10 simple (and cheap) backyard upgrades
Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | July 10, 2015
When summer comes calling, the backyard looks like a haven of fun. But what if yours isn't quite up to par? No worries - these awesome backyard hacks can help you enjoy the great outdoors much more than you have in years past. All of these upgrades are simple and easy, taking no more than a few hours out of your weekend. And best of all, we kept them all as affordable as possible. Depending on what you have on hand, they might even be free! You can even get the kids to help with most of them. This weekend could be the perfect time to spruce up your backyard and make your summer much more enjoyable.
- Create new and improved seating. Want to entertain but never have enough chairs for everyone? Remedy that this weekend with cinder blocks and sturdy wood. Choose spray paint in an appropriate color and coat the cinder blocks; let them dry well. Then stack the cinder blocks and slide long wooden poles (something at least 3x3 will do the trick) through the holes. Put a few pillows on top and there you have it -- a new bench!
- Light the path. Sure, you could go with inexpensive solar lights to cast a glow over your patio at night. Or you could really spruce things up with a few cans of glow-in-the-dark paint and handsome pebbles. Paint the pebbles generously with the paint, then use them to line the walkways. At night they will glow, safely lighting up your path.
- Create a bucket table. Use a big bucket, such as a common garden bucket made of galvanized steel. The bigger the bucket, the better! Then sand and paint a circular piece of wood to serve as the tabletop. This little side table offers more space on the patio, and the added bonus of a hiding spot for those citronella candles, extra matches, and more.
- Make an outdoor movie screen. Want to watch movies in the backyard? Invite a friend to bring over their projector, then find your largest, cleanest sheet from the linen closet. Use heavy-duty clothespins on the corners, attach sturdy wire or rope, and hang the sheet up between two trees - or even over your garage door. Bring out those new benches you made, and let the fun begin!
- Create lawn games. Remember that spray paint you used for the benches and lighted path? Repurpose the rest of it and create lawn games that you don't have to put away when the party is over. Twister is a great classic game you can create right on the lawn. What others would your family enjoy?
- Throw some shade. Need to shade a certain area of the yard but don't want to spend a small fortune on an off-set umbrella? Create your own shade by stringing rope or wire from one tree or building to another, then adding curtains. Curtains made with grommets at the top make it easier to do this. You can then slide the curtains from side to side, blocking the sun as it moves throughout the day.
- Create handsome garden edging. Inexpensive stone or cement bricks make a heavy-duty material that holds back the mulch, soil and other goodies in your flower beds. Simply bury one row until just the tops show, then create a second row of horizontal bricks that form a barrier around your flower bed. Your lawn mower can go right up to and over the buried edge, making summer life that much easier.
- Plant a gutter garden. Got old pieces of gutter tucked away in the garage? Pull those out, drill holes in the bottom, fill them with soil, add plants, and there you have it - a tiny herb, veggie, or flower garden! Hang the gutters up on the side of the house, on a tree, or anywhere else that they can get good sunlight.
- Install a summer privacy fence. Thwart the nosy neighbors. Plant very tall grasses, such as lemongrass, along the edge of your yard or in containers. You could also plant towering sunflowers - just be sure to put them in two staggered rows, so you have plenty of coverage. They will impart a bit of privacy and beauty for a few months.
- Build a tiny fire pit. Forget the big, expensive pit - you can get something just as fun with a tabletop DIY version. Choose small bricks or stones that are suitable for the size you want, add a bit of mortar to hold them together, and create a small pit. Make sure you have a sturdy grate to keep the fire in, and keep a close eye on your new creation while you roast those S'mores.
Photo credit to Kevin Irby