Welcome back to another day of the DIY Talent Parade! Do you see that flurry of pink activity? You know what that means, it is none other than Kelly from The Pink Hammer Blog!

Kelly is the gal behind those rockin’ pink tools. With a drill in one hand and a hammer in the other, there isn’t anything she can’t do! Take this bathroom renovation for example:

She took it from dark and dingy to sea-inspired-licious! The transformation is impressive, don’t you think?!

Today Kelly is going to whip up some creative containers for planting. And, boy oh boy does she have some creative ideas!  Take it away Kelly!

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How to Root Plant Clippings

I have a bush in our yard that is a pure delight to me.

How to Root Plant Clippings

It has the distinguished honor of being the first flowering plant in our landscaping after a long winter. In the winter, it has pretty dark shiny evergreen foilage. When these little white blossoms open, they produce the most heavenly lemon smell.

How to Root Plant Clippings

My angelic plant is a Daphne bush (maybe the star white variety ) and it seems to like the shaded spot it holds under the protective canopy of oaks over it. If there was ever a plant I want more of, this is it. So, I decided to try to root some clippings this year using rooting hormone. Read more

Installing Your Own Sprinkler System

Last week I shared with you how to grow a better lawn based on what I learned from my education at Pennington Seed. Part of growing a more beautiful lawn is learning how to water it properly. Did you know that the majority of homeowners overwater their lawn and plants? Typically your yard only needs 1 inch of water per week (1/2 inch waterings two times a week) If you install your own sprinkler system with a timer and a rain gauge, you can insure that your lawn and/or landscaping gets just the right amount of water.

When we lived in our old house, Pretty Handsome Guy and I received a quick tutorial on installing a sprinkler system in our yard. Our neighbor — the previous owner of our current home (Yes, it’s complicated like that.) — showed us how to piece together pvc pipes, add spray heads and set up a timer to water our lawn. Now I’m passing this information on to you.

Here is the Pretty Frugal Girl’s method for installing your own sprinkler system! Read more

Last week I flew to Portland, OR to get an education on grass seed at Pennington Seed. I learned a lot more than I ever imagined you could learn about those little seeds. I am so grateful for the opportunity and the time that Pennington Seed took to share this information with me. I spent a whole day trying to absorb as much as I could. As you can imagine, there was so much information, I tried my best to fit it all in this post. Read more

With the arrival of Autumn, I am looking forward to some fires in our fire pit and — of course — some S’mores! I made a fire pit in an afternoon last year after we had 14 trees taken down (boo hoo!) Sadly, they were dying or diseased. But, I was able to turn a negative into a positive by using some of the stumps for seating and the spot where two trees used to be as my fire circle.

Here are the detailed instructions about how I built (or rather dug) the fire pit. I guarantee you don’t need any special skills to create your own!

 

Do you want to give your landscaping a face lift? Are you tired of the builder’s grade boxwoods in your front yard, but you don’t really have the money to buy new plants. You shouldn’t have to! Get new plants, bushes, flowers, seeds, bulbs and more for FREE! Plus, I guarantee you will also get loads of horticultural advice from experts who are familiar with your soil and light conditions. Those experts and generous donors happen to live right around the corner from you!

Sound too good to be true? It’s not — and honestly — I’m not writing an infomercial here. You just need to organize a neighborhood plant swap!

I have been doing just that for the past four years. The time commitment is very small and yet the rewards are big. Since doing the plant swaps, I have filled our landscaping with lots of plants that are low maintenance because they grow in abundance in our neighborhood (most of us share the same soil and light conditions.) Plus, I’ve learned enough to avoid killing most of my plants now.

It all started about five years ago when I read an article about organizing a community plant swap. I thought the idea was genius! But, I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know much about plants, rooting, dividing and all that fancy gardening stuff. But, it turns out I didn’t need to know much. My neighbors have been more than gracious in sharing their gardening tips and knowledge with me. Every year I walk away with a slightly greener thumb.

Here are the details of how I organize our neighborhood swap every year. I host ours in October because fall is the perfect time to plant. Plants go dormant as the weather cools, so they need less water and are less likely to go into shock when transplanted. Some plant swaps are held in Spring when new shoots are easy to cut and root. And — because frankly — Spring is the time of year when everyone is coming out of hibernation they want to see flowers and plants (not snow.)

