Category: Lawn & Garden


So You Want to… Hang a Porch Swing

Before you can relax on the ultimate piece of folksy outdoor furniture, you’d better read up on the basics.

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How to Hang a Porch Swing

Photo: istockphoto.com

A porch swing symbolizes one thing: leisure. That’s why it became such a popular fixture in the mid-19th century and why it retains its appeal today. There are various ways to enjoy its simple charm—whether curling up with a good book or exercising your legs while chatting with loved ones—but first you’ve got to pick the perfect place, confirm its structural integrity, and familiarize yourself with installation. Ahead, your porch swing primer!

How to Hang a Porch Swing - Classic Porch Furniture

Photo: istockphoto.com

Choose a size and a spot. A porch swing can be a single-occupant hanging chair, or it can be wide enough to hold several people. A 4-foot swing comfortably sits two adults, but swings also come in 6- and 8-foot lengths. Decide how many people might typically pile on at the same time, allowing 2 feet per person.

As to placement, find a spot below a sturdy beam or joist that allows an arc—the distance the swing travels back and forth—of no less than 4 feet. An ideal place would have 3 to 4 feet of empty space fore and aft of the swing and at least 14 inches of clearance on each side. The swing should hang at least 17 inches from the floor so the average occupant’s feet can touch the floor.

Also consider the view. If you wish to admire your front yard and easily wave to neighbors, position the swing to face forward; if you prefer a more private space for reading, contemplation and intimate conversation, consider aligning the swing sideways.

Consider structure and safety. The beam or joist that supports the swing’s hardware—and the fasteners themselves—must be sturdy enough to bear at least 500 pounds. Never install swing supports in something as flimsy as plywood or bead board. A single 2×6 load-bearing joist or beam can support a two-person swing, but a 2×8 is even stronger.

A porch swing hanger kit comes with the proper hardware; if gathering the hardware yourself, however, make sure it’s made of galvanized or stainless steel to withstand the elements. If you use a rope instead of a chain, it should be marine-grade braided nylon or polyester.

Get familiar with installation. Porch swings hang from either two-chain and four-chain suspension systems. The former design has one chain on each side that branches into two separate chains that attach to the front and back of the armrest. Others use four separate chains; the fasteners on each side support two separate chains—one that connects to the front of the swing and one that connects to the back or bottom.

You also have a choice of fasteners. Porch swing hangers made specifically for this purpose include a base, hook, and comfort spring. Or you can use eye bolts or S-hooks that have 4- to 6-inch shafts. Install the fasteners 2 to 4 inches wider than the swing’s length at each end to prevent the chains from rubbing against the swing and to better distribute weight. When installing the fasteners, drill a pilot hole that’s slightly smaller than the hardware so you have a snug, secure fit.

No porch? No problem! You can also be a swinger if your porch’s beams or joists are inadequate. Simply hang a porch swing from a stand-alone frame or turn to that trusty oak or other hardwood tree with a thick, strong, healthy limb. Loop each chain around the limb and secure it with a large, weather-resistant bolt. To protect the branch from wear, wrap a rubber hose around the chain where it loops around the branch.

Inspect your swing at least once a year. Check the seat for splinters or loose parts and repair. Also replace any fasteners that seem rusty or worn. But right now, kick back and relax!


How To: Custom-Build The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

Earn your stripes as a DIY and grill master when you build this outdoor kitchen equipped with a concrete countertop, built-in cutting board, and extra storage—all you could possibly need for your next backyard BBQ.

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DIY Outdoor Kitchen - How to Build a Grill Cart

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Whether you’re accustomed to hosting the big barbecue or simply enjoy the occasional family dinner from the grill, you’re likely familiar with the inadequate storage and prep space around a  standard outdoor cook station. Rather than spending thousand of dollars on the latest all-inclusive grill station, build yourself a custom unit that’s comparable to your indoor kitchen. This DIY design incorporates any portable grill into an outdoor kitchen station that also features concrete countertop, built-in cutting board, and lower shelf—all mounted on wheels to move about easily.

 

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Portable grill
- 6mm plywood
- 2×2­ lumber (64 feet)
- Handsaw
- Wood glue
- 2-1⁄2-inch nails (18)
- Hammer
- Pencil
- Cutting board
- Rebar (143 inches)
- Wire
- Concrete (33 pounds)
- Plastic bucket
- Trowel
- 1×6­ lumber (16 feet)
- Garden cart wheels (2)
- Wrench
- Drill
- 2-1⁄2-inch screws (44)
- 2-inch metal brackets (8)
- 3⁄4-inch screws (16)
- Wood stain
- Varnish
- Brush
- All-purpose glue
- Palm sander

STEP 1

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Start this project by making the concrete counter so that, in the few days it takes to cure, you can turn your attention to the wooden base.

Our grill was 13 by 20 inches, so we planned the total countertop to be 20 by 44 inches. But the best part of any DIY project is that you can adapt the design to meet your own needs! Keep in mind: You need at least 3 inches of concrete all around the grill. If yours is no larger than 14 inches by 24 inches, you can follow along with this tutorial and simply adjust the inset to accommodate the grill. Otherwise, here’s the basic formula we used to determine dimensions for the countertop and, therefore, the outdoor kitchen cart:

Your grill’s length + 3 inches to the left + a 18-inch wide prep surface = Your cart’s width
Your grill’s width + 3-inch lip around front + 3-inch lip around the back = Your cart’s depth

For the rest of the tutorial, we’ll stick to actual dimensions used.

Since most of the countertop will be concrete, you’ll need to build a mold with interior dimensions that match what your plan. Cut your 2×2 lumber so that you two 44-inch pieces (the same length as the cart) and two 23-inch pieces (3 inches longer than your cart’s width). Arrange them on 6mm plywood—FYI, this will be the top of your concrete counter when you undo the mold—so that the two longer pieces are parallel and a shorter piece connects them at each end to make a box. These will be the walls to your mold.

