Lawn & Garden - 2/54 - Bob Vila

Category: Lawn & Garden

Video: 7 Plants Never to Grow in Your Yard

For a lush, green, and self-sufficient garden, steer clear of these problem plants.


Just because the plant is beautiful, doesn’t mean it belongs in your yard. Many popular plants available at your local garden center are invasive, poisonous, or invite pests into your outdoor space. Before you plan this year’s garden, educate yourself about the dangers of some of the most popular plants, then choose wisely when sowing spring seeds.

For more gardening advice, consider:

20 Plants That Survive With or Without You

10 Foolproof Flowers Anyone Can Grow

Bad Neighbors: 11 Plant Pairs Never to Grow Side by Side

Bob Vila Radio: Get a Taste of Lasagna Gardening

Read on to get the recipe for an all-natural gardening technique that delivers nutrient-rich, weed-free soil in exchange for next to no maintenance.

Also known as sheet mulching, lasagna gardening provides for richer soil and fewer weeds. The best part? You don’t have to use any chemicals.

Lasagna Gardening Basics


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Listen to BOB VILA ON LASAGNA GARDENING or read below:

Lasagna gardening involves a nutrient system akin to the rainforest floor, where layers of decaying materials naturally suppress weed growth while supporting a rich variety of plant life.

To get started, place compost or manure directly on your grass. The nitrogen in the fertilizer stimulates the soil.

Next, lay a five-inch weed barrier (preferably an organic material like cardboard or newspaper) over the area. As you’re laying to down, be sure to give the barrier a good soaking.

Now add a mixture of compost and grass clippings (or decaying leaves), taking care to ensure the latter isn’t laced with weed seeds. That would only undermine your efforts.

To finish, top things off with a 3-inch layer of mulch—wood chips or pine bark. You’ll need to replenish it over the season, but that’s all the maintenance lasagna gardening requires. No tilling necessary!

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: Attract Hummingbirds

Make your garden an open invitation to these fun feathered friends and then enjoy their buzzy beauty all season long!

How To Attract Hummingbirds


With iridescent wings that catch the light as they flit between flowers, hummingbirds have earned their nickname of “flying jewels.” There are more than 300 species of these migratory winged wonders, 12 of which summer in North America and winter in tropical areas. Yet even if they don’t necessarily proliferate in your area, you can tempt them into your yard with the strategies outlined here. And you should! Not merely a joy to behold, hummingbirds—so called for the buzzing created by their wings beating in a figure-eight pattern 80 times per second—are a boon to gardeners because they pollinate as they feed, just like bees. So follow this guide on how to attract hummingbirds to an irresistible garden, and then sit back and enjoy the show.

1. Plant what they love.

Hummingbirds feed on tree sap, insects, pollen, and—their favorite dish—the nectar of flowers. So the best way to invite them is to transform your garden into a veritable smorgasbord. While it’s true that they’re partial to the color red and appreciate tubular shapes that discourage insects yet seem tailor-made for the hummers’ long, tapered bills, they’ll dip into any nectar-producing bloom, including geranium, begonia, hollyhocks, petunias, azaleas, butterfly bush, honeysuckle, weigela, morning glory, and tulip poplar. Plant some of these species that are suited to your USDA hardiness zone, and you’ll hopefully host hummingbirds in abundance.

2. Fill hanging feeders with nectar.

Amp the flower factor with a feeder! Generally available in hardware and discount stores starting in the spring, feeders come in a range of styles and price points. All feature a reservoir for nectar and ports for hummingbirds to drink from. Hang the feeder in a quiet spot close to the plants and flowers these feathered fairies already enjoy, but nowhere too lush or leafy that it obscures your viewing pleasure. You’ll also want easy access to the feeder for cleaning and refilling.

To make your own hummingbird nectar, bring one part white sugar to four parts water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Allow the solution to cool to room temperature before pouring into the feeder. Store any leftover nectar in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Be sure to take the feeder down at least once a week to clean it with mild detergent and water. An unattended feeder is bound to grow bacteria that could potentially harm birds.


