Outdoors and Landscaping
Posted by John on September 30th, 2013
I had high hopes for today’s post. I thought I had learned from my mistakes enough to get this one right. You were supposed to stop by today and see a black, concrete planter on our front porch freshly adorned with festive orange mums.
Not so much.
Instead of being stuffed with fall flowers, this planter is stuffed with the remains of its own side: a casualty caused by attempting to remove the inner mold with perhaps a bit too much force. Just a bit.
The first time I tried making one of these planters, I couldn’t remove the metal letter from the mold and it got stuck in the concrete, permanently reminding me of my misjudgment. What’s worse, the concrete never settled properly around the “V” the first time I made it so it looks sort of… off.
Ah ha. But, this time. This time I was going to get it right. I used a wooden letter that I could attach to the mold with screws. I also abandoned my snobbish preference for melamine over regular plywood. So, some background… I made concrete countertops back in the day with melamine forms and they worked great. So great, in fact, that I poo-poo’d any suggestion of using anything except melamine for any sort of concrete mold.
The instructions for the planter, however, specified regular plywood covered with aluminum foil. The melamine worked well, except it wasn’t reusable. It got destroyed when I tried to pop the planter out of the mold. So, this time I opted for the tin foil covered plywood as per the Popular Mechanics instructions in the spirit of trying something new.
The instructions didn’t call for pink kitchen gloves either, but… hey.
I had my lovely assistant spray down the interior of the mold with non-stick cooking spray.
After mixing up the concrete, this time with 1.5 bottles of the charcoal colorant, I was happy with how it was going.
After letting the planter cure overnight, I slowly popped off the sides. The letter actually released pretty easily. So far so good. A few minutes later all I had to do was “slip” out the inner box from the mold and I’d be done. I even went out and bought a couple bags of topsoil to accompany our new mums.
So, needless to say, the inner box didn’t slip out of anything. I was really surprised at how well the concrete adhered to the plywood considering it was all covered with tin foil and then sprayed down with Pam. Then again, they do make skyscrapers out of this stuff, so.. we’ve got that going for us.
After a few minutes of trying to yank this plywood box out of the planter by hand, my friend Mr Crowbar stopped by. We got to talking and then one thing led to another… yada, yada, yada… and then before you know it…
Did you notice how much tin foil is stuck on the outside of the planter (see the first photo)? Unbelievable.
Here’s the good news. I only spent around $10 for concrete and the black dye. I had the plywood leftover from other projects, which would’ve been another $30 or so (more for melamine).
So, the important thing here is that we all learn from our mistakes. I learned that concrete is incredibly fond of everything I stick in it and it doesn’t want to give it up. I also learned that melamine is probably way better for this. So I can go back to being a melamine snob about my one successful concrete project (the countertops).
More importantly, I learned that Lisa is ready for me to switch gears and start on our TV console for our sitting room. I’ll probably be back out again next year though, once again in search of my white whale… wasting time and concrete.
Do you know what a PIA it is to throw out an 80 lb planter?
Before you go, here are those orange mums we bought.
AND the original planter…
Have you had any DIY fails on your end recently? Have you also pursued a project with blind ambition to the point of madness? Was it also a concrete project?
I feel inspired to share more of my DIY fails. This may become a regular thing.
Posted in DIY Projects,Outdoors and Landscaping. Tagged in ,Concrete, fails, planter
Posted by John on September 17th, 2013
It was a good summer. I only got sun burned once. Or twice. Got to the beach a few times. Good stuff. As far as home improvement projects go, this summer wasn’t too bad either. Let’s take a look back and see what we got done and what we postponed.
We started off the summer with a post on our Spring and Summer Goals where we listed around 9 projects. We got a whopping 2 done. It’s just like that Meatloaf song, “Two out of Nine Ain’t Bad.” Not one of his better hits.
The first outdoor project we attempted was the DIY Concrete Planter. We had mixed results with the monogram, but overall we still really like the planter. I am still planning on retrying this soon. We’re going to double down and make two at the same time and try to make them darker.
After the mailbox work, we shifted gears and finished redesigning and coding our own WordPress Theme. This upgrade had been hanging over my head for months. I really like the feel of the new theme, but there are still a number of changes I want to incorporate.
