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Buying Guide to Solar Waterproof Step Lights for Your Deck, Porch, or Steps

solar step lights - a set of stairs illuminated

THERE IS NOTHING QUITE LIKE sitting out on your deck with a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. Unless, that is, of course, it is walking down the steps, down the steps into your garden. The only problem is the steps are so dark at night, you can't see them well enough to risk it. So, instead of being able to walk down your garden paths, you are stuck to the deck.

Why live like this, when the only safe time to go wandering in your yard, is when the sun is shining, you are missing out on half the fun. Why not invest in solar step lights to make that trip down into your garden safe without having to go to the expense of hiring a contractor to install all the electrical wiring need for standard lights.

Solar Power Is the Answer

Let's take a look at the many benefits of solar powered step lights and then we'll take a look at what to look for when buying a set for the steps on your deck.

solar step lights - a man standing in front of switchboard looking confused

1. No Wiring to Run

One of the biggest reasons why many people don't go to the trouble of adding step lighting to the steps on the deck, on the porch, or in the garden, is quite simply they don't want to go the expense of wiring them in. While some of us can handle our wiring, not every city allows you to do so. Some require your work to be inspected once complete before signing off on your permit, some simply require all electrical work to be done by a certified electrician. Be sure you check with your local codes if you plan to wire in the lights. Or you could save time, money and effort by installing solar step lights.

2. Simple to Install

Installing solar powered step lights is very simple. First, you need to determine which side of your steps gets the most sunlight during the day. Then, using the screws or mounting kit provided, you install the light. It just doesn't get any easier than this. No holes to drill (except maybe pilot holes, no wires to run, just a light to install.

3. Last for Many Hours

When used in conjunction with LED bulbs that consume very little energy, you can expect your solar step lights to burn for several hours. Be sure to check the specs for any lights you are considering buying. Each manufacturer has their own length of illumination time based on the type of batteries and solar panels used. Many can now last all night long providing there is plenty of sunlight during the day.

4. No Running Up Your Power Bill

If there is one thing you can count on today, it's that everything you add to the electrical circuits in your home will increase your bill. Yep, even those “low voltage” step lights that run on a transformer. It might not seem like they would add that much to your power bill, if they get left on all night long, every night of the week, the costs are going to add up. With solar powered step lights, the only energy you need is some good old-fashioned sunlight. This is still free and provides more energy than you could use in a life time.

5. Plenty to Choose From

When it comes to finding the right style and color, you may just find that solar step lights offer more styles and colors than standard 110V type lights. There are single lights, each of which has their own solar cell panel, strings of lights connected to a central solar panel, even individual dot lights that can be wired to a central solar panel.

They come with metal housings, plastic housings, clear lenses, colored lenses, antique styles, art Deco, art nouveau, and so many more. The color list is long enough to satisfy just about any tastes an outdoor décor.

What Should You Look for In Solar Step Lights?

Like most things for your backyard, you should never just jump at the first set of solar step lights you come across in the store or online. This is the worst possible way to buy anything and the best possible way to end up with solar step lights that don’t work as well as they are advertised to or simply don't work at all.

When you go out looking for solar step lights consider these things very carefully.

Charge

This is how long the batteries are going to keep the lights burning if they are left on all night long. Each manufacturer lists this in their advertising or on the package. If you come across any that don't pass them by.  With lithium ion batteries, they are typically rated in milliamp hours, for example, 600Mah, the higher the number the bigger the battery and the longer they will last.

Charge Time

Next up, how long it will take the batteries in the light to recharge on an average day. Charging times vary with the size and type of solar panel used as well as the batteries themselves. 4 to 6 hours is common, but try to avoid those that say they take over 8 hours to charge. Keep in mind most do have an initial charging time and then a day to day charging time.

Lumens

This is the standard measureofr light output, in many ways it is similar to the way we have rated household bulbs for years in wattage. Lumens, however, is a measurement of light output, while wattage is actually a measurement of power consumption. Most solar step lights tend to have the equivalent output of a 40W light bulb. Just enough to light your way up and down the steps without blinding you. Look for lumen ratings of 10-80 Lumens.

Auto On/Off

You might think this would be obvious, but there are still a few models out there that have to be turned on and off manually. Unless you feel like getting up every evening to turn them on and in the morning to turn them off, this is a very important feature.

Weatherproof

Outdoor lights are all supposed to be waterproof to keep out the rain and snow, aren't they? Such is not the case as many are listed as being water resistant. Which in turn means if you live in an area where you have a lot of snow or rain, those that are listed as being water resistant are just about useless as they are bound to leak. Be sure the lights you are considering are listed as being WATERPROOF if you want them to last.

Motion Sensor

This one is optional, but you might find having step lights that come on only when someone is by or on the step can come in pretty handy. Better yet, they won't keep your backyard lit up all night long. But, on the other hand, each time they come on, they should be at full illumination. If you do decide to go with motion sensor lights, look for those that allow you to adjust their range. This gives you far more flexibility with how you place them and how well they work for your needs.
Image courtesy Amazon

 

My Top Five Choices for Solar Step Lights

After looking at the many different solar step lights on the market, I found five that are worthy of your deck, porch, or garden path.

Mpow Solar Lights Motion Sensor Security Lights

These Mpow lights feature an updated solar panel. After only a few hours of daylight, they will keep these lights working throughout the night. In steady mode, they will last between 8 and 10 hours. They feature 20 LED for super white lighting, with three distinct settings, Strong Long Light Mode, Strong Sensor Light Mode, and Dim Light Sensor Mode. The dual-layer tightly -sealed loop makes these lights exceptionally water and heat resistant.

Pros Cons
Watertight Occasional quality issues
Long life batteries Switches are on back of light hard to reach when mounted
Three modes of operation Limited lifespan

 

Litom Solar Lights Outdoor 30 LED

These lights feature 30 LEDs and ultra-high 2200Mah battery that will keep these lights running for 24 hours on the dim setting with only 13 of the LEDs turned on. When the motion sensor detects movement, the lights will come on in full bright mode for 20/40/60/ seconds. Fully waterproof, with 120-degree lighting, and a maximum 39 foot sensor range, they will cover a wide area as you go down the steps and out into the garden.

Pros Cons
Extra-long sensor range No motion sensor adjustment
Multiple settings Light range is shorter than advertised
Low to instant max with motion sensor Battery Life short in full brightness mode

 

 

Solar Lights Outdoor, xtf2015 Copper Outdoor Step Light

Give your solar lights the day off with these copper lights. Not only are they auto charging, but they are auto on/off. Designed to look like a smile each light 4 x 0.2W brightness SMD beads with spotlight reflector. Maximum brightness is 100 Lumens per light. They come complete with double-sided stickers, screws, and stopples to help you mount them virtually anywhere.

Pros Cons
Nice copper appearance Timer is too short
100 Lumens max output Batteries have a short lifespan
Auto on/off Bright LED illuminates the sensor

Solar Deck Lights, iThird 3 LED Solar Powered Step Lights

These solar step lights are made from a mixture of stainless steel and ABS plastic. They take 4 to 6 hours to charge and will run for approximately 8 to 12 hours. They produce 24 Lumens at 6500 to 7000K daylight. Each of the lights 3 ultra-bright LED chips. Power is supplied via a 200 mAh, 3.2V Li-FePO4 battery. Easy to install, simply screw them to the steps. These lights are IP44 waterproof rated.

Pros Cons
Short charge time Some quality control issues
Long battery life Low light range
Upgraded monocrystalline solar panels

Kinna Waterproof Solar Step Deck Lights

Each light in this four-pack provides a full 6Lumenss of light. They are 100% weatherproof, making them perfect for outdoor use. Easy installation with a pair of screws (included). Uses the latest in monocrystalline solar panels and a 1.2V 500 mAh Ni-mh battery. Offers 300k warm white light.

Pros Cons
8 hours of working time Ni-mh battery instead of life
Compact size and shape Need a template to mount
Come as a four pack Battery longevity questionable, but can be replaced

Other Options

Here I look at your best option if solar step lights are not going to get the job done for you. In this particular instance, I picked a very popular 110V LED step/wall light.

Sunco Lighting, LED Mini Outdoor and Indoor Step/Stair Light

Rated as one of the top LED step lights on the market. Comes with both vertical and horizontal. Easy to install using a single gang box. Safe for both commercial and residential use. These lights are UL listed and approved for use in wet locations.

Pros Cons
UL Listed waterproof Use electricity, running up your power bill
Come with both horizontal and vertical louvres Metal top covers more than it should
Bright enough to light most sets of steps Leads come out of the side making harder to install

 

Finally, the Light Comes On

At the end of the day, finding the right solar step lights for your deck or garden is more about personal choice as far size, color, design, etc. But what you should be looking for is maximum Lumens, long lasting lithium-ion batteries, fast charge time and a certain level of waterproofing.

Me I have a set of the Litom Solar Lights Outdoor 30 LED keeping the steps on my deck lit at night. I hope the information I have put together here helps you find the perfect solar step lights for your deck, porch, or walkway.

If you can think of anything you would like to see added here, please contact me here.

Choosing the Best Expandable Garden Hose – A To the Point Guide

ARE YOU FED UP WITH YARDS OF garden hose strewn all over the yard, plastic hose reels that hold up just long enough for the warranty to run out? To get a truly lasting hose, you probably think you have to buy one of those heavyweight multi-core hoses that are guaranteed not to kink, wear out, burst, or do magic tricks.

What if I told you there was a solution to this dilemma? What if I told you there was a choice between the red hose and the blue hose?

The RED hose weighs a lot, but it won't kink or burst and is hard to move around.

The BLUE hose is super-lightweight, still won't kink or burst, and can be rolled up into a small package you can carry with one hand.

If you are like most of us, then you probably gave serious consideration to the BLUE hose but, ended up going with the RED one. Why? Because the blue hose sounds too good to be true.

