Even if your garden is buried under a thick layer of ice and snow, it can still shine during the winter!
A garden with solid “bones” will look good all year ‘round. The shape of the hedges, the graceful arching of tree branches, or the pop of color from persistent fruit such as ornamental crabapples or mountain ash, all create a multitude of appealing shapes, forms, and textures. Bark color is important as well: think of the brilliant yellows or reds of dogwoods. Include some conifers in your garden landscape for the texture and year ‘round foliage – and don’t forget that not all conifers are green. Look for yellow junipers, or blue spruce. When selecting trees and shrubs for your garden, don’t simply focus on the beauty they bring during the growing season. When they are dormant, they can lend important structure to the landscape.
Although many gardeners perform a fall clean up before the snow flies, it may be desirable to leave some plants intact. Beautiful seed heads from herbaceous perennials and graceful ornamental grasses look spectacular with a dusting of snow. As an added bonus, trapping some snow in the base of the plants will help insulate the plants from severe weather.
Hardscaping materials are important, too: when shopping or designing pergolas and trellises, consider how they will look in the wintertime, when the rest of the garden is covered in snow and these important elements stand out and make a statement. Even the garden gate and decorative fenceposts can make a difference.
Whether you gaze out at your garden from the inside of your house, or from the driveway or walkway out front, you should enjoy the view in the winter almost as much as you do in the summer. If you notice some way to make an improvement for the following year, jot your ideas down and take your list into the garden centre in the spring.
Is your garden looking unruly and overgrown? If you’ve decided it’s time for a refresher, it’s tempting to rush in and get started right away. Before you expend a huge amount of labor and dole out a bunch of money, it pays to take a close look at all the elements of your garden and assess your priorities for the space. This checklist is a good place to start:
Do you know where the slopes and valleys are in your yard? Are there areas where drainage is a problem, and plants will not grow?
What about microclimates? Is there a sheltered location in your garden where you can plant warm-season vegetables, or maybe a borderline-tender shrub? Alternatively, is there an issue with a cold sink anywhere in your garden, where you have to worry about planting frost-fragile squash, for example?
– Are there areas in the garden where the wind batters your plants?
– How much rain and snow falls on all of the areas of your garden?
– Have some of the trees grown in and are now casting a lot of shade on existing flowerbeds?
– Has the pH of your soil changed? Is your soil too saline? Does it have a sufficient amount of organic matter?
– Have some of your groundcovers spread aggressively and become too competitive with other plants in the area?
– Does your garden have winter interest?
– Do you need privacy from your neighbors, or a noise barrier from the street?
– Do any of your plants require pruning or deadheading? Does the hedge need to be shaped?
– Do you need to divide or transplant any large perennials?
– Are you growing any toxic plants that need to be removed due to the presence of children or pets? What about noxious weeds? Check your local weed control act and make sure you’re not accidentally growing anything you shouldn’t be.
– Do you want to focus on growing edible plants over ornamental ones (or vice versa)?
Once you’ve considered the answers to all of these questions, you’ll have a solid foundation to start revitalizing your garden and getting it back into tip-top condition!
How to Start Your Own 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead!
Anyone can start their own homestead. If you choose to do so, your operation will be dependent upon acreage. For example, a small backyard would not be able to house large animals. For the purpose of this article we will be working off of a 1 acre plot of land. First, you will need to decide which animals you can manage and commit time to. Then decide what you would like to achieve on your land. It all can seem a bit overwhelming so let’s break it down.
Animals are an important part of having a self sufficient homestead. They are also a lot of work. You should only choose the ones you are able and willing to provide for. One acre could allow for one dairy cow, chickens, rabbits, pigs, or goats. The obvious benefit to a dairy cow or dairy goats would be milk, and the production of cheese and butter. These animals require a little more work then the rest. You would need to be willing to milk your dairy animals and commit a half of your acre for them to graze. Also they would need a small barn to stay in during winter months. A dairy cow will result in more milk than dairy goats, but you will also spend more money on feed. Make sure to keep the manure for fertilizing your garden!
Once you have chosen which dairy option you will be working with you can move on to the other animals. Pigs would allow you to provide meat for your family as well as as extra income with the sale of piglets. They should be kept in a movable house with a permanent pen inside. This provides the necessary shelter they need for part of the year, and gives you the opportunity to move them around your land. They should not be kept inside the grazing area for your dairy animals, so pick an eighth of an acre and call that your pig pen area! In between crop cycles, you should allow your pigs to run on your harvested land to help cultivate. Chickens are a more manageable animal as they will be kept inside their chicken coop. You could create a permanent coop in a moveable fenced area so that they can fertilize the land. This structure is called a chicken tractor, and is best placed near your garden. You can collect eggs for your family and sell the extras!
When it comes to crops, its important to remember that you need provide for your family and your animals. This means that planting fodder crops is just as important as planting fruits and vegetables. It increases your self sufficiency and decreases your feed expenses. A crop rotation is the best option for a limited amount of land. The more land that can be used for gardening, the more you will be able to harvest. Having a small home comes at a low cost and allows you to utilize more of your land for your own benefit!
For more information on maintaining a 1 acre self-sufficient farm, Weed ‘Em & Reap, and Mother Earth News, which inspired this post, find them in our bloggers’ directory.
Every once in a while, we come across a unique or unusual idea that might interest people for their own homes and gardens, so we thought we’d put a page together for these here. We’ll update this page as we go, so if you like the things on it, you might want to bookmark this page and check back in a few weeks or a month or something.
Here are some DIY raised garden beds. One of them is actually a bench / raised garden:
Swedish Fire Torch Log Grill. The flat, stable cooking surface directs heat into pots or pans, which reduces heating time. Cook for large groups like scout troops, hunting parties, or family gatherings without the need to continuously feed a fire. The MITI-001 is just as effective as a large wood or gas stoves when it comes to heat and efficiency.
Rechargeable Bug Vacuum Spider Catcher, powered by a built-in rechargeