Get a load of this transformation! See Millie’s Remodel and her exterior front reveal. Plus, I’m sharing tips to help you keep your home protected from termites when landscaping.

Millie’s Remodel Update: Exterior Front Reveal

This update of the Millie’s Remodel project is sponsored by Corteva, the makers of Sentricon. I’m grateful to have Sentricon on board as a Millie’s Remodel sponsor!

Although I still have a lot to catch you up on inside the Millie’s Remodel house, the exterior siding, brick, and front door has been painted. I chose a pretty bright blue for the front door. It’s Loyal Blue from Sherwin Williams.

I built the shutters using leftover tongue and groove planks from the porch overhangs. I promise to share a tutorial for you in the near future.

And I added a modern address plaque beside the door. Also, a DIY I’ll share a tutorial for later.

Although the shutters have been hung and the house numbers look amazing, I feel like something is missing. The house feels a bit naked from the waist down if you catch my drift. It needs some landscaping!

Unfortunately, I’m a little over budget on all the renovations at Millie’s Remodel, so I need to save some money on the landscaping. I decided to plant a few bushes out front and call it done.

Budget Landscaping for a Mid-Century Modern House:

With my budget being under $200, I was able to put in some foundation plantings and one feature plant to give Millie a more finished look outside.

I planted three Fatsio Japonica bushes (the wider bushes with bigger leaves).

Between the Japonicas, I planted two Golden Ticket privet bushes. They should fill in a little over time, but for now, they certainly help ground the house.

For the feature item, I chose a pretty yellow Amber Gold arborvitae for the small bed between the front door and the driveway. I like the color and the tall skinny look of this tree. When full-grown it may be up to 5′ wide and 10′ tall. But, hopefully, it won’t reach full width and can stay a little narrower. I’ll have to keep an eye on it and trim the sides if it starts to get too big.

Luckily, I had a pile of wood chips in the backyard where I had to take out a large rotted tree that was hanging over the house. I was able to use the chips as fresh mulch around the plantings.

Although it’s hard to tell, in the above photo, I kept a barrier of bare earth (and no wood chips) against the foundation of the house. Why? Let me take a moment to talk about how to landscape while keeping your house protected from termites.

Landscaping While Keeping Your Home Termite Free:

I know we live in an area that is overpopulated with termites, so I’m very careful about protecting my homes from conditions that could lead to a termite infestation. Most plants need moisture to stay alive, but unfortunately, termites love wet mushy wood because it’s easier to chew and more tempting! For that reason, it’s important to pay attention to moisture around your home’s foundation. All the tips below will help you reduce the likelihood that termites will find your home tasty.

  • When spreading mulch around plantings, keep it away from the house. Leave at least a one-foot perimeter along the foundation clear of mulch and other organic matter
  • Plant bushes so as to maintain a three-foot clearance from your home (be sure to look at the mature height and width information on new plantings)
  • Never pile firewood, lumber, mulch, soil, or other “termite-friendly” matter against your house
  • Don’t use wood timbers or lumber to create garden beds against your house
  • Install gutters and use downspouts to move water away from the foundation
  • Always make sure your land is graded with a slope away from your house
  • Keep gutters clear of debris to prevent them from overflowing.
  • Contract with a good termite treatment company (you can read how I chose Sentricon in this post.)
  • Keep up with scheduled inspections with your termite company.

My local termite company that installed the Sentricon system came back two weeks ago to check on the system to see if there was any termite activity and inspect the bait stations to see if they needed to be replaced. My technician was able to find most of the bait stations from the map he created during installation.

But, if the stations were buried, he could use the detector to find them.

You can learn more about the Sentricon system and how it’s installed by watching my previous video:

We saw some minor evidence that they had found the stations. This is good because it means they are feeding off the bait stations and taking it back to the colony.

Unfortunately, the memory card in my camera was corrupt, or I’d show you the bait station after almost a year. Luckily, Sarah has an excellent photo of her Sentricon bait station after being in the ground for almost a year.

A Look Back at Millie’s Front Exterior Transformation:

Together, I think the landscaping (although only 6 plants and some mulch) and painting made a big difference. We should look back to when I first bought the house. Remember how she looked? The greenery you see was all weeds!

Then, after painting, she looks great, but still needs some architectural pizzazz.

Finally, the shutters and painted front door made a big difference, but she was a tad naked around her base.

Now she has some beautiful modern greenery out front.

Did I do okay on my minimal budget?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Corteva, the makers of Sentricon. I was provided complimentary termite protection for a year and was compensated for my time and efforts to promote Sentricon. I was not told what to write. All opinions are my own. I am particular about the brands I represent and will always let you know when you are reading a sponsored post.

It’s spring-time and the perfect time to start a garden. Build this raised garden bed with or without a cucumber trellis and start gardening tomorrow!

Raised planter bed and cucumber trellisHow to Build a Raised Garden Bed with a Cucumber Trellis

Is there anything better than vegetables grown in your garden? They are hard to top! Cucumbers are very easy to grow, but do best if you give them a little extra care. When we decided to build a second raised vegetable garden, we decided to plan in advance to make it a strategic cucumber garden with a raised wooden trellis. We’re excited to show you how to build a DIY raised cucumber garden.

Hey y’all! We are Morgan & Sean McBride, and we blog at CharlestonCrafted.com where we are crafting our first home into our dream home and empowering you to try DIY. We share with our readers a variety of projects aimed at helping new homeowners make their homes their own. Some highlights include: our completely DIY coastal kitchen makeover; our tropical hammock oasis; and our budget laundry room refresh! Our most recent big project was our DIY concrete stone-look patio, which we are obsessed with. I’m likely to be found sharing behind the scenes and lots of laughs over on Instagram Stories, so pop over and say hey!

How to select a location for your cucumber garden:

The number one thing to remember when selecting a location for your cucumber garden is to make sure it receives plenty of light. At least five hours of morning sun is ideal, and afternoon sun on top of that is good too. You also need to be prepared to water your cucumber garden a lot because they need a lot of water, plus they are growing in the summer, when it is hard to keep these things hydrated.

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Instructions:
Build your garden upside down. Start by cutting your 4″x4″ into four equal pieces one foot long each using a miter saw.

Cut your 8-foot-long 2″x8″ in half with a circular saw or miter saw.

Lay out your 10′ boards with your now-4′ boards on either end and place your 4″x4″ pieces in the corner. (It helps to lay a small piece of scrap wood in each corner to keep the 2″x8″s raised a half inch or so, but make sure the posts stay on the ground.)

Attach your four posts to the inside of each board keeping corners flush using the decking screws.

Dig four post holes in your garden location and install your flipped over, constructed raised bed by placing the long ends of the posts in the holes.

How to build a cucumber trellis:

Materials:

  • Three- 2″x2″x8′ boards
  • One- 2’x8′ lattice
  • Brad nailer
  • 1″ brad nails
  • Circular saw

Instructions:
A cucumber trellis is super easy to build. First, build the frame by cutting two 4-foot-long pieces out of one of the boards and three 3-foot-long boards out of the other two.