But, if you take a minute to look at the BLUE hose, you will find that what we are talking about, is the very latest in expandable hose technology. Far from those “As Seen on TV” products of a decade or two ago, modern expandable hoses have a lot to offer as long as you know what to look for when buying one.

 

A Little History Story

Ancient Greece

You might think that the expandable hose is a modern invention. After all, it takes special materials and polymers to make an expandable hose, doesn't it? Today the answer to this would be yes, but no so far back in the annals of history. Some several thousands of years in history, the Greeks are known to have been the first ones to create an expandable hose.

Their hoses were made from animal intestines as part of the Greek War Machine. The Greek sailors would spray “Greek Fire” onto their enemies from these hoses, setting the sailors and their ships on fire. But, today using animal intestines like this might get you in a lot of trouble. So instead, we rely on modern technology to develop an expandable hose for us. Let's take a look at the construction of expandable hoses along with what you should be looking for when you are ready to buy your first expandable garden hose.

Introducing the Modern Expandable Hose

Today's expandable hose consists of an outer shell made from either a synthetic or cloth weave material. Inside is a latex hose made from a material that can expand up to 5 times its original size without bursting. The inner hose expands as it fills with water until it presses up against the outer casing.

Rubber hoses do not have the ability to shrink or expand, they are designed to be tough enough not to break or crack if they freeze or split and rupture when they get too hot. If you buy an inexpensive rubber hose, you end up one that collapses and kinks at the drop of a hat. Expandable hoses are designed not to kink or twist.

What to Look for in an Expandable Garden Hose

Blue Expandable Hose

There are many different brands of expandable garden hose on the market, and each of them claims to use the best materials to create the finest expandable hose on the market. How much of that is true, we are going to look at. Because the materials used are the most important part of any expandable garden hose, let's start by taking a look at the different materials, their advantages, and disadvantages.

The Outer Hose Casing

Today's expandable garden hose has an outer shell made from a woven polyester fabric. The term Deniers is used to measure the strength of the material being used. The measurement is based on the thickness of a single strand of silk. This measurement is used to describe most forms of natural and polyester fabric.

Obviously, the higher the denier count the less prone the material will be likely to rip, snag, tear, and damage caused the sun's UV rays. Most expandable hoses have an outer shell made from 500 Denier polyester. If you see a hose made from a material with less than a 500 Denier count, you may want to keep shopping. The benefit to using a cloth-like material is that it will expand and contract easily, allowing you to roll the hose into a small flat package.

The Inner Core

There are two different types of inner core used in today's expandable garden hose, latex and TPC (thermoplastic copolyester). Each of which has their own advantages.

The Latex Inner Core

This type of inner core is crafted from natural latex and can be made in a single, double, or triple layer construction. The more cores the longer the hose is likely to last longer than most other types of hose. The layers are thin enough to remain completely flexible even when cold.

One thing to keep in mind, if the package or the listing doesn't say made from natural latex, you should assume

The TPC Inner Core

Thermoplastic copolyester is a man-made highly elastic and flexible material that is not only used to make hoses, it has many other uses. Manufacturers say it offers excellent heat resistance and high durability ratings.

How Many Layers

One of the most common differences between the different expandable garden hoses is the number of layers the inner core is made from. You are likely to hear that a triple layer core is stronger and better than a double layer core. But, under independent testing, both appeared to be equally strong.

Layered latex is created by dipping an existing latex tube in molten latex and then letting it cool. The number of times it is dipped the higher the number of layers. Each layer is intended to add strength to the original pipe, but at the same time, each layer added reduces the amount of flexibility the finished product has.

Some manufacturers use a special type of polymer for the outer layer instead of more latex. Among the most common combinations is a latex core with thick outer PVC layers.

The good news is that all of the options make an excellent choice for your next expandable garden hose.

The Benefits of an Expandable Garden Hose

There are many great benefits to replacing your old rubber or PVC hoses with the latest in expandable garden hoses.

The Pros:

  1. Lightweight – did you know a long rubber hose filled with water can weigh up to 50 lbs.? An expandable hose typically weighs less than 5lbs with no water in it.
  2. Water drains out – the water automatically drains out if you leave the end open.
  3. Easy storage – no hose reel needed, you can hang these hoses on a peg out of the way.
  4. Reduced kinking – by their design, these hoses are naturally resistant to kinking and tangling.
  5. Expands – this is the biggest advantage of all, these hoses expand to three times their size when filled with water. And they go back to their original size when you are done.

The Cons:

  1. Quality control does seem to be a problem with some manufacturers, be sure you buy your expandable garden hose from a reputable manufacturer with good reviews.
  2. People don't read the instructions and get confused about how these hoses work.

That's about it as far as cons go. Once these hoses were more of a joke than they were a useful product. Thanks to major advances in technology and materials, today's expandable garden hoses are well-worth investing in and will certainly take the strain off your back moving them around.

With all of this in mind, I took a look at many of the different expandable garden hoses out there before I chose the ones I am currently using.  Here are my five picks for the best Expandable Garden Hoses available today.

Glayko Tm Expandable Garden Hose

This expandable garden hose features a double inner layer TPC core, brass fittings, and expands to 100 feet. This is three times its original length. The hose is extremely lightweight, making it easier for you to carry it around the yard. The included spray nozzle offers eight different spray patterns and comes with 2 spare rubber washers.

Pros Cons
Expands and contracts rapidly Spray nozzle inexpensively made
Weighs only 4 lbs. Some people have trouble getting it to expand
Expands to 100 feet

GrowGreen ALL NEW 2018 Garden Hose 50 Feet

This expandable garden hose starts out at 17 feet and expands to 50 feet when filled with water. Weighs an incredible 1.85 lbs. The inner core is made of latex and PVC and all fittings are made of brass. The hose is covered in a high-quality polyester cloth wrap for added strength. Comes with an 8-pattern spray nozzle, and a rust-free shutoff valve.

Pros Cons
Very lightweight at only 1.85 lbs. Tends to kink
Strong polyester cloth outer protective layer. Some issues with splitting
Comes with spray nozzle and shutoff valve May not stay extended all the way

FlexiHose Upgraded Expandable 50 FT Garden Hose, Extra Strength

The FlexiHose expandable garden hose is long enough to be convenient without being ridiculously long. It comes with 3/4″ solid brass fittings and a double latex inner core designed to handle water pressures up to 12 BARS. Collapsed size is only 17 feet, but it expands to 50 feet when filled. Comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee. Comes with an 8-pattern spray nozzle.

Pros Cons
Double latex inner layer for strength and durability The inner liner has been found to leak after the first few months of use for some
Solid brass 3/4-inch fittings Spray nozzle is of inferior quality
Lifetime free replacement warranty Problems reaching full extension

Elk & Bear Strongest Expandable Garden Hose with Brass Fittings

This expandable garden hose goes from 16 to 50 feet under pressure and will quickly return to its original size when you are done with it. The inner core is made from latex and is covered with a 5000D high-quality fabric outer shell. Fittings are solid brass for maximum durability. This expandable hose also comes with a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer.

Pros Cons
Latex inner core Inner core prone to leaks
5000D outer layer Nozzle under par
Lifetime warranty Issues with it reaching full length

The FitLife Best Expandable Garden Hose

This FitLife expandable garden hose is available in four different sizes, 25, 50, 75, 100foott lengths. It features the strongest triple latex inner core, solid brass fittings. The 3/4-inch inner diameter provides you with plenty of kink free water. Comes with an 8-position spray nozzle. Burst-tested to 145 PSI/10 Bar and endurance tested for 1100 to 1200 uses to ensure quality.

Pros Cons
Triple latex inner core Tends to cause pressure loss
Solid brass fittings Does not reach full extension
Pressure tested to 145 PSI/ 10 Bar Tends to shrink during use

What If I Want a Standard Garden Hose

Can't think of a single reason why you would want one, after all the good things expandable garden hoses have to offer. But, here is one you might find fits in with your needs and tastes.

Water Right 400 Series Polyurethane Slim & Light Drinking Water Safe Garden Hose

This non-expandable garden hose is made from FDA and NSF certified polyurethane resin. This means you can use it to water your garden or to supply you with drinking water. It contains no BPA, lead, Phthalates, or any other form of toxic chemical. All brass fittings and remains flexible in sub-freezing temperatures. This hose can also handle hot water to 140°F.

Pros Cons
NSF and FDA certified
Lightweight polyurethane resin
Contains no toxic materials

Down to the Last Kink

Or in this case, maybe not a kink at all. Expandable garden hoses are more than worth the cost but, be prepared as few of them perform quite as well as advertised. Yet they are still better than lugging a heavy-duty rubber hose all over your yard. I hope this information helps you find the right hose for your garden needs. Have information you would like to see here, drop me a line here and I might add it. Don't forget to tell your friends if you like what you see.

How to Set Up A Rain Barrel on Your Property and Use It to Water Your Garden

How to Set Up A Rain Barrel on Your Property and Use It to Water Your Garden

Garden-rain-barrel

For decades homes around the country often had rain barrels to help collect rainwater for use both personal use and for watering their gardens. You can spend as little as $20.00 on a plastic barrel and stick it under a convenient downspout or you can invest hundreds of dollars on a sophisticated system of barrels, plumbing, pumps, valves, and more. Either way, the idea is to harvest all that “free” water coming down from the skies.

Before You Get Started

state - law

Before you invest too much time in learning about or installing a waster barrel system on your property, there is one very important step you need to take. This to check with your local and state laws regarding whether you are allowed to install water barrels on your property or not.

In recent years, more states have begun to ban their use. Their reasons for doing this is that the rainwater is needed to refill rapidly dwindling aquifers deep in the earth.

The laws are often confusing and require explanation, if you find your state on this list, your best bet is to go your local county permit office or county clerk to have them explain them to you in plain English.

How Much Water Are We Talking About

Rain-Barrel (1)Image courtesy of Emergency Essentials

Can you collect enough water to make installing one or more rain barrels on your property? Well to help you get a picture of how much you can expect, let's take a quick look at the numbers.

