Big bang weekend projects for small investments

Doing it yourself got a lot cooler with the rise of HGTV and the DIY Network. And in the course of less than an hour (TV time), ordinary people transform their yards, homes and lives for the better. It’s enough to make you want to tackle a weekend project of your own.

When we put this list together, we had a few criteria: 

  1. The degree of difficulty was low; easy and suitable for beginners
  2. The project could be tackled over a weekend (normally within a few hours), and
  3. The results would provide big visual benefits for the small time/resource investment

These aren’t exhaustive instructions, but we’ll give you the basics and tell you where to find the rest, including a list of recommended tools and products to complete each weekend project.


Edge and Mulch

One of the ultimate curb-appeal weekend projects. Your time commitment will be shaped largely by how focused you are on the details. For established beds with existing mulch, you may be able to get away with a fresh 1-2 inches of mulch and call it a day.

For new beds and ones that have weathered a rough winter, wet spring or a lot of foot traffic, you will need to define/redefine the edges. Here’s how to make it happen:

  • Outline your desired bed shape with a garden hose. Some people use spray paint, but the hose allows you to readjust easily.
  • Use a soil knife for small areas or a sharp spade or round-blade edger on wheels to create a sharp and distinct edge around the hose.
  • Use your spade to cut to a depth of 4-6 inches to loosen and remove the sod by hand. Trim the edge of the grass vertically with hand pruning sheers for an even cleaner line.
  • Add 2-3 inches of quality, hardwood mulch that will nourish the soil as it decomposes. Mound the mulch and slope down toward the clean edge.

Things you’ll need: 

  • good sharp spade, soil knife or gas or electric powered edger (recommended for smooth curves)
  • hand pruning sheers
  • cardboard, newspaper and/or pre-emergent weed inhibitor
  • fertilizer (10-10-10 or organic Chickity Doo Doo)
  • hardwood mulch (figure out how much you need here)

Add a Green Screen

green-screen-backyard-privacyA green screen is a plant privacy fence, a barrier to noise and wind and a way to hide an unappealing view. Green screens are made with fast growing, voluminous trees and shrubs like arborvitae, viburnum, spruces and large hydrangeas.

This is a weekend project that might require a little homework. 

  • Assess  your outdoor living space, viewpoints and goals
  • Bring in a photo for advice on right tree(s) or shrub(s) for your space
  • Create a bed if one doesn’t already exist (see #4)
  • See our Step-by-Step Guide to Planting [link to article that is being posted this week]

Things you’ll need: 

  • shovel
  • tree(s) or shrub(s)
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

Upgrade Your Builder Landscape

upgrade-builder-landscapeEven the nicest homes are often left with sparse, less than inspiring landscapes. Once you’re moved in and ready to tackle the landscape, there are a lot of things you can do to add some personality. Because this isn’t an exercise in cookie-cutter landscapes, we recommend homeowners schedule a Snapshot Gardening Consultation with one of our designers.

Snap some photos of your landscape, including your home for context and scale. Bring your photos to your appointment and you will leave with personalized ideas, plant choices and a gift card toward your purchase of materials. Find out more about Snapshot Gardening Consultations.

You’ll also want to check out our Step-by-Guide to Planting when you’re ready to get started.

Things you’ll need: 

  • Snapshot Gardening Consultation (recommended)
  • shovel
  • plant material
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

Hide Your Utilities

hide-air-conditioner-with-landscapingWe’re still a little confused why power companies need to place ugly electrical transformer boxes in such visible areas, but we’re more interested in making lemonade from lemons. There are plenty of beautiful ways to camouflage the area, but there are a few important things to remember.

  • Never conceal a fire hydrant.
  • Always, always call before you dig (Call 811) – or click here
  • Use the natural, layering method to create your bed:
    • Use a garden hose to outline your desired bed shape.
    • Use a soil knife, spade or gas or electric-powered edger to cut around the hose being careful to observe the utility markings
    • Cut down 4-6 inches with your spade
    • Remove sod around edges and over entire bed by hand or remove around the edges and lay cardboard or newspaper over the majority of the bed. The cardboard and newspaper will help prevent weeds and the organic material will break down over time. 
    • Add pre-emergent weed prevention if you do not use a layer of cardboard or newspaper. You can also do both. 
    • See our Step-by-Step Planting Guide [link to page that is going up this week]

Things you’ll need: 

  • shovel
  • spade, soil knife and/or gas or electric-powered edger
  • cardboard or newspaper
  • fast-growing perennials and shrubs (ask us for recommendations)
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

Add Character Around Your Mailbox

hide-mailbox-with-landscapingThese areas are notorious time wasters when you’re mowing and edging (and touching up the paint on your mailbox post…over and over again) and normally devoid of much personality. It’s often easy to create a small bed (usually butting up to your driveway) where you can camouflage the post and soften the edges a little.