Use your nailer to attach the three foot boards to the inside of the four foot boards with two lining up on the outside edges and one exactly in the center.

Next, lay your lattice down on the frame and cut it along the edge with your circular saw. It should be 3 feet, 3 inches. Do that again with the excess to create a second piece for the other side.

Lay the two pieces of lattice down on the frame, marrying them next to each other in center. Use your nailer to go around and nail down the lattice to the frame.

Now, cut two 2-foot-long boards with a 45 degree angle from the remains of the 2″x2″ to serve as your legs.
Finally, position the two legs on the back of the frame and nail the frame down to the legs.

Add garden soil to fill your raised bed about 3/4 of the way full and then add the cucumber trellis on one side. You want to pick a spot that is accessible from the side so that you can easily reach under the trellis.

We are so excited to plant cucumbers in this garden this spring. The trellis will keep them off the ground and give the cucumber plants the support that they need to grow successfully. As a bonus, we also plan to plant lettuce under the shade of the cucumber trellis, where they should thrive out of the direct summer sun.

Thanks for having us and be sure to come visit us at CharlestonCrafted.com.

You can also connect with us on facebook, instagram, pinterest, youtube, twitter, and etsy.

A Note from Pretty Handy Girl:

I love this project that Morgan and Sean built, especially with spring right around the corner. It’s definitely time to start preparing your garden for the growing season.

You may have noticed that the lumber used for the raised planter bed and trellis is pressure-treated lumber. You should know that there is some debate over whether it is safe to use pressure treated lumber for an edible garden. Personally I like to use Cedar or other naturally rot-resistant materials to prevent the chemicals from leaching into your food. You can also choose to prime or line the inside of the bed. I’ll leave the decision up to you.

You may also like this tutorial for building a rot resistant raised planter bed:

How to Build a Rot-Resistant Raised Planter Bed | Pretty Handy Girl

 

Pathways around your home can be functional (protecting grass, your feet, or creating a smooth surface to walk on.) Paths can be whimsical, natural, utilitarian or decorative. Here are 9 Lasting Alternatives to Concrete Walkways.

Alternatives to Concrete Walkways

Spring is around the corner and that means more time spent outside. If you’re looking to improve your landscaped pathways, you’ll want to check out these lasting alternatives to concrete walkways. Many are DIY-friendly and can be accomplished in a weekend.

Concrete is the most commonly chosen material for a front sidewalk. It is quick and simple to install. Plus, cement can last for a long time barring any damage from frost heaving and improper installation. Paths to the front door are usually straight forward and easy to navigate. (Imagine if your movers had to navigate a bumpy or uneven path into your home.) But, concrete cement isn’t the only option available to homeowners. Feel free to do something a little different from the Joneses. Here are a few of the many options for creating lasting pathways in your landscaping (not just the front entryway.)

 

Exposed Aggregate

A slightly more decorative pathway than your traditional cement sidewalk. This path has smooth pebbles that are embedded in the concrete and exposed (after hosing off) on the top layer for a durable and texturally appealing walkway. Exposed aggregate should last as long as a concrete and sometimes longer if an epoxy resin method is used.

 

Concrete Pavers

The Europeans have many beautiful romantic cobblestone streets. But, walking on them could be a little like balancing on a tightrope. Modern advances have developed pavers that look like cobblestones but are a lot less likely to cause you to roll your ankle. Pavers are available in a wide variety of shapes, styles, and colors. There are even concrete pavers that look like bricks. Because they are manufactured, concrete pavers are uniform in size making them easy to install. Another advantage of using pavers is if damaged, a section can be removed and re-installed.

 

Brick

A long pathway of bricks harkens back to colonial times. Believe it or not, bricks are produced in a variety of colors and textures. If you like the old antique look, buy some tumbled bricks that have rounded corners. Even more fun than picking the style is picking a pattern. Brick patterns are almost infinite. Herringbone, running bond, basket weave, and jack on jack are just some of the patterns you can create with bricks. Similar to the concrete pavers, damage can be fixed fairly easily.

 

Natural Stone

Bluestone, Cantera, Flagstone, Granite, Limestone, Marble, Porphyry, Sandstone, Slate and Travertine are all stone slabs that can be used for stone pavers. These flat slabs of rock make them ideal for wider pathways and patios. The beauty of using stone is that no two are identical because they are all-natural from the earth.

 

Crushed Stone

Crushed stone, decomposed granite, and a hybrid of crushed stone and polymer are inexpensive alternatives to an expansive pathway. Typically found in bridal paths, this material is a good choice for controlling dust and mud.

 

Photo Source

Permeable Pavers

Honeycomb and grid-like pavers are often seen where water runoff is discouraged. Grass, moss, or small gravel can be inserted between the pavers for more color. The large holes in this path allow water to permeate back into the earth. They are very environmentally friendly and graphically pleasing to the eye.

 

Boardwalk Decking

This type of pathway is usually built over wet, soggy, or sandy expanses. Most often seen in coastal or modern architecture, this material can last for years if pressure-treated lumber or composite decking material is chosen. Real wood will require staining or sealing to keep the wood from rotting.

 

Stepping Stones

Bring yourself back to your childhood with a fun stepping stone path. This pathway is a fun and quirky trail to walk on. There are a multitude of materials that can be used for stepping stones. Any large stones and/or pavers can be set on the ground and then surrounded by pea gravel, mulch, grass or left natural. But don’t limit yourself to stones in this application. Hardwood tree stumps can also stand in for stepping stones. The tree stumps will deteriorate over time, but you can slow the process by sealing them with an exterior varnish and/or allow proper drainage around them.

 

Stamped or Stained Concrete

We’ve come full circle back to concrete. There are so many ways to jazz up a regular concrete path. Consider stamped and/or stained concrete to add some color and to fool the eye. Stamped patterns are numerous with styles that look like bricks, slate, cobblestone and even cracked earth!  For more personalized options, choose any color combination to stain your concrete.

As you can see, you can create a variety of looks for the paths in your yard. Many are DIY-friendly and some may require professional installation. What were your favorites? Do you have ideas for lasting alternatives to a concrete walkway?

landscaping-101

Landscaping 101 – Tools & Planting

When we bought our first home 13 years ago, we were lured by the idea of having at least half an acre of land. Little did we know that it would involve LOTS and LOTS of yard work. Over the years we’ve learned several tips and tricks to creating beautiful landscaping that will last for decades. If you’re a new homeowner (or still trying to find your green thumb), here’s the Landscaping 101 course to help you hit the ground running. I’ll be sharing which yard tools are essential, how to pick the right plants, how to plant them, and how to add color to your landscaping. Pull up a stump and lets dig in!

Assess Landscaping Needs:

Do you have a variety of color in your landscaping? Unfortunately a soccer ball, flag and garden ornament don’t really count. Attractive landscaping will have a variety of colors, textures and tones to create variety and interest.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

The great news is that you can remedy this situation in an afternoon (or less time depending on how much planting you need to do.)