How To Attract Hummingbirds


3. Provide water and respite.

In addition to nectar, hummingbirds need plain water to drink and to bathe in. Birdbaths are not recommended, because the water is stagnant and deep. But a gently moving waterfall feature or a mister makes for a heavenly hummingbird spa. You might even catch them whizzing through your sprinklers for a quick shower on the fly. Once wet, hummers may actually perch on a nearby branch to preen and rest (it’s tiring to keep wings beating so fast for so long!). If you have no trees or shrubs that offer perfect perching, simply stick a dead branch into the ground about 50 feet from your hummingbird feeder or planting area.

4. Encourage nesting.

Hummer won’t occupy a birdhouse or nesting box. Instead, they build their own nests in trees and shrubs with twigs, leaves, plant fibers, and other natural materials, all bound together ingeniously with spider silk. So don’t be so quick to chase spiders from your property; their webs provide this necessary material. Hummingbirds will also eat spiders, as well as small insects and larvae, for a source of protein, fat, and salt.

Once you spot your first visitors after following through on these methods for how to attract hummingbirds to your yard, you’ll look forward to their return each year. It’s truly one of nature’s gifts that such a tiny creature can provide so much delight.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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: Solar Path Lights

Using the sun for energy, solar path lights are an attractive way to light up a walkway or garden. Check out these three options, which have impressive energy at a reasonable price point.

Best Solar Garden Lights


Many homeowners like to enjoy the warmer months by entertaining in the backyard, dining on the patio, and playing lawn games. Solar path lights add the extra brightness to your outdoor space that allows these sorts of festivities to continue long after the sun sets. One of the main advantages of choosing solar path lights is that they won’t drive up your utility bill. Drawing photovoltaic energy directly from the sun, the lights run solely off of solar power, either via rechargeable battery or remote solar panel. Additionally, the best solar path lights combine function with form: They enhance a property’s curb appeal, whether lining the driveway or illuminating a winding garden path.

Best Solar Path Light


As you might assume, solar path lights are most effective in areas with lots of direct sunlight, where they can soak up the sun’s rays for at least eight hours per day. If the lights are in a relatively shady spot, you can try gathering adequate energy by connecting to a photovoltaic panel on the roof, which draws a charge from direct sunlight and transmits it to the solar lights on the ground. While solar lights may not shine quite as brightly for these homeowners with substantial tree coverage on their properties (or for those who live in rainy climates) as they do in sun-drenched areas, they’ll still offer pleasant subtle brightness at nighttime at no cost to you.


When shopping at a local hardware store, homeowners should consider a number of factors when selecting the best solar path lights for their property.

Charge: A majority of options on the market have LED (light emitting diode) lights, which tend to hold a longer and brighter charge than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Consumers can typically find the fully-charged run time on the manufacturer’s box.

Color: Most solar path systems emit a soft white or amber-colored light; in fact, amber lights tend to use less energy and last longer than their white-light counterparts. Colored lights in hues like red, green, and blue are another playful option to consider.

Brightness: In terms of brightness, the average solar path light delivers an effect similar to a 40-watt light bulb, although stronger options are also available for a slightly higher price. The consumer can this information on the manufacture’s box listed in “lumens “—a measure of visible brightness. Most solar panel lights have a lumens level of 1 to 30; the higher the number, the brighter the light bulb.

Design: As for appearance, solar path lights are available in a wide variety of styles. Whether you prefer classic craftsman designs, Victorian vibes, ethereal-looking orbs, or a quirky custom look, there’s a light on the market to suit your taste. For a more high-tech lighting solution, consider buying motion-activated lights, or ones that glow in a flickering pattern like candles.



We’ve rounded up our top three picks for the best solar path lights on the market, taking into account customer reviews, expert opinions, and the criteria outlined above. Lighting up your outdoor space has never been easier!