If your roof measures 1,000 square feet, one inch of rainfall can yield up to 600 gallons of rainwater. So, if you have 10 inches of rain over the course of spring, your roof could easily supply you with up to 6,000 gallons of free fresh water.

You can use this online Rainfall Harvest Calculator to help give you a better idea of how much water your roof is capable of supplying you. Keep in mind you can use both slopes or more to collect water by placing a rain barrel on each downspout.

Why Install Rain Barrels

rain-barrels1Image courtesy of Owensboro Living

If you have a garden, you probably already know how much your annual water bill has gone up trying to keep your plants alive. Depending on where you live, no one could blame for thinking that having a garden isn't saving you any money at all due to the high cost of water. But, the simple fact is watering your garden from the city water supply can add hundreds of dollars to your water/sewer bill since you get charged by the gallon for both.

But, when you collect every drop of rainwater you can coming off your roof, not only is that water “free” but at the same time, you won't be paying anything extra on your sewage bill. If this isn't good enough, think of the high levels of chlorine and fluorine in your city water and then decide if this is the best water for your garden.

Bear in mind that the water coming off your roof is not necessarily clean as anything flushed off the roof such as gravel, dirt, bird poop, leaves etc. can and will end up in your water barrels. Unless, that is, you decide to go all out and filter the water before it goes into the barrels. Even at this the water is not potable and should not be used for drinking water.

Choosing a Water Barrel

brown_rain_barrelImage courtesy of Gardenscapes By Joanna LLC

There are several things you need to keep in mind as you start looking for the right water barrels. While most of us use a simple 55-gallon plastic barrel in any one of many styles, shapes, and colors. But, there are many others like those in this picture that bear no resemblance whatsoever to the traditional water barrel and can blend in perfectly.

To determine the right size and type of rain barrel, you need to decide how much water you would like the system to capture along with how you want the completed system to look.

Consider what you are going to use the water for, watering your garden, watering your lawn, washing your car, each of these takes large amounts of water, be sure your final system has a large enough capacity to meet your needs.

One good way to determine how muchyour waterr barrel system needs to collect in order to support your needs, is to look at last year's water bills. You should be able to see when the increase happened and how much extra water you used during the spring and summer months. Plan your water storage accordingly.

Water Storage

rain-barrels-watering-gardenImage courtesy of Instructables

Then the next thing on your list is to decide if you are going to simply use the water caught in the barrels or if you are going to add some form of either above or below ground storage tank system. Here again, you need to decide how much water you need to store and how much money you want to store.

You can of course string several barrels together, creating hundreds of gallons of storage capacity. This type of system is relatively easy and cheap to put together, but as you can see it is a bit of an eyesore so make sure you buy much prettier barrels or storage systems for this type of setup.

Underground Storage Tanks

underground_tankImage courtesy of Polymaster

In countries like Australia many homes in the Outback use large underground rain water storage tanks to collect the vital water that keeps them alive during the dry season. You can do the same thing by having an underground tank buried in your yard and having the downspouts plumbed directly to the tank.

An underground tank can add hundreds, if not thousands of gallons in out of sight water storage to your home.

Building and Setting Up a Rain Barrel to Water Your Garden

setting-up-rain-barrelImage courtesy of DIY Network

The simple reality is that your rainwater collection system can be as simple as the one above or as complicated as you want to make it.

Keep in mind that the more complicated you make your collection system, the more maintenance it can take and the more problems you are likely to have.

Keep in mind the old acronym K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple Stupid. No offense meant, but often the simplest system is the best.

Gather Your Supplies

  • 1 Large Water Barrel
  • 1 Roll Teflon® Tape or Liquid Sealant
  • 1 Spigot
  • 2 Metal Washers
  • 2 Rubber Washers
  • 1 Drill
  • 1 Drill bit

Prep the Barrel

Start at the bottom and work your way up

Rain-BarrelImage courtesy of GrowForageCookFerment

The first step is to drill a hole near the bottom of the barrel on the side. The hole needs to be the right size for the spigot or pipe you plan to install to just fit. If you make it too big, you may end up with a steady slow drip.

Take your time and do this right the first time.  The reason for coming up a couple of inches is to keep the spigot above the level of any debris that falls to the bottom.

Top O' the Barrel Next

rain_barrelImage courtesy of DIY Ideas

Next up, you need to cut a hole in the top of the barrel for the downspout to go into. You can put it in the middle like this image or all the way to one side, depending on how you plan to run the downspout into it.

Since the plastic is relatively thick, you should use a jig saw to cut the hole.  

Installing the Spigot

rain-barrel-spigotImage courtesy of Express Yourself RainBarrels

Take the spigot, slide a large metal washer on first and then a rubber one and apply liquid Teflon®. Insert the spigot through the hole you drilled in the side. Add another bead of liquid Teflon®.

Finally, install the rubber washer then the metal one and finally the nut if you can find one to fit it or you can use a hose clamp pushed up tight against the washers.

Once the sealant dries, your assembly will not leak. Tip, drill the hole just a little too small so that you have to screw the spigot into the barrel, this will help hold it in place and seal better.

Setting Them Up

rain-barrel-three-barrelsImage courtesy of Crafts Post

Now that your rainwater barrel is ready to go, the only thing left is to decide which downspout you are going to install it under and put it in place.

If you need more water pressure, you simply build a small platform using cinder blocks and 2 x 6 boards. In this picture the builder has connected three barrels together for more storage.

Pipe Diameter vs Water Pressure

rain-barrel-pipesizeImage courtesy of DIY Network

For those who are not in the know, when you plumb your rain barrels in, you have a choice. You can opt for more water volume flowing through your pipes or opt for more pressure.

A larger diameter pipe will give you more water by volume which is great for doing things like filling pools. But if you want enough pressure to run a sprinkler you need to use a smaller pipe that while it may not deliver quite as much water by volume, but will deliver it under significantly more pressure, allowing the sprinkler to do a better job.

What Can You Use for a Rain Barrel?

rubberbeck-rain-barrelImage courtesy of TreeHugger

To be honest you can use just about anything from a brand new large trash container to readily available fresh water barrels available from your local discount hardware superstores.

The most important things to look for are capacity, overall strength, suitability for the location, and finally aesthetics and cost. The simple fact is, that as long as the container suits your needs, you are on your way to captures all that water coming off your roof and storing it away for future use.

Down to the Final Drip

water-rain-drain

Putting together your own rain barrel water collection system can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. From a single barrel to a complex system complete with multiple barrels, underground storage tanks, and pumps, the end result is the fun of building a system that can supply you and your garden with “free” water.

I hope the information above helps you put together your own rain barrel system. If it does, please let me know and send pictures (I love seeing how things turn out). If there is anything else you would like to see here, contact me here.

Everything a Homeowner Ought to Know About Landscaping Timbers

Everything a Homeowner Ought to Know About Landscaping Timbers

wood-backyard-landscaping-timbersImage courtesy of Ahigo Home Inspiration

One of the greatest things about landscaping timbers, is that when used properly, they can turn even the ugliest of yards into a work of art. Working with landscape timbers can prove to be more than a little challenging for the average Do-It-Yourselfer. But, not to worry as long as you take your time, have the right information and tools, you will soon find yourself the king of landscaping.

How to Choose the Right Landscaping Timber

There is only one thing that will affect your choice of landscaping timber more than anything else. This is how you plan to use it. For example, lumber that is going underground is typically pressure treated. Others, such as redwood, cedar, and cypress are used for their beauty. Let's look at each of the most common types of landscape timber.

Redwood

red_timberImage courtesy of Redwood Outlet 

Many people choose redwood timbers for their natural rustic good looks. This wood is great for framing gardens, making outdoor furniture, decking rails, and many other projects.

Over the course of time redwood fades to welcoming brown/gray color. If you prefer the red color, there are sealants that can help.

Cypress

cypress-woodImage courtesy of Caribbean Teak

One of the best things about cypress, is that this wood is naturally resistant to rot. Those who live in the Southeast choose it over redwood due to availability and price. But this changes the further west you go and cypress

Cedar

cedar-woodImage courtesy of Carribean Teak

Like cypress, cedar is naturally rot-resistant and loved for being light in weight yet exceptional durability. Experts say you should only use common grade cedar for above ground purposes.

However, you can use heartwood cedar for posts and many near ground applications. It will fade to colors ranging from tan to light gray. If you apply sealant, it will turn dark gray. It can also be stained to any color you want.

Pressure Treated Lumber

Pressure_Treated_6_6Image courtesy of Southside Lumber

Pressure treated landscaping timbers can be used both above and in the ground. The wood is soaked in a chemical preservative under pressure. The pressure is used to drive the preservative deeper into the center of the wood.

In most cases, the lumber is easy to spot as it has a greenish color to it and may feel damp to the touch. Never use pressure treated lumber or old railroad ties around your food gardens as they can leach toxic chemicals into the ground. Learn more about pressure treated lumber here 

Composite Landscaping Timbers

composite_landscape_timbersImage courtesy of Avimarksuccess.Com

There is a wide variety of composite landscaping timber products on the market. Most look like wood, can be cut like wood, even act like wood, with one big difference, they last longer.

Some are made from wood fibers mixed with resins or plastics and then formed to shape. They come in a variety of colors, can be painted, and are very resistant to rot, decay, insects, and require no sealants.

These timbers are virtually maintenance free. The only thing you should ever need to do is wash it off with the hose from time to time.

How is Pressure Treated Lumber Created?

Pressure-heated-lumber

You can't miss new pressure treated lumber, it tends to have a strange smell, is green in color, and more often than not is still wet on the inside. Everyone tells you not to use pressure treated lumber by your fruit or vegetable gardens. But, do you know why? Is this still true? Let's take a look.