1. Set a date – mornings on a Saturday is best for most folks.

2. Scream it from the rooftops – advertise the swap in your neighborhood newsletter, online bulletin, flyers or individual invitations. Here is the message I send out in the newsletter and to our neighborhood online bulletin:

Neighborhood Plant Swap

Saturday, October 8th 10am (Rain Date TBA if needed)

Locations: your street or other communal location

Do you envy your neighbor’s landscaping? Want to bring more diversity into your yard? Looking to meet some of your neighbors?

Come join us for the Annual Neighborhood Plant Swap!

Divide those bulbs! Dig up seedlings! Root some clippings! Bring some seeds! Or just come empty-handed.

We hope to see you there!

Help some of us new gardeners by labeling plants with as much information as you can:

Name, light requirements (sun, shade, part sun, etc.), soil and water requirements and a short description (height, color, flowering, etc.)

3. Yell a little louder – continue to publicize as the date nears – send out an emails, recruit friends to come, and set out signs a few days before the swap to drum up interest.

4. Contain it – Start collecting used pots, recycled yogurt containers, plastic bags, and anything that can hold a plant that you dig up.

5. Cut it out – 2-3 weeks before the swap, take your clipping and do research online about getting them to root (Sand & Sisal has a great post about getting your clippings to root.) Some clippings only need to be set in a vase of water and put in a sunny window. Others may need you to nick the stem and dip it in rooting hormone.

6. Dig in – 1 week before the swap (or the morning of! Yup, I’m the queen of procrastination.) Dig up your plants, collect seeds, divide bulbs. Set them  in containers. Don’t forget to keep the plants watered or they may die before the swap. (Seeds and bulbs or tubers don’t need watering.)

7. Tell me more – Label your plants with as much detail as you can. At the very least, the tag should have the plant name, preferred light conditions, height.

Here is a plant tag template for your convenience. Special thanks to Karen, The Graphics Fairy for sharing this design. It is actually a blog background design, but I turned it on it’s side and cropped it.

You can make your own tags (several people just handwrite the info on a 3×5 index card.) But, the graphic designer in me had fun making these vintage french tags. (PDF download for your own personal use by clicking on the picture below.)

8. Day of the Swap – Put a big sign and some balloons at the end of your street. Set up a few folding on the street or in a driveway. I use two 8′ tables (plastic tables are best since they wipe easily and aren’t damaged by water) and one card table for coffee and donuts. Refreshments are optional (a little coffee and sugar makes any occasion a bit more fun.)

Have a few supplies on hand:

  • Rag and spray cleaner for clean up afterwards
  • Tape
  • Paper for signs
  • 3×5 cards for last minute labels
  • Sharpie marker
  • Twist ties or string
  • Baggies
  • Wagon or wheel barrel to bring home your new precious plants (assuming you walked to the swap.)

Label three areas on the table: sun, partial, shade.

When people arrive direct them to set their plants on the table according to the amount of sun they need.

Time for some browsing and mingling. Allow your neighbors plenty of time to talk, look at the plants, and ask questions. We normally wait about 20 minutes before actually swapping plants. This gives plenty of time for late stragglers to show up. AND, this is the time to gather all those expert tips and information. All you have to do is stand over a plant, point at it and ask, “Anyone know anything about this?” Naturally those expert gardeners’ ears will perk up and they will be happy to show off their knowledge. Be sure to put on your listening ears because you will get a wealth of information.

After people have had time to mingle, you can start the swap. I’ve heard several ways of doing this. Some swaps allow people to take as many things as they brought to swap. Our group is a lot more laid back, and yet we ALWAYS have plenty of leftovers. We all start by taking one plant. When everyone has one, then we go back for seconds, etc. etc. At the end we try to “sell” the leftover plants and convince each other to take them home.

Ultimately we are usually left with a dozen or more orphan plants. Therefore, after the swap, I leave the tables up for the rest of the day and send an email letting people in the neighborhood know that there are FREE plants for the taking. At the end of the day I clean up and take home any orphaned plants and try to find a spot for them.