Best Solar Path Lights


Room Essentials Outdoor Path Lights, 6-pk ($15)
Target shoppers love this six-pack of waterproof solar path lights from Room Essentials for its budget-friendly price point (about $2.50 per light) and its simple, classic design. The set is weather-resistant, thanks to its stainless steel construction, and features LED bulbs. Each light stands just under 13 inches tall, rising anywhere from seven to 11 inches above the ground after the one-step installation. Available at Target


Best Solar Panel Lights


Hampton Bay Bronze Solar Powered Path Lights, 6-pk ($15)
With a smart bronze finish and curved panes, this elegant six-pack of solar path lights by Hampton Bay earns high ratings from Home Depot shoppers, with many giving it four or five stars. Its affordability is another draw, along with its LED bulbs, auto on/off power, and crystalline solar panel. Emitting a warm white light, they stand almost 12 inches high. Available at Home Depot


Best Solar Path Lights


SolarGlow Stainless Steel LED Solar Lights, 6-pk ($45)
Considerably more expensive than many of its counterparts, this high-powered set from SolarGlow clocks in just under $8 per light. The hefty price tag can be attributed to its intensity; throwing off 15 times as much light as most standard path lights, this set is ideal for areas that require very illuminated pathway lighting. Made of weather-resistant stainless steel, they come with a lifetime replacement guarantee. The lights, which stand 15 inches tall, earn rave reviews for their brightness and durability. Available on Amazon


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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.

DIY Lite: A Space-Saving Solution for Any Indoor Garden

Squeeze more greenery into any amount of square footage by maximizing vertical space with a ladder plant stand.

How to Make a Ladder Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

While houseplants look simply lovely on a window ledge, the space available there can be fairly limiting—you might fit three small- to medium-sized pots at best. A better idea? Applying the same life-changing principle behind vertical storage and stacking your favorite plants in a custom-made stand. With three tiers dedicated to greenery, this slim ladder plant stand doesn’t take up much floor space at all. Plus, it effectively corrals all that you need to grow an indoor garden! Build this seriously easy project in an afternoon, and we promise that the toughest part will be deciding which corner you’d like to stand it in.


How to Make a Ladder Plant Stand - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

– 1×6 lumber (2)
– Ruler
– Pencil
– Handsaw
– Sandpaper
– Power drill/driver with a ⅝ spade bit
Mirror steel hooks with ½-inch screws (12)
Open, stackable metal baskets (3)
– Wood glue
– 1-½-inch wood screws (4)
– ⅝-inch dowel
– Wood stain
– Acyclic wood varnish
– Paintbrush
– “S” hooks
– Small metal brackets (2)


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Cut your wood planks (the legs) to be 5 ⅕ feet (or roughly 62.5 inches) long. Then, since the ladder plant stand will lean against the wall, you’ll need to angle the top end of each leg.

Along the 6-inch top of one leg, measure ¾ inches from the corner and make a mark; then, measure 4 inches down the leg’s side and make a second mark. Draw a straight line from point to point, and saw through it.

Trace the cut onto the second ladder leg so that it has the exact same angle, and saw to match. Sand both cuts.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Since it’s nice to keep gardening tools nearby for when you need them, we’ll thread a dowel through the top of the ladder to hang them. Prepare the tier by drilling a hole in each of the ladder legs: Lay the lumber over a piece of scrap wood and use ⅝-inch spade drill bit to make a hole at 2 inches from the top center.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

For the leaning ladder’s bottom to stand flat on the floor, you’ll also need to angle the feet. Measure ¾ inches high on the same side of the leg that’s angled at the top, then trace from here to the opposite bottom corner. Cut along your line with a handsaw, and sand the rough edges.

To repeat for the second leg, it’s best to trace so that they match perfectly.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

This is what your two ladder legs should look like at this point as you get them ready for the basket tiers.

Since your baskets’ size impacts the amount of space you can leave between tiers along this 5 ⅕-foot-tall ladder plant stand—and how much room your plants have to grow vertically—we recommend you choose baskets no taller than 8 inches. (Ours are 8 inches tall but feature a dip in the front that makes them appear more shallow.) This height allows you to leave at least 7 inches space between each level.

