Category: Lawn & Garden


Bob Vila Radio: Going Green in the Garden

What would we do without clean water? From brushing our teeth to boiling pasta, we use the life-giving liquid all day long. But it's outside—not in our homes—where we waste the most resources. Do your part to save water in the garden with these fast fixes.

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Playing nice with the planet includes conserving resources, and good old H2O is at the top of the list. Every gardener can cut down on water waste at home with a few simple changes.

save-water-garden

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First, instead of dousing your flowers and vegetables with gallons of water all at once, use a soaker hose. You’ll get less runoff and less evaporation. Bend a flexible length of gutter to guide water from a downspout into a rain barrel. Rain barrels come in a variety of sizes and are available at home improvement stores.

If your prefer your plants in hanging baskets, pick self-watering containers. When the soil dries out, the built-in water reservoir at the bottom replenishes moisture. Decorative ceramic pots, on the other hand, should be treated with a sealer to make them less porous. Finally, try adding water-absorbing crystals to the soil. They’ll keep your plants from drying out, even if you forget about them for a few days.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Genius! Build a Bee Hotel for a Healthier Garden

Flowers can be finicky—and sometimes, more watering and sunlight don't do the trick. For a healthier garden this season (and the next!), make this simple bee hotel to bring more pollinators into your yard.

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bee-hotel-1

Photo: blog.freepeople.com

Decades ago, famed physicist Albert Einstein predicted that once the bees were gone, people would disappear, too. He died before anyone could prove him wrong or right, but today we’re closer than ever to finding the truth. That’s partly because Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)—a condition where workers leave their hive and queen to fend for themselves—has slashed the American bee population by a third in the last five years. Researchers are still studying the cause, but the consequences are clear: Fewer pollinators for fruits, vegetables, and grains mean limited crop yield, driving up demand and food prices for everyone.

Fortunately, you can do your part to encourage these hard workers to hang around. Start by planting a few of their favorite snacks in your backyard—poppies, sunflowers, and sage are all tried-and-true favorites. Once you’ve created a buzz with your new plants, make bees a home away from home like Free People blogger Julia did to keep them coming back.

Her tubular design set in an A-frame made from scrap wood is inspired by real-life nests of solitary bees, often hollow stems or abandoned narrow holes bored into wood by beetles. In her DIY, however, she used bamboo shoots picked up at her local garden store (they’re also available in larger bundles at big-box home improvement stores like Home Depot) and a few toilet paper tubes in order to create the separate “rooms” for her bee hotel. An eye hook twisted into the top of the frame allows her to string the whole structure over a blossoming tree branch in her backyard. The brilliant repurposing—plus its placement near flowers that need pollinating—make this an irresistible rest stop for most wild bee species.

There are lots of things you can buy to revive your lawn and garden after a long summer, but we’re a fan of keeping things simple. And if your plants are ailing, bringing in nature’s most prolific pollinators will make a world of difference.

FOR MORE: Free People

bee-hotel-2

Photo: blog.freepeople.com


How To: Make Weed Killer

No need to break your back pulling up ugly unwanted plants. Just try these safe, simple, and all-natural solutions!

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How to Make Weed Killer - to Clean Up Between Paver Cracks

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You work hard at horticulture, so the last thing you want is gnarly weeds littering your lawn or popping up smack dab in the middle of your prized petunias. Weeds can even sneak into your driveway or sidewalk, becoming a tripping hazard as well as an eyesore. But there’s no need to spend your summer on hands and knees, yanking them out, or to resort to pricey chemical killers whose toxins can damage your property. Instead, follow any of these four easy, effective methods for making weed killer and attack those irksome interlopers ASAP. Just take care to not to douse nearby plants, because these equal-opportunity herbicides won’t discriminate between weeds and your landscaped lovelies.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vinegar (white or cider)
- Dish soap
- Table salt
- Spray bottle
- Corn gluten meal
- Rubbing alcohol

How to Make Weed Killer - DIY Spray

Photo: istockphoto.com

Thrifty Triple Threat
They look harmless enough sitting on your kitchen counter, but vinegar, dish soap, and salt make a tenacious trifecta against weeds. Combine equals parts of these ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Spritz your homemade weed killer unsparingly onto the stems and leaves of the undesirables in flower or vegetable beds during high sun, low wind conditions. (Avoid getting it on cement, which salt can discolor or even erode.) The dish soap will disintegrate the cuticle of the plant, allowing the salt and acetic acid in the vinegar to desiccate and destroy weeds.