Apply wood glue wherever your 2×2 pieces meet one another, and reinforce the corners by hammering one 2-1⁄2-inch nail through each end of the 23-inch cuts. Then glue the open rectangle to the center of your plywood and secure with nails, one at the end of each 2×2 piece.

 

STEP 2

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, build a rectangular frame from 2×2 the size of your grill to hold its place in the left side of the concrete mold. Since ours is 13 inches by 20 inches, we cut two 13-inch-long pieces and two 17-inch-long pieces (which, when added to the two 1-1⁄2-inch-thick 2×2 sides, make up the 20-inch sides).

Measure in 3-1⁄2 inches from the left wall and draw a line all the way down using pencil, then do the same for each long side. Glue one 13-inch length inside the first penciled line you drew. Next, position the two 17-inch pieces parallel inside their pencil lines so that each have one end touching the 2×2 already in place; glue these to the 2×2 and the plywood. Finally, glue the second 13-inch length to the open ends of the frame and plywood.

We’re also integrating a wooden cutting board on the open side. Since the plywood will be removed to reveal the top of your counter, you cannot affix the cutting board to it with nails. Instead, place your cutting board in place first where you’d like it to set. We also fastened extra scrap wood behind it using nails to steady the addition as the concrete cured.

 

STEP 3

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next, prep a rebar frame along the perimeter of your countertop’s features to help strengthen the concrete; otherwise, you risk breaking the concrete when taking the counter out of the mold. Cut and lay two 43-inch pieces on the edge lengthwise, and cut three more 19-inch pieces to lay perpendicularly as seen above.

Two important things to know: First, the rebar needs to be totally connected wherever it intersects with another piece, so wrap wire at each intersection. Second, the rebars should not laid directly on the bottom. To prevent it from sinking to the bottom of your mold (and potentially peeking through the top of your counter), form W shapes with the wire behind the rebar at each intersection to help raise the structure from the plywood panel, then lay it into place halfway through your concrete pour.

 

STEP 4

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once you’re sure all of the wood glue has dried, you can start to prep the concrete. Fill a plastic bucket with dry concrete and mix with water using a trowel or a large kitchen spoon, carefully following the package’s instructions. Rather than make the entire package at once, work with several small batches at the time. The more concrete, the harder it is to mix—and the heavier it is to pour.

Pour each batch evenly across the entire mold, as if in layers. When you’ve filled the mold halfway, lay your rebar frame. Then cover and continue until your mold is completely filled.

 

STEP 5

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Tap lightly along the edges of the mold with a hammer. This releases trapped air bubbles and ensures that the concrete is homogeneous. Let cure for a few days, or as long as the packaging’s instructions require. When ready, you’ll un-box a 1-1⁄2-inch-thick concrete counter.

 

STEP 6

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Next up: The wooden base for your DIY outdoor kitchen. Cut four 30-inch lengths from the remaining 2×2 lumber to make its legs, and drill holes and screw garden cart wheels to the bottom of two. Washers and any other hardware included with your wheel will twist onto the opposite side of the leg to keep each from falling off.

Now, the four legs need to be exactly the same length in order to keep your grill cart level at all times. Since the wheels add a couple of inches to the two legs depending on the size you picked up, you’ll want to cut a some from the non-wheeled ends to compensate. Line bottoms of your four legs (wood and wheels) to determine how much needs sawed off, pencil your marks, and cut.

 

STEP 7

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Space the two legs (one simple leg and one with a wheel) 41 inches apart and glue their tops so that you can adhere a 44-inch 2×2 across them. Reinforce with two 2-1⁄2-inch screws through the top at each end.

Next, measure 20 inches down and connect the legs with a 41-inch 2×2. Again, glue and screw into place (two screws at each end).

 

STEP 8

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Repeat Step 7 to build the second side of your cart’s frame. In order for both wheels to be on the outside of the cart, build this second side as a mirror image of the first (see above).

 

STEP 9

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Flip the two sides so that the wheels are in the air and on the outsides of the legs. Connect their top corners (the ones now resting on the ground) with 17-inch cuts of 2×2. Glue each into place, then use 3⁄4-inch screws to reinforce each corner with a 2-inch metal bracket—you want to make certain that the structure is strong enough to support its concrete countertop.

 

STEP 10

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Glue two more 17-inch cuts of 2×2, this time 20-3⁄4 inches below the top ones. This time, drill two 2-1⁄2-inch screws through each leg into the new additions.

 

STEP 11

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Stand the cart upright so that you can attach a bottom shelf made from the 1×6 lumber.

Cut the lumber into 40-inch pieces and fit them to lay over the 17-inch 2×2 support at either end of the grill cart. We purposefully installed the side 2×2 supports so that they were 3⁄4 inches below the 2×2s along the front and the back, so that when you lay the 1×6, it will be even with those 40-inch supports already in place. If there’s a little gap, evenly these three new slats to make it less obvious. Attach first with glue, and then screw down through the top, two into each end of every slat.

 

STEP 12

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Brush on one to two coats of stain, depending on the color you want to achieve. Be sure to allow the structure to dry completely after each coat. Once the stain dries, apply at least two coats of acrylic varnish.

 

STEP 13

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 13

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Now, you’re ready to assemble the two parts of this build.

First, check that the concrete top is dry. To undo the wooden mold and reveal your concrete creation, remove the nails one by one and pull.

Next, cover the top of the cart with all-purpose glue and place the concrete counter on top. Ask for some help before you lift: Its weight requires at least two people to carry the counter and flip it right side up onto the wooden base. Wait for the glue to dry before you continue.