Have you ever been to a plant swap? Do you have the desire to create your own plant swap? I’d love to hear about it.

Installing low-voltage landscape lights has been on my “Want To Do” list for years now. I even bought some lights on clearance three years ago! Now that they are installed I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. They look so inviting.

Materials:
(contains affiliate links)

  • Hammer
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Wire strippers and cutter
  • 3M Heavy Duty all-weather duct tape
  • Landscape lights (it might be wise to purchase one extra, you’ll see why later)
  • Transformer for Outdoor Lighting
  • Low voltage landscape wiring (I used 100 feet of 14 gauge, but check the directions for your lights)

In order to figure out what size transformer you need, you should add up all the wattage on the bulbs your lights use. This is a simple equation, for example, if your lights use 9 watt bulbs, then multiply 9 time the number of light fixtures you have. I ended up buying a Portfolio Outdoor 200W Magnetic Transformer for Outdoor Lighting. The transformer senses darkness and turns on the lights at dusk. I prefer this instead of a timer, especially because it will not need to be reprogrammed as the days vary in length throughout the year. The only downside is that they will come on during hurricanes, tornados and big bad dark thunderstorms. Then again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Matchy-Matchy. How to unify two colored lights:

Well, of course once I got ready to install our lights, I realized I needed more. Because the lights I bought were on clearance, they were no longer available in the stores. So, what’s a girl to do? I got eBaying and creative!

I was able to buy similar lights from an eBay seller. The fact that they were a different color was not going to dissuade me! Not when I have a can of spray paint in my arsenal. That and a can of automotive primer was all it took to turn those brown lights black (well, Oil Rubbed Bronze to be exact.)

After the paint dried, I began laying out my lights along the front path.

I decided to stagger them for maximum illumination along the path and to avoid creating an airport runway look (aka symmetrical.) I don’t know if you believe in UFOs, but I’m not taking any chances.

Installing the transformer:

*Be sure to read all the directions that come with your transformer. The following tutorial is based on the Portfolio transformer I purchased. Your directions may vary.

You will need to locate your transformer near an outdoor GFCI outlet. Luckily I had my electrician install an outlet last year. (Yes, there are some things that I will leave to a professional. Adding new wiring is one of them.)

Measure up 18″ from the ground (or the height recommended in your directions) and use the template that came with your transformer to drill two pilot holes for the mounting screws. Insert the anchors and tap them gently into the pilot holes.

Screw the mounting screws in, leave them extended partially to accept the holes on the back of the transformer.

Split the end of your low voltage wire. Then strip a small amount off the ends using your wire cutters. Slip the wires through the holes on the transformer and tighten the screws over the wire.

Play with the amount the screws extend until the transformer fits flush against the wall. Leave the transformer unplugged.

Installing the lights:

*Be sure to read all the directions that come with your low voltage lighting. The following tutorial is based on the Malibu lights I purchased. Your directions may vary.

Dig a narrow trench along the path to the location of each light. Aim for 8 – 12″ deep, the deeper the better so you don’t accidentally chop your wire while digging or planting.

Because the wires are low voltage you won’t be harmed. However, if you accidentally cut your wire, you will have to re-install your lights all over again! NOT COOL!

Run the wire into the trench until you reach  your first light. The directions that came with the transformer explain that you want your first light to be at or further than 10′ from the transformer. You can cheat this by making your wire loop or arc to take up more length on the wire before your first light. But, make sure your light isn’t so close to the transformer that it would be read by the photo sensor (the same holds true for having your transformer too close to your house lights.) Make a loop around your light. This protects the wire from being too taut and will hopefully prevent all your lights from being uprooted should someone accidentally (or intentionally) play soccer with one them. I can’t imagine that happening in our yard!

Open the connector on your light.

Insert the wire into the connector. Then press the connector back together firmly.

Unless you have super human hand strength, you may wish to use pliers (I used my Irwin Groove Lock Pliers) to press them together. You need to insure that the metal prongs pierce through the wire insulation and make contact with the wire inside. Later, if one of your lights doesn’t work, you’ll know that it could be that the connection isn’t tight enough.

Insert the stake of your light into the ground. Don’t fully bury it yet. Trust me on this one. It’ll save you from re-enacting The Diggingest Dog should your lights fail to work properly!

