to watch her step-by-step video of this project—and to find even more great DIY projects.

DIY Wine Cork Planters

When life gives you wine corks, make really, really tiny planters. Well, that's not the saying but it's certainly a fun idea.

DIY Wine Cork Magnet Planters

By her own admission, Linda from It All Started With Paint isn’t what you’d call a green thumb. But tiny low-maintenance succulents were calling her name and that’s where the idea for these unlikely thumb-sized planters came from. Read on to learn how to create your own easy-to-make planters!


- Wine corks
- Magnets
- Glue gun
- Succulents
- Soil
- Steak knife


DIY Wine Cork Planter - corks

Drink some wine and save the corks.


DIY Wine Cork Planter - materials

Gather your supplies. You’ll need wine corks, a glue gun, magnets, a steak knife, and plants. I used hardy—and hard to kill—succulents since I’ve got a bit of a plant-killing reputation.


DIY Wine Cork Planter - core

Using a steak knife, core out centers of the corks. Start by putting tip in center of cork and turning knife in a circular motion. Just make sure you don’t go all the way through; stop about ¾ of the way down.


DIY Wine Cork Planter - magnet

Use glue gun to affix magnets. Note: Once plants are planted, the cork will be much heavier. Depending on the strength of your magnet, you made need to affix more than one to handle the added weight.


DIY Wine Cork Planter - soil

Add soil.


DIY Wine Cork Planter - succulents

Add plants. Use a ¼ teaspoon measure spoon to add dirt and pack down. Drizzle with water.

Simple as that! Thanks, Linda. For more DIY ideas or to visit her Etsy shop, visit It All Started With Paint.

DIY Hypertufa Planters

These easy-to-make planters come together with a only handful of ingredients and a few weeks to cure.

DIY Planters - hypertufa

What’s even better than making your own concrete planter? How about trying your hand at a hypertufa planter? If you’ve never heard of hypertufa, it’s a manmade rock that’s great for growing plants. When we saw these DIY hypertufa planters by Alissa at 33 Shades of Green, we had to include her in our newest Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition. Read on to see how she did it.


- Containers (I used plastic and cardboard containers)
- Peat moss
- Perlite
- Portland cement
- Mold release spray (or cooking spray)
- Container for concrete mix


DIY planters - plastic containers

Gather your supplies. The perlite, portland cement, and peat moss are all readily available at a home improvement store. Make sure that you use real portland cement and not a quick-set material. Also, you want to use peat moss that is finely ground and not in large pieces.

In order to make your mold you will need to nest two containers together. Both should have sides that are straight or taper out and make sure that there is a gap of at least 3/4-inch between them.


DIY Planter - Mixing Hypertufa

Mix together equal parts perlite, peat moss and portland cement in a large container. The amount you use of each does not matter as long as they are equal parts. I used 2 quarts of each. A wheelbarrow would be great to use for mixing, but I don’t have one so I used an old rubbermaid container.

Make sure you wear gloves! Slowly begin to add water and mix until mixture is the consistency of cottage cheese.


DIY hypertufa planter - making

Coat containers with mold release spray. Pour mixture into the outer mold until it is an inch thick. Add the inner container and start adding mixture around all the sides. You can fill the inner mold with sand or water to steady it. Pack mixture in tightly.


Cover the containers with plastic. After 24 hours remove the inner mold. Replace plastic. After 36 hours remove outer mold.


DIY Planters - hypertufa cured

After removing molds, you can drill holes using a masonry bit in the bottom of the container for drainage. Also, use a planer file or sand paper to smooth out any rough edges. Recover containers with plastic and let sit for several weeks in order to finish curing.

DIY hypertufa planter - finished

Thanks for sharing, Alissa! For even more DIY tutorials, be sure to check out 33 Shades of Green.

5 Things to Do with… Drop Cloths

Drop cloths deserve more than to be spilled and walked upon. Contrary to their self-effacing reputation, these affordable, neutral, and sturdy canvas sheets lend themselves to a number of eye-catching DIYs.

With any number of do-it-yourself projects, be it wall painting or window replacement, a prudent first step is to spread drop cloths over the flooring and furniture. What you may not have considered: These sturdy sheets of canvas can do so much more than protect against damage. With creativity and some elbow grease, you can take drop cloths out of their supporting role and recast them as a star of your decor. Scroll down for five favorite ways to repurpose drop cloths!



