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9 Backyard Makeover Tips That Won’t Break the Bank

Are you tired of your outdoor living space? Are you ready for something new but don’t have a massive budget to blow? No worries, there are many easy and inexpensive ways that you can breathe new life into your landscape. Transformation is just a few dollars away. With these ideas, you can create a brand new, inviting outdoor oasis!

Lay down a rug

Rugs are not just for indoor living; they add immediate color, warmth, and personality to any outdoor space. Cover up your cracking patio or your sun-worn deck with an outdoor rug that will create a whole new vibe. Add complimenting pillows to your furniture to tie it all together.

Add some water

Nothing says, “come and relax” better than a water feature. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to spend a fortune on a store-bought water feature when you can create your very own fountain in a matter of hours. You can even get adventurous and add a water garden made from half of a whiskey barrel. These water features allow you to incorporate beautiful water plants and moving water all in one!

Mulch is your friend

Adding a fresh new layer of mulch to garden beds is an easy and effective way to breathe new life into your landscape. Choose a new and exciting type or color of mulch to change it up. 

Grow upwards

Utilizing vertical space, whether it be on your patio, fence, wall, or another surface, helps create interesting focal points in your outdoor living space. Hanging pots, patio rail boxes, and wall gardens are just a few ways that you can vertically display your favorite plants.

Light it up

A little outdoor lighting helps soften your outdoor space and brings romance and coziness to any space. Hang lights, light up pathways, or use outdoor battery-operated candles to set the mood!

Fun borders

If spicing up your garden borders is something you have always wanted to do, here are a few great suggestions that don’t cost a fortune. 

  • Large stone or rocks – Rock edging is fantastic for those with easy access to rocks. They add interest to any landscape.
  • Bricks – Brick edging adds inviting formality to garden beds. For a shabby chic look, paint bricks white.
  • Bottles – Do you love wine? Do your friends love wine? Using wine bottles for edging is a fantastic way to repurpose bottles. Clean bottles, strip off the labels and insert them into the ground around garden beds or use as pathway edging.
  • Logs – For a perfect complement to a rustic landscape, use cut log pieces as edging. Cut all pieces the same size or mix them up for additional visual interest.
  • Dinner plates – If you are after an eclectic vintage look, a dinner plate border is a perfect option. Use plates from your own collection or visit your local thrift store for some great finds. Dig a shallow trench, place plates in the soil, and backfill to hold them in place.

Door dining table

A trip to your local thrift store or a community yard sale may give you exactly what you need to create an uplifting dining table without spending a fortune. Look for a solid wood door that you can transform. Remove the hardware, sand the door down and paint a bright white or your favorite color. Cut a hole in the middle for an umbrella, set the door on two painted workhorses, and add benches or chairs for a fun and practical dining space.

Washing machine drum fire pit

Creating a fire pit from a washing machine drum is a fantastic upcycling project that will wow your friends. Stainless steel holds up well against heat, and the slotted design allows oxygen to freely flow, keeping the fire burning bright. Head out to your local used appliance store, where you can usually snag a washing machine drum for under $10.  You will need an angle grinder and grinder attachments along with a cup wire brush, cut-off wheel, and flap wheel sanding disc to transform the washing machine drum to a fire pit. Don’t forget your protective gear. The first step is to remove the plastic ring and base. Use a grinder to cut off the wheel and take out the center spindle – making room for firewood. Grind down the metal pipe and smooth rough edges. Use a wire brush to clean away all soap scum. Finish the drum with a coat of black high-heat spray paint and weld some legs at the base.

Add some outdoor games

Nothing transforms an outdoor space from boring to fun faster than the addition of a few outdoor games. If you have room, set up cornhole boards, croquet, horseshoes, badminton, or even lawn bowling. If turf is an issue, consider installing a small section of fake grass for a game area.

Of course, these are just some of the many ways that you can make your outdoor living space pop without breaking the bank. Think outside of the box about upcycling and repurposing things you already have or can find for cheap at thrift stores, flea markets, or garage sales. Put your own creative spin on your space, and you will be amazed at how great it can look!

Happy growing,

Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener

Urban Homesteading: How to be Self Sufficient in the City

Living sustainably is no longer limited to the size of the land you own. Although you might not have enough space in your garden to grow large crops like wheat and corn, you can still grow fruits, vegetables, and trees in a city garden — or even containers. There’s a growing number of urban dwellers looking to become self-sufficient while reconnecting with nature. So, if you’re a big city dweller and dream of becoming a modern-day homesteader one day, why wait? Here’s how to be self-sufficient in the city.

Know your limitations

Maybe you were born in the city, came to be educated, or simply arrived looking for work. Whatever your situation, you’re here now and quite enjoy everything the city has to offer. But even with all those modern-day conveniences, you still dream of living off the land and creating a self-sustaining lifestyle. That’s where an urban homestead garden fits in.