 

STEP 14

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 14

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand the edges and the wooden cutting board, if needed. Then use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe away all of the dust from sanding.

 

STEP 15

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Step 15

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The hole in the concrete should be exactly the dimensions of your grill, meaning that if you place your portable grill in right now it would drop through to the lower shelf. To prevent any damage to your grill, screw four 2-inch brackets (one in each corner) into the concrete as well as the wood frame immediately beneath; their open bottoms will hold the grill in place.

Pro tip: When you switch from drilling holes in the wood to boring concrete, change to a masonry bit and then work slowly.

Fit the grill into place in the top of your DIY outdoor kitchen, and get ready to turn up the heat! A job well done deserves a burger made to the same specifications.

DIY Outdoor Kitchen - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.


Cool Tools: The Triple-Threat Tool That Helps the Garden Thrive

The newest multitalented water wand from HYDE delivers a trifecta of weeding, feeding, and watering capabilities that will help your lawn and garden survive the summer.

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Hyde PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand - Watering and Fertilizing Around House

Photo: hydetools.com

Summer teases us with warm breezes and long days just perfect for relaxation and repose. But for many homeowners, too many so-called “lazy” summer days are spent performing the backbreaking work necessary to maintain or beautify the yard. When you’re not straining to spread weed killer on the grass or direct water into awkwardly positioned planters, you’re hunched over scrubbing the patio furniture or cleaning the sidewalk. If you’re ready to take a vacation from all this strenuous summer activity, look no further than the HYDE PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand Kit for your salvation. Whether you’re tasked with weeding, feeding, or watering the garden, or just tidying up around your property, this must-have multi-tool—complete with a pivoted three-setting spray nozzle and a weed-feed additive dispenser—can eliminate the stress and fatigue of getting your lawn and garden in tip-top condition.

Effortlessly and Efficiently Weed Out Unwanted Greens
Unsightly weeds can be hard to reach and even harder to tame when they grow in hilly terrain or in awkward nooks and crannies of the lawn. Add to this the difficulty of pushing a weighty walk-behind spreader up and down those same slopes, and it’s easy to see how applying weed killer could seriously strain your arms, legs, or back. If, however, you swap out the standard spreader for the lightweight HYDE PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand, which attaches to an unrolled hose, you can weed the lawn at your own pace and in a comfortable, upright position.

To make the most of this smaller and smarter garden helper’s weeding capabilities, start by connecting the PivotPro to your garden hose. Then, simply pour the liquid weed-control concentrate of your choice into the tool’s 16-ounce weed-and-feed additive dispenser. Set the liquid ratio dial to the concentrate-to-water ratio recommended by the product’s manufacturer, and toggle the mix control switch to the “on” position. Water from the garden hose will dilute the concentrate as you work your way down an overgrown sidewalk or along the edge of the garden, gently sliding the handle to adjust the spray angle. Thanks to the wand’s 135-degree pivoting nozzle, you’ll have easy access to tight corners and narrow corridors, and even around irregularly shaped bushes.

Hyde PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand - Watering Hanging Baskets

Photo: hydetools.com

Nourish Your Turf
When you’re finished weeding, there’s no need to switch out tools before you tackle your next seasonal to-do. Because you can remove, wash, and refill the detachable dispenser with any additive, you can put the PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand—the same one that you just used for spreading weed killer—to work fertilizing your lawn. The tool’s versatility means that you can save time, money, and storage space.

After you’ve thoroughly cleaned out the weed-killing concentrate from the dispenser, refill it with fertilizer concentrate. Here again, you have full control (and flexibility) when it comes to the feed-to-water ratio your plants require. The wand’s automatic liquid ratio adjustment mechanism ensures optimal fertilizer spread with no measuring, calculations, or manual premixing required on your part, so you can transform your nutrient-starved grass into a luxurious lawn in a fraction of the time it used to take.

Water More Than Just Grass
While the PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand delivers a quick one-two punch of weed killer and fertilizer to a lackluster lawn, it can just as easily be used to rinse or clean countless items throughout your yard. Toggle the mix control switch on the wand to the “off” position, so its nozzle will spray only plain water. The jet, fan, and shower modes of the three-setting spray nozzle—as well as the wand’s 46-inch reach—offer remarkable flexibility: You can direct a gentle mist over the rim of a hanging planter, then maneuver down to ground level to hose off dingy tools, shoes, or garden furniture with a powerful jet of water. Better yet, fill the dispenser with soapy water to turn the PivotPro into an all-purpose cleaning tool for all seasons! Wherever you put it to use, the PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand can help you attain greener pastures on your own home turf.

Purchase HYDE PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand, $39.99.

Watch the video below to see the HYDE PivotPro Lawn and Garden Wand in action!

 

This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


The Dos and Don’ts of Swimming Pool Maintenance

For a safe and healthy summer in your own backyard oasis, take these steps before you take the plunge.

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Swimming Pool Maintenance

Photo: dreamstime.com

Nothing says summer like a refreshing swim in the backyard pool. But your swimming pool does need care—and doses of the proper chemicals—to ensure safe, delightful dips. It’s important to address all the additives that make their way into the water every time someone submerges, not to mention the problems of plant life that blows in. The key is to establish a regular maintenance routine that limits the time you spend prepping the pool so you can spend more time enjoying it. Last one in is a rotten egg!

Swimming Pool Maintenance - Backyard Pool

Photo: dreamstime.com

DON’T JUMP RIGHT IN.

When uncovering your swimming pool after a season of non-use, be prepared to spend some extra time up front, clearing away any debris that may have built up over the winter. First, get the bigger branches and leaves out with a pool net. Next, run the filter to get things circulating again before you begin to chemically treat the water. A typical 1 HP pool pump moves about 3,000 gallons of water per hour, so be sure to run it long enough for one full cycle to take place. (And if you’re not sure how many gallons of water your swimming pool holds, multiply its number of cubic feet by 7.5.)