Now, you’ll draw three oblique lines on each leg—parallel to the cut bottom—starting with the one for the lowest basket. Measure 22 inches from the bottom on each side of the leg and mark; when you connect these two dots, you’ll have your oblique line. Next, measure 15 inches up on each side and repeat for the second tier. Measure another 15 inches for the top tier.



How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Center and screw mirror hooks to both ends of each oblique line in order to hold your baskets along the ladder plant stand.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Start assembling your ladder plant stand on the floor. Place the legs so that they face one another, and hook the three baskets up between them. Now, measure the distance between the two legs.

To strengthen the ladder frame, cut a piece from the leftover 1×6 to that length (it will probably be just a little longer than your basket is wide to accommodate for the basket’s connection on either side).

Draw one more oblique line 8 inches from the bottom on each leg. Glue the edges of your plank, and stick it between the two planks along that slightly angled guide. Finally, use your drill to put two screws through the outside of each leg and into the ladder plant stand’s bottom-most tier.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

At the top of the ladder plant stand, slide the dowel through the holes you made in Step 2. Mark in pencil where it extends past the edge of the frame.

Remove the ⅝-inch dowel and cut it at your mark. Then, reinsert and use wood glue to keep it in place.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once the glue has dried, remove the baskets in order to sand and stain the entire ladder planter stand. Apply a coat or two of stain in your choice of color (we chose a dark brown that closely matches the dark rubbed bronze of the baskets) and, after allowing adequate dry time, finish with a coat of varnish.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When the varnish is dry, stand the ladder against the wall and hang the baskets once more in the mirror hooks. A few “S” hooks looped over the dowel will create the catchall for potting tools.

Tip: To prevent the ladder plant stand from slipping down the wall, try securing its top to the wall using small metal brackets like we did with this leaning coat rack.


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Once you’ve got it in position, go ahead and fill the wire tiers with your potted plants to begin building the ideal indoor jungle.

Love the look of our multicolor rope baskets? We have a tutorial for those, too, here!


How to DIY a Ladder Plant Stand

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.


DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

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

Solved! The Great Debate on Mowing Wet Grass

Think a post-storm lawnmower run is no big deal? Often, it'll actually do more harm than good. Read on for the best—and safest—practices.

Does Mowing Wet Grass Do More Harm Than Good? The Answers!


I’ve seen a neighbor mow the lawn in the morning shortly after sprinklers quit, but I was under the impression that this practice was ineffective when the blades are still wet. Is it actually OK to be mowing wet grass?

A: While there are some conditions under which it’s acceptable to run the mower after a rainstorm, generally speaking, you’re right. The timing is ill-advised, and here’s why.

First and foremost, water and electricity don’t mix. Using an electric lawn mower on wet grass—especially with an extension cord—runs the risk of electric shock. When the connections (not to mention any wiring just beneath worn or damaged portions of the cord) are exposed to moisture, that could mean damage to the machine and an electrocution to its operator.

Regardless of your motor’s engine, mowing wet grass poses a personal danger. Just walking the slick lawn with enough force exerted forward to push the mower could cause you (the operator) to slip and fall too close for comfort to the mower’s blades.

Does Mowing Wet Grass Do More Harm Than Good? The Answers!


Moreover, damp blades of grass can damage the mower itself. Without the appropriate fuel stabilizer, for example, leftover fuel in the tank can be contaminated as a result of excessive moisture and even corrode your machine. Grass clippings themselves can also interfere with mower’s job by sticking to the equipment in clumps that block the vacuum or the blade itself. In either case, these blockages will force the machine to work harder until it shuts off if you’re not carefully cleaning as you go.

And anyway, a wet lawn is notoriously difficult to mow. Wet grass blades are slick and tough to slice, creating an uneven shred (at best) rather than the clean cut achieved on a sunny afternoon. Unless your mower’s blades are in peak conditioned, newly sharpened or replaced, it may even take two or three passes over the same patch of wet lawn to get even a fraction of the cut you’d get if the lawn were dry.