Uses for Drop Cloths - Place Mat


Though you may never have heard of shibori, a Japanese dyeing technique, you’re going to love its results. For anyone wanting to experiment with the process, drop cloths are ideal, since the canvas material doesn’t cost much. Visit Lovely Indeed for a step-by-step guide to making the indigo-inflected placemats above.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Area Rug


At the midpoint of a home renovation, paint-covered drop cloths are a common sight. This time, however, the look was deliberate. To create a small area rug, Hannah at We Lived Happily Ever After folded a drop cloth in half and stitched up the edges before decorating the floorcovering with a chevron pattern.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Curtains


From DIY Show Off, here’s a wonderful way to make your own inexpensive yet sophisticated window treatments. All you need to complete the project are a few drop cloths and a Sharpie. Simply adorn cut-to-size fabric with quotes from a favorite work of literature, then use clips to hang the sheets from your curtain rod.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Headboard


Using your staple gun and a rubber mallet, add together a basic set of materials, including fiberboard and drop cloth, and then finish things off with sold-by-the-yard nailhead trim. Yup, that’s how astoundingly easy it can be to build your own elegant headboard. For step-by-step instructions, head over to Nashville Pug.



Uses for Drop Cloths - Hammock


The epitome of summer relaxation, hammocks are a must for any outdoor space. While elaborate store-bought options can be a tad expensive, making your own minimalist version with clothesline, dowels, and drop cloth won’t cost you any more than $20. Interested? Check out My Magic Mom for more information now!

Weekend Projects: 5 Quick DIY Fire Starters

Create a cozy blaze in your fireplace, quickly, with a DIY fire starter made with nothing more than items you already have in the house.

If you love your fireplace and spending time in front of a cheery, crackling flame, you’re no doubt familiar with products like fatwood. These treated wood pieces facilitate burning, helping to get the show on the road more quickly. Fatwood isn’t cheap, though, and you may not always have the stuff readily at hand. So the next time you’re in a pinch, or if you want to cut costs, you can make a DIY fire starter using only common household items. Here are five ways to go about it.



DIY Fire Starter - Lint and Cardboard


The easiest DIY fire starter involves two things that are ubiquitous in homes across America: dryer lint and a cardboard toilet paper (or paper towel) roll. Every time you clear the lint trap in your dryer, set the fuzzy fibers aside until you have enough to stuff a cardboard roll end to end. For best results, use two or three lint-stuffed rolls to start your next fire. Note: For the lint to burn correctly, it must not be packed too tightly. Be sure to leave enough room for air to circulate through.



DIY Fire Starter - Pine Cones


Here’s a way to use some of those pine cones that have been littering your yard. After gathering a basket full of cones, tie a six- or eight-inch length of yarn to each one. Use the yarn to dip each cone individually into a quantity of melted wax (which you can create with the simple method described further on). Dip enough times for the cones to develop multiple waxen layers. Finally, move the cones to a sheet of newspaper and allow sufficient time for the wax to cool and harden.



DIY Fire Starter - Cotton Balls


Handy for a slew of household needs, cotton balls are a staple in many medicine cabinets and linen closets. Cotton balls are also highly flammable, especially when soaked in petroleum jelly. To make this DIY fire starter, simply roll a bunch of cotton balls in Vaseline until they are saturated. Once done, store the balls in a zip-lock plastic bag until you need them. Three or four should do the trick. If you don’t have any cotton balls, you can even try using Vaseline-covered cotton swabs.



DIY Fire Starter - Egg Carton


This method enables you to create, all at once, a series of compact DIY fire starters that are easy to store at home or take with you on a camping trip. Start with an empty egg carton. Next, collect enough candle nubs and broken crayons to fill a tin can. Place the can in a pot of water on the stove, providing enough heat for the wax to simmer and melt. Meanwhile, fill each compartment in the egg carton with a combustible material, be it dryer lint, sawdust, or shredded paper. Then finish by carefully pouring melted wax over each compartment. When the wax cools and dries, break apart the compartments, and you’ll have a dozen fire starters.



DIY Fire Starter - Duct Tape


Believe it or not, duct tape is flammable and particularly potent when crumpled into a loose ball. To really get things going, wrap duct tape around a crumple sheet of newspaper. With a generous dollop of hand sanitizer (with alcohol), these makeshift DIY fire starters are an easy, cheap, and effective means of starting a blaze.

How To: Clean a Hot Tub

Nothing says relaxation quite like a bubbly soak in a hot tub. While the prospect of cleaning a hot tub may seem stressful, you can get the job done well, with minimum hassle, by following these simple steps.

How to Clean a Hot Tub


Owning your own hot tub is an affordable luxury. But while the bubbles may be relaxing, maintaining the unit takes work. For yours to operate correctly, last a long time, and remain sanitary for the duration, it’s critical that you clean the hot tub as needed. Follow the steps outlined below in order to do a thorough job.