Corn Meal Killer
Scattered over weed seeds, as opposed to mature weeds, corn gluten meal acts as a natural, non-toxic pre-emergent that can prevent germination. For optimal results, begin by tilling the soil in an established flower or vegetable bed to unearth weed seeds. Then, sprinkle the mighty maize directly over the seeds during a dry weather period. Steer clear of plots with recently sown flower or vegetable seeds as the corn gluten meal can stunt their growth along with the weed seeds.

Very Hot Stuff
Put the kettle on and boil some water, then take it outside (or fill a flask). Gently pour over the crown of pesky plants to scorch them in matter of days. Aim carefully, because the hot liquid can also burn surrounding plants—or your toes. While one application may be sufficient for weeds with short root structures, perennials with long taproots may require two to three applications before reaching their permanent demise.

Reliable Rubout
Dilute two tablespoons of rubbing alcohol in a bowl with four cups of water. Transfer the solution to a spray bottle and liberally coat the leaves of weeds in flower or vegetable plots, preferably on a sunny day. As the alcohol dries, it will wither the leaves and eventually kill uninvited vegetation.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


Buyer’s Guide: Lawn Edgers

With a wide array of precisely-calibrated edgers available to keep your yard manicured and under control, it’s easier than ever to maintain your curb appeal. Here, our buyer’s guide walks you through the basics and helps you find the lawn tool that’s best for you.

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Best Lawn Edger

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Whether your yard is large or small, minimally landscaped or filled with flower beds, one of the easiest ways to keep it looking sharp is to invest in a quality lawn edger to tame unruly edges. Much like framing a picture enhances your home’s artwork, maintaining an evenly trimmed perimeter elevates the overall appearance of your lawn. Its crisp edges signify a well-tended property—particularly when you pay close attention to growth along the edges of your driveway, sidewalk, garden beds, and walking paths. Simplify your search for the best lawn edger by identifying your property’s needs using the shopping guide below and starting with the roundup of the most highly recommended and well-reviewed models around.

Start (with) your engines. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of lawn edgers: those with electric engines, and those that run on gas.

• An electric-powered edger—often the more budget-friendly option and top choice for homeowners with a small outdoor space—will either run off of a battery or plug in to an electrical outlet via a lengthy cord. Though it only boasts 18 or so volts of power, a battery-operated model allows you to trim anywhere, no matter the distance to the nearest outlet. Alternatively, a corded model’s trade-off is more power (usually 10 to 12 amps) for slightly less mobility (or, at minimum, the use of an extension cord for larger jobs).
• A gas-powered edger, available in a two- or four-cycle format, is more powerful and therefore better suited for larger yards. While two-cycle engines are more common, they require you to stock and refuel using both gas and oil—far less environmentally conscious than four-cycle engines, which run clean but cost and weigh more.

Wheels up. While lightweight manual edgers move on nothing more than the guidance you give them, the weight of an engine typically requires three or four wheels to cover your grounds without strain. In all wheeled models, the rear wheels are responsible for moving the entire unit along, while a guide wheel keeps the blade aligned with the task at hand. Some gas-powered edgers offer the addition of a fourth wheel (a “curb wheel”) to help stabilize the edger when you’re using it at a slight drop-off, such as the line where your lawn meets the street. If you opt for an electric model or will not be maneuvering too many curbs, a three-wheeled edger might be all you need.