The work won’t stop with the cut. Wet grass will require extra cleanup, with how clingy grass clippings get when you add water into the equation. And damp grass clippings that stick to a mower’s undercarriage can create a breeding ground for mold—and eventually a busted mower—if the machinery stays too moist for too long. Be sure to scrape the deck clean of those stuck-on blades as well as brush off the tires and wipe down the body of the mower. Then, turn your attention the spots stains left behind. Chlorophyll in freshly cut wet grass will cause more stains than what you incur on your average mowing day, so be prepared to remove grass stains from your clothes, shoes, and driveway right away.

If, however, a wet lawn just has to be mowed, ensure that conditions allow for it—and that you take all of the safety precautions. First, test the lawn’s saturation. When standing on your lawn, you should not be able to sink into it nor see water rising around the edges of your shoes—mowing through so much water is out of the question. Without the presence of standing water, you could potentially tame your yard to some degree using a stabilized gas-powered mower with sharp blades. If you can, set your mower to side-discharge mode; though this leaves rows of cut grass on your lawn for manual bagging later, it will save you the mess of dealing with a mower bag with a wet interior. Finally, change your mower deck to one of the higher settings in order to cut blades to three or four inches long and no shorter. It’s tough for a lawnmower to get a close shave when working with a wet lawn, so cut it some slack if you want it to do its job as well as it can. Following these simple rules of thumb can keep you safe even while trying to keep up lawn maintenance in less-than-ideal conditions.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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: Portable Grills

Whatever outdoor adventure you have planned, you're going to get hungry. Use these shopping tips and top recommendations to pick and fire up the best portable grill for your BBQ.

Homeowners who host frequent outdoor gatherings tend to have strict opinions about what kind of backyard grill keeps mouths watering. Picking the right cooker to satisfy taste buds out on the road (or in a parking lot before a big game) means considering the same variables and then some. Portable grills pack basic functionalities of their standard counterparts into a more compact design for those on the go. But a shrunken size and price tag doesn’t necessarily indicate skimpy quality. No matter whether you’re craving juicy burgers, hot dogs, or seasoned vegetables, there’s a grill whose petite design won’t sacrifice out there to satisfy your needs. Read on to determine what to expect from the best portable grill options and three small models that live large.

Size up the prospects. Portable grills come in a variety of shapes and sizes: some are barrel-shaped, some are flat and rectangular, and others may resemble a large stovetop pot with a domed lid on top. Almost all are small enough to fit in the trunk or seat of most cars—hence the term “portable”—but it’s always smart to measure the available space and opt for something that fits within those parameters.

Size matters in terms of cooking space, too: Portable grills range from around 150 to 250 square inches of cooking area. While a smaller cooktop can typically handle around four hamburgers at a time with an inch or so between each patty and two inches around the perimeter, the extra 100 square inches means squeezing two more on the grill. Regularly need to make more food, faster? Opt for the larger end of the scale so that you can fit more on the grill at once.

Weigh your options. Before buying any size of a portable grill, ask yourself: How much are you willing to carry from the house to the car, from the car to the picnic table, and back again? Portable grills tend to weigh in anywhere from 10 pounds to a whopping 35 pounds—and that weight can seriously impact its portability. Size and weight don’t necessarily correspond, either, so it may be possible to end up with a small, heavy grill or a large, lightweight one. Do your research and know your limits if you want to keep things comfortable for the long haul.

Fire it up. Grilling enthusiasts tend to fall into two camps: those who favor gas grills and those who prefer charcoal. Each side has its pros and cons.

• For its part, charcoal is a favorite among barbecue purists who love the smoky taste only charcoal briquettes can render. It also burns hotter than propane does, producing a more severe sear on food. You’ve got to really love the flavor to deal with the trade-offs, though: Charcoal can be messy, heavy to move, and slow to reach the desired level of heat for cooking.

Gas offers a quicker, easier way to fire things up—and you barely have to worry about cleanup once things have cooled back down. Of course, the number one drawback is that lack of charcoal flavor. Efficiency will cost consumers a bit more: Portable gas grills are typically more expensive than their charcoal-fueled counterparts.

Smoking Out the Competition

After thoroughly comparing portable grill 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 delivers your favorite flavor. Check out the best portable grill picks for tailgating, camping, and picnicking events.