  • See #4
  • See our Step-by-Step Planting Guide [link to page that is going up this week]

Things you’ll need: 

  • shovel
  • spade, soil knife and/or gas or electric-powered edger
  • cardboard or newspaper
  • plant material (ask us for recommendations)
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

Add Containers to Your Patio or Porch

add-flower-containers-to-patioThis is one of the fastest and most flexible ways we can think of to change the look from the curb, as you approach and when you sit down to enjoy your porch or patio. Use some of your own containers and get as creative and eclectic as you’d like or buy a fresh new assortment.

Fill your containers with perennials, annuals and seasonal branches like pussy willows, forsythia, birch and curly willow branches. Use decorative mosses and mulch, interesting stakes, even seasonal decorations like tiny flags or shimmering holiday accents.

  • Check out our Container Gardening How To and give The Potting Bar a try if you want to plant and leave the mess here.
  • And for an even easier option, choose Grab & Go containers that are pre-planted for the season in fiber pots you can drop right into your containers.
  • And for the easiest option, check out our 4 Seasons of Color Container Package for a year filled with the best every season has to offer—without the work and with a phone or email reminder when it’s ready!
  • One important reminder: give some thought to where you want to place your containers then plant for the exposure (sun, part sun or shade).

Things you’ll need: 

Things you may want to try: 

  • The Potting Bar
  • Grab & Gos
  • 4 Seasons of Color Container Package

Add Trees & Shrubs

add-shrubs-treesDid you know that trees can increase your property value up to 15% or more? Or that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ‘the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.” And more profoundly, researchers at the Davey Institute found that ‘urban forests are saving an average of one life every year per city because of the pollutants they remove from the air.’ Trees add value to your home, clean the air we breathe, insulate your home and neighborhood from extreme temperatures and provide food and refuge for wildlife. Plus they’re beautiful.

And if you’re still not convinced you should plant a tree or shrub this weekend, check out some of our favorites here. Take a photo of your area and bring it in for us to help you select the right trees or shrubs for you and your space.  When you’re ready to plant, check out our Step-by-Guide to Planting. 

Things you’ll need: 

  • shovel
  • tree(s) or shrub(s)
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

Prune

prune-for-better-results(For spring and summer) Probably one of the most mysterious of yard and garden practices, pruning has a bad rap. People are confused about which plants, when to prune and how to prune. So, they often do nothing, which can result in a bunch of leggy, spindly branches and out of shape, overgrown trees and shrubs.

We have the solution. Check out Prune Like a Pro and our Step-by-Step Guide to Planting (when and how to plant, water, fertilize & prune).

A lot of bang for a quick, cost-free weekend project.

Things you’ll need: 

  • a sharp set of pruning sheers

Plant Up Trouble Spots

plant-trouble-spotsThat shady spot where grass doesn’t grow. The dry, sunbaked patch. The sometimes-soggy section of your yard and the high-traffic area. Sometimes people are at a loss for a solution. The great thing is, there is a perennial for virtually every problem.

  • Pay attention to plant tags, they’ll tell you a lot about your plant and where it will work best.
  • Bring in a photo of your area and use it as you walk around brainstorming, and
  • You can always ask an expert to help you choose the perennials that solve your problem.
  • Schedule a Snapshot Gardening Consultation for 45 minutes of one-on-one time with a designer for personalized solutions, plant recommendations and a $25 gift card toward your purchase
  • See our Step-by-Step Planting Guide [link to page that is going up this week]

 Things you’ll need: 

  • Snapshot Gardening Consultation (optional)
  • shovel
  • plant material
  • soil amendment
  • mulch

Add Color Quickly with Annuals

plant-annuals-for-colorThe beauty of annuals is they are a quick burst of color and interest that can last for months. They’re inexpensive, flexible ways to change the look of a container, windowbox or garden bed virtually throughout the entire year.

  • Check out our Container Gardening How-To for a guide to planting and examples of annuals for every season.
  • See #6 ‘Add Containers to Your Porch or Patio’
  • See #4 for how to create new beds
  • Check out our Step-by-Step Guide to Planting to get you started

Things you’ll need for container planting:  

 Things you’ll need for bed planting: 

  • shovel
  • soil amendment
  • annuals
  • mulch