- Line flush product
- Hot tub cleaner
- Towels

To clean a hot tub with any modicum of success, it needs to be empty. However, there’s one step which requires there to be water in the tub. Since over time the unit’s plumbing conduits can accumulate buildup, it’s necessary to administer a product that flushes the lines. Not so creatively known as line flushes, these products are readily available for purchase online or at your local pool supply store. Different products work somewhat differently, but generally speaking, line flushes are added, in a specified amount, to a hot tub in operation. Then, after the recommended period of time has elapsed, drain the hot tub according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be prepared for a surprising amount of gunk to come out! In the future, add line flush consistently to minimize accumulation.

How to Clean a Hot Tub - Bubbly Water


With the hot tub empty, proceed to spray down its interior surfaces with a hot tub cleaning product (these, too, are sold online and at pool supply stores). Note that many household cleaners, including Windex and Soft Scrub, often may be used as an alternative. But to be on the safe side, double-check with your hot tub manufacturer that it’s OK to use an all-purpose cleaner. After spraying, wipe down the tub with a towel, thereby eliminating the cleaner residue that, left in place, would later cause the water to foam. Clean the hot tub cover the same way, wiping it down with a towel once finished.

Next, remove the hot tub filters. Being designed to remove grime and grit from the water, these filters quickly accrue debris. If yours are relatively new, simply spray them down with a garden hose, go over them with hot tub cleaner, and rinse. If you haven’t changed the filters in a year, replace them.

It’s time to refill the hot tub. Your manufacturer’s instructions may say otherwise, but with most models, it’s a matter of placing a garden hose into the filter well. Once filled, turn on the hot tub and add the chemicals (e.g., shock) that comprise your regular water treatment program. Finally, cover your clean hot tub and allow time for the water to balance over the course of the next 12 hours or so.

Having allowed a sufficient amount of time to elapse, return to the hot tub and test its chlorine level. Ideally, there would be between 1ppm and 3ppm of free chlorine (or bromine, depending on your choice). Meanwhile, the pH should be in the range of 7.2 to 7.8. Add chemicals as needed to adjust.

How To: Get Rid of Spiders

We love the benefits of spiders in our gardens—less so in the rest of our home. Clean up a spider infestation and keep them out in the future with these six steps.

How to Get Rid of Spiders


You can try to focus on the fact that spiders are theoretically beneficial to the home and garden, being that they snack on the other insects that might otherwise go unchecked. But for many, the truth about spiders doesn’t make it any easier to sleep at night, when you know there are spiders under the same roof as your bed. Fortunately, there are many ways to get rid of spiders, with methods ranging from the all-natural to the chemical-laden. Though spiders are persevering pests that do not go down without a fight, it’s well worth trying the technique outlined below. With luck, you can get rid of the spiders and save the cost of an exterminator.

If you’ve spotted any spiders already, their egg sacs are likely lurking in the darkest crevices of your home. First things first, vacuum the entire house, from under the living room sofa to the corners of closets. As you go, eliminate any spider webs—or actual spiders—you come across, before promptly disposing of the vacuum bag.

How to Get Rid of Spiders - Isolated View


Your next goal is to discourage spiders from entering your home in the first place. You already know that light attracts bugs, and it’s no different with spiders. So it can only help matters to switch off some of your outdoor lights, or to swap out the regular bulbs for yellow sodium vapor lights. While you’re at it, remove non-essentials from the immediate perimeter of your home. As spiders are attracted to warmth and shelter, things like leaf piles and firewood stacks are best kept at a remove.

Head back inside and then go about placing dozens of sticky traps throughout your residence. While these squares alone are not likely to eradicate the problem—partly because they do not contain any pesticides—they are laced with a spider-luring aroma. That means, based on which traps end up with the most activity, you can identify which rooms are most vulnerable and proceed accordingly.

The next step is to address the problem area with the pesticide of your choice. Nontoxic options are preferable, particularly in homes with pets and children, and many such products are available at your nearest home center. No matter which product you select, expect to apply the solution more than once, as these pesticides work only upon direct contact. Follow the printed instructions closely.

Having administered a pesticide, follow up with a spider repellent. It’s easy to make your own, since many essential oils—including rosemary, lavender, citrus and peppermint—are thought to be effective. In a spray bottle, mix five to seven drops of the oil with two cups of water, plus a drop of dish soap. The spritz any area where a spider might potentially enter your home—window frames, for instance, or the gaps around exterior doors. It may take a bit of experimenting to find out what works best.

The final step is to seal all openings in your home, whether it’s a crack in the foundation or a drafty window. And because spiders can sneak through small holes, it’s by no means overkill to place mesh screens within vents. So long as there’s a way for spiders to gain entry to the home, you can never truly consider the problem solved. The silver lining here is that, besides warding off spiders, there are many good reasons to seal your home, so it’s well worth the trouble and expense.

Quick Tip: Make Your Candles Last Longer

The amber glow of those flickering flames doesn't come cheap. To get the most bang from the big bucks you're spending on candles, give these quick tips a try.