Best Portable Grill - Buyer's Guide


Weber Q1200 ($199)
In an exhaustive review of summer picnic gear, the incredibly thorough team at The Sweethome crowned the Weber Q1200 the king of all portable grills. Citing its smart design and considerable cooking power, the reviewers determined that the 189-square-inch cooking surface “provides enough space to cook enough hamburgers to feed six people at a time while still leaving adequate space between your meat or veggie patties to allow for convection.” Fold-out side tables even provide room to prep and serve your barbecue. The 30-lb grill’s one-touch electric ignition system makes it a snap to fire things up with a couple 14.1 or 16.4-ounce disposable propane tanks; after that, success or failure all hinges solely on your marinade recipe. Available on Amazon.


Best Portable Grill - Buyer's Guide


Char-Broil BTU Portable Gas Grill ($129)
Earning high marks from Lowe’s shoppers, the small but powerful Char-Broil BTU Portable Gas Grill clocks in at just under 25 lbs, yet its main burner puts out 9,500 BTU. Its infrared technology prevents flare-ups and promises even cooking, while its hood-mounted temperature gauge helps you keep an eye on things. With 200 square inches of cooking area, there is plenty of space for an entire family’s worth of food. One happy camper perfectly summed it up with a five-star review: “As far as portable grills go, this thing is sexy, rugged, and just amazing!” Available at Lowe’s.


Weber Smokey Joe Portable Charcoal Grill ($29)
Cleaning up with more than a hundred five-star reviews from Home Depot shoppers, the Weber Smokey Joe Portable Charcoal Grill is a perennial favorite among barbecue enthusiasts who like their meat and veggies with a side of charcoal flavor. This lightweight, budget-friendly grill is easy to move—and afford—at just 10 lbs and under $30. Sure, a 147-square-inch cooking area is smaller than what its contemporaries in this guide offer, but its portability and price counterbalance the issue nicely. One reviewer calls it “perfect for light camping,” while another specifies there’s the perfect amount of space for whipping up two full meals or six grilled snacks. Available at Home Depot.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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.

So, You Want to… Build a Pond

To turn your yard into a tranquil wonderland, learn this essential info. Then, just add water!

How to Build a Pond in the Backyard


Water brings a touch of enchantment, transforming an ordinary landscape into something magical. Whether you yearn to gaze at a pool alive with colorful fish or long for the soothing gurgle of a fountain, you’ll find the addition of a garden pond to be an unparalleled pleasure. But putting one in involves more than digging a hole and filling it from the hose. Read on for a primer on everything from the process for how to build a pond and its maintenance musts to the finer points of pond décor. You’ll be all set to begin creating a relaxing retreat in your yard that you’re sure to enjoy for years to come.

Know the Rules
Contact your local building authority to see if you’ll need a permit to put in a pond. Some communities have put their local codes online, but if you need a permit, you’ll probably have to visit the local offices in person to obtain it. Garden ponds less than two feet deep may be exempt from local codes, but if you want to go deeper, swimming pools codes might apply. Also keep in mind that small children could easily drown in even a shallow pond, so you may be required to install additional fencing to keep inquisitive neighbor kids out.

Ordinances vary from community to community and, depending on the size of your pond, you may be subject to additional regulations. And if you have a homeowner’s association (HOA), you’ll probably have to apply to the council for permission.

You’ll also have to contact local utility companies to ensure that you won’t hit buried lines. Call Dig Safe (811) to request that utility representatives come out and mark the location of their lines so you don’t run into any problems when you dig. This is a free service and utility companies are happy to come out and mark their lines to avoid accidents.


How to Build a Pond


Learn About Liners
Garden ponds feature either flexible or rigid liners. Flexible liners form to whatever shape you like, and they’re relatively affordable, starting under $50 for an inexpensive 7’ x 10’ supple polyvinyl chloride (PVC) liner and running as much as $300 for a 15’ x 20’ heavy rubber liner.