First, make sure you realize your limitations on your homesteading journey. Chicken coops, livestock, and making your own cheese may be out of the question — for now. But, even if you don’t have a large garden at your disposal, you can certainly create a sustainable garden in your small city space. If you have the desire to create a sustainable lifestyle and reconnect with the environment and the food you eat, then you can apply homesteading principles to your urban garden.

Utilize your space

The traditional homesteads tend to have a lot of land ready to grow on and harvest food year-round. In urban settings, you likely don’t have that kind of space. So, you’ll need to create as much garden or growing space as you can. Balconies, patios, and even concrete walkways are ideal for containers and raised beds. In fact, you can even remove sod from a small backyard to create your vegetable and herb garden. And if you are space-challenged horizontally, then there’s only one way to go…up.

Discover vegetables and fruits that climb vertically or can be guided to climb with a little persuasion. Climbing vegetables include Vine tomatoes, Malabar spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, Indian and runner beans, peas, pumpkins, gourds, and more. Raspberries and blackberries also naturally climb. Don’t forget to utilize the borders of your property with trained fruit trees, bushes, and climbing vegetables.   

Create a living wall

Living walls or green walls are vertical gardens that attach to exterior or interior structures. Unlike ivy walls that root to the side of fences or buildings, living walls root in structural supports that are fastened to the wall. They can be as large or small as you like. So they can be tailored to suit the size of your space. You can invest in stackable planters fastened to a fence or structure from the ground up. You can even create your own with painted, recycled containers and holes punched in the bottom for drainage. Additionally, you can use window boxes secured one above the other.

Water collection

A great garden relies heavily on its water source. Rainwater collection is an inexpensive way to feed your crops. By installing a water collection system, you can utilize the earth’s hydrological cycle. This reduces the demand from water facilities, which in turn improves conservation efforts. Keep in mind, while it is not entirely illegal to collect rainwater in any of the 50 states, some states currently have restrictions on the amount of rainwater that can be collected and the method by which it is collected.

Create your own compost

Compost is great for the environment because it reduces food wastage. Scrap food and plants decompose over several months before turning into nutrient-rich soil (or hummus.) If space permits, why not create your own compost for your garden?

  • Select a container for your compost and set it in a grassy, reasonably shady part of your garden. Make sure that the container doesn’t have a bottom. Compost should be directly touching the ground.  
  • To help aerate the compost, lay a few inches of branches and twigs at the bottom.
  • Balance your compost with nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. Nitrogen comes from the green materials you scrap, and carbons comes from the brown material.
  • Include: Dried leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, peelings, coffee grounds, and tea leaves, dust from sweeping and vacuuming, shredded newspaper, human and pet hair.
  • Don’t include: Meat, dairy, and bread, which rot and attract pests. You should also omit processed foods, since they take a long time to decompose.  
  • With a spade or shovel, aerate once a week, and water when the compost gets too dry.
  • After a few months, your compost is ready to use.

Preserving your harvest

The more skills you acquire, the more self-reliant you’ll become. And that means relying less on grocery stores and more on your ability to grow and create. As you become more familiar with the homesteading lifestyle, you can certainly up your skill level and begin to make, sell, and even barter your hand-made goods. The purpose of homesteading, after all, is to create a frugal lifestyle that allows you to grow your own food while reducing your carbon footprint. But to get there, you’ll need a certain skill set.

Learning to preserve your harvest is a must. When practiced properly, canning is a safe and important method of food preservation. It will keep you well-fed during the cold, winter months. There are three safe methods of canning according to the Clemson Cooperative Extension, Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC):

The boiling water bath method — Food is preserved in jars completely covered by boiling water. Safe for jarring tomatoes, pickles, and fruits, as well as jams, jellies, and other preserves.

The atmospheric steam canner method — In steam canners, jars are set in a rack above a reservoir of water. Steam created from boiling the water provides the thermal treatment to the jars. The advantages of using a steam canner include using less water than a boiling water bath. It also reaches processing temperatures faster and requires less energy. However, this method is not suited for low-acid foods like vegetables. The steam canner is useful for naturally acidic foods that have a pH less than 4.6 like pickled veggies, fruits, and preserves.

The pressure canner method — Filled jars are placed in two to three inches of water and then heated in the pressure canner to 240° F. The pressure canner method is only safe for canning low-acid foods or those with a pH over 4.6 such as vegetables.

If you’re a big city dweller, you might have thought homesteading wasn’t for you. But thanks to space-saving items like containers, vertical planters, and living walls, you can have an urban garden that provides sustenance throughout the year. Enjoy!

-Katherine Marko

Top Garden Trends in 2020: Are You Ready do Dig In?