Choose the right cutting edge. A straight, no-frills blade can handle simple yards just fine, but an edger that offers multiple position and angle settings might be worth the investment if you’ve got a lot of flower beds and specialty features on your property. The following are three main types of edger blades:

• Flat rectangular blades with plain edges are most common among lawn edgers, suitable for basic edging jobs where the lawn is flush and level with the nearest hard surface (like a driveway or sidewalk).
Flat rectangular blades with scoop-cut edges carefully handle the perimeter of more delicate landscaping features like flower beds, which might otherwise be disturbed by the debris in a rough cutting. These blades are also ideal to employ when the lawn and hard surfaces are uneven.
• Star-shaped blades aptly cut lawns that end at a wall or sturdy fence.

If you have only a few needs to address, you could get by with purchasing the desired replacement blade(s) of your choice for the edger and swapping them in as necessary—while easy enough, this transition does add some time to the yard work.

 

THE BEST BETS

Best Lawn Edger - Ariens Walk-Behind Gas Edger

Photo: ariens.com

Ariens 986103 136 cc Edger ($464)
The staff of Popular Mechanics gave this four-cycle, gas-powered edger its highest ranking for its power, durability, and controlled handling, which was virtually free of any vibration or shaking as it cut. Clocking in at a solid 85 pounds, it’s certainly not lightweight, but its reviewers insist that’s part of why it gets the job done so well. What’s more, its seven—yes, seven—angle settings and four depth settings allow you to customize the cut for almost any challenge your yard poses. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Lawn Edger - Worx WG160 12-Inch 20-Volt Cordless Edger available at The Home Depot

Photo: homedepot.com

Worx WG160 12-Inch 20-Volt Cordless Grass Trimmer/Edger ($99)
Earning a strong 4.5-star rating from Home Depot customers, this battery-powered trimmer/edger combo offers two utilities in one without the noise, expense, and environmental detriment of gas and with more mobility than its corded counterparts. With a telescopic shaft that tilts 90 degrees in hard-to-reach places, its versatility is rare in the under-$100 category. Running on a 20-volt lithium battery, the 7-pound model is lightweight and easy to use. Available at The Home Depot.

 

Best Lawn Edger - Black + Decker LE750 Edge Hog from Amazon

Photo: amazon.com

Black + Decker LE750 Edge Hog ($84)
By far the most popular lawn edger with Amazon buyers is this three-wheeled electric “little engine that could” from Black + Decker. Sold at an agreeable price point and ranked 4.5 out of 5 stars by more than 1,200 customers, the corded electric model packs an 11-amp punch, built-in cord retention for hassle-free storage, tool-free assembly, and even assist handles for both righties and lefties alike. Available on Amazon.

With just a bit of elbow grease and the right edger to spruce things up, you can enjoy a perfect perimeter around a lawn where the grass is always greener—or, at least, the edges are always cleaner.


Cool Tools: A Triple-Threat to Help Your 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 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 pivoting 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 Garden Water 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 Garden Water 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 Garden Water 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 Garden Water Wand can help you attain greener pastures on your own home turf.

Purchase HYDE PivotPro Garden Water Wand, $39.99.

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

 

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


DIY Lite: Easy Tiki Torches for a Bug-Free Backyard

Light up your backyard without attracting any bugs to the party when you build this trendy design for a DIY tiki torch.

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DIY Tiki Torch with Citronella Candle

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Nothing spoils an outdoor gathering like unwanted guests, namely the buzzy ones. Enjoy summer nights free from the mosquitoes by staking a few tiki torches around your backyard party. Filled with citronella oil or citronella tiki torch fuel, they’ll keep bugs at bay while you and any invited guests play. This particular pro-quality setup—with likeness to the ever trendy industrial wire pendant lights—actually boils down to six easy steps and a handful of creative materials. Follow the easy tutorial below to make one DIY tiki torch, and repeat until your yard is fully illuminated past sunset!