Take a good hard look at your existing landscaping. What’s working for you and what is…ummm…dying. It’s okay to give up on shrubs and plants that are dying. If you just can’t stand the thought of killing them, transplant sickly plants in a less visible spot to give them a second chance. But, don’t leave them in your front beds where they aren’t adding any curb appeal.

As an alternative, if a sad looking plant previously thrived in that location but it took a hit from frost (or a well-played soccer ball). You can try to save it by trimming the plant back to green stalks or near the ground. That’s exactly what I did to this Confederate Jasmine. I pruned it back to see if it would come back.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

I also planted a new one right next to the old one for instant color and fragrance. That way the old one can take its time growing back while no one notices its stubbiness.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Make a list of the holes you have in your landscape. Note the sun and soil conditions there. Take your list with you when you go plant shopping.

How to Choose Appropriate Plants for your Landscape:

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Be sure to shop for your flowering plants at a local reputable plant nursery. Picking up plants at the grocery store or other big box store will result in less than the hardiest plants. Nurseries take care to stock plants that thrive well in your climate. They are also more healthy and disease-free. Finally, the staff at the nursery is more knowledgeable and can help you choose plants that will do well in your garden. The grocery store cashier probably can’t help you with that!

If possible, shop for flowering plants at the time that you want them to bloom in your yard! A successful flower bed will have staggered blooms throughout the Spring – Fall. If you fill your flower bed over time, you’ll be sure to have blooms that appear at different times as opposed to picking all your beautiful blooming plants in one shopping trip. But, if you’re more of the once and done type, ask the nursery staff for a variety of plants that will stagger their blooms.

Sun and Shade Requirements:

Choose plants that will thrive in the existing conditions in your yard. It’s a great idea to map your landscape area and note the sun and shade areas on an hourly basis. Select plants based on those shade/sun requirements.

  • Full sun = At least 6 hours of direct sun
  • Partial Sun = 3-6 hours of sun per day. The plant must receive direct light for at least 3 hours.
  • Partial Shade = 3-6 hours of sun per day. The plant must receive shade to help cool the plant later in the afternoon.
  • Shade = Less than 3 hours of sun per day. But, the plant should receive some additional dappled sun throughout the day. No sun equals no life.

Also pay attention to your soil and drainage. A well drained soil will dry several hours after watering. Damp soil will stay moist and wet for at least a day after watering.

*A good tip is to save your plant tags and receipts. Most reputable nurseries will have a warranty on the plants they sell. Ask them for more information.

How to Choose Yard Tools:

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl
Disclosure: True Temper sent me these landscaping tools to try out. I was not told what to say about their tools.

A good starter set of landscaping tools are:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

  • Round Point Shovel – used for digging and transferring plants
  • Bow Rake – used for leveling and loosening soil, spreading mulch, and ground cover
  • Garden Spade Shovel – used for digging trenches, transplanting and edging beds
  • Wheelbarrow  – your best friend when it comes to hauling yard material
  • Garden Trowel  – A small trowel for planting, transplanting, digging up bulbs, moving dirt, potting, and much more!
  • Cultivator  – used for loosening and breaking up tough soil, removing rocks, weeding and aerating
  • Warren Hoe  – used for creating and planting rows of seeds and harvesting underground vegetables
  • Leaf Rake  – if you have deciduous trees, you NEED a leaf rake to remove fallen leaves
  • Pruning Shears  – a sharp pair of pruning shears are used for pruning, cutting blooms and dead limbs from bushes and plants
  • Garden gloves – a good pair of garden gloves will protect your hands from thorns, scratches and dreaded poison ivy (or poison oak.)

If you’re new to landscaping, I’m going to give you some good advice about buying tools. As I recommend with power tools, don’t cheap out when buying landscaping tools. If you buy quality garden and landscape tools, they should last you a lifetime. If you go for the less expensive tools, you’ll likely spend more in the long run when you have to replace a broken or worn out tool.

For example, we have a True Temper shovel that has lasted us for over 10 years now. We’ve put that baby to good use digging in the rocky and clay filled NC soil. Some of the other tools we bought didn’t make it that long. Either the handles snapped or the tines on a rake bent over continued use. Buying two of the same tool means it would have been smarter and more economical to purchase quality from the start. (Live and learn.)

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Good tools should be ergonomic, comfortable and made with quality materials that won’t break or bend over time. Look for strong defect-free handles. True Temper tools are high quality and Made in the USA. They’ve been making agricultural tools for over 200 years! My favorite feature of these True Temper tools are the 10″ cushion grip handles. They are easy to hold and are good shock absorbers.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

How to Plant Shrubs and Flowers that will Thrive:

Assess the health of your plants. Remove any diseased or dying plants. You don’t want them infecting your new greenery. Use a round point shovel to dig a circle around the root ball.  Use your foot to step on the top of the shovel to get further depth and force to cut roots. When the plant is free, remove it and toss it or transplant it to a new location.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Dig a hole at least two times the size of the new plant’s root ball. And several inches deeper.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Break up rocky and hard soil with either a Warren hoe or cultivator (or both!) The cultivator works great at getting all the big rocks out of the way.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Fill the bottom of the hole with good organic compost. This stuff is black gold! A good compost pile will be full of worms working to turn your kitchen scraps into super nutrient rich soil for your plants. I’ll have to write a separate post on how I compost. If you don’t have access to organic compost, purchase a bag of good gardening soil to use. Mix the compost and dirt with the cultivator or hoe. The soil should have good drainage and no large chunks.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

To free your plant from it’s pot, make a fist and pound around the outside of the pot. Gently tip the pot upside down while supporting your plant by its trunk. Gently lay the plant on its side.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Use the hand trowel to slice into the rootball. This is especially important if your plant is root bound. You need to encourage the plant to expand and grow new roots out into the earth.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Set the plant upright in the hole you dug.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Fill around the root ball and cover the top of the root ball slightly with more soil/compost mixture.

Step around the base of your plant to eliminate air holes. It’s important to get good soil contact with the roots of the plant.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Water your newly planted flowers and plants daily for two weeks or more. Then taper off the watering to help them extend their roots on their own.

Mulch:

Adding mulch around your plants in the beds adds more than an attractive look. It keeps moisture in the soil and controls weeds. To weigh your options on which type of mulch you want to use, you’ll probably find this Mulch Selection Guidelines List helpful.

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

Save your back and energy by filling a wheelbarrow with mulch and bring it to your beds. Make sure the front wheel has plenty of air. Or learn how to replace a wheelbarrow tire that never goes flat!

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Spread the mulch 2 – 3″ deep around your plants with a bow rake. Anything less than 2″ won’t  control weeds and retain moisture as well.

Container Gardening:

Potted plants help you “fake it until you make it!” A few potted plants with annual flowers in them is a great way to add pops of color exactly where you want them. They’ll draw attention to their color and blooms and detract from any landscape beds that are between blooms.

When they stop blooming you can pop in another container of flowers. Container gardening is the perfect activity for fickle gardeners because you can constantly change the look with new colors and plants. Learn all the basics for growing your own container gardens here.