Years ago, gardening was reserved for those who had expensive pieces of land where they could create long rows for growing food. Today, however, there is a skyrocketing interest among urbanites to grow their food, herbs, and flowers. The good news is that gardening in 2020 has taken a whole new twist making it possible for more and more people to experience the joy and rewards of small space gardening. Even better, gardens are all about marrying the use of space with what is good for wildlife and the earth as a whole. It is indeed a great time to garden. Let’s explore some of the hottest garden trends for 2020.

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What is an Herb Spiral and Why You Need One

This innovative garden method is the urban gardener’s dream. It takes a long, space-monopolizing row bed and turns it into a compact, efficient spiral that utilizes vertical real estate and creates an ideal environment for many types of herbs. So what exactly is an herb spiral and why should you build one in your garden? Read on to find out!

What is an herb spiral

An herb spiral is exactly what the name suggests. It is a coiled garden in a raised spiral shape. This design was created by author and gardener Bill Mollison and was inspired by many spiral shapes that are found in nature such as snail shells and seashells. The spiral ramp is wide enough for most common herbs and creates a highly productive, energy efficient garden ideal for a compact space.

The herb spiral allows you to plant many herbs together that wouldn’t normally do well in the same garden because it creates microclimates in the small area. When you water an herb spiral, you water from the top and allow the moisture to flow down along the natural curve of the bed. This makes care incredibly intuitive since you don’t have to worry about over or underwatering. In an herb spiral, plants that are on the bottom layer of the spiral should be ones that don’t mind the soil staying a little bit wet, such as mint and cress, while the top of the spiral stays reserved for herbs that prefer dry soil such as rosemary and oregano.

Benefits of an herb spiral

So why not just plant your kitchen garden in a typical raised bed? Aside from saving space, what are the benefits of an herb spiral?

Acts as an insulator

The stones, bricks, or blocks that you use to build the bed will act as an insulator and help the soil retain heat during the colder months. More heat means you get to enjoy fresh herbs later in the season.

You can easily access all sides

Since it is a round garden, it is easy to access all sides for planting, harvest, and care. You don’t have to worry about trampling other herbs next time you need to grab some cilantro for your homemade salsa.

It looks cool

Everyone will be asking about your herb spiral once it is bursting with fragrant plants. Creating one is deceptively simple, and it adds an interesting element of height and stone to your garden.

Varying levels of sun exposure

Not only does the herb spiral allow you to customize your herb garden according to water needs, but you can also plant based on varying sun requirements. It is best to place your herb spiral in a sunny area since most herbs prefer bright sunlight. However, some don’t want as much as others and can be planted accordingly on the shady side of your spiral.

You can plant it right on your patio

Herbs should always be planted as close to your kitchen as possible. This makes it more likely that you’ll run out to grab a few extra garnishes before your evening meal and you won’t have to worry about traipsing through your whole garden to find some mint leaves for tea. Herb spirals aren’t restricted to an open area of soil. Since it is technically a raised bed, it can be created right over concrete or any other unyielding ground.

Low maintenance

Once established, herb spirals practically take care of themselves. In many areas, most herbs are perennial and will come back every year. Plus, the longer they have been growing, the less water and care they will require.

Total control over the soil

Unlike planting straight into the ground, where you have to go through the arduous process of amending the soil and mixing in compost, an herb garden allows you to have complete say over what goes into the soil. This allows you to ensure only the best quality compost and planting soil are used and protects from excessive weed growth.

You can install a pond at the base

If you love water features in the garden (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?) you can dig out an area for a small pond at the “end” of your spiral, or where the water runoff goes. Install a small pond with a bubbling fountain and your excess water won’t go to waste. This added feature will help make your herb spiral truly stand out in your garden.

Interested in making an herb spiral? Stay tuned for our next article to learn how to build one in just a few simple steps!

-Taylor Ramsey

5 Things You Should Do Differently in Your Veggie Garden

When planting your vegetable garden, it can be challenging to keep all the advice straight, “build a raised bed,” “make sure that you try companion planting,” “always use fertilizer,” “never use fertilizer.” Eventually, the overwhelming words of well-meaning fellow gardeners go in one ear and out the other, and you usually end up winging it. That works for a time, and usually, you will see a harvest, but here are a few essential things that you should be doing differently to maximize yield and encourage healthy growth.

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Top Veggies That Trail and Vine For an Abundant Vertical Garden

Small space gardening is all the rage and rightly so! It is absolutely amazing how many types of veggies you can grow in a very little space when you grow them upwards. While many plants are naturally inclined to trail – others need a little coaxing at first, but will happily comply as long as they have great soil, plenty of sunlight, enough water, and a good support system.

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Easy and Creative Vertical Garden Ideas

Do you love to be surrounded by vibrant plants but are short on space? You can fit a vertical garden anywhere, indoors or outdoors, and have plenty of gardening fun. A vertical arrangement will help you fit more plants in a small area. Try these ideas for fun ways to try your hand at vertical gardening.

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