 

DIY Tiki Torch - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Mason jar
- Hammer
- Nail
- Fruit picker basket
- Cutting pliers
- Copper spray paint
- 3⁄4-inch copper pipe (5 feet)
- 3⁄4-inch copper pressure slip coupling
- Cotton swab
- Rubbing alcohol
- Adjustable stainless steel pipe or hose clamp
- Screwdriver
- Tiki torch wick or 100 percent cotton rope
- Citronella oil or Tiki fuel

 

STEP 1

DIY Tiki Torch - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The actual citronella candle and flame for your DIY tiki torch will be housed in a sealed 8- to 12-ounce glass mason jar. To convert the canning staple, you’ll need to first perforate the lid so that you can thread the torch wick through it. Place the lid on a piece of scrap wood, then position a nail at its center and tap with the hammer until it pierces through the metal into the wood. Pull out the nail using the hammer’s claw; the resulting hole needs to be a tight fit so that the tiki torch wick stays in place.

Set the punctured lid and jar aside until you fill it up in the final step.

 

STEP 2

DIY Tiki Torch - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

To create the wire cage support in this DIY tiki torch, we started with the unique wire design of a fruit picker basket. Intended for pulling ripe fruits from tree branches, this orchard tool possesses a diameter just wide enough to hold a 12-ounce jam jar—our soon-to-be citronella candle. Look for one without an extension or telescoping pole for less than $10, either online at Amazon or in the garden center of your big-box home improvement store.

Peel out the soft cushion (meant to keep each piece of fruit free of bruises while picking), and use cutting pliers snip the metal ends that look like rake tines where they connect with the top arched wire. After you make your cuts, your basket’s trimmed side should still be higher than the other, but sleeker without claws—and so begins the transition into a more industrial candle holder.

 

STEP 3

DIY Tiki Torch - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Spray paint the fruit picker basket and the mason jar lid. Apply several coats (remembering to allow adequate dry time between each) to cover both pieces completely with the copper paint.

 

STEP 4

DIY Tiki Torch - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Take the 5-foot length of 3⁄4-inch copper pipe and slide a matching 3⁄4-inch copper pressure coupling over the top end; this addition will add extra thickness to the pipe so that you can snugly slide the fruit picker basket over top.

Pro tip: If you need to remove a red sticker from either of your copper pipe pieces, simply wet it with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol for a clean and easy peel.

 

STEP 5

DIY Tiki Torch - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Slide the narrow end of the fruit picker basket (the part that would typically attach to a telescoping pole) over the end of the copper pipe and the pressure coupling. Unscrew to open up a stainless steel pipe or hose clamp, wrap it around the base of the basket, and tighten the screw once more in order to hold the clamp (and basket) in place.

 

STEP 6

DIY Tiki Torch - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Fill the mason jar a quarter to a third of the way with tiki fuel or citronella oil. Thread the wick—either a specific tiki torch wick or 100 percent cotton, but not nylon, which melts—through the lid so that 2 inches stick out the top and several inches hang beneath. Twist the lid onto the jar to seal it, and let the wick soak for about 10 minutes before lighting the candle.

While that’s working, go ahead and plant your new torch (or torches, if you’ve built a few according to these instructions) in the backyard. Ensure that the pipe is sufficiently stable by driving it into the ground before you place the candle in shiny copper cage. Then light the candle at the start of the evening, and refuel whenever supply looks low for outdoor festivities minus any unwanted guests!

 

DIY Tiki Torch - Outdoor Lighting

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.


Bob Vila Radio: Keep Backyard Mosquitos at Bay

Get those biting bugs to buzz off by identifying and eliminating any mosquito breeding grounds and hiding spots that may exist on your property.

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With Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses on the rise, it’s a good idea to take a close look at the mosquito control measures you use on your property.

how-to-get-rid-of-mosquitos

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Mosquitoes multiply in standing water, so double-check your yard for any spots you might have missed. Make sure flower pots and plant saucers are empty. Bird baths, water bowls for pets, and kiddie pools should be all emptied and refilled regularly so that any eggs laid there don’t have a chance to turn into biting bugs.

If you have water that can’t be drained, like a fish pond, don’t worry. Hardware stores carry specialized chemicals to add to the water that will bump off mosquitos without harming your fish. Also, because mosquitos love to live it up in damp leaves and other organic material, don’t forget to keep a rake handy—and to use it often!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


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.


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!


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!