Annuals are great for instant color, but once they are gone they won’t grow back next year. If you prefer to avoid yearly planting,  buy perennials to plant in your pots. They will re-bloom year after year.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

For a more portable arrangements, fill small lightweight pots or containers on wheels. (I had fun turning this old Radio Flyer wagon into a portable planter. Now I can wheel the wagon anywhere I want to add more color.)

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Added Color to the Landscape:

Remember that “artificial colored” landscaping before?

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Within an afternoon it got a makeover worthy of an HGTV curb appeal segment.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Before the sad little gardenia was barely thriving.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Presto! Instant color and blooms from a newly planted pink hydrangea.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

New rose bushes bring some fragrance and color to the previously color-lacking front bed. I had no idea that there were yellow knockout roses, but as soon as I saw them I grabbed them. If you don’t know about knock out roses, they are much hardier and disease resistant than their ancestors! Win!

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

A few foxglove plants adds some height and visual interest to the flower bed.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Much better! In a week those irises around the flag and the big rose bush in the middle will be brimming with color.

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Our front landscaping beds are my new happy place!

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

We get compliments from anyone who comes to our house (which is primarily the UPS and FedEx driver lately. Thanks guys!)

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Easy Color in Your Landscaping Beds | Pretty Handy Girl

Do tell me, do you have any landscaping tips or secrets to share? Or maybe you have a favorite plant in your yard. Please tell me more!

PHGFancySign

Can This Battery-Powered Lawn Mower Really Replace a Gas-Powered Mower?

I have underestimated the abilities of battery-powered mowers for years. But, recently I received the STIHL RMA 460 Battery Powered Mower to test out. Did it live up to the claims? Would I sell my gas-powered mower? You be the judge.

Before we begin, I want to tell you that STIHL sent me this RMA 460 battery-powered mower to try out and use. You may recall that STIHL was a Saving Etta project sponsor. However, this post is written solely on my own decision to share my experience with the mower. 

If you want to watch the video, you’ll get all the information and some of the reasons I like the STIHL RMA 460 mower.

For more details and photos, read on.

Here’s My Honest Opinion of the STIHL RMA 460 Battery-Powered Mower:

Folding the mower handle down is super easy. You just need to loosen the two knobs on either side.

folding down mower handles

It’s the first mower I’ve been able to lift into my truck unassisted. Although the mower isn’t weightless, at 60 pounds I can easily lift it and set it in my truck by myself. Before using the RMA 460, I needed my husband’s help to get our gas powered mower into the truck. When I got to the job site, I usually finagled one of my subcontractors to help me unload it.

Brittany lifting mower into truck unassisted

Another advantage of this battery-powered mower is not having to haul a gas can around. And anyone who uses gas-powered lawn equipment knows you inevitably end up smelling like gasoline after finishing the work.

Battery and Start Up Features of the RMA 460:

The STIHL RMA runs on the AK-series batteries. One port for the battery being used and the other port holds a spare should the first one run out. Although the mower runs on the entire AK line of batteries, I highly recommend using the AK30 for the longest run times. To see how much battery life is left, press the button on the top of the battery. The display will show how much charge is left.

pressing button on battery to see life left in battery

The mower has a removable locking key to prevent accidental starts. (As a side note, I do wish the key had a string or somewhere to store it with the mower to prevent it from getting lost.)

The switch inside the mower activates the ECO MODE which should help the battery last longer in shorter grass. When the mower senses taller or thicker grass, it will return to full power mode for faster cutting.

pressing eco mode on STIHL RMA 460

Raising the mower height is easily accomplished by grasping one handle to lower or raise all four wheels at once.

Adjusting mower height handle

To start the mower, press the orange button and pull back the handle bar. You can see how easy it is to start. No more yanking on a rope to start a mower! This mower is much quieter in comparison to a gas-powered mower. To stop, simply release the handle bar.

starting and stopping a battery-powered mower

Can the STIHL RMA 460 Handle Super Tall Grass?

I had been using the STIHL RMA 460 mower for a month or so to cut the lawn at my flip property. But, then we went on a family vacation for over three weeks and I came home to this mess.

Be sure to watch this video to see how the mower did against the jungle of a front yard.

Brittany cutting thick lawn with STIHL RMA 460 mower

Although I had to make several passes for each section, the mower powered through the super tall grass. Before you lawn aficionados get on my case, I easily could have used the bag to collect clippings, but the property was still under construction and I wasn’t trying to protect the weedy grass that was there. If it were our lawn (which is already beautiful and well established), I would have bagged the clippings to prevent them from damaging the lawn. If you look close, you might notice that even with the height of the grass, there were no mounds of grass clippings left behind. The mulching feature on this mower did an outstanding job! To say I was impressed is an understatement.

How to Insert the Grass Collection Bag on the Mower:

Simply lift the back flap on the mower and remove the plug. 

lifting back hatch on mower

Then hang the bag from the mower and you can collect your grass clippings.

inserting grass collection bag onto mower

Will You Sell Your Gas-Powered Mower Now?

I have to tell you my husband has been cutting lawns since he was a teenager. He’s rarely impressed by new lawn mowers, but I caught him trying out the RMA 460.

When I asked him what he thought, he told me he really liked it. But, old habits die hard with this guy. He still prefers his gas-powered mower. (Must be a manly thing.)

Our teenage son has recently started cutting lawns and the STIHL RMA 460 is the only mower he wants to use.

Before trying this STIHL mower, I never thought I’d be happy using a battery-powered mower to cut our grass, but I’m a convert. Plus, it feels good knowing this mower is more environmentally friendly. For now our gas mower stays in the shed for my husband, but my son and I will only use the STIHL mower.

How Much Lawn Can the RMA 460 Cut?

Per the STIHL website, the RMA 460 Mower using the AK30 battery should be able to cut just under 3,000 sq. feet of lawn (depending on height and moisture content.) We have about ¼ acre of grass to cut and the mower cuts it using one and a half batteries (assuming this is for weekly trimming on non-wet grass.)

What do you think? Could you sell your gas-powered mower and replace it with the STIHL RMA 460 battery-powered mower?

Pin this image to share with a friend:

Disclosure: STIHL sent me this RMA 460 battery-powered mower to try out and use. I was previously sponsored by STIHL on another project, but this post is my own decision to share with you my experience with the STIHL RMA 460 mower.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

I should probably re-name this post How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Semi-Privacy Fence. But, honestly it’s only semi-private because the lots in downtown Raleigh are so close together and the next door neighbor’s driveway is against the privacy fence. All they have to do is lean against the fence and peek through to eliminate the “privacy” function. But, if we’re going to be honest here, their six foot picket privacy fence has cracks in it where the picket wood has shrunk. And, yes, you can see through their privacy fence too. But, in a suburban neighborhood, this fence would block the view from the road or a distance.

When I was considering fencing options for the Saving Etta project, I wanted to create a beautiful fence that was attractive to look at but also gives some privacy and security.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

Why I chose to use a window pane lattice fence:

  1. I love the look. It’s a mixture of cottage and modern. And it’s perfect for a modern farmhouse style house.
  2. The new owners can train a flowering vine to grow up the lattice and create more privacy.
  3. It’s neighborly being able to see and talk to your neighbors next door. It fosters community!