In the early days the chemicals used to pressure treat lumber contained chromated copper arsenate or CCA. CCA is a mixture of copper, chromium, and arsenic, and is known to be toxic if ingested. Over the course of time, CCA was found to be leaching out of the timbers and into the ground where it found its way into the fruits and vegetable growing there.

Under new rules from the EPA, the amount of CCA and uses for lumber that has been preserved by it have been restricted. However, the chemical bath and pressurization methods have not changed in decades. The lumber is placed in a tank and a vacuum is applied to the tank. As the chemical is introduced into the tank, the negative pressure sucks it into the wood.

Once the cycle is complete, the lumber is removed to be air or kiln dried and the remaining solution recycled for the next tankful. If you plan to work with pressure treated lumber you should wear leather work gloves and use saw blades that are designed to be used in this type of lumber. Using the wrong kind of blade, can overload your electric saw motor causing it to burn out.

What Should You Be Looking for in Landscaping Timbers?

timber=landscapeImage courtesy of RemoveandReplace.Com

So now that you have a little bit of an idea what each type of landscaping timber has to offer, let's take a look at what you should be looking for when you go shopping.

Keep in mind that the you need to match beauty with function, form, and durability.   No one landscapes their yard with the idea that they are going to be replacing their hard work every couple of years.

Face it, the last thing you want to do, is to have no choice but to rip out your hard work just because the materials you chose did not stand up to the conditions they were exposed to.

Pressure Treated Lumber Issues

treated -woodImage courtesy of Gardening Know How

But at the same time, if you are planning a vegetable garden ora fruit plant bedd, the last thing you want to do is introduce the chemicals found in CCA (Chromium, copper, arsenic) into the ground around your gardens.

The pressure treated lumber being sold today has a significantly lower level of CCA in it, but there is still the risk of it leaching into the ground in your gardens still exists. Keep the use of pressure treated lumber restricted to other areas of your yard such as lining driveways or building raised flower beds.

Worth noting, is that even pressure treated lumber will rot over the course of time, yet it will outlast most other forms of landscaping timbers.

Shape Plays a Part

Timbers - ShapeImage courtesy of Picturesmo.Com

While you might not realize it, the shape of the timbers plays a role in how successful your project is. While those perfectly round timbers might be appealing, they can be very hard to work with if you are building any type of wall.  

A much better choice is to choose timbers that have two flat sides and two rounded sides. These are much easier to stack when crating walls, surrounds, flower garden surrounds, and anywhere you plan to install a landscaping timber wall.

Railroad Ties

railrpad_tiesImage courtesy pf Pacific Western Lumber

Landscapers and homeowners alike have been using railroad ties for more decades than most can remember. These timbers seem to last practically forever, but then they were soaked in creosote before they were used or sold.

Creosote is a preservative that has been used in railroad ties and phone poles to help preserve them for years. But, like the CCA used in pressure treating, creosote can leach out into the soil and into anything you plant there.

They are great to use for building retaining walls, walkways, foundations, and more, but never use them  around your vegetable garden.

What About Plastic Landscaping Timbers 

plastic-landscaping-timbersImage courtesy of Christopher Sherwin.Com

In recent years, we have seen the rise of reliable plastic landscaping timbers. They come in an incredibly diverse range of shapes, sizes, and colors. They do not leach toxins into the ground, do not rot, and will last for many years.

They are easy to work with, and are perfect for use around vegetable gardens, sandboxes, and anywhere your kids are likely to play. However, they are not as strong as natural wood timbers and are prone to swelling in size and warping in the sun.

Alternatives Using Landscape Timbers

timber-garden-soil-erorionImage courtesy of Lowes

If you prefer not to use landscaping timbers, there are other alternatives for you to consider. Both bricks and pavers are fairly inexpensive and unlike wood are not subject to the effects of time. They will not rot or become infested with damaging insects.

Some professionals have gone to using metal borders around ground level gardens as it is reasonably durable and can be painted.  

Concrete Pavers

Landscaping-Timbers - Concrete -PaversImage courtesy of Pic2Viral.Com

One of the greatest things about today's concrete pavers, is that they come in an incredibly diverse range of sizes, shapes, and colors. Assembly is easy as you simply stack them to match the shape of the area you wish to enclose or the path you want to build.

They require virtually no maintenance unless you want to rinse them off from time to time. Depending on the style you choose, concrete pavers can be a relatively inexpensive option.

Bricks

timber-brick-wall-landscapeImage courtesy of RogerGladwell.Co.Uk

Bricks make another good alternative to landscaping timbers. They can be a little more expensive that cement pavers. But, like pavers, they last forever and come in a range of styles, shapes, and colors. This makes them perfect for use in a number of applications.

You can simply stack them to create the walls or if you are sure you aren’t going to move them, cemented together to form a stronger structure. If you are building a long wall, be prepared as this is going to take a while and be sure you have a good pair of heavy duty leather gloves to protect your hands. 

The only real problem you are likely to have with concrete pavers and bricks, is that weeds and grasses tend to grow in the cracks, giving you yet another cleanup chore to add to your list. However, they are among the easiest types of border, edging, and walls to build.

The Last Word

landscape-timbersImage courtesy of Landscape Timbers

Long before you spend the first dime on landscaping timbers, you need to take a good look at your property and what areas you plan to landscape. This will make a big difference in the materials you choose.

One of the best things about doing your own landscaping, is that you can use a range of the different types of landscaping timbers and materials to create the yard of your dreams.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you have enjoyed learning about landscaping timber, please let me know. If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact me here

Thank you for reading this guide to landscaping timbers, I hope you found it useful.

How to Grow Mushrooms

How to Grow Mushrooms

honey-mushrooms-57222_640

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WANTING to learn how to grow mushrooms at home? Do you feel like you are simply in the dark about it? Unlike most fruits and vegetables, you eat, mushrooms are more commonly grown indoors in the dark. However, depending on the variety, you can grow them outdoors as well.

Learning how to grow mushrooms at home can be challenging, mostly due to the incredible range of varieties you have to choose from. Each of which has their own growing requirements, some of which you might find overly difficult to replicate in your home.  However, before you can grow mushrooms at home, you need to decide which ones you are going to grow.

Finding the Best Mushroom to Grow

The first step in learning how to grow mushrooms at home is deciding which variety or varieties you are going to grow. Among the most common varieties to grow at home are:

White Button (Agricus bisporus)

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Also known as a pizza mushroom, this is the most commonly grown mushrooms in North America. It also flies under the name Crimini and Portabello according to the USDA whose figures show it to account for 90% of all mushroom production.

Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

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Oyster mushrooms are among the least expensive varieties found in most supermarkets. The lowly oyster mushroom is revered for its sweet flavor and ability to add subtle flavors to many dishes. These delays fungi come in a range of colors.

Unlike many “shrooms” the stems of these are just as flavorful as the rest of the mushroom. While most you find in the stores are smaller, cultivated oyster mushrooms can reach 18-inches in diameter with caps that are thick and meaty.

Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edodes)

mushroom

The Shiitake mushroom is the third most widely used variety in the world, especially in Asian foods. They can be eaten raw, dried, and cooking. They are very rich in many vitamins and minerals. Bear in mind the high level of nutrients is significantly reduced the more you cook these mushrooms.

Choosing Your Substrate

mushroomImage courtesy of Shroomery.org

The substrate is the medium in which you place the spores so that they will grow into your favorite fungi.

If part of your learning how to grow mushrooms includes one of those ready to go mushroom growing kit, it should come with everything you need to get started, including the spores or spawn and the substrate. But if you are starting from scratch and creating your own substrate, here are a couple of types for you to consider using. No matter whether you plan to use cardboard or straw for your substrate, it must first be pasteurized.

Cardboard

mushroom-in-corrugated-cardboardImage courtesy of Rainbow Valley Farm

  1. Using corrugated cardboard, cut it into small pieces of approximately the same size.
  2. Put cardboard pieces in a bucket with a brick on top or something else to weigh them down.
  3. Cover the cardboard completely in boiling water.
  4. Cover the bucket with a lid and leave it to cool down for eight hours.
  5. Wash your hands using an antibacterial soap.
  6. Squeeze as much of the water out of the cardboard as you can.
    Image courtesy Barefoot Foods

Straw

mushroom-in-strawImage courtesy of Pinterest

  1. Use wheat or rye.
  2. Cut into lengths of 3 to 4 inches (put grain in a metal trash can and use a weed whacker to shred).
  3. Place in a nylon mesh sack or pillow case and tie off.
  4. Place in a pot of water on top of the stove.
  5. Heat with water at 160 – 170F (70 to 75C) for one hour.
  6. Drain thoroughly and let it cool to no more than 80F (27C) Before using.

Inoculating Your Substrate

growing_mushrooms_by_mrca044Image courtesy of Growing Mushrooms by Mrca

Inoculating the substrate is a fancy way of saying “adding the spawn to the substrate,” which is a little like saying you are going to plant seeds in your garden. As you might imagine, there is more than one way to inoculate the substrate based on which one you are using. Always be sure you thoroughly wash your hands before you start to kill off any germs on your hands that could kill the spores.

For Those Who Chose a Kit

Follow the instructions included in your kit. Most start with sterilizing the included syringe and then using it to inject the mushroom spawn directly into the bag through a tiny hole or into several locations on the substrate.

Cardboard

Using a large food-grade plastic bag, stack layers of the wet cardboard with a small amount of spawn on each new layer before covering it with the next.  Do not overfill and then tie off the bags.

Straw

Using isopropyl alcohol (minimum 70%) wipe down a table and cover it with straw. Break up your spawn and sprinkle it over the straw. Mix it all together and then place in food-grade plastic bags. It is okay to fill the bags, just don't overfill them to the point where the contents are compressed.  Tie off the top of the bags.

After you have tied off the tops of the bags, use a sharp tool to poke holes in the bags every 2 to 3 inches. Be sure to poke a few in the bottom to let the contents drain. This is important as the mushrooms need plenty of ventilation to grow properly.

