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Our teeny front yard makeover

- Author: Crystal

A couple weeks ago my husband and I cleaned up and re-bordered one of our flower beds. We were inspired by this helpful article in the Washington Post which recommends (1) removing vegetation and (2) redefining lines. All in all, the project wasn’t too bad, and we can recommend it to you as a half day project that will leave you feeling accomplished. The following is what we did and the lessons we learned.




What it took:

We finished the whole project in about 4 hours including shopping time. Cost was $172 + tax for bricks and mulch. We used a leaf rake, grass shears, small hand saw and garden trowel.

What we did:

  • Clipped the monkey grass with shears; cut down small dead tree with saw.
  • Raked out all the dead leaves and debris.
  • Removed old soggy border.
  • Measured the border, bought bricks, laid bricks. (That was the fun part!)
  • Re-mulched the bed.

Tips for success:

  • Use string to measure the length of wall you want to create, then divide by measurement of each brick. This will give you the close approximation of the number of bricks you’ll need.
  • Double check your count of bricks at the store! (We had to go back a second time for more because we miscounted. Oops!)
  • Lay the bricks on a tarp or blanket to prevent damage to your car.
  • Wear gloves so you don’t hurt your hands.
  • Use a trowel (where needed) to dig out the earth and ensure a flat surface for laying each brick.

Thoughts on this? Other ideas about deck installation maybe? Post a comment, or write to Crystal and let her know!

1 Comment - Categories: Yard and garden

Spring cleaning the yard, Part 1

- Author: Crystal

Spring PruningBetween the past couple days of (read: mud), the all-around wear and tear caused by our two big dogs, and a ton of brown leaves and “gumballs” from our sweet gum trees, the back yard looks pretty bad right now.

And for weeks I’ve totally been procrastinating about doing the necessary spring cleaning.

Luckily, today’s Washington Post article called A Guide to Sprucing Up the Yard on a Budget has inspired me again!

The idea is to concentrate on two basic actions:

  1. Reducing or removing vegetation.
  2. Redefining the lines that frame lawns, beds, fence lines, paths and patios.

So that’s what I hope to do over the next month or so.

Upon success in those two areas, I’ll consider moving on to Part 2: Simplifying the Garden and Part 3: Reducing Maintenance.

Wish me luck!

No Comments - Categories: Yard and garden

Manage those pesky spray can straws!

- Author: Crystal

button3.jpgMy WD-40, canned air and bicycle grease all require those teeny tiny itty bitty plastic straws, which are forever getting lost. Sparkleize solution: scotch tape and a zip-top snack bag!


Got tips of your own to share? Write to Crystal and let her know!

No Comments - Categories: Garage, bike and car, Yard and garden

How to set up your own rain barrel

- Author: Crystal

Rain barrels are great! These big plastic beauties are the latest garden fad to hit drought-stricken areas such as ours. They are a terrific way to capture water naturally and for free. The barrel will fill up fairly quickly, even with a very small amount of rain. This water can be used to nourish your potted plants and gardens! Among other things, we also plan to use ours to fill up our dogs’ water dishes.

How to set it up:

1. Locate a rain barrel, buy it and bring it home. It fit easily in the backseat of our Toyota Corolla. We wanted to support local business, so we bought one that was made by a local company (RainWater Solutions) and available to purchase from a local garden store.

2. Choose a gutter downspout where you want to capture the water. We selected a downspout in our back yard, guessing that the rain barrel would be too appealing to thieves if it was in the front yard…

3. Create a stable platform to put underneath the barrel. Because the area where we chose to put the rain barrel was a patch of muddy, lumpy lawn, we wanted to ensure that the barrel would have a flat, stable area to sit on. To do so, we went to Home Depot and bought four large decorative concrete slabs ($3.99 ea), and we lined them up on the ground under the downspout. (FYI, there were much cheaper ones available (e.g., $1.69 ea), but we wanted the kind that look like brick.)

4. Gather the tools to install the barrel:

  • Small hacksaw
  • Small pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • WD-40

5. Shorten the downspout by removing its lower section. Per the instructions that came with the rain barrel, we needed to adjust the length of the downspout so that the rain barrel could easily fit underneath. Three inches above the rain barrel lid was the suggested distance. Indeed, our downspout was much too long. To adjust, we first squirted WD-40 on the rusty screws to loosen them. Once they were greased up, Clinton used pliers to unscrew them. This allowed us to remove the lower section of the downspout.


6. Use a small hacksaw to cut the gutter downspout. One of us held the downspout steady while the other one sawed. This took approximately 5-7 minutes to complete. We fitted the elbow back onto the now shortened downspout.

7. Scoot the rain barrel so it is lined up under the downspout. Almost done!

8. Install the rain barrel attachments, if applicable. The rain barrel you purchase might be different than ours. Per the instructions that came with the barrel, we installed two spigots and then tightened a hose clamp to attach a long plastic tube to the side of the barrel. This tube cleverly directs any barrel overflow away from the house. Finally, we screwed down a piece of screen to the top of the barrel.


9. Voila! Watch the rain come down the spout and into your barrel! The leaves, bugs and other debris will be filtered by the mesh screen at the top of the lid.

2 Comments - Categories: Sustainable living, Yard and garden