As we drew closer to the holidays, I knew I had to push the accelerator on all the remaining projects at the Saving Etta project. Therefore, I did not build this fence, I hired a fence contractor to build it. But, I did design the fence and shared my design idea with the contractor. I took some inspiration from my Pergola with Trellis Screens.

Build a Pergola with Trellis to Screen Your Trash Cans | Pretty Handy Girl

The following tutorial is a basic construction guide for How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate. I didn’t oversee the construction, so I’m going to make some suggested fasteners, but ultimately you should gauge the strength of your fasteners especially when building the gate. If your gate is wider, you may need an additional cross or diagonal brace.

Tools & Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Before we get started, I want to express a huge thank you to Wood It’s Real for being a Saving Etta sponsor. As you might remember, they sponsored the side porch and the front flat sawn balluster project. And now, I have the honor of sharing yet another Wood It’s Real Sponsored project. Let’s learn How to Build Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate using beautiful Southern Yellow Pine.

Wood It's Real Website

This build will take at least two days. Digging the post holes, setting the posts, and pouring the concrete for the posts can be completed on day one. But, you’ll want to wait overnight for the concrete to set up before building the fence panels. For more information on setting fence posts, you might find this tutorial by Quikrete helpful.

Before building your fence, be sure to research your local building codes; know if you have to meet any setback limits, and find out if you have any restrictive covenants for your neighborhood.

Building a Window Pane Lattice Fence:

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

To create the tall privacy fence, we used one 4′ x 8′ lattice sheet vertically between the posts. Therefore, our posts were set four feet apart. After your 6×6 fence posts are set in the ground, you can start building your lattice fence sections between the posts.

set fence posts

Instructions:

Measure and cut two 2×6 pieces of pressure treated lumber to fit between the top and bottom of the posts. Level and secure to the 6×6 posts using exterior grade wood screws.

secure-2x4 horizontal lumber

Center your 4×8 lattice panel in the center of the 6×6 posts. Cut 2×2 lumber to create a frame to support the lattice.

add 2x2 frame to secure lattice

Secure the 2×2 frame to the inside of the 6×6 posts and the 2×6 horizontal lumber. You can use wood screws or 2″ finish nails to secure the 2×2 frame. Add another 2×2 frame to the other side of your lattice.

secured-lattice fence section

Add post caps to the top of your fence to protect the posts from rot (and to make your fence look pretty.)

add post caps

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

Repeat the steps above to create as many window pane lattice fence sections as you desire.

completed window pane lattice privacy fence

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate
Depending on the angle of sight, you can see some shapes through the fence. This is the view from the bathroom window. I’ll be sharing how I added complete privacy to this window in a later blog post.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

From the bedroom you can barely see the neighbor’s car through the fence.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Gate:

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

To match the window pane lattice fence, I challenged my fence contractor to build matching lattice gates at the end of the driveway. I wanted the opening to be wide enough to drive a car through (should they want to park in the back of the house or get a delivery of mulch or other landscaping materials.)

Instructions:

Measure and cut your 2×4 pressure treated lumber. For a 4′ x 8′ gate, cut the vertical pieces exactly 8′ in length. The top and bottom pieces should be cut 41″ long. Secure the frame with pocket hole screws in the corners of the frame. (Click here to learn how to use a pocket hole jig.)

build 2x4 frame for gate

Lay the 4×8 lattice panel on top of the 2×4 frame. Tack the lattice in place using 1 ½” finish nails.

add lattice panel to 2x4 frame

Measure and cut your 1×4 lumber using the same measurements as the 2×4’s.

cut 1x4 frame to size

Secure the 1×4 boards to the lattice and the 2×4’s using 2 ½” exterior wood screws. (The lattice will be sandwiched in the middle and the screws should extend through the 1×4’s and the lattice and into the 2×4 frame.)

sandwich lattice between 1x4 and 2x4 frames

Your gate construction is complete. Add hinges and gate hardware and secure to a 6×6 post.

add gate hinges

These gates are rock solid and shouldn’t sag over time. The lattice keeps the gate square.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

For a decorative touch, we added two 2×6 pieces of lumber across the two gate posts to create a pergola. The new owners can put a potted vine next to each post and allow the vines to grow up and over the pergola.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

A metal drop rod is secured to the left side gate for stability and to keep both gates from swinging in when latching.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

The window pane lattice provides plenty of privacy from the road. But, it also allows the homeowners a view to see if anyone is coming up the driveway.

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

What do you think? Do you like the window pane lattice fence and gates? Would you leave it natural or stain it?

How to Build a Window Pane Lattice Privacy Fence and Gate

Disclosure: This post is a sponsored post for Wood It’s Real. It was written as part of their sponsorship of the Saving Etta project. I was not told what to write. All words and opinions are my own. I am very particular about the brands I work with, and only partner with companies that provide quality materials and/or services.

Saving Etta: Front Yard TransformationSaving Etta: Front Yard Transformation & Tips for Saving Money on Landscaping

I hope you enjoyed the backyard transformation I shared on Monday. Like the backyard, the front has taken on quite the transformation of its own. One of the first things I knew I wanted to do at the Saving Etta house was to preserve the cottage charm curb appeal (especially around the front porch.) Sadly her charm had dwindled like the color of her faded yellow aluminum siding. The iron railings (that didn’t appear to be original) were barely attached to the porch columns. It was an easy choice to send them to the scrap metal yard.

1900 triple A frame house

While removing the rotting porch floor boards, we realized we couldn’t save the porch framing. And in true “opening a can of worms” fashion, when exposing the porch ceiling rafters, we found the porch roof wasn’t flashed and it wasn’t tied into the house very securely. It was a sad day when I realized the entire porch had to be removed. Unfortunately, the demolition crew had finished months ago, so I had to try to get back on their schedule.

Front Yard Transformation

After the front porch was removed, new sheathing and house wrap was applied. Then my framers built the porch back to the same size. Before the siding and roofing materials were installed, the porch roof and band were flashed properly to prevent any water from seeping behind and causing rot or mold issues.

front porch before landscaping

See that scraggly bush next to the stairs? I fought my subcontractors who wanted to cut it down. The framers in particular complained about it being in the way. Little did they know, that scraggly bush had a secret. In the spring it would look like this:

Bridal Veil Spirea original to house

The white flowering bush is a Bridal Wreath Spirea with cascading white flowers once a year. Saving the spirea was part of my plan to save money on landscaping. I tried to reserve funds for landscaping, but surprises kept cropping up which cut into my landscape budget. Consequently, I put my thrifty thinking cap on and came up with a few strategies to make the most impact for the least amount of money.