Price increases with the thickness as well as the size of the liner—and thicker versions are desirable as they’re less likely to puncture. Thickness is measured in millimeters (mils) and will appear on the liner’s label. Standard flexible liners are anywhere from 12mils to 45mils thick. When assembling your materials, keep in mind that water garden companies typically carry thicker liners than DIY stores.

Puncture-resistant rigid liners made from molded fiberglass or rigid PVC come in preformed shapes, with prices ranging from under $50 for to a few hundred dollars for a larger model. Custom designed concrete ponds are also available for areas with little to no soil movement but are not recommended for high clay areas that cause soil movement, which can crack concrete. Concrete ponds are pretty pricey: A 5’ x 5’ model can run more than $650 for the basic shell construction alone and, since concrete ponds must be professionally installed, the cost will rise considerably.

How to Build a Pond


Consider Style and Landscape
Spend some time thinking about the vibe of your pond, and how you’ll incorporate it into your yard as a welcoming focal point. After all, the feel of a minimalist Zen water garden is quite different from that of a formal Italian pond with a lion’s head fountain in its center. Consider proportion as well: A too-small pond can get lost in a large landscape but one that’s too big is bound to overwhelm your yard. Beyond the pond itself, you’ll want to plan for a viewing/sitting area from which to best admire it.

Another factor in your plans for how to build a pond is the way in which you aim to bring your pond alive. Certain aquatic plants, such as lily pads, require sunshine, while fish need a little shade to ensure that the water doesn’t get too warm. If your yard doesn’t offer shade, you can provide it by adding a trellis along the pond, tall plants around the perimeter, and/or aquatic plants on the surface.

Factor in Pumps and Filters
You’ll probably want to install a water pump to circulate water and prevent stagnation. By keeping the water moving, you’ll discourage mosquitos from turning your pond into a breeding ground. Pumps can be worked into pond design and incorporated in fountains and waterfalls. And if you’ll be adding fish, you’ll want a filter to help keep water clean and control algae (see the maintenance section for more on dealing with the green stuff!). Filters and pumps can be added after the pond is in place and camouflaged with plants or rocks.

Understand the Construction Process
Having your pond professionally installed can add a few hundred to a few thousand dollars to the final cost, depending on the size and complexity of the project. But, you can save some money and add your own personal touch following these guidelines for how to build a pond.

Excavation is the first step, and while you can certainly dig the hole for a small pond with a standard shovel, consider renting a small excavation machine known as a skid steer from a construction rental store for around $100 to $150 per day. You’ll then cover the bottom of the hole with sand to smooth the surface and position the liner on top. Rigid liners require backfilling with sand around the outside edges to remove air voids. The next step is the placement of pumps, filters, or aquatic lighting, and then the addition of decorative edging around the top of the pond. Most pond equipment plugs into an exterior power outlet, and then the cords are camouflaged by landscaping. If an exterior outlet is not available, an electrician can install one for you.

A concrete pond is not a DIY job. It requires a contractor to excavate the hole, line it with steel reinforcing mesh and then, via a pressurized hose, applies gunite or “shotcrete,” which is blown onto the mesh to form a solid, uniform pond surface.


How to Build a Pond in Your Backyard—and Maintain It


Make Sure to Maintain
With garden ponds come algae, which can turn the water green, especially in spring when it “blooms.” Algae is a vital part of a balanced pond system but too much can lead to a murky, dank water. A good filter will go a long way toward keeping algae under control; it can also be removed by hand. (Grabbing and pulling the slimy strands and clumps is an icky chore—quality rubber gloves are advised!) Algaecide can be added as well, if desired, but if you have fish, be sure to choose a fish-safe variety and use only as directed.

Clean pond filters once a month, or more frequently if your pond is prone to heavy algae growth or if you have fish. A clogged filter can cause a pump motor to burn out.

If water doesn’t freeze where you live, you may be able to overwinter some types of fish and aquatic plants (check with an aquarium expert to make sure). Alternately, you can bring both fish and plants indoors and care for them in an aquarium during the cold season.