 

DO BALANCE THE LEVELS.

Everyone likes to be laidback in the summer, but properly balancing your swimming pool’s levels is one piece of maintenance that’s essential to keeping swimmers’ skin and eyes from getting irritated. So it’s crucial to follow your pool kit’s instructions to the letter each time you treat your water. Striking a proper balance of pH, overall alkalinity, and calcium also keeps metals from corroding and plaster from degrading over time and prevents the formation of scale, which makes water cloudy, stains surfaces, and can even clog your filter if left unchecked.

 

DON’T NEGLECT CHLORINE.

While there are chlorine alternatives on the market, none are as effective or inexpensive as the real thing when it comes to killing bacteria to keep us safe. The chemical works by destroying enzymes, structures, and processes of potentially nasty microorganisms. But you do have options when it comes to how you chlorinate. Do a little research to decide if you’d prefer tabs or liquid, and whether you want an all-in- one option that includes algaecide or you’d rather handle the green gunk separately.

 

DO GIVE IT A SHOCK.

Most pool specialists recommend “shocking”—essentially, applying three to five times the normal amount of chlorine—at least twice a month, and many would prescribe weekly shocks for swimming pools that see a lot of use. Shock product comes in either granular or liquid form from your swimming pool supply store. For liquid, use 3.5 quarts for every 10,000 gallons of water; for granular, use one pound for every 10,000 gallons. The great thing is, some shock products work so quickly, they render a pool swimmable again in as few as 15 minutes. Pool pro tip: Even if you use bromine instead of chlorine on a day-to- day basis, you’ll still need to shock with chlorine. For best results, wait until the sun goes down so that UV rays won’t interfere with the process.

 

DON’T FORGET THE ALGAECIDE.

Microscopic plant life can make its way into your pool and quickly bloom to the point of making swimmers avoid the water entirely. The goal in using an algaecide is to kill all existing algae and prevent anything from returning. It’s particularly useful in windy and rainy climates, since these conditions foster algae growth by sweeping those pesky spores straight into your pool. Generally speaking, a weekly or biweekly algaecide treatment should keep those blooms at bay.

 

DO AVOID POOL PROBLEMS.

To keep a pool sparkling clean, steer clear of common missteps that would undo your copious maintenance efforts. Direct the garden hose away from the pool when banishing poolside dirt—otherwise, you’re just creating more work for yourself (and your filter). And since rainwater welcomes algae infestation, cover the pool when you’re in for a spate of storms.

 

DON’T REUSE EMPTY CONTAINERS.

Here’s a rule of thumb every pool owner should live by: Always add chemicals to water, and never add water to chemicals. It’s a dictate of chemistry 101 that keeps you from accidentally causing an explosion when attempting to rinse out your old pool chemical containers. Be sure to dispose of them properly instead of putting your safety at risk.

Swimming Pool Maintenance - Pool House

Photo: dreamstime.com

All in all, it does take a bit of work to keep a pool in shape, but it’s well worth it—whether you’re up for a game of Marco Polo or just want to lie on a float!


The Dos and Don’ts of Setting a Fence Post

A well-constructed fence can protect privacy, define your property, and enhance curb appeal. But before you decide to put one up yourself, learn how to set your fence posts properly to ensure that your posts—and your entire fence—will enjoy a long, sturdy life.

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Setting Fence Posts

Photo: dreamstime.com

It’s a bona fide do-it-yourself classic: Every summer without fail, legions of homeowners grab their toolbox and head outdoors to erect a wood fence. Putting up a fence is a substantial, satisfying project, and particularly if you’re relying on a kit, an eminently doable one. And if you’re fortunate enough to have level terrain to work with, there’s really just one tricky step—setting the posts. As they say, a fence is only as strong as its posts. If they fail, the rest of the fence will follow suit, so it’s crucial to devote special care to setting them properly. Anything less, and you run the risk of having to set the fence posts all over again in only a few years’ time. The good news? Setting a fence post doesn’t require uncommon skills or expensive tools, and doing it right doesn’t really take much longer than doing it the slapdash way. Whether your goal is privacy, a better-defined property line, or simply a beautiful addition to your yard, a fence can fit the bill. But to ensure pleasing, long-lasting results, you’ll need to keep a few select considerations in mind and avoid a handful of potential pitfalls. Read on for the full details.

DO Select the Right Type of Wood
Remember that different types of wood offer drastically different levels of long-term fence-post performance. Pressure-treated wood, which boasts both durability and affordability, ranks high among the top choices. Also commonly used—and considerably more expensive (although prices vary by region)—are beautiful, naturally resistant species like cedar, cypress, and redwood. All contain resins that forestall the harmful effects of pests and moisture. Other species, including spruce, oak, and pine, may be used with confidence only if treated beforehand with a brush-on preservative (look for copper naphthenate on the list of ingredients). Generally speaking, it’s wise to opt for darker, denser heartwood over younger, lighter-colored sapwood, because heartwood harbors better defenses, particularly against wood-boring insects. Finally, no matter what wood you select, be sure that you’re buying lumber labeled as suitable for in-ground applications.

 

Setting Fence Posts - Fence Post Detail

Photo: dreamstime.com

DON’T Make Postholes Too Small
Building codes and ordinances in your area may stipulate a legal depth and diameter for fence-post holes. If not, conventional rules of thumb offer a reliable guide. Typically, in part to ensure that posts lodge below the frost line, experts call for a hole deep enough to submerge the bottom third of the post below ground. For a six-foot-tall post, therefore, you would dig a hole two feet deep. The ideal diameter, meanwhile, should measure three times the width of the post. So, for a standard 4×4, the ideal hole would span twelve inches across. It’s important to note that fence-post holes must be flat-walled and barrel-shaped, maintaining a consistent diameter from top to bottom. If you use a regular shovel, you’ll end up with a cone-shaped hole. Instead, make quicker and easier work of the task by opting for a posthole digger (available for rent at your local home center). Otherwise, use a clamshell digger, which will be slower going but equally effective, particularly if you’re working with rocky soil.