Burning at Both Ends

There are so many reasons to burn candles at home, from their flame-flickering aesthetic appeal to their room-freshening aroma. Unless you have small children or mischievous pets, we can think of only one reason not to love pillar and taper candles, tea lights and votives—lovely though they may be, they sure ain't cheap! Believe it or not, you can spend less on new candles by using a handful of simple, time-tested tricks to lengthen the lives of the ones you've already bought and paid for.

To coax a candle into burning more slowly so that you can enjoy it for a longer period of time, try out one of the following two methods—or, for the best possible results, do both in tandem.

First things first, put the candle in the freezer. Yes, the freezer. By doing so, you are hardening the wax, which makes it melt more slowly and therefore last longer. The thinner the candle, the less time it needs to spend in the freezer. While a thick pillar candle might take six or eight hours to freeze, a thin taper might be ready within an hour or less. But as there’s no danger of a candle spending too long in the freezer, you might as well store all of your candles in the freezer, assuming there’s room. If there’s no space in there, simply slip your next-up-to-burn candle into the freezer on the morning or night before you’re planning to light it.

Trick number two can be done in addition to, or separate from, the first. After letting the candle burn long enough for a pool of wax to collect around the wick, go ahead and blow out the flame. Then, acting fast, proceed to sprinkle table salt into the liquid wax. If necessary, use a toothpick to ensure that the salt actually mixes into the wax and doesn’t merely sit on the surface. Adding salt serves the same purpose as putting the candle in the freezer—it slows down the rate at which the wax melts, giving you a longer, more economical burn. When you use salt in addition to the freezing method, you’re doing all that can be done to squeeze extra time out of a candle. But it can also be helpful to keep the candle wick trimmed to about a quarter inch in length, because longer wicks tend to hasten burning.

Beyond burn time, there’s another factor to consider. Have you ever had a candle that became more and more lopsided as the wick flamed its way down, leaving you at the end with nubby, waxen walls encircling a burned-out crater? The leftover wax signals that you didn’t get all you could have gotten from the candle. To get the most bang for your buck, you need to ensure that the candle burns both evenly and completely. What matters most here is how long you let the candle burn the first time you light it. It’s critical not to extinguish it until the pool of wax has extended across the diameter of the candle. Blow it out too soon, and you are in effect dooming the candle to leave excess wax; if it doesn’t melt on the first lighting, the dry, hard wax around the outside edge will almost never burn. Finally, remember not to leave the candle near a door or window or in any similarly drafty spot; not only is such a location unsafe, but it can also result in uneven burning.

Weekend Projects: 5 Kid-Friendly DIY Forts

What better way to spend a chilly month than indoors wrapped in the blankets of your DIY fort? And once you've gathered your blankets, clothespins, cushions, or other supplies, the only limit is your imagination—or maybe the ceiling!

Remember your mom’s heavy sigh when you and your brother carried off the couch cushions, plundered all the blankets, and ransacked the laundry room for clothespins? That sigh heralds the building of a blanket fort—and for many kids, it’s a first introduction to the challenge of design. Whether you assemble it yourself, leave the construction up to the kids, or do it all together as a family, don’t be surprised if you want to settle into the DIY fort in your living room!



DIY Forts - A Frame


Some of the best forts are spontaneously built, but if you’re going for a particular look, it helps to have a plan. Rubyellen (an adult) constructed this easy DIY fort frame using little beyond whitewood molding, dowels, and an drill chucked with a spade bit. Best of all, it’s collapsible. Visit Cakies for the plans and full tutorial.



DIY Fort - Tablecloth


After spotting this tent from CoolSpacesForKids, Centsational Girl set out to make her own for less. The process? Simple. Buy enough fabric to cover the tabletop and legs. Then, for the windows, use shortened curtain panels, tea towels, or fabric scraps. Feeling extra ambitious? Sew or glue on ribbon ties as curtain pulls.



DIY Fort - TV Nest

Photo: Anna,

Pulled up to a TV and stocked with puzzles, you could spend days in Anna’s DIY fort, losing hours like house keys. By night, fuzzy blankets are your mattress, and the string lights are just bright enough to read by. To make yours, use your sofa and coffee table as a foundation, then layer on blankets and pin up some bulbs.



DIY Fort - Magic


Fort Magic, best known for its appearance on NBC’s Shark Tank, sells a 382-piece kit enabling you to make more than 20 different forts out of PVC pipe-like parts. The company claims the kits boost creativity and confidence, while teaching kids “the value of planning [and] believing in their ability to complete a project.”



DIY Fort - Cushions


Your fort might not have four stories, but Pacific Coast’s basic principles still apply. First, pick your spot—an area with enough furniture to support your structure. Next, arrange cushions and furniture in a circle, building up where you can. Finally, add comforters to form a roof that blocks out light and makes the space cozy!