Before heading back into the garage, we installed some UV window film to prevent further sun damage in our entryway. It was tricky to install, but it will probably end up saving us hundreds of dollars worth of damage to our stained wood.
Finally, we finished work on our garage improvement. That alone was around 9 or 10 posts.
So what did we skip? For the most part, landscaping. We still need to clean up our side flowerbeds (see the hot mess above). One is heavily overgrown and the other needs a tall shrub or tree to anchor the layout. In order to get it done now though, we would have to rush through it. So, we’re punting it until the spring. Womp Womp.
We have a lot of exciting Fall work lined up and we’ll be building some new furniture shortly. So stick around!
How much summer work did you get done? What did you skip?
Posted in Garage and Tools,Outdoors and Landscaping. Tagged in ,Garage and Tools, Landscape
Posted by John on June 25th, 2013
Summer is in full swing around here, which means just about every weekend we have some sort of family activity. Certainly not complaining. Given the choice between spending time with family or working on my house, I’ll choose hanging out with my family 100 times out of 100. Consequently, our DIY projects have been relegated to work days. Throw in some torrential rain and we haven’t done a whole lot around here lately. Meh. It is what it is.
In my never ending quest to have our home be as maintenance free as possible, I’ve had to make some changes to our mailbox flower bed. Keep in mind, these changes are still in progress. I didn’t feel like waiting until it was completely wrapped up.
The volume of rain we’ve gotten lately has been hugely helpful to our perpetually barren lawn, but has caused some problems with our mulched flower beds. The rain washes away sections of the mulch. Sends it right down the sidewalk It hasn’t happened in normal rainfall, just the heavy stuff.
It doesn’t look terrible with the missing mulch, but it’s noticeable since it exposes the weed barrier underneath. There’s a simple fix to keep mulch from washing away that will prevent or at least mitigate the mulch loss: add rocks.
Around some of the flower beds closer to the house, we incorporated river stones we bought from Lowes a couple years ago (the larger stones we got for free from a community project). We added those stones for exactly the same reason, rain washing the mulch away. So we know first hand how well the rocks protect the mulch.
I still need to buy a couple bags of rocks, but I had enough on hand to get started on the mailbox flower bed. I place the larger rocks down first and try to keep the spacing random. I don’t want the larger rocks to look patterned.
So for the price of a bag of rocks, you can keep your mulch from running away from you. You know what happens now, right? It’s not going to rain again this summer.
Keeping the mulch in place is the upside of the stones. The downside is it’s a little more annoying to keep the rock areas weed free. It’s not hard, it just takes a little longer and you may have to move the rocks out of the way to get at the weed roots. Trade offs. It’s always about trade offs. What would you rather do? Weed the rocks once a month or replace the mulch after every heavy summer rain?
In other news, I’m hoping to get our bug-free garage window solution knocked out this weekend. We’re doing one window first to validate the concept and then we’ll do the other two if we’re happy with it. Looking forward to showing you our idea.
Posted in Outdoors and Landscaping. Tagged in ,flower beds, Landscape
Posted by John on June 2nd, 2013
So even though we haven’t officially hit the summer season yet, we’ve already managed to finish one of the projects on our Summer To-Do List. Our mailbox flowerbed overhaul is all done. Only thing left to do is water it everyday for the rest of my natural life. Yay!
Last week we showed you how we spray painted the mailbox and you even got a sneak peak of the planted flowers. A couple days ago I put the finishing touches in place by adding a little bit of weed blocking fabric and some black mulch. Here’s the prequel…
I used a flat edging shovel to remove the grass. This was the hardest part of the job.
You definitely need to use the proper shovel for this work. A regular spade shovel may work, but it’ll take longer and just frustrate you. Use a shovel like the one in the photo below. I bought that one at Lowes a while back. It’s a Kobalt brand and it works beautifully. When you use this type of flat shovel, you hit the grass from the side and basically scrape it off in sod-like chunks. The grass comes out in little sheets or sections, which are perfect for plugging any sort of holes or bare spots in the yard.