7 Strategies for Low Budget Landscaping:

    1. Do as much labor yourself – As you saw in the backyard landscaping update, my family and I planned an entire yard work day. We cut back the weeds, trimmed bushes, hauled away brush, and mowed the lawn. This saved me the cost of paying someone else to do the work.
    2. Use plants you already have – As I mentioned above, I fought to save as many plants in the yard as possible. But, I’m also fortunate to have a healthy landscaped yard at home after years of hosting Free Plant Swaps in our neighborhood. Two of our bushes that have really thrived, are a pair of evergreen bushes by the front door. I’m not sure what type of bushes they are, but they might be in the juniper family. Regardless, they grew too big for the front of the house.overgrown bushes by front of my housePretty Handsome Guy and I dug them out—keeping the root ball intact—and loaded them into my truck. Then they were planted in front of the house.spruce trees loaded into back of truckThe bushes are much better suited in front of a raised porch. Best of all, they were free.blue spruce in front yard
    3. Shop the discount section – Lucky for me, it was late fall when we got started on the landscaping. My local Lowe’s Home Improvement had a large selection of half off plants to choose from. I chose these evergreen abelia shrubs that have pretty red growth on the tips in the cold weather and will have flowers in the warm season. Always look for discounted plants in your local nursery. But, steer clear of dried out and stressed looking plants. If they appear healthy go ahead and purchase them.new foundation bushes
    4. Shop end of season flowers – Flowering perennials that have faded blooms are usually discounted as soon as the blooms start to die. But, if you’re lucky you might be able to cash in on a post-holiday sale. After Thanksgiving I stumbled upon a huge clearance of mums. Each pot was marked down to $1! Even big mum planters that were $30 a week ago were $1. I bought several mums and planted them throughout the yard to add some color. After the blooms finish, they can be cut back to encourage new growth. They’ll produce beautiful blooms again next year.
      back deck and back of house view after landscaping
    5. Put money where it gets the most visibility – To get maximum visual impact in your yard, you’re going to have to spend some money. But chose to spend money on the show stoppers like a larger tree, a pergola (or make your own pergola or trellis), or spend on hardscapes like patios or walkways. On the side of the house, I chose to put a little more money toward the side entrance since this is the homeowner’s main entrance.before patio and landscapingThe landscapers installed a beautiful paver patio that will last decades and control mud and dirt from entering the house.side view with paver patio
    6. Talk to your landscaper to see if they have extra materials or plants – Ask your landscaper if they have leftover materials or plants they would be willing to give you for a reduced price. When discussing my needs and budget with my landscaper, she told me if I was willing to be flexible she might have some leftovers she could use. Ultimately she installed an array of plants and the side entrance pavers at a discount, which gave me more bang for my buck.landscaper crew adding mulch and plantingsWith four men and some big equipment, the landscapers were able to whip the front yard into shape quickly. The front yard was leveled and fresh dirt and grass seed was laid down. Finally, they planted a small tree where the old tree had been.Ugly Tree in front of Etta
    7. Be patient – Save money by purchasing younger plants, trees, and bushes. Purchasing mature greenery can cost a lot more for those who want instant gratification. If you can wait a few years, the younger plants will get bigger. Same holds true for those scraggly clearance plants. They may have some broken branches or spent flowers, but if you cut them back they will grow back beautifully with time. You can also save money by planting grass seed instead of sod. If you can wait a few weeks, you’ll be rewarded with grass sprouts and more money leftover in your pocket. Better yet, if you continue to sow seed next season (fall or spring), you’ll fill in any empty patches.
      grass growing on front hill at Saving Etta house

Saving Etta: Front Yard Transformation

Ready to see the front yard transformation? For fun, let’s take a look back on where this whole journey started!

Ugly Tree in front of Etta

June 2017 – I purchased the property.

 

Front Yard Transformation

February 2018Demolition was completed by removing the poorly built additions in the back and removing all the siding and rotten framing.

Front Yard Transformation

May 2018 – New foundation, framing, and sheathing are completed.

 

dirt yard around house under construction

July 2018 – It’s finally looking like a house again. Siding, windows, roofing, and the new front porch are added.

 

no landscaping, saving etta house under construction

September 2018 – Side porch steps are completed. Gutters and the rain chains are added.

 

rain chain

(This is where I bought the rain chains (affiliate link). They were the most affordable rain chains I could find, and I like how they look. The rain chains get plenty of compliments!

Front Yard Transformation

October 2018 – The front porch railings and ceiling are completed. My favorite addition are the flat sawn railings.

 

after landscaping side yard

November 2018 – The house is completely finished and listed for sale. The first weekend we had it on the market we received multiple offers!

 

beautiful 1900 triple a construction house near downtown raleigh

I can’t believe the house is finally complete. It took 18 months of hard work and patience while waiting for permits, subcontractors, and while I took a two week vacation with my family.

saving etta front view seeded and straw

In the end it was all worth it and I love that Etta has regained her cottage charm.

saving etta beautiful restored 1900 house near downtown Raleigh

I can officially say Etta has been saved. Maintaining the same lines as the original 1900 house was very important to me. Wherever possible, I kept the original materials. When we had to replace old with new, I made decisions based on what looked closest to the original. I also tried to reuse materials whenever possible, like the old siding which found a new life on the side porch ceiling.

Stay tuned for more Saving Etta updates! There’s been a lot of work going on inside and I can’t wait to show you.

Front Yard Transformation

Saving Etta - Backyard Transformation

Saving Etta Update: The Backyard Transformation

This has to be one of the biggest transformations (besides the demolition and framing) at the Saving Etta project! The backyard was an unruly mess of vines, overgrown shrubs, and weeds. I resisted the urge to do any landscaping until all the crews were finished outside. No sense in spending any time on landscaping when it would get messed up by trucks, equipment, and foot traffic.

While construction was going on, the yard took a beating. One week the demolition guys were pulling the dump truck into the yard to fill up with the debris. The next week an excavator dug the crawlspace and hauled the rest of the dirt to the back of the lot. Then we used the yard as a staging area for building supplies. Plus it doubled as extra parking on days when we had more than one crew on site. Over time most of the grass was gone and I probably picked up 4,532 random nails and screws littered in the yard. Needless to say, it was a mess by the time exterior construction was done.

The Backyard Transformation

On a particularly beautiful fall weekend, Pretty Handsome Guy (aka my husband) and I decided to plan a family yard work day at the house. We’ve tried to involve our boys in as much of the process as possible. We agreed to pay them for their time after the house sells. This seems to have been the incentive it took to get two teen boys off their devices and out for a yard work day.

Although there was a lot to do, I felt confident we could knock out a big chunk of work, especially using the power tools my friends at STIHL sent me. When I approached STIHL about being a Saving Etta sponsor, I assured them we’d have plenty of landscaping and yard work to showcase their new battery-powered line of tools. To be completely honest, I was a little skeptical of the power behind battery-powered vs. gas-powered equipment. But after trying the tools, I was thrilled with their performance. These STIHL tools have quickly become my favorite yard tools for the Saving Etta project AND at my own home.