The Right Location

One of the most important things about growing mushrooms is having the right place to grow them. There are a couple of things you need to take into consideration as you search for the proper spot to raise your shrooms.

Temperature

thermometer-789898_960_720

After you have completed inoculating your mushroom spawn, it must be given time to colonize your substrate with mycelium. Most strains of mushrooms require a temperature of between 60 and 75F (16 to 24C).

Even the slightest deviation from this could adversely affect your yield or lead to a variety of different types of contamination.

Light

53c89c6844a765e30a5c4d948a12bee7Images courtesy of Mississippi Mushrooms

Light is an important factor when it comes to growing mushrooms. While most people are under the impression that mushrooms are like vampires and prefer to do their thing in the dark, in most cases this simply isn't true. The mycelium will grow in virtually any level of light, with the exception of direct sunlight.

  • Many growers prefer to put low lights on a timer to simulate the cycle of the typical day.
  • One thing to keep in mind is that if you use too much light on a straw substrate, it may actually cause the grain to sprout. This will make it much easier for your mycelium to grow.
  • Since the perfect temperature varies by strain, make sure you read the directions that came with your spawn.

Moisture Levels

mushroomImage courtesy of Barefoot Foods

It can take anywhere between two and five weeks for the mycelium to spread throughout your substrate. The mycelium will form large areas of white feathery roots. The only thing you need to do during this is a check to make sure the substrate is not dry. If it feels dry, simply use a water spray bottle to mist it through the holes you made in the bag. Do not overwater, add more drainage holes as needed.

  • Keep in mind that the only color for mycelium is white, if you see any other color growing in your substrate, it has probably molded. In which case, you would need to start from the beginning.

On to the Real Thing

mushroom_farmImage courtesy of Mushroom Adventure

Time to turn all of your hard work growing mycelium to work. You need to wait until your efforts have produced a nice thick mat.

mushroom_mycelliumImage courtesy of Nature Ponics

Once you reach this stage, the mycelium will need a change in the environment in which to fruit (produce your crop of mushrooms).

Lighting

grow-timer-lightImage courtesy of Amazon

Your mushrooms will not grow without light. You should keep the level of light at approximately the same level as you would use to read a book. Use a timer set to simulate normal daylight hours.

Along with a timer, you should use indirect daylight bulbs, grow lights, or LED lighting.

Fresh Air

Mushroom-BlowerImage courtesy of Amazon

Open the top of the bag and make sure the area you are growing your shrooms in has a steady changeover in fresh air. Use a fan to keep the air moving.   

Temperature

thermometer-789898_960_720

Drop the temp to around 55 to 61F (13-16C) for optimum reproductive conditions.

Humidity

humid

Increase humidity using a humidifier or hanging sheets of plastic around the bag. You need 90 to 95% humidity for optimum results.                                                                

Water Occasionally

water sprayImage courtesy of Amazon

You can both under over water mushrooms at this stage of the game. The best way to avoid doing is to simply spray water on the inside of the bag. DO NOT soak the substrate or any mushrooms that are beginning to pop up.

If your mushrooms start turning brown in color or you see new mushrooms sprouting out of old brown ones, you're not keeping the substrate moist enough.

On the other side, if you touch the caps of your mushrooms, and they are sticky or slimy to the touch, you have been getting a bit carried away with the water.

Harvest and Enjoy

mushroomsImage courtesy of Agrodir

Your mushrooms will start out as tiny little “pins” when they first come up out of the substrate. Not to worry, they will grow into fully edible sizes within just a few days.

To pick them, press down on the substrate with one hand and with the other twist the mushroom stalks off at the base.

You can eat them immediately, store them in the fridge for a few days, or dry them for future use.

Continue harvesting and enjoying the fruits of your labor through two “fruitings” over the course of three to four months.

Keep the substrate nice and moist, and you can keep picking until you no longer have any to pick.

Enjoy!

I hope this has encouraged you to try farming your own mushrooms. You can use a corner of your basement or your shed. The spot you choose just needs to be able to properly climate controlled and have the right level of light.

If you are looking for more information on how to grow mushrooms then take a look at this guide

If you like learning how to grow mushrooms and what we have presented here, wait until you see your first mushrooms popping up! Also, let us know if you like it!

Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

Our Review of 6 of the Best Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers Available

lawn-mower

IF YOUR HOUSE HAS ANY lawn around it all, one of the most important tools you can have in your garden shed, is a good lawn mower. If you are like me, you are probably old enough to remember the old “push” mower whose blades only turned as fast as you pushed the mower. Talk about making for long hot and sweaty summer days. Today, most of us are turning to Lawn self-propelled lawn mowers that take most of the hard work out of keeping our lawns under control.

The Basics

For this section, I am going to assume that you know that a self-propelled lawn mower uses a transmission or belt to connect the drive wheels to the engine. This makes it possible for you to simply walk behind the mower controlling the direction of travel without having to push the mower along. To engage the transmission, most self-propelled lawn mowers have a lever on the handle that you squeeze. Then the mower will move forward slowly under its own power.

Front-Wheel or Rear-Wheel Drive

lawn-mower-wheel

This is a big question for those who are buying a self-propelled lawn mower for the first time. If you are blessed with a nice flat yard, a front-wheel drive mower might be your best choice. But, if you have a yard with lots of ups and downs and lots of corners to navigate, you might find a front-wheel drive model harder to handle. Rear wheel drive mowers are a better choice as they tend to be easier to maneuver. Also note, that if you plan on bagging your trimmings, a Image courtesy Gardenlines rear-wheel drive makes a better option as the added weight is on the back wheels, adding more traction without affecting your ability to maneuver the mower around your yard.

Wheel Size

lawn-mower-wheel-sizeImage courtesy of Amazon

When it comes to wheels, you may have already noticed that mowers come with all sizes of wheel. Big ones, little one, and some in between. Those with smaller wheels are ideal for yards that are nice and flat. But if you have a yard with lots of bumps and uneven ground, you should consider buying a mower with larger wheels, they will make it much easier for you to maneuver around your yard.

Wheel Adjustment

lawn-wheel-adjustment

At the same time, you might want to consider how the wheel height adjustment is made. Some models use a lever at each wheel, others use a single lever that adjusts all four wheels at the same time. If you don't plan to make too many height adjustments, the style of adjuster may not matter. But on the other hand, if you have to constantly change heights as you mow your property, you may find the single-lever style makes a better choice.

Type of Blade

lawn-mower-bladeImage courtesy of Amazon

Today there are three different styles of cutting blade available for self-propelled lawn mowers. These are mowing, mulching, and bagging. Few mowers come with a straight mowing blade today as consumers tend to be more interested in combination blades. The best blades are those that combine all three features into a single blade. The mowers equipped with these blades have a bag on the back with a closeable flap and a removable plug on the side that a discharge chute can be attached to. If you leave the flap down and the plug in place, you have a mulching mower. If you have never used one before, you may find you fall in love with a mulching mower as it makes clean up a breeze and provides your lawn with much needed nutrition.

Power Source

Gone are the days of noisy two-stroke engines, mixing oil and gas, and endless stinky polluting exhaust fumes. Today's self-propelled lawn mowers come with your choice of four-stroke gasoline engines or cordless electric motors. While gasoline powered models may more powerful and a better choice for those with large lawns, smaller cordless models have their own uses. Today, you may find you have to check with your municipality and HOA as gasoline powered garden equipment is being banned in favor of electric (corded) and cordless equipment.

Options You Might Find Come In Handy

Just like buying a new car, when you set out to buy a new self-propelled lawn mower, there are many available options you might want to consider adding.

  • Adjustable Handle Bars – this way the height can be adjusted for a more comfortable fit.
  • Variable Drive – this way you can adjust the drive speed to suit your pace and the terrain.
  • Blade Override – this allows you to stop the blade without having to turn off the engine.
  • A Washout Port – many new mowers are coming with a deck washout port designed to make keeping the inside of the deck clean.

Our Pick for the Top 5 Self-Propelled Lawn Mowers

So now that you have an idea of what you should be looking for and thinking about in your search for a new self-propelled lawn mower, let's take a look at five of the top-rated models on the market.

Honda HRX

lawn mower

Honda HRX217K4VLA HRX Series Lawn Mowers

The Honda HRX offers an innovativedrives system Honda calls Smart Drive® designed to offer better overall speed control. With a twist of the dial you can adjust the speed from 0 to 4 mph. Along with this, you get electric start, micro-cut twin blades, and a Clip Director that lets you bag, mulch, shred leaves, or discharge. Honda is the only company to offer the NeXite® deck. The GCV190 187cc engine has more than enough power for most yards.

Pros Cons
One of the most powerful engines A little on the loud side
2.5-bushell clipping bag A little on the heavy side
Micro-cut blade provides a nice even cut Controls can be a bit confusing

Troy-Bilt TB220

 lawn-mower

Troy-Bilt TB220 High Wheel Self-Propelled Lawn Mower

This Troy-Bilt self-propelled lawn mower features a 159cc OHV engine and front-wheel drive. The231-inch deck and lightweight design makes this mower an excellent choice for small and medium sized yards. The dual-lever design makes choosing one of the three heights for better mulching, bagging or side discharging. Comes with a 1.9-bushell clipping bag. The handle has been ergonomically comfortable for those long days of mowing.

Pros Cons
Easy to assemble Low bag capacity of only 1.9 bushels
Lightweight, only 80 lbs. Lots of plastic parts
Easy speed adjustment Front-wheel drive looses traction going up hills

Poulan Pro 961420127

Poulan Pro 961420127

Poulan Pro 961420127 PR625Y22RHP Front Wheel Self Propelled Mower

Imagine buying a lawn mower from a company that offers you a guarantee that your mower will start within two pullsonf the starter rope.  This Poulan mower offers you mulch, bag, and discharge options.  The four height adjusters offer nine settings and the 22-inch cut is big enough for most lawns. Features 12 -inch wheels in the rear and 8-inch wheels up front, perfect for most mowing conditions. Powered by a 150cc Briggs & Stratton Auto Choke engine.