 

DO Employ a Base Gravel Layer
If a fence post fails without any sign of a pest infestation, it’s likely that the failure was caused by moisture that rotted the wood over time. To help slow such deterioration, add pea gravel or crushed stone to the bottom of the posthole. Once you have added gravel to a depth of three inches or so, use a piece of scrap lumber to tamp down the layer. Next, pour an additional three inches of gravel into the hole, tamping down a second time. This simple measure goes a long way toward helping rainwater drain freely into the subsoil. It works so well, in fact, that in mild climates, builders sometimes elect to set fence posts with gravel alone. While that approach makes sense in certain situations, for a lasting installation, experts are more likely to specify a combination of gravel (for drainage) and concrete (for much-needed stability). One type of concrete works particularly well in such applications—rapid-setting concrete like category favorite CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix.

 

DON’T Ready the Wrong Amount
True to its name, rapid-setting concrete doesn’t delay. In fact, CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix sets in only 15 minutes. That being the case, it’s only practical to plan your approach. First, consider the size of the posthole in relation to the concrete yield. A standard 60-pound bag of CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix yields approximately 0.5 cubic feet, so depending on the volume of your hole, you may need to prepare multiple bags at once. Just be careful not to mix more concrete than you can put in place in 15 minutes, before it begins hardening. After you determine how much concrete to prepare, proceed to combine the mix with water, adhering to the precise ratio printed on the package. Continue mixing for two or three minutes until you’ve achieved a smooth, lump-free consistency. At this point, with the post set in place, you can begin filling the posthole with concrete. Pack the concrete to a level slightly above the surrounding soil. Here, to prevent pooling, trowel the concrete so that it slopes away from the post. Double-check that the post hasn’t fallen out of level, then let the concrete harden.

 

DO Apply Caulk to Each Fence Post
After only an hour, CTS Rapid Set Concrete Mix will have hardened completely. You might consider the job done, but to further safeguard the fence post against rot, there’s one more important detail to address. Begin by inspecting the area where the post juts out of the hole. Do you notice a seam? Left as is, this seam could invite water to become trapped in any slivers of space between the wood and the concrete. Over time this moisture could lead to rot—but this scenario isn’t inevitable. After all, there’s a simple means of sealing the opening—caulk. Be proactive: Once the concrete has hardened, go ahead and apply exterior acrylic latex caulk directly to the seam, all the way around the post. (Alternatively, you can use any silicone caulk that adheres to concrete.) Be forewarned that the accumulated effect of freeze-thaw cycles may cause the seam to widen, so you’ll probably need to recaulk every now and then.

 

DON’T Neglect to Do Due Diligence
Be responsible. Before getting underway with your project, consult with municipal officials to confirm that your planned fence doesn’t deviate from any specifications of relevant building codes or ordinances. Some localities enforce strict regulations. Also, as you would for any project that involves digging deep down in the dirt, dial 811 (or visit call811.com). Do this about a week before you plan to start the work, so the utility company will be able to come and mark the approximate location of any lines that run under your property before you begin digging. Make no mistake: Digging can be downright dangerous if you don’t know what lies a foot or two below the ground. As long as you give a wide berth to any buried lines, you should be perfectly safe. As for the posts themselves, a little regular scrutiny and maintenance will help ensure a long life for your fence. Inspect your posts at least once a year, ideally in spring or fall, and reapply paint or stain as necessary to protect the wood and keep your fence looking its best.

Setting Fence Posts - Rapid Set Concrete Mix

Photo: ctscement.com

This article has been brought to you by CTS Cement | Rapid Set. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


How To: Get Rid of Caterpillars

Try these easy DIY pest solutions to rid plants of pesky caterpillars and take back control of your garden greens.

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How to Get Rid of Caterpillars in the Garden

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A love of gardening often goes hand in hand with a hatred toward the pests that pervade the fruits of your labor, both figurative and literal. While backyard gardens attract some “pests” that are actually beneficial to the ecosystem, they also appeal to a number of creepy crawlers that are detrimental to the plants, including caterpillars. It’s these small critters’ big appetites that leave frustrated homeowners looking for their demise. Luckily, these tried and true, all-natural methods can help homeowners regain control of their lush landscape once more.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Bucket
- Liquid dish soap
- Rubber or gardening gloves
- Broom handle
- Bacillus thuringiensis
- Molasses
- Garlic
- Vegetable oil
- Birdhouse

How to Get Rid of Caterpillars

Photo: dreamstime.com

Hand-Pick Your Least Favorites
When it comes to caterpillar removal, the fastest way to address the problem is by hand—that is, by gloved hand. Fill a bucket about halfway with hot water and a couple of tablespoons of mild dish soap, pull on a pair of rubber or canvas gardening gloves, and head out to your garden to do a different kind of picking. This time, you’ll want to lift caterpillars from the leaves—checking all of the undersides, where caterpillars are known to hide—and drop them one by one into the bucket to drown. The protective hand gear will ensure that you aren’t stung by the spines on some varieties of caterpillar as you handle them, like the saddleback. While this method is the most proactive, it also may require repetition to remove the entire population.

Empty the Nest
A more aggressive way to attack the problem—literally—is to destroy the caterpillars’ nest. You’ll often find these silk-spun homes hanging from tree limbs. Simply punch your implement of choice (either a long sharpened stick or broom handle work well) into the nest itself, then spin and scrape along its interior to remove all of its inhabitants. Afterward, dispose of the nest and its contents in a bucket of warm, soapy water to drown still-living caterpillars.