A thorough spring cleaning of the pond is usually sufficient for the entire year. Drain the pond and spray the sides and bottom with a water hose, scrubbing with a nylon brush if necessary to remove heavy algae deposits. Then check, clean, and service pumps and filters, according to manufacturer specifications, to make sure everything is in order for the coming season.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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.

How To: Make and Use Your Own Deer Repellent

Keep pesky ruminants from treating your yard as their buffet table with this powerful yet all-natural deterrent.

How to Make and Use Homemade Deer Repellent


Deer are delightful romping through the forest but can wreak havoc in a garden, decimating vegetables, fruit trees, landscaping beds, even “deer-resistant” shrubs and pine and holly trees if they’re hungry enough. Commercial deer repellents tend to be pricey, so why not mix up your own, using ingredients you no doubt already have around the house? Follow our inexpensive, all-natural recipe for homemade deer repellent and then use as directed to keep Bambi and his buddies away! What’s more, commercial repellents that contain garlic and egg solids, like our formula does, also claim effectiveness against other destructive interlopers, including rabbits, skunks, groundhogs, and even some birds like crows. You may be able to discourage an entire scourge of critters with this potent homemade blend!

– Garden sprayer or large spray bottle
– Warm water (1 gallon)
– Raw eggs (3)
– Milk or yogurt (3 tablespoons)
– Crushed garlic cloves (3)
– Cayenne pepper (3 tablespoons)
– Blender
– Strainer

Step 1
Put eggs, milk or yogurt, garlic, and cayenne pepper along with two to three cups of water into a blender, and puree thoroughly. Strain that mixture into a gallon jug, add the remaining water and seal.

Step 2
While the homemade deer repellent can be used immediately, it will be more potent if left to ripen at room temperature for 24 hours. Yes, it will be stinky! Transfer to garden sprayer or spray bottle.

How to Make and Use Homemade Deer Repellent


Step 3
Spray plants liberally after morning dew or any rainfall has fully dried. Make sure to spray the entire plant, leaves, stems, fruits, and all. Don’t worry, it won’t harm your foliage, just make it smell and taste bad to foraging deer. Milk products contain a sticky protein called casein to help the homemade deer repellent cling. Once dry, the odor will be undetectable to humans but still unpleasant to ruminants. And should any stubborn invaders go beyond a sniff to a taste, that cayenne pepper will deliver a burning warning sure to turn them off!

Step 4
The sticky homemade deer repellent could clog your spray dispenser, so after dosing your garden, pour any remaining mixture back into the jug for storage in the garage or a cabinet. As the eggs and milk continue to rot, it will get even more potent!

Step 5
Reapply the homemade deer repellent weekly and after any rainfall. Ideally, you’d begin spraying early in the growing season, as soon as the weather warms up in March and April. During this time, deer are establishing their feeding patterns and your plants are breaking winter dormancy. If you make your yard unappetizing to them from the get-go, they’ll find more hospitable grazing ground and may steer clear of your place.


Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from
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.

Bob Vila Radio: Good Reasons to Get Your Hands Dirty

Endless possibilities await you in the garden. Whether you're a veteran green thumb or a hesitant first-timer, read on now for a sampling of the best reasons to get your hands dirty this spring.

With the arrival of spring, homeowners return to the outdoors, setting sights on new ways to bring beauty, fragrance, edibles and a sense of history to the garden.



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Hardy, heat- and cold-tolerant plants like Vivax bamboo and wild columbine succeed in almost any region. And while the vivid, almost fluorescent blooms of fuschias and neon peonies add color, bi-colored flowers like day lilies and monkshood shade provide no small amount of visual interest.

Fragrant plants—low-maintenances lemon-scented geraniums, for example, or scarlet pineapple sage—make your garden smell as good as it looks. Consider “foodie” favorites as well. Selections like Malabar spinach and purslane reward gardeners with the inspiration for exciting new culinary adventures.

Finally, keep history alive with heirloom plants like black hollyhocks and color-mixture pincushion flowers, and remember to share your garden’s bounty with friends and family by growing and gifting containers of showy snapdragons or flowering kale.

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!