Pros Cons
Powerful engine Lowering mechanism must be fixed manually
Large wheels for better maneuverability Some quality control issues
3 in 1 cutting capabilities

Husqvarna 961450023

Husqvarna961450023-Lawn-MowerHusqvarna 961450023 Hi-Wheel Mower

Powered by a Honda 160cc 4cycle OHV engine, this self-propelled lawn mower from Husqvarna offers a 22-inch steel deck designed with side discharge, mulching, and bagging capability. The Auto walk drive system lets you control mowing speed. For smoother operation and durability both front and rear wheels ride on ball bearings. The handle has three positions allowing you to set the height to match your own. This mower offers Low-wheel, High-Wheel, and All-Wheel drive options.
Image courtesy Amazon

Pros Cons
Auto choke makes for easy starting Noisy
Auto walk system offers exceptional traction Lots of plastic parts
Easy to maneuver The wheels lock up when you pull it backwards

Lawn-Boy 17732

Lawn-BoyLawn-Boy 17732 2Inch 6.5 Gross Torque Kohler XTX OHV 

With so many mowers coming equipped with Briggs & Stratton or Honda motors, it's refreshing to see Lawn-Boy opting to go with a Kohler engine. This 149cc engine is so highly thought of that Lawn-Boy has a warranty that states if the mower doesn't start within two pulls, they will fix it for free. Like most self-propelled lawn mowers, this one offers side discharge, mulch, and bagging capabilities. There are only two height adjustments, which may not be enough for every yard.
                  

Pros Cons
Rear-wheel drive   Some issues with setup
Guaranteed easy start Will not cut very short grass
Large wheels offer better control & maneuverability Hard to pull back

An Environmentally Friendly Option

 Greenworks-Cordless-Lawn-MowerGreenworks 19-Inch 40V Cordless Lawn Mower

One of the best things about this Greenworks self-propelled lawn mower is that it has a 19-inch steel cutting deck. Along with the standard three cutting options, this mower is designed to cover a large area in a short time, helping you to get the most out of the battery. The cool thing is that you get two batteries to extend your mowing time.

Pros Cons
Eco-friendly Only for small to medium lawns
Long-life powerful lithium ion battery Will not cut very short grass
Large wheels offer better control & maneuverability Issues with battery life

The Final Cut

I hope all of the information I have gathered together helps you make the right choice when you are ready to buy your next self-propelled mower. I am a firm believer in doing my homework before spending my money, so I hope that my research helps. If you like what you have read here, please let me know. If you know of anything you would like to see included, please contact me here.

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  • Thank you for reading this.

‘The Back Saver’ Garden Bed Plans

‘The Back Saver’ Garden Bed Plans

How to Build a Tall Garden Bed Out of Stuff You Might Have Around Your Home
back_saver

TIRED OF BACKACHES from working in the garden?

Bad back killing your chances of having the garden you have always dreamed of?

or maybe you just don't want to bend over to enjoy your garden anymore…

Either way, you are not alone. Thousands of gardeners of all ages (including me) suffer these same issues. One of the best solutions is the raised garden bed, which depending on the design can raise the bed up by approximately 20 to 24 inches.

This is a far more comfortable height for those with back problems to work at and is also the right height to sit in a chair, wheelchair, or power scooter as well.

Although there are a number of raised garden bed kits on the market, they tend to be a bit costly and may not be available in large enough sizes for the serious gardener. I found that not only does this design provide plenty of space, almost 12'x2.5′, but it is very sturdy and can be made using scrap lumber you probably have laying around.

Lumber and Dimensions

Piece Qty. Length Width Height Material
Rails 20 780 80 50 Pine
Top & Base Rails 4 3560 80 50 Pine
Side Rails 4 700 80 50 Pine
Front & Back Panels 12 3400 140 25 Pine
Side Panels 12 650 140 25 Pine
Beading (Long) 2 3350 40 12 Pine
Beading (Short) 2 620 40 12 Pine

Sizes in millimeters

Other Materials Needed

  • Approx. 26 bricks
  • Approx. 10m of Black Plastic
  • 50mm zinc coated countersink screws
  • 125mm countersink screws

Tools Needed

  • Circular saw (with the right blade if you choose pressure treated lumber)
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter's square
  • Screw gun
  • Drill
  • Set of drill bits

Choosing the Right Lumber

While I chose to use some older pine lumber I had laying around, you can buy all new pine lumber if you prefer. If you plan to use any type of treated lumber, be sure to use lumber that is certified as being safe for use around food plants.

Building the Frame

Building a Garden Bed from Garden Bed Plans

The only place you can start building this raised garden bed is by building the framework first. Be sure you have plenty of space to work in as this bed measures approximately 12 feet long by 2 1/2 feet wide and you need room to lay out the pieces as you build them.

Parts Needed:

(20) Rails 780x80x50mm

(4) Top & Base Rails 3560mm

(4) Side Rails 700x80x50mm

(Box) 125mm countersink screws

Putting the Sides Together

  1. Start by cutting all boards listed above to exact measurements.
  2. Lay out one side using rails to separate them.
  3. Using a carpenter's square, screw the end rails in place.
  4. Measure the distance between the end rails and then separate the rest of rails equidistant from each other and screw them in place.
  5. Continue to use a square during this process to keep the entire frame squared.
  6. Repeat for the other side.

Tips for Building the Side Frames

  1. Always measure twice and cut once, there isn't much room for error here.
  2. Pre-drill the primary board, this will make putting it all together easier and reduce the risks of splitting the primary board.
  3. If you are using pressure treated lumber, be sure you buy a saw blade that is designed for this type of wood or you run the risk of burning the lumber more than cutting it. You might also burn out the saw.

Putting the Frame Together

There are two ways you can go about putting the frame together, depending on whether you have help or not.

raised_garden

The Easy Way

  1. With one side laying flat on the ground, screw all four side rails to the corners using a level or square to keep them perpendicular to the side frame.
  2. Lift the side, turning it 90 degrees.
  3. Have a helper hold it upright or use a couple of boards to help keep it upright.
  4. Bring the other side up against the side rails.
  5. Starting with the side rails on the bottom screw the framework together.
  6. Double check the entire assembly for square.
  7. Add the two center rails in the ends.

The Hard Way

  1. Attach all four side rails to one of the side frame assemblies.
  2. Check them for square as you go.
  3. Have two or more assistants lift the other side rail up and hold it in place.
  4. Start screwing the side rails in place checking for square as you go.
  5. Add the two center rails in the ends.
  6. Roll the entire assembly 90 degrees.

 

Installing the Panels

Once you have the entire frame put together, it's time to add the panels that will turn your framework into a complete box.

raised_garden_installing_panels

Parts Needed:

(12) 3400x140x25mm Front & Back Panels

(12) 650x140x25mm Side Panels

(1 box) 50mm zinc coated countersink screws

 

Assembly Steps

  1. Start with the back panels and working from the bottom up, install each panel and screw each panel to every rail for added strength.
  2. Repeat this process for the front panels.
  3. Repeat this process for the side panels completing the basic raised garden bed box.

 

Adding the Black Plastic Liner

raised_garden_plastic_liner

The last step in building this raised garden bed is adding the black plastic liner or base. This will be where you place the soil and grow your plants. There are two options here, the first is a shallow raised bed, which is preferred, the second is a full-depth bed that I don't advise for a couple of reasons. First, the amount of soil you would need to fill this bed all the way from the bottom to the top would be approximately 75 cubic feet, which is a lot of soil to move. Secondly, the cost of this much soil would be prohibitive.  

However, if you only allow for a depth of six inches, your garden bed would only need approximately 15 cubic feet of soil, costing you far less and making it much easier to move your garden should you need to.

 

Parts Needed:

(2) 3350x40x12mm pine beading

(2) 620x40x12mm pine beading

(1) roll black plastic, approx. 10m

(1) box 50mm zinc coated countersink screws

(1) Staple gun with staples

 

Method One

(1) Decide how deep you want it to be and staple the plastic along each side of the raised garden bed. (I recommend doubling or tripling the edges for more support.

(2) Staple the ends in place next.

(3) Attach the long beads along the front and back using the 50mm screws.

(4) Attach the short beads along the sides using the 50mm screws.

 

Method Two

  1. Cut the plastic to size allowing enough extra to wrap around the beading.
  2. Starting with the side, wrap the plastic around the back beading and then screw it in place on the inside of the box.
  3. Repeat this with the front and both ends.
  4. This method supplies more support for the plastic, but it doesn't look quite as pretty as hiding it between the beading and the panels.

'the backsaver' garden bed plans

Tips

  1. Be sure that if you are using pressure treated lumber that it is rated as safe for use around food plants.
  2. Pre-drilling through the primary board first will make it much easier for you to assemble the framework. It will also help to reduce the risk of splitting the lumber you are using.
  3. Use the bricks to create a solid foundation for your raised garden bed to stand on.
  4. Level the ground you plan to use before you put your raised garden bed in place.
  5. You may find it easier to put the framework in place before you add the paneling as it will be much easier to move around.
  6. If your bed isn't level when you place it on the brick foundation, you can either dig out under one or more of the bricks or you can use wood shims to raise the bed.
  7. You don't need to drill holes in the plastic for drains (although it can't hurt) as in most cases as long as you are careful when watering, you shouldn't have a problem.
  8. When using a circular saw to cut pressure treated lumber, be sure to use a carbide tipped blade that is designed for use with this type of wood. The wrong blade could bind up in the wood and cause it to burn rather than cut. It could also burn out the motor of your electric circular saw.

Conclusion

I love my ‘Back Saving' raised garden bed, I can finally enjoy gardening without my back killing me. As long as you are a bit “handy” with tools, you can build this entire project over the course of a weekend. Push yourself a bit and you could get it done in a day. I hope this gives you a good idea of how easy it is to build a raised garden bed that will take the strain out of gardening. I had a blast building mine, I hope you enjoy building yours too.

