Do-It-Yourself Outdoor Project Ideas
Pallets in a Perky Palette
Wooden pallets are easy to come by on the cheap -- many businesses will even give them away! They are the building blocks of a coffee table so low-maintenance, it can stay outside year-round. Our version stacks two pallets together for height and features a window box-style planter (which we filled with Scotch moss) as a centerpiece.
Boost the function of a store-bought potting bench, which doubles as an outdoor serving station. Cut sections of lattice to fit the sides and back, paint them to match -- we chose a saucy hot-pink -- and fasten the lattice with screws. Use S-hooks or screw eyes to hang garden tools, gloves, buckets, or other necessities so they’re always within reach.
Conjure up a festive mood with this outdoor fire bowl. Start with a fireproof container, such as this galvanized bowl that we primed and coated with outdoor paint in a cheery hue. Fill the bowl with recycled tempered glass chips, and tuck in a can of alcohol-free gel fuel. With a click of a lighter, the flame will dance and enchant for hours.
All fences are functional -- even the simplest ones are good at delineating the neighbor's yard from your own -- but this one takes practicality to new heights. Not only are the boards brushed with green, blue, and gray exterior wood stain for a lively striped look, but the fence also holds aloft a couple of gutter gardens. That's right: Inexpensive vinyl gutters -- the ideal shallow plant container -- were cut into 3-foot sections (folks at the hardware store can do it for you) and then sprayed with two shades of green paint. Once we attached the gutters to the reinforced areas of the fence, we filled them with potting soil and plants for an easy, almost-instant garden.
Easy Concrete Orbs
Make these easy, inexpensive concrete orbs for your garden using either a glass globe or a Christmas ornament.
These enchanting stepping-stones rival a rainbow with their riotous color! But it's not paint that beautifies them: It's fabric. And the pavers are amazingly easy to make yourself.
A Table that Rocks
Create an outdoor cocktail table both rustic and glamorous with just a few supplies. Five feet of heavy-duty metal hairpin fencing forms a wire cylinder, and we used additional wire and pliers to secure the cylinder shape. (Clip the bottom to a finished edge so there are no jagged spots.) Set the cylinder near a cozy seating arrangement and fill the wire frame with 30 to 40 river rocks, arranging them so that flat stones sit flush to the interior walls of the cylinder and so that the top tier of stones sits below the top edge. That way, a tempered glass tabletop can crown the whole assembly.
From Fins to Feathers
An old bait box no longer assists in catching fish; these days, outfitted as a birdhouse, it beckons to feathered friends. Drill an entrance hole into the door, and smooth the edges with a metal file. Position a doorknob plate an inch below the door, and secure with quick-setting epoxy. Clip the metal points off of brass house numbers, and adhere them a few inches below the door with dabs of epoxy to give this abode an address. To hang, thread rope through the bait box's loop and a vintage spring, and knot onto a sturdy branch.
Bag of Greens
Salvaged burlap bags and a cardboard box almost magically transform into a mini garden brimming with herbs and tomatoes -- all it takes is a bit of ingenuity. Split the burlap bags at the seams, piece them together to fit around the box, and sew the burlap with right sides together to form a tube. Turn the tube right side out, then fit it over the box, tucking and gluing extra burlap inside and underneath to conceal the cardboard. Line the box with a plastic trash bag to prevent leaks, and add potting mix and plants.
Modern Family Table
Though it looks like a pricey designer piece, this cedar patio table was actually crafted out of materials from the local home center. The base consists of two 24-inch-tall clay chimney-flue liners set atop 4-inch-thick concrete blocks (so that the table is at a comfortable height for sitting and eating). We made the tabletop from 2x4 boards alternating with 4x4 posts in decay-resistant cedar set ¼-inch apart. (We cut them 8 feet long and used enough lumber for a table 5 feet wide, but you can size the table as you’d like.) For braces under the tabletop, cut several 2x4s an inch shorter than the table’s width, and place them evenly along the length of the table, making room for the clay bases. (We used five braces.) Decking screws secure the braces to the tabletop; we then turned the entire assembly over to set on the bases.
Sized to Suit
Most of us wouldn’t even try to build a house by ourselves, but shrink down the scale to the size of a garden shed, and all of a sudden we’re eager to roll up our sleeves! And why wouldn’t we be when a shed can be as detailed and dapper as this one? We designed it to be 5x8 feet so we could use standard, 8-foot boards, and it sits on a level spot so that water flow isn’t an issue. And because it’s meant to endure the elements, we used galvanized nails and weather-resistant materials throughout to avoid rust and rot.
Window Box Brightener
A salvaged shutter perks up an otherwise plain window box almost as easily as flicking open the louvers will light up a room. Find a shutter about the same size as the front of the box, and paint it if you'd like. (We coated ours with a sunny yellow shade.) Once it's dry, use screws to attach it to the box.
Spruce Up Pots
Pretty up terra-cotta pots with paint. Watch and learn how with this simple how-to video.
An Edgy Flower Bed
Got a smidgen of space for flowers or a veggie garden? Make this easy planter out of concrete pavers and edging (both readily available at home centers) for handsome raised beds that belie their humble price tag.
Easy Garden Bench
Would you believe that this chic, modern garden bench backed by lime green lattice panels was once an old paneled door? First we cut out the panels on both ends of the door for the shrub containers, filling in any visible channels with wood scraps and putty. (Choose containers that are beefy enough to support the weight of someone sitting on the bench. They should be larger than the door panels but narrower than the door so that the door will rest securely on top.) Reinforce the door by screwing 1x3 boards along its edges, then prime and paint the whole thing. Once dry, set the door atop the containers in the desired spot in your yard, and fill the containers with potting mix and shrubs. Now take a seat -- you've earned it!
What's more refreshing in a backyard than the playful babbling of a fountain? Even more appealing, a water feature will drown out street noise and welcome birds and butterflies into a garden. You may need to track down some of the supplies from a water-garden shop or online, but such an eye-catching -- and ear-delighting -- feature is well worth the effort.
Great Wall of Concrete
Few features have as much impact on a garden -- both visual and architectural -- as a regal retaining wall. Such walls can tame a pesky slope and expand a yard's gardening potential, all while adding structure and interest to a landscape. Walls up to 4 feet high are safely within a do-it-yourselfer's capabilities, but you'll get a workout: Concrete blocks can weigh 20 to 80 pounds! Grab a friend (or three) to tackle such a project together.