Repeat for the remaining lights.  When you reach the end, you may wish to “cap” off the end of the wire with duct tape. This is not required, but I decided it was best to protect the wire from any source that might short it out.

Plug in your transformer and adjust the settings to turn your lights on. Do they work? Then clap yourself on the back! If not, you need to go back and check all those connections. Good think you listened to me and didn’t bury them, right?!

Let me tell you a little antidote about a girl, let’s call her “Whitney”, who buried all the connections, turned on the transformer and got all excited because the lights worked. Only to come back 30 minutes later to an error message on the transformer and no working lights. Needless to say, she had to dig up every single light and press all the connections tight again. Then she tested the lights only to be disappointed yet again. She was so frustrated, that she went inside and went directly to bed. The next day she spent too much time on hold with the customer service numbers for the transformer and the light manufacturer. They weren’t much help. “Yes, I read the directions. Yes, I checked the connections. Yes, yes. YES!… Okay thanks (or no thanks!)” But, she knew she was smarter than the average bear, so she systematically removed one light at a time and then turned on the transformer. Finally upon removing the last light and plugging in the transformer she found that they suddenly worked. I’m not sure why (errr, I mean she wasn’t sure why that last light caused the problem), so she decided to discard the last light.

For good measure once all the lights are working, wrap the connectors in Scotch Heavy Duty All-Weather duct tape to keep them sealed and connected. Call it overkill, but I didn’t want to end up like Whitney.

It doesn’t have to be pretty to be function. Just ask Pretty Handsome Guy, since this does remind me a LOT of that post he wrote for me.

NOW, you can bury the light stakes, check that they are level and then fill the holes with dirt and pack it down.

And that is it! This is a relatively easy install. It may require a little bit of patience if the lights don’t work at first (or second.) But, if all goes perfectly, this is a half a day project.

Landscape lighting can improve your curb appeal, and also the value of your home. They are also great for deterring thieves. But, I like them because they light up my beautiful plants. And, because, it is very relaxing sitting outside after dark in the glow of the lights with a drink in hand. What more reason could you need for installing landscape lights?

What do you think? Do you like? Is this a project you think you could attempt yourself? I bet you could.

 

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid by Portfolio or Malibu to write this post. Those are the brands I purchased with my own money. The 3M All Weather Duct Tape was sent to me by 3M to use. As were the Irwin Groove Lock Pliers. I was not compensated in any way by them. Nor was I swayed to write positive things about their products. There, I think that covers everything.

 

Ahhh, the birds are chirping and the flowers are in full bloom. The azaleas in our yard look like fireworks exploding with color.

I long to open the windows and let in the sounds and the sweet smells.

But, alas, the pollen bomb is still in full dumping mode.

I’m not going to let that get me down. I decided to bring the outdoors in and finished switching out my Valentine’s Day decorating (yup, I like to get the most out of my seasonal décor.)

So, without further ado, here is how I’m celebrating Spring!

I saw the window idea at Classicly Amber (via Pinterest) and had just pulled a few old windows out of a curbside pick up pile. Speaking of Pinterest, if you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out! It is a great place to “pin” ideas you see and be able to refer back to them easily.

Beth at The Stories of A2Z gave a tutorial on using Pinterest HERE. She’s the one who introduced me in the first place, so I’ll let the master show you the ropes!

I always make it a point to refer back to the original source if I get an idea somewhere else. (Granted, some things are so widespread amongst bloggers, that it is hard to credit the original source.) Pinterest has helped me keep all the ideas together and makes it easier to find the original source. Plus, you can follow other people’s pins and boards. Feel free to sign up and follow mine HERE. Then you can steal my ideas before I blog about it…just kidding!

The striped pedestal holding up the plant is actually a cake stand I made recently using a plate and a candlestick. I’ll be blogging about it later this week, but trust me it is nothing new. You’ve probably seen this trick somewhere else.

This little adorable birdhouse was lovingly painted by my 7 year old son. I always have a stock of $1 birdhouses that they like to decorate on a rainy day. This one brings so much sunshine into my heart.

I love how easy this centerpiece was to create. I rested the ceramic bird into  a shredded paper bag nest. Then set the nest on top of a ceiling medallion ($3 at a yard sale) and surrounded the medallion with ivy.