If you build ‘the backsaver', then please let me know here, or send some images in on pinterest or facebook.

Best Mortar Hoes

The 5 Best Mortar Hoes Available Online & Why They are at the Top of their FieldBest mortar hoe - Worker using hoe for mixing cement power with sand

HAVE YOU TRIED TO MIX a large batch or mortar using a shovel, regular garden hoe or even a trowel? Pretty tough, isn't it? A good mortar hoe will make the job much easier and significantly reduce the strain on your body.

Although they are quite a niche product, mortar hoes will help with cement, and concrete. You can also mix through fertilizer through soil to create that perfect potting mix.

Just like any other tool in the garden shed, having the right mortar hoe can make all the difference in the world. And I especially recommend them for people with bad backs as mortar hoes eliminate most of the bending over in the mixing process.

There Are Only Three Things You Need to Consider

The mortar hoe is not much different from a garden hoe in that it has no moving parts and if you buy the right one, will provide you with many years of service.  These parts are the handle, the hoe blade, and the way in which the head is mounted to the handle.

The Head or Blade

Much like the standard garden hoe, the head or blade of the mortar hoe is the most important piece of the puzzle. A blade made from the wrong materials or that is improperly designed will not take away from your workload. Instead, it may actually add to the workload and make mixing a spreading mortar that much harder.

The blade should:

  • Be the right size for the job
  • Be made from top-quality steel
  • Have holes in it to allow the mortar to pass through for better mixing
  • Be strong enough not to bend while being used
  • Will not rust over a short period of time

The Mortar Hoe Handle

Mortar hoe handles come in a wide range of lengths from 24 inches long to 66 inches long and more. When choosing a mortar hoe, be sure the handle you choose is long enough for the job you have in mind and that it feels good in your hands and is not likely to cause a problem if you have to use your hoe for a long time.

Handles are made from aluminum, fiberglass, and aluminum, each of which has their advantages and disadvantages. For example, wood may flex a little but can stand up to a lot of flex before breaking. Fiberglass is very lightweight, but it is more flexible and may shatter under a heavy load.  Aluminum is lightweight and flexible but may bend when being used for heavy work.

Handles also come in straight and “D” handle designs, both of which work well. Your decision should be based on which of these designs work best for you and the job you have in mind.

Bear in mind that mortar hoes can be used for a wide range of projects beyond simply mixing and smoothing out mortar. You can use this type of hoe to mix concrete, mix things like sphagnum peat moss into your soil, mixing sand into your soil, or even mixing small rocks and gravel together and spreading them out.

Features to look for in a mortar hoe handle:

  • Flexibility to absorb the shock of being used without breaking
  • The right length for the job you have in mind
  • Be properly finished to protect it from the elements
  • Be properly fastened to the head of the hoe

One of the biggest issues with mortar hoes is the possibility of the head pulling away from the handle, which makes it really hard to mix or spread the mortar (trust me there is nothing worse than having to retrieve the head of your hoe from the middle of a freshly mixed batch of whatever you're mixing). Look for hoes with heads that are riveted or bolted in place.

Heads also come in various widths and heights based on the type of work they are designed to do, all the way up to those with heads over 12 inches wide for smoothing out large areas of work.  In fact, you might find that you need several different mortar hoes to get everything you need to get the job at hand done right.

While most mortar hoes come with steel heads, not all heads are created the same. Some are much thicker than others. Beware of heads made from thin gauge steel as they are likely to bend and break, whereas those made from thicker steel will hold up to heavy work more effectively and are less likely to rust or fall apart.

With all of this in mind, let's take a look at 5 of the top mortar hoes for you to consider in your search for the right one for the job you have in mind.

My Picks for Top 5 Mortar Hoes

Bully Tools 92360 12-Gauge Mason Hoe with Fiberglass Handle

Top-quality American made mortar hoe with a triple-wall fiberglass handle

Bully_Tools_92360_Gauge_MasonBULLY TOOLS 92360 Mason Hoes

Not only does this mortar hoe come with an extra-thick 12-gauge head, it also features a triple-wall fiberglass handle for added durability. The fiberglass handle is reinforced with 14-gauge steel, it also features an extended length ferrule beam supports to help keep the head firmly fixed in place. The two large holes make using this hoe to mix mortar or cement far easier than if you were to use a shovel or standard garden hoe.

Pros Cons
24-gauge steel head A single rivet holds the head in place
14-gauge steel extended length ferrules Steel-reinforced fiberglass handle heavy
Rubber grip at top of handle

Marshalltown – The Premier Line 14279 6-Inch by 10-Inch Mortar Hoe with 66-Inch Hardwood Handle

Natural hardwood handle and carbon steel head for added durability

MARSHALLTOWN_14279_mortar_hoeMARSHALLTOWN The Premier Line 14279 Mortar Hoe

This mortar hoe features a 66-inch long natural hardwood handle that has just enough flexibility to take some of the strain out of mixing. The head is formed from a single piece of forged carbon steel for added durability. Two large holes in the blade make mixing mortar, cement, and concrete easier. The steel ferrule is riveted to head to keep it solidly in place. This is a contractor grade tool that definitely lives up to its reputation.

Pros Cons
Carbon-steel head Single rivet in ferrule may fail under load
Hardwood handle Sharp corners leave mix in wheelbarrow
Perforated blade for easy mixing Heavy

Kobalt 54-in Wood-Handle Mortar Hoe

Solid ash handle from the forests of North America

Kobalt_54_Mortar_HoeKOBALT  54 Inches Mortar Hoe

This tough as nails mortar hoe features a 1-piece forged steel head for superior strength and maximum durability. The 54-inch long North American ash hardwood handle has just the right amount of flex to be comfortable while you work. Like all good mortar hoes, the dual perforated holes are perfectly placed to make mixing your mortar or cement easier. The handle and head are pinned together to ensure the head stays in place.

Pros Cons
1-piece forged head Handle may be short for taller people
Solid ash handle Wood handle may split if left out in rain
Handle and head pinned together

Kraft Tool BC229 61/2-inch by 43/4-inch Short Mortar Hoe with a 21-inch Wood Handle

Short and sweet – perfect for those smaller tasks

Kraft_Tool_BC229_Mortar_HoeKRAFT TOOL Mortar Hoe with 21-Inch Handle

They say good things often come in small packages, and this mortar hoe is a good example of this old saying. The 21-inch hardwood handle is perfect for working in smaller areas where precision is needed. Like full-size hoes, this one features dual holes for ease of mixing. The long tang and steel ferrule are designed to help keep the head firmly fixed in place. It is perfect for mixing mortar or cement in wheelbarrow thanks to the shorter handle.

Pros Cons
Strong steel blade Not for big jobs
Hardwood handle Head is not riveted or bolted to the handle
Long tang and steel ferrule

Marshalltown – The Premier Line 14281 D-Handle Heavy Duty Mortar Hoe

Short and Sturdy Gets It Done

MARSHALLTOWN_The_Premier_Line_14281MARSHALLTOWN The Premier Line 14281

For those who need a little more control, this D-handle mortar hoe might be just what you need. The 18-inch hardwood handle with a sturdy D-shaped handle lets you take more control when mixing and finishing. The head is forged from a single piece of carbon steel and is held in the steel ferrule with rivets for added strength and durability. The black powder finish will help protect the metal from corrosion.

Pros Cons
18-inch hardwood handle with D grip Rivets may come loose
Holes for easy mixing Paint may not protect from corrosion
D-grip offers better control

Other Options

Bucket Mortar Mixer

Power mortar mixing at its best

Bucket_Mortar_MixerBucket Mortar Mixer

When all you need is to mix up a bucket of mortar this tool and a strong 1/2-inch chuck drill will whip up a 5-gallon bucket of mortar in a hurry. The corkscrew lifts the dry mortar up from the bottom of the bucket to the top for a smoother and faster blend. The foam-covered handle features oiled bearings for smoother operation.  

Pros Cons
Power mixing = less hard work You must have a 1/2″ chuck electric drill
Mix four gallons of dry pack in 30 seconds Can be hard to handle at first
Oil-impregnated bronze bearings in handle Can only mix four gallons at a time

The Final Mix

For my money (since that's all I have to spend), the Bully Tools 92360 is the clear winner. While it is a little on the heavy side, but I didn't mind the extra weight since I didn't have to worry about it breaking or bending. I also love the heavy-duty steel blade that doesn't give when I am mixing a wheelbarrow full of fresh cement. This mortar hoe meets all the needs I listed up above. It has a strong blade, a strong handle, and is made to last. I have one of these in my shed along with the Bucket Mortar Mixer for the small jobs.

I hope that the information above has taught you something about what to look for when you go out shopping for the best mortar hoe. Find one that meets everything above and feels good in your hands and you have a winner.

 

Landscaping Ideas Around Trees

16 Landscaping Ideas Around Trees

Landscaping ideas for side of house - Landscaped side of house with gate

Create a beautiful and neat appearance under the shady areas of your tree...