With the grass removed, I worked in about 3 cubic feet of topsoil and leaf compost that I had bought in bags at the nursery right into the area I was going to be planting. Adding quality soil will help keep the flowers alive especially since our soil is pretty much garbage. Now the ground is ready for the plants.
Time to stage the flowers. Lisa used the potted flowers and played with the arrangement on the pavement before settling on a layout. Then it’s just a matter of positioning the flowers in the bed and digging holes.
We chose a Stella d’Oro for the rear most flower since it has some height and blooms all summer. The purple flowers are Royal Candles Veronica, which are somewhat shorter and the small guys are Japanese Silver Grasses. All of these plants were marked as ideal for dry areas and a good amount of sun exposure. We don’t have a sprinkler system in the grass or anything that close to the road, so they aren’t going to get any water unless it rains or we water them ourselves. The rest of our flower beds do have a drip irrigation system hooked up though, thankfully.
We were also mindful of the height these plants will reach at maturity. We like the varying heights they have now and we don’t want the grasses in the front to tower over the others down the road. We don’t mind them growing, we just want them to grow proportional to their current heights.
We also tried to keep them spread apart. It sure looks like we could’ve squeezed in some more plants in that space, but we don’t want them to get overcrowded once they get bigger. Learned that lesson the hard way. One of our side flower beds is currently a jungle.
After I dug each hole, I would take the plant out of it’s temporary pot and slice off about half of the root system. I heard this trick stimulates the roots and helps the plant get settled into its new location.
When all the plants were in the ground, I used about a six inch wide strip of weed blocking fabric along two sides. I could’ve used more and really integrated the fabric throughout the bed, but I only have grass on one side of the flower bed. Plus, it was easier, it was 90 degrees out and I was tired and lazy. All good reasons.
Here’s what the flower bed looks like now…
Hopefully we’ll be able to keep them alive.
How was your weekend?
Posted in Outdoors and Landscaping. Tagged in ,flower beds, garden, Landscape, mailbox
Posted by John on May 27th, 2013
Hope everyone had a happy and safe Memorial Day! Thanks always to those who gave their lives in defense of the freedoms we hold dear.
This past weekend we had a small family get together for our daughter’s Christening. Good times. We also managed to squeeze in some gardening and DIYing, of course. As much as I am a fan of outdoor projects, they beat me up. Outdoor work is HARD! If it’s not the heat, it’s the 400 lb wheelbarrow or the shoveling or the lifting. Killer. We decided to tackler a project that’s we’ve been dying to get to for some time now. Here’s the inspiration pin we’ve been staring at…
We’re going to break this project up into a couple posts, although you’ll get a sneak peak of both in this one. We’ll start with the painting the mailbox. Although the pin doesn’t have a painted mailbox, we wanted to gloss ours up a bit.
Here’s how to paint a mailbox..
We’ll start with what our mailbox looked like before we started.
Nothing special here. The mailbox and post are PVC and were installed by the builder. We haven’t touched it since we moved in. Recently it’s been covered in bird crap and has started to develop some cracking in it. Now, we checked some new ones out at Lowes and there is a black version of this exact same mailbox for around $11. Great deal, right? Well, the low priced black mailbox isn’t as glossy as we were looking for, it was more of a matte finish and the glossy ones were metal and started at around $30 (a couple were $60). We already had a can of gloss black spray paint, so we only had to spend around $3 for a can of primer. Good deal.
After thoroughly cleaning the mailbox with some dish soap and water while it was still attached to the post, we removed it to paint it. It was attached to the mounting bracket with four screws.
We also snapped off the front cover and the red flag. It was much easier to paint them without them attached.
We primed the pieces in the garage over some cheap plastic tarp. Here’s a tip: to avoid the mailbox (or whatever else you’re spraying) from sticking to the tarp, move the part in between sprays that way the paint won’t build up in one spot on the tarp.
After two coats of grey primer and two coats of gloss black, we re-installed it onto the post. The grey primer was perfect since we were going from a white to a dark color like black.
Here’s how it looks now.. you can see the flower bed as well, although we’re still working on that.
If I knew it was going to be that easy, I would’ve done this much sooner. It also helped that we worked on it during a holiday, so there was no mail delivery to deal with. We still have to add a couple more plants, put in some weed screen and then mulch it.
What did you do this weekend?