For the best chance of success, attack the camp early in the morning or late at night to guarantee that the majority of the caterpillars will be in the nest. While immediately effective, this method may also require a few rounds should any remaining caterpillars rebuild their home.

Poison the Hungry Caterpillars’ Food
Homeowners who aren’t interested in hunting and handling these pests can opt to administer the hands-off—and hand-down most effective—extermination solution, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This naturally occurring soil bacteria kills caterpillars in a matter of days by destroying the lining of their stomachs. Simply dust its powder or mist its liquid form directly onto your garden plants and wait for the caterpillars to get hungry. Better yet, apply without any worry about negative side effects: Bt is completely safe for the plants, their pollinators, pets, and humans. The bacteria is only toxic to caterpillars, as well as some moths and worms who’d like to munch on your greens. Stock up at any local garden shop, and reapply after a week or two if your infestation still exists, as your first application would have broken down in direct sunlight and rainfall.

If you’re not ready to shell out for caterpillar control, you can mix up a home remedy to get the job done. For plants, a regular spray of a molasses solution (1 tablespoon molasses, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and a liter of warm water) or a garlic solution (three crushed cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and a liter of water) will deter insects from munching.


The Dos and Don’ts of Pressure-Washing

Pressure washers—impressively efficient for cleaning your home's exterior—can cause more harm than good if misused. To speed through your cleaning chores without damaging any surfaces, heed these best and worst practices for pressure-washing.

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Hyde Pivot Nozzle Wand for Pressure Washers - Cleaning a House Exterior

Photo: hydetools.com

It’s tough to get excited about outdoor cleaning projects when you’d rather be at the lake or on the golf course. Fortunately, the right time-saving tools can help you squeeze both your around-the-house tasks and recreational activities into a single weekend. Refreshing a dirty deck, cleaning mold from patio furniture, removing packed mud from tire wells—all these can be done more quickly and efficiently when you break out a pressure washer. This handy machine uses up to 80 percent less water than the average garden hose while packing more than 50 times the power!

But not all pressure washers are equal, nor is one suitable for every outdoor chore. And it’s important to use this tool properly to ensure satisfying, damage-free results. Whether you’re in the market for a powerful, game-changing cleaner or you already have one in your home-care arsenal, make note of these best and worst practices so you can be sure to get the most from this lean, mean cleaning machine.

 

DO Prep Before Starting

Without an adequate water supply, your pressure washer will fall short of your expectations for efficiency. First, test the water flow from your hose by timing how long it takes to fill a five-gallon bucket. If it takes two minutes or less, you’re good to go; longer than that indicates that there’s not enough water flow to operate the washer. Once you’ve determined that you have sufficient water flow to feed your pressure washer, clean out its inlet filter and check that the connections are secure wherever the tool attaches to a hose or accessory, such as the twist-on Pivot Nozzle Wand from Hyde Tools, which facilitates easy maneuvering during cleaning chores.

 

Hyde Pivot Nozzle Wand for Pressure Washers - Cleaning a Pergola

Photo: hydetools.com

DON’T Underestimate Its Power

A pressure washer’s biggest strengths—speed and power—make this tool as dangerous as it is efficient. Case in point: The water stream from even those models with psi’s on the lower side is forceful enough to cut through human skin! Save yourself and your property from harm by putting on safety goggles, gripping the wand tightly to avoid recoil when the pressure kicks in, and starting on the lowest pressure setting. Work in sweeping motions so that you’re never concentrating the tool’s power in one place for too long—and always aim the nozzle away from people, pets, and your prize peony bush.

 

DON’T Use One Nozzle Tip for Every Job

You can fit a pressure washer with a variety of nozzles that produce everything from wide-spray patterns to narrow streams so you can better harness the water for the job at hand. Rule of thumb: The more narrow the spray, the more force it delivers. A wide, 40-degree nozzle works well for general washing, such as loosening dirt on redwood or cedar decking, cleaning siding, and rinsing outdoor furniture. A 25-degree nozzle tip will tackle dirt and grime on concrete and other types of masonry. Zero- or 15-degree nozzle tips concentrate intense pressure on a small area, making them most useful for removing stubborn stains from iron.

 

DO Adjust Your Spray’s Angle for Best Force

When stubborn stains require maximum cleaning power, you want to keep the pressure washer’s nozzle perpendicular to the grimy surface. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it is—until you need to reach the underside of a patio table or the siding along the top of a house. Fortunately, the problem-solving Pivot Nozzle Wand from Hyde Tools eliminates the need to bend or overextend for these harder-to-reach areas. Each of its models—the 18-inch wand for electric pressure washers and the 28-inch one for the heavier-duty, gas-powered machines—features extra control via an adjustable nozzle. A simple twist of the handle rotates the spray within a 90-degree angle so you can direct the force of your pressure washer’s stream over, under, or around any dirty object. No more squatting, stretching, or straining to achieve the appropriate spray angle.

 

DO Ease Into the Job

A blast that is too direct can damage even those surfaces you’d expect to hold up well to a washing, so you always want to start with a light touch. Take, for instance, siding: Pressure washers excel at cleaning most types, but stand too close and you risk blasting off some of the paint or ruining softer wood like cedar. For best results in pressure-washing, position yourself 10 feet away from the surface you’re cleaning, turn on the water, then step forward until the spray is just forceful enough to remove dirt.