WHAT DO YOU DO around your beautiful trees in your yard? We were surprised when we saw how many options there are available for shaded spots around trees. Here are the best 16 landscaping ideas around trees we could find. Enjoy.

clean_up_the_shady_areas_around_your_tree

Image courtesy of Pinterest

1. Where the Grass Won't Grow

The area under and around many trees can be hard to get grass to grow. So, why not create a garden filled with plants like coleus that love the shade? This bountiful garden adds a real touch of beauty to what might otherwise have been a barren eyesore.

hilltop_landscape_under_the_tree

Image courtesy of Decoist

2. A Patio with Plenty of Natural Shade

Here the homeowner has chosen to create a huge patio out of natural stone. But rather than cutting down the trees to make room for the patio, he chose to build the patio around the trees, providing plenty of shade for family dinners in the great outdoors.

under_the_tree_landscape

Image courtesy of Pinterest

3. Making the Most of Mulch

The rocks and gravel create the illusion of a path that leads off into the distance and the mulch nicely covers the areas where the grass won't grow to create a place of quiet contemplation. The bench is the perfect finishing touch as well as a place in the shade to sit and meditate.

under_the_tree_contemporary

Image courtesy of Houzz

4. A Place in the Shade

Here it looks as though the homeowner has covered the shaded mound in his yard with fresh wood chips. Not only is this a great way to keep the soil from being washed away in the rain, it also keeps weeds from gaining a foothold. He even used wood chips as the basis for his patio under the trees.

under-trees-fairy-garden-around-tree

Image courtesy of Pinterest

5. A Tale of Two Trees

This homeowner decided to make the most of these trees by creating a tiny patch of garden in the middle of his yard. He added a path that cuts between the trees and leads right towards the doors to his garden shed. The small plants he has chosen will not overshadow the path but will add lots of color.

cute_under_the_tree_landscaping

Image courtesy of Pinterest

6. A Park Bench, A Big Shade Trees, and Plenty of Flowers

You don't need to have a big garden to have beautiful flowers in your shady place to sit. This person has made use of several different types of planter to create a spot in the shade for quiet contemplation. The bird houses are sure to attract plenty of tuneful visitors.

under_the_tree+landscaping

Image courtesy of Pinterest

7. A Simple Way to Deal with a Slope

As you can see this yard slopes towards the road. Not the best place for a garden, but the homeowner has overcome the slope by building a brick wall and backfilling it to create a nice level garden for flowers and plants under his tree.

Under_tree_SantaLuz-3oneyear

Image courtesy of Living Designs By Linda

8. Loving It in the Shade

By creating a round garden space under the tree, this person has created the perfect place for plants that flourish in the shade. Note how the pavers match well with the natural rock wall surrounding the area.

landscaping_under_trees

Image courtesy of Gardening Lists

9. A Tisket, a Tasket, a Basket Around the Tree

What a unique way to create a raised garden bed around the tree. By weaving wood strips in and out around posts, this homeowner has created the illusion of his tree growing out of a basket. While he has chosen grass for the raised bed, you could just as easily have planted flowers or even a few strawberries.

under_tree_c5full

Image courtesy of Cypruss Group Inc.

10. The Layered Look

Using multiple layers and plenty of colorful flowers and plants, the person who designed this has created the image of his tree growing on top of a small hill. The taller plants go at the back, while the shorter ones sit up front on what appears to be level ground, despite the illusion of a small mound.

under_tree_Seating-under-a-large-tree

Image courtsey of Decoist

11. Room for Everyone

Looks like having a table and chairs is not always enough for the crowds this homeowner is expecting. The walls around this patio appear to have benches built into them all the way around, providing extra seating for several more guests. (I bet he hosts lots of big cookouts)

garden_bed_under_trees

Image courtesy of Helpful Gardener

12. Container Gardening is a Great Alternative

When you have a lot of shade trees in the yard, putting your flowers in planters you can move around makes sense. This way you can move them into the sunlight when they need it and create barriers with them under the trees when the time comes for them to take a break from the sun.

under_the_tree_640b7240f05ed731e751eff421674de3

Image courtesy of Pinterest

13. The Original Magic Kingdom

This majestic arrangement would not be so spectacular if it wasn't for the moss hanging down from the tree in the background. The riotous colors of the various flowers and plants only add to the picture and help to hide the tree trunk so that it appears to float out of the flower bed.

under_tree_f8af8b8b4e46c2e3ee05c1e616b3ace4

Image courtesy of Pinterest

14. Poetry in Symmetry

There is a lot to be said for symmetry when you have a large yard filled with rows of trees. This person took what could have been nothing more than rows of boring trees and turned them into something spectacular by adding circular gardens under each one filled with the same flowers all the way along the rows.

under_the_tree_landscaping

Image courtesy of Pinterest

15. Creating a New World with Rock Pavers

Not all pavers are boring and flat. These rough-hewn looking pavers form the perfect circular raised garden bed around the tree. The rustic look works well for this older styled home and adds plenty of room for flowers and small shrubs. Pavers are very easy to work with and relatively inexpensive.

under_tree_home-design

Image courtesy of Pinterest

16. The Greeks Had a Word for It

The Greeks have their own word for relaxing, " χαλαρωτικό or in English chalarotikó", which is exactly what this cozy spot in the shade was meant for. Look closely at the Greek inspired bench and planter, now think about how relaxing this spot in the shade might be on a sunny summer day. You can buy cement recreations like this at many DIY superstores.

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Landscaping Ideas for Large Backyard

15 Landscaping Ideas for Large Backyard and Yard Areas

LAndscaing ideas for large yards

Create wonders in your large background. 

Quick Navigation

MORE SPACE GENERALLY MEANS MORE work. More mowing and more maintenance. But here is the beauty of having more space. More space to do what you want. If your thinking of ideas, then these 15 landscaping ideas for large backyard and garden areas is a great place to start.

large_backyard-landscape-design

Image courtesy of Pinterest

#1 It's All about Those Curves

When you have a large backyard to work with, why not make the most of it. Use large flagstones to create sweeping walkways, maybe even add in a decorative fountain or bird bath. Here the pergola style porch covering can help block out the sun or rain so you can still enjoy an outdoor cookout.

best-large-backyard-ideas-large-backyard-landscaping-ideas-home-landscaping

Image courtesy of Garden Decors

#2 Natural Beauty and Room to Play

If you have kids, dogs, or both, they need plenty of room to play. This yard has the perfect blend of beautiful lawn to play on surrounded by a wonderful variety of shrubs and plants in complementary gardens.

large_garden_design1

Image courtesy of Brand-Garden.Com

#3 An Intersection of Shapes

This blend of angular and curved geometric shapes creates a unique outdoor patio with plenty of room to host a party. You could use the small fountain/pond for goldfish or koi and place an outdoor kitchen under the canopy for even more outdoor entertaining versatility.

alarm_thumbnail innovative-large-backyard-landscaping-ideas

Image courtesy of Garden Decors.Net

#4 Nothing Beats a Park Bench

That is unless it sits at the end of a spectacular paving stone pathway in your backyard. Note how this homeowner created plenty of shade by surrounding his bench by tall trees and shrub. (Be a great place to relax with a good book and a glass of iced sweet tea!)

large_garen_4bc540a890ba0a0a7001b90805411090

Image courtesy of ErikHansen.Info

#5 Gravel Gardens Add Lovely Contrast

Love the way this homeowner used gravel in his gardens to help cut down on the amount of weeding he has to do. Not only does gravel reduce the workload, it also makes an amazing contrast to the bright green lawn and cuts down on water usage.

15z-Large-Garden-870x579

Image courtesy of Homestratosphere

#6 Not Quite the Golden Arches But

Adding an archway trellis to separate sections of your backyard presents you with a golden opportunity to add climbing plants like sweet smelling honeysuckle to your yard. During the spring and all summer long, you will be treated to beautiful flowers that have an amazing smell and will attract lots of honeybees.

Most Garden Design Ideas For Large Gardens Pictures

Image courtesy of Madlon's Big Bear

#7 So Relaxing and Inviting

This homeowner decided to add on to his deck and install a complete outdoor relaxation zone to his home. The brick patio allows for a lovely firepit that can take the chill out of a summer or autumn night, but note the gas grille sitting on the deck ready to cook gourmet meals.

Luxury-Large-Garden-Landscaping-Ideas

Image courtesy of Modern Home Interior Design

#8 The Magic Roundabout

This homeowner chose to go with a statelier backyard such as you might expect to see in the courtyard of a European estate or castle. The use of short hedges with the large corner maker topiary style balls adds to the impression, but also adds to the amount of work needed to keep them all in shape.

large_garden_design_images

Image courtesy of Home Design and Decorating

#9 The Elephants are On Parade

What could possibly look better than having a family of elephants (or any other animal you happen to love) parading across your backyard? Maybe knowing a talented topiary artist who can create and maintain them for you. Living art has been popular for centuries and continues to look amazing even in today's high-tech world.

decoration-small-garden-ideas

Image courtesy of Sha-Excelsior.Org

#10 Take Dinner Outside

This homeowner has created the perfect outdoor patio for family dinner times. The patio has plenty of room to build in an outdoor kitchen and overhanging trees that can provide just the right amount of shade on sunny summer evenings.

landscaping-large-gardens-designs-for-large-home-landscape

Image courtesy of CarolinaCouture.Com

#11 This a Miniature Golf Course?

If not, it should be, look at the way each section of grass weaves its way through the carefully shaped gardens filled with colorful flowers. The narrow pathways only add to the illusion, anyone for a quick round of 18 mini-golf holes?

large_garden-58452_640

Image courtesy of Best Home Ideas

#12 This Backyard is A-maze-ing

Someone was having way too much fun when they put this a-maze-ing backyard festooned with brick pathways that will never wash out and plenty of neatly trimmed hedges. The statues along the edges give the yard a “Greco-Roman” look. (One can only wonder what style the house was built in)

large_garden_e2a7a2b04d935b44dd889d8fc39b1562

Image courtesy of Pinterest

#13 Multiple Sections for Different Times of Day

This design is all about angles and creating separate seating areas for different times of the day or maybe different purposes. Not the way the homeowner has incorporated different forms of seating in each area and made use of angles throughout the design.

large_garden_1a3beeee1c322509ce926f757bfdc05f

Image courtesy of Pinterest

#14 Working with Multiple Levels

This backyard seems to be filled with slopes and water (perhaps this is a creek that runs through it). Note the way there is a platform across the water that creates the perfect spot for sunbathing. The stair style decking helps make navigating the slope easier and adds much more usable space to the yard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image courtesy of Paris Salon

#15 Multi-Level Family Fun

Take a good look at how this homeowner is using multiple levels to give his family plenty of room to play. The huge deck is perfect for mom and dad to relax on while the kids play in the lower section, while the mid-level patio provides a place for the family to share meals.

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