And finally, my favorite: a robin’s egg nest that I made with chicken eggs.

You can view the tutorial for making the eggs and nest at TLC’s Parentables today.

If you struggle with decorating and creating vignettes, you might want to read a few of the guidelines I use when designing groupings and seasonal décor HERE.

Entering this post into the CSI Spring Decor and Vignettes challenge:

Visit thecsiproject.com

Yesterday we had a 78F day in NC. I spent most of the day raking leaves out of our planter beds. I was so thrilled to see little green plants poking through the soil. I don’t know about you, but I am sooooo ready for Spring! Old man winter better be packing his bags pronto.

In anticipation of warmer weather, I have a special guest to help us with “Falling in Love with Your Home” on the outside! She took a ho-hum patio and created an outdoor oasis with trellis planters!


She is none other than Jess from Frugal with a Flourish!

Jess is so down to earth and a pleasure to talk to. After 5 minutes talking to her, I felt as comfortable as if I was talking to a long time friend. Her blog is just as warm and friendly. If you haven’t been to Frugal with a Flourish, you have to take a few minutes to peruse her blog.

One of my favorite projects that she shared was creating these beautiful bird silhouette plates for $5!!! Yup, you read that right. One Abe Lincoln!

I really need to get my act in gear and make some of these! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Without further delay, put your hands together and give Jess a big warm Pretty Handy Girl welcome! Yeaahhhh!

Hi guys! I am Jess from Frugal with a Flourish and I am so excited to be guest posting at Brittany’s today! People like Brittany helped to inspired me to take on this project! Today I want to talk about loving your outdoor space even if what you have isn’t a whole lot. We are so close to spring that I know that is going to be an area that will be on all of our minds soon! Because of that, I would like to share with you my Patio Redo I did last spring!

What we started with was this – the world’s smallest patio. Isn’t it just pitiful?? I decided that I wanted to turn it into a book nook, since a single chair was almost the only thing that that would fit out there.

So what did I do to transform it? Check it out!

Ta-da! I love it! Here are some more pics! A view from farther away. It looks great from the street! (And per the hubby – my neighbors confessed to being a lil’ jealous of it!)

Now how did I take this from a lonely slab of concrete to a lush little getaway? Let’s break it down.
First, I added these fantastic lattice planters. I built these with my own two little hands – with very little assistance from the hubby – mainly moral support!

These planters were the first thing that I had ever built or conceptualized in my head after looking at a picture. And I have to tell you guys that I have been HOOKED on power tools ever since! If you are interested in how to build them – hop over and check out my detailed tutorial. I hope it inspires you to want to get out there and pick up a nail gun too!
I also got some brackets and hung my PB Knockoff Mason Jar Lanterns out there! This provided two important elements. One, they gave off a lovely glow as it got a little closer to dusk. But more importantly those were citronella candles! So they also provided a little barrier around the patio to ward off those nasty mosquitoes!

Now, to block off the corner a little more from the street, I also added two shepherd’s hooks with hanging baskets and some other planters. Having all the flowers out there was fantastic over the summer months!

Speaking of flowers – I am in love with the ones I put in my planters! They are called Mandevilla or Brazilian Jasmine. They have the most gorgeous blooms! I am actually trying to winter them. We will see how that works out!

They bloomed all summer long and can climb a trellis to over 15 feet high! Here is a pic from later this past summer to show you how well they grew up! Aren’t they gorgeous?


And of course, every book nook needs a place to sit and read. Here is mine. My chair is a rocker – which I love. I also have an umbrella for the stand under that table that I can use to shade my fair-skinned self if it is too sunny! Oh and I have a comfy pillow! It was a no sew pillow I made with some clearance outdoor fabric – the perfect cozy touch.

 

Ahhh… I just loved getting away out there this past summer and escaping into a good book! I can’t wait to get it all cleaned up again this spring. I hope this post inspires you to create your own beautiful space outside. Just remember, it doesn’t have to be big to be an oasis! Thanks again for having me Brittany!

Thank you Jess for sharing your backyard oasis with my readers. I too hope you have inspired them to create their own private paradise in their own yard.