 

Hyde PivotPro Water Wand Washing a Car

Photo: hydetools.com

DON’T Use a Pressure Washer for Everything

Even with extreme care and lowest pressure, not all items are suitable for pressure-washing, particularly if they already show signs of wear and tear. For example, while most automobile paint jobs can withstand strong spray, a thin clear coat or scratched exterior should be cleaned using lower water pressure. To tackle this and other similar outdoor chores, disconnect the pressure washer from your garden hose and swap in a HYDE PivotPro™ Water Wand, which features a detergent reservoir and an adjustable nozzle to save you from unnecessary exertion and back-bending contortions. Plus, different PivotPro™ models come equipped with handy, interchangeable brushes attached to the front end. The Boat & Auto kit includes a soft-bristle brush, a spindle brush for cleaning wheel rims, and a microfiber-pad that will pamper your car’s exterior while you remove dirt and road grime.

 

DO Master the Correct Washing Technique

Caked-on gunk comes off more easily if you first soak the surface, with or without detergent, and let it sit for a few minutes. When using detergent, wet from the bottom up, using sweeping horizontal strokes to prevent streaks caused by runoff. To rinse, do the opposite, working from the top down so you don’t miss any cleanser.

 

This post has been brought to you by Hyde Tools. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Solved! What To Do About Mushrooms in the Lawn

Clear up a recurring cluster of mushrooms out in the yard with one of these three lawn care strategies.

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Mushrooms in the Lawn - How to Get Rid of Mushrooms

Photo: dreamstime.com

Q: After every rain shower, I find mushrooms popping up all over the lawn. What can I do to get rid of them and keep them from growing back?

A: You’re not alone in the fight against fungi: Lawn mushrooms are a fairly common landscaping problem, particularly in locations with high moisture and low light. Fortunately, those that pop up in your lawn from time to time tend to be harmless, and sometimes beneficial. They break down organic material in the lawn, deposit nutrients into the soil, and help your soil retain water with their pervasive root systems. But if you don’t like the looks of them—or if you have children or pets who you think may nibble—you can manage them. Most are fairly easy to eradicate; even a persistent recurring cluster can be eliminated, though it may require a more labor-intensive solution.

Mushrooms in the Lawn - Mushroom Growth

Photo: dreamstime.com

Remove each mushroom at its base. You can pull them individually by hand, cut each with a knife, or simply mow over the whole lot with the lawnmower. Be sure to remove them as soon as you see them sprout, though, otherwise they’ll have just enough time to release spores to plant and grow new mushrooms. For the same reason, you don’t want to dispose of them in your compost. Instead, throw them into a plastic bag and tie it tightly before discarding it in the trash. If you choose to mow mushrooms over, pick the pieces up and discard them into a bag immediately.

Reduce excessive moisture and shade in your lawn. Fungus occurs naturally beneath the grass more often than you see mushrooms; those toadstools don’t become visible among blades of grass until conditions are favorable—that is, damp and dark. To make your yard less attractive to these eyesores, first improve its drainage with the help of a lawn aerator. Available to buy or rent, this lawn and garden tool pulls narrow, cylindrical plugs of soil out of the grass every couple inches, allowing better air circulation and drainage. Adjusting your usual lawn care routine can also keep your grass drier; water less frequently (only 1 inch of water per week) and mow more regularly, as short grass dries out more quickly than long grass. Still see mushrooms cropping up in a shady corner of your property? Trim and/or thin nearby tree branches so that more light can reach the lawn, thus making the environment less agreeable for mushroom growth.

Clear out any organic material. Fungi feed on decomposing organic matter, from dead tree roots to grass clippings. Discourage it from sticking around after you’ve removed the spore-bearing mushrooms by reducing its food source. Start by catching grass clippings whenever you mow rather than leaving them on the lawn, and use a rake periodically to dethatch your lawn in the areas where you see mushrooms. If the fungi are feeding on organic material submerged in the soil—like dead tree roots, old mulch, or wood that was discarded during home construction—you’ll need to dig that out as well to stop the constant upcrop of mushrooms. Your best shot at a complete removal is to dig the soil out beyond the affected area, 12 to 18 inches deep and about 2 feet outside of the mushroom cluster. If you think it’s more work than it’s worth, not to worry: Once the fungi have devoured all of that submerged organic material, it—and the mushrooms—will disappear for good.

Mushrooms in the Lawn

Photo: dreamstime.com


Buyer’s Guide: Lawn Sprinklers

Think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? You might need to invest in a better sprinkler. Check out our suggestions to help you keep up with the Joneses.

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Best Lawn Sprinklers

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While your yard may take its fair share of work to maintain and manicure, it can actually be pretty easy to keep it from browning. The key to a lush green lawn is selecting and investing in a reliable lawn sprinkler. Hook nearly any of today’s models up to your garden hose or water main, in the case of underground systems, and the bulk of your work is done—the most effort required on your part might be moving the sprinkler across your lawn. Here, we’ve got the break-down of the wide variety of models on the market to determine which type of lawn sprinkler is best for you and your property. Once you have a better understanding of what you’re looking for, take a stroll through several high-ranking recommendations that will keep things greener on your side of the fence—not the other side.

Know your sprinkler types. Generally speaking, lawn sprinklers fall into six categories, ranging from immobile to actually roaming in order to cover the full property. Consider the size and style of your lawn, the climate you live in, and how much water you want to conserve as you decide which type of system best meets your specific needs. Here’s a cheat sheet:

• Fixed or stationary sprinklers vary in design and reach, but each connects to your hose and sprays water in the same pattern over the same area until moved. Typically only able to cover a radius of 5 to 15 feet at a time, this type is best for small yards and gardens.

• Oscillating sprinklers use a row of multiple openings to disperse water in a semicircular spray. The sprinkler head—as well as the resulting fan of water—then moves from side to side, so your irrigation covers a larger area than most stationary models.

• Rotating (or rotary) and impact sprinklers both spin 360 degrees as they release water. The former typically has two or more arms that spin, while the latter (sometimes known as an impulse or pulsating sprinkler) spews water from a single jet, clicking as it turns its full rotation. These impact sprinklers often boast the largest range of water distribution.

• Sprinkler hoses are, as they sound, essentially rubber hoses with small perforations lined along the top that emit a controlled spray. The length and flexibility of these models work perfectly to water long, narrow, and even irregularly curved patches of grass since they stretch out over your property like a vine.

• Travelers or traveling sprinklers roll through your yard (garden hose in tow) in a programmed pattern, kind of like a miniature lawnmower—except, of course, watering your grass rather than cutting it.

• In-ground sprinkler systems take the guesswork out of watering your yard by operating on a set schedule. While there’s more effort upfront to map out, dig up your property, and connect a new system to your water main, the strategically placed sprinkler heads can be programmed to emerge from the ground and water the lawn at preset times.

Timing is everything. With water restrictions in place all over the West Coast and conservation an all-around hot topic, at-home irrigation can require extensive planning—and a trusty alarm clock—to keep personal water usage in check without drying out your property. Luckily, plenty of popular lawn sprinklers come equipped with features to make sure your thirsty lawn gets just the right amount of refreshment. Perhaps the most hands-off approach to watering, automatic timers on in-ground sprinkler systems allow you to schedule exact watering plans (when, where, and how much water) in advance. For above-ground sprinklers, the most comparable features to look for include flow timers, which monitor and limit the amount of water you use to irrigate your lawn per minute, and the auto-shutoff on traveling sprinklers, which ensures that your mobile unit stops watering after completion of its pattern. By selecting a model with one or more of these features, you can more closely control your water usage—and some time you might otherwise spend worrying about when to turn these lawn sprinklers on and off.

 

HEDGE YOUR BETS

After thoroughly comparing lawn sprinkler reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly-rated models available today to help you find one that fits your home’s needs and wallet’s budget. Check out the best lawn sprinklers for greener grass this summer:

 

Best Lawn Sprinkler - Gardena ZoomMaxx Oscillating Sprinkler

Photo: amazon.com

Gardena ZoomMaxx Oscillating Sprinkler on Weighted Sled Base ($56)
Extensive research conducted by the team at The Sweethome led them to name this oscillating Gardena model as best lawn sprinkler for its highly desirable combination of durability and versatility. “No other model could water such a wide range of yard sizes and shapes with such a consistent amount of water at different distances and settings,” the web team determined; given its ability to maintain a consistent flow with no dry spots or flood risks at 1-, 5-, 10-, 15- and 25-foot ranges, the proof seems to be in the perimeters. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Lawn Sprinkler - Rain Bird Easy-to-Install In-Ground Automatic Sprinkler System

Photo: homedepot.com

Rain Bird Easy-to-Install In-Ground Automatic Sprinkler System ($129)
If you’re interested in an in-ground system that you can “set and forget,” you may want to check out the easy-installation model garnering the highest customer satisfaction ratings out of all its peers available at The Home Depot. The manufacturer’s first professional-grade system designed for homeowner installation includes six high-efficiency, 360-degree rotary sprinkler heads and attaches to an outdoor faucet rather than a water main valve for installation in five steps, or a single afternoon!  Available at The Home Depot.

 

Best Lawn Sprinkler - Nelson 1865 Raintrain Traveling Sprinkler

Photo: amazon.com

Nelson 1865 Raintrain Traveling Sprinkler ($50)
Send this classic yellow tractor on a mission to irrigate any and all parts of your lawn with its easy-to-guide path throughout your property using its hose as a track. The traveler moves at one of three speeds across your lawn, up and down hills, and covers up to 13,500 square feet with water thanks to its two adjustable sprinkler arms. With the ability to automatically shut off wherever you specify along its track, this traveling sprinkler proves to be the next best option to a full-fledged, in-ground system. Available at Amazon.

See? No matter what the song says, it is easy being green. Happy watering!


Genius! Raid Your Recycling Bin for Free Garden Tools

Don't shell out any cash for spades, shovels, or plant markers—you already have what you need to make your own! Rummage through your recycling bin to save on supplies with this clever 5-minute DIY.

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milk-jug-diy-garden-tools

Photo: afarmofyourhome.com

When A Farm of Your Home‘s blogger Melissa Barrett first moved to Australian city of Perth, her backyard was a tiny dirt plot with a few barren vegetable beds. But as she settled into her new home, a gardening obsession took root, followed by a greenhouse, a frog pond—even an apiary for visiting bees! Soon, the ever-expanding garden became a family project, and sometimes there weren’t enough tools to go around. Her two littlest helpers lost spades and shovels and bickered over what was left. Instead of wasting time hunting for her long-gone tools, she raided her recycling bin for a free (and briliant!) fix.

Armed with a Sharpie and a pair of scissors, Melissa traced and cut four spades and more out of emptied milk and juice jugs. Lightweight yet durable, the plastic containers boast an easy-carry handle and a wide, square base—two features that lend themselves to a variety of functions, given a little imagination. Melissa took advantage of the rounded corners and, depending on the jug’s shape, traced a scoop for a spade or shovel out of the side with the handle. Incorporating the hollow handle into the design provided a sturdy grip for her newest DIY digging implement. With the remains, she turned the uncut bottom into shallow seedling trays and the unused sides into a handful of inch-wide plant markers—easily doubling her supplies without spending a penny or driving to the store. For gardeners on a tight budget, getting resourceful with recyclables is an eco-friendly way to save some green.

Every homeowner knows that planting, weeding, and keeping the garden looking great means getting a little dirty. Even the best spades and shovels rust and break, so why not cut out a few spares?  It’s as Melissa says: “As long as we drink milk, we’ll have a supply of little scoops and shovels, tags, and trays.”

FOR MORE: A Farm of Your Home   

milk-jug-diy-garden-tools-2

Photo: afarmofyourhome.com

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.