STIHL battery powered tools: mower, blower, hedge trimmer, and chainsaw

Before they were delivered I had the privilege to try a lot of the STIHL gas and battery tools at the STIHL headquarters in Virginia Beach.

brittany trying chain saw

Joining me were a bunch of other badass builders, like April from Wilker Dos and Sarah from Ugly Duckling House. It was invigorating hanging out with other like-minded women who have figured out how to build and DIY their homes one project at a time. (See, you can do it too!)

women of Stihl event

During the event, we got to try all the new STIHL power tools. The STIHL battery-powered yard tools were definitely a hit from the start. Most of the attendees found them less intimidating. Plus, the tools were lighter weight and easier to handle.

Three Series of STIHL tools to meet your yard work needs:

The AP Series is designed for professional landscapers and people that use the tools on a daily basis on a variety of different properties. The battery has a longer run time, but also weighs the most of all the STIHL batteries.

The AK series handles the yard work of a typical suburban homeowner. The batteries have a slightly shorter run time, but the battery isn’t as heavy (a good thing for those of us who don’t lift weights on a daily basis.)

The AI series is perfect for small yards and quick clean up tasks. The AI tools plug in to charge (no external batteries.) The trimmer, leaf blower, and hedge trimmer would work well for small yards or town homes. Because there is no external battery, they are the lightest weight of the battery tools STIHL offers. The trade off is battery life is shorter than the AK or AP series.

Here’s what I love about the STIHL battery-powered AK series yard equipment:

The tools STIHL sent me are all within the AK series, so I’ll share what I love about them specifically. All the AK tools use the same batteries. Which means you don’t have to store a bunch of random batteries for each tool (although the chainsaw and mower need the AK 20 or higher battery to run for any length of time.)

battery powered STIHL yard tools all run on same battery

Speaking of longevity, there are three different AK batteries (the AK10, AK20, and AK30), with the 10 having the shortest run time and the 30 the longest run times.

In contrast to the gas-powered tools, the AK battery-powered tools are much quieter. In particular, this appeals to me most when it comes to the leaf blowers. I happen to live in a neighborhood filled with big tree-filled lots. I wish all my neighbors had the BGA 56 battery-powered leaf blower, because my Saturday and Sunday mornings would be a lot more peaceful in the fall. The unmistakable high-pitched leaf blower whine is constant in our ‘hood come September – December (and sometimes well into springtime.)

Despite my dislike of noise, my biggest pet peeve about gas-powered lawn equipment is the odor that sticks to your clothes after doing yard work. Guess what! With battery-powered tools there is no gas or stinky fumes to make you smell bad! Plus, there’s no need to keep a plethora of gas cans around for the tools that require a different ratio of gas to oil (and I can’t ever remember which tool uses which ratio.) Personally, I’d love to get rid of all our gas cans in the garage. (Something about keeping a highly flammable liquid in a room attached to our house has always made me nervous.)

Did you know a battery-powered landscape tool can save you time? It’s true because you don’t need to winterize your battery-powered tools before the cold weather sets in.  And if you want to get technical, when your battery runs low, you can charge it while taking a quick little break. This saves time driving to the nearest gas station to fill up your gas can.

Finally, let’s talk about weight. No, not the holiday cookie weight I put on in December! The STIHL battery-powered tools weigh less than their gas-powered relatives. The mower was my personal favorite because it was so lightweight I could lift it into the truck by myself on days I needed to mow Etta’s front lawn. This was such a life saver since most of the time I was working solo at the house.

A little more about the STIHL AK tools I tried:

STIHL BGA 56 Battery-Powered Leaf Blower

  • STIHL BGA 56 Battery-Powered Leaf Blower: This is by far the lightest leaf blower I’ve tried (I’ve used two other brands, one was a gas-powered and one was another battery-powered leaf blower.) The gripping handle is in the perfect spot to automatically keep the blower balanced during use. This blower has plenty of power for moving leaves (both dry and wet.) One thing I noticed recently, is there is no vibration to tire your wrists (I can’t say that about our gas blower.) My teen sons love using this blower too, especially because it is lightweight. And as I mentioned before, the noise is definitely less than a gas-powered blower.

STIHL HSA 56 Battery-Powered Hedge Trimmer

  • STIHL HSA 56 Battery-Powered Hedge Trimmer: This trimmer packs quite a punch; in fact most of the skinny tree sprouts and thicker branches were easily cut by it. The HSA 56 made quick work of pruning and tackling the vines growing over the bushes. Noise and weight are both much less than a comparable gas hedge trimmer. And as I mentioned above, no gas, no mixing ratio, and easy to store for the winter!

STIHL MSA 120 C-BQ Battery-Powered Chain Saw

  • STIHL MSA 120 C-BQ Battery-Powered Chain Saw: We have a rule in our house that if a tree is too big for a small chainsaw, then we shouldn’t be cutting it down ourselves. The STIHL MSA 120 C-BQ Chain Saw is perfect for the homeowner who wants to take down some spindly trees or low branches. It has enough power to get through some small hardwood trees on our lot. I loved using the chainsaw to break down large limbs to a manageable length for curbside yard waste pick up. It also came in handy when the lumber delivery forklift couldn’t get past a low limb. 

STIHL RMA 460 Battery-Powered Mowe

  • STIHL RMA 460 Battery-Powered Mower: As I mentioned above, this is a surprisingly lightweight mower and yet it doesn’t disappoint when it came to mowing an overgrown jungle. After our summer vacation, I came back to knee high grass at the Saving Etta house. I wasn’t sure the mower would be able to handle it, but it cut through the grass with no problem. My husband has been cutting lawns since he was a teenager, so you can imagine the side-eyed look he gave me when I told him I thought he might like this battery-powered mower. One day I caught him trying it, and he told me he liked it. The one caveat is if you have a yard larger than about 1/3 of an acre, you may need a few extra batteries to replace when the first runs out. Of course it all depends on your lot size and mowing conditions. You might want to talk to your local dealer to find the mower that’s best for you. As a baseline, our lot is 1/2 an acre and mostly wooded, but we do have a fair amount of grass. The mower makes it through our lawn mowing on one AK30 battery charge. If we did run out, it’s not a big deal since we typically have one battery charging while the other is in use.

Although this post is sponsored by STIHL, I have to be totally honest when I tell you: We are in love with the STIHL battery-powered yard and lawn tools! If you were my neighbor, you’d see this to be true. We are frequently out in our yard using these pretty orange and white tools.

STIHL battery powered tools: mower, blower, hedge trimmer, and chainsaw

Now that you know a bit more about the STIHL tools I was using at the Saving Etta project (trying to SAVE the backyard); let me show you the transformation!

The Overgrown Mess of a Backyard:

Over the summer a healthy crop of weeds and brush took over most of the yard. After exterior construction was done, my husband and I loaded the boys into my truck and headed downtown. Luckily the weather was sunny and cool because it was a full day affair. Here’s the video of our work day:

By the end of the day we had cleared back at least 10 feet from each side of the yard and created three huge piles of yard waste.

piles of brush for yard waste

After removing the brush piles, the trailer, and leftover construction materials, we added some adirondack chairs and hung the porch swing I built using pallet wood. Isn’t this a peaceful scene? I could sit out on the swing for hours and take in the scenery.

fall colored trees in saving etta backyard

We staged the fire pit area on top of the old shed concrete pad. I decided to leave the pad should the homeowners want to build a shed in the future. Without a garage, a shed would be a good place to store additional yard equipment.

yellow adirondack chairs around fire pit

Or they might continue to enjoy it as a little patio and fire pit.

adirondack chairs around fire pit on old shed concrete pad

Hope you enjoy the rest of the before and after photos.

Before:

before backyard transformation with trailer and dirt hill

overgrown bushes back side of yard

After:

backyard after transformation view toward privacy fence

My favorite view of the backyard can be seen from the upstairs bedroom window.

two story side of house backyard transformed

It helps when the black Plygem Mira windows frame the view so nicely!

backyard view through windows

Before:

view from upstairs window before landscaping

After:

view from upstairs bedroom window of yard with tree swing and adirondack chairds

Before:

back of saving etta house before landscaping

After:

back deck transformation and landscaping

Adding a deck off the back of the house really extended the living area. I had always envisioned a little bistro set outside the master bedroom.

back deck outside master bedroom with blue chairs and landscaping

lovely photo of deck and low landscaping plants around deck

If I lived here I’d spend mornings sitting out there with a cup of coffee enjoying the view.

beauty shot of camellia bush and mums outside master bedroom

Before:

before backyard transformation

After:

after view of backyard with straw and pine straw

after view of landscaped saving etta yard

If you have a keen eye, you may have noticed all the big rocks in the landscaping.

pile of pier stones ready for reuse

These were the pier stones from under the original 1900 portion of the house. The mortar between them had crumbled to dust and some weren’t offering any stable support to the house. Instead of hauling them away, I decided to keep them to incorporate into the landscaping.

three pier stones from original house used as landscaping rocks

This one with the stripe on it is my favorite. If I lived here I’d have to give it a name, like “spot!”

new foundation bushes by back deck

Isn’t it amazing how much this yard has been transformed? It feels so private and secluded despite being within walking distance to downtown Raleigh.

view from back yard at saving etta house

A few weeks later, with the help of lots of rain in North Carolina, the grass blades started coming up!

grass growing in backyard at Saving Etta project
I hope you enjoyed seeing the backyard transformation. What do you think? Do you dream of a yard this big and beautiful?

I can’t thank the folks at STIHL enough for helping make this construction site into a dream yard. If you need to upgrade yard equipment (or buy your first yard tools), I highly recommend the STIHL battery-powered yard equipment. They are a joy to use and more environmentally friendly than gas-powered tools. You should check out the STIHL equipment at a retailer near you.

The Backyard Transformation

Disclosure: STIHL is a Saving Etta (and Pretty Handy Girl) sponsor. I was provided with STIHL tools and safety equipment to makeover the Saving Etta yard. In addition, I was provided with an expense paid trip to visit STIHL headquarters. I was not told what to write. All opinions and words are my own. I will always let you know if you are reading a sponsored post. 

Want to know the basics principles for landscaping? Read this article I wrote to learn how to give your yard a mini (or mega) makeover yourself:

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

how to fix a leaky garden hoseHow to Easily Fix a Leaky Hose

A garden hose is a valuable tool around my yard in the summertime. It’s vital to keep my yard looking beautiful, keeping plants watered, and occasionally for a fun water fight with my kids. But what happens when that very useful hose springs a leak? Not only is it frustrating to use but it is a complete waste of water (not to mention that you get wetter than the person you intend to soak in a water fight.) It may be tempting to throw it out and buy a new one, but did you know it’s fairly simple to fix a leaky garden hose? It is! I have the solution for you in this tutorial on How to Fix a Leaky Hose!

Ready to save money and water? Great! Let’s get to it!

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Instructions:

The first step is to cut off the leaky end of the hose using your heavy duty snips. Be sure to cut perpendicular to the hose.

Remove the two screws from the hose repair coupling clamp using your screwdriver.

Insert the threaded coupling piece into the cut end of your hose.

Have patience, this can be the hardest step. Push it down against a hard surface until the coupling is completely inserted into the hose.

Next, take the two parts of the clamp and put one piece behind the hose, as pictured. Hold it in place while you add the second clamp piece. Line up the screws with the holes on the back piece.

Tighten the screws. It may be easier to set it on a hard surface, as shown here.

Now connect your sprayer to the end and give it a test try!

Hooray! No more leaky hoses. Now where are those crazy boys of mine? Time to start a water fight on this hot summer day. ;-D

This was a simple fix to a frustrating problem and it only cost a few dollars. Definitely worth it! I hope you liked this tutorial and it comes in handy should you need it. Do you have a leaky hose you need to fix? Or have you repaired a leaky hose with this method?

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How to Create an Inexpensive Stone & Mulch WalkwayHow to Create an Inexpensive Mulch and Stone Walkway

Spring is on its way and that means more rain. It’s also the time of year when the grass has been dormant and there is more exposed dirt and mud in your yard. Let’s be honest, everyone tends to have problem spots in their landscaping that end up looking like a mud pit. And if you have kids or pets running around, it won’t be long before that mud comes walking into your home.

mud

For those of us that live in the south, mud is not just wet dirt. It’s usually red clay! And unfortunately, it will stain everything you own and make housekeeping a nightmare. Time to come up with a fast and inexpensive solution to the mud problem.

landscaped backyard with mulch pathway

While searching Lowe’s for some ideas, I stumbled across this no-dig landscape edging. I was very excited to see that I wouldn’t have to dig a trench to bury half of it! Instead, it comes with pegs to nail into the ground. Suh-weet!

flexible edging material

Materials:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Instructions:

Gather all your materials near the path site. Layout your stones and walk on them to make sure they are spaced for a comfortable gait. (Do you see that stick in the above picture? That is my path width guide.)

stepping stone spacing

Use your path width template (aka stick) to keep your edging equal distance apart the entire length of your path. (You may need to put a weight on your edging or set a peg in halfway to hold the edging in place.)

set standard width

After the path and edging are laid out, step back and take a look. Make any tweaks to your pathway now.

set stones inside edging

To set the path, start from one end and insert a peg into one end of the edging.

Hold peg

Then hammer the peg into the ground…

hammer stakes into edging

…until it is flush with the earth.

peg set in edging

Continue setting a peg every 4-6 feet (and especially at the peak of any curves.)

one side path set

Repeat for the other side of your path.

layout stones inside edging

Open a bag of mulch and spread to the top of your stones and the edging. Use the back side of your garden rake to smooth the mulch and eliminate any high or low spots.

stones sitting in mulch

Repeat until you have filled your entire path. Then spread the second color mulch on the outside of your path.

beautiful two color mulch pathway

Don’t you just love the contrast between these two? The lighter colored mulch is cypress and the darker is hardwood mulch. Walk on your stones and put some dirt or sand underneath any that wobble. Now stand back and admire your finished path! I think my favorite stepping stone is the broken heart stone I made with two rocks.

Stone and mulch pathway

The entire path took me just over two hours. Not bad, and the bonus is that I didn’t need to go to the gym to workout that day!

Want to improve your curb appeal? Here are some tips and tricks to improve your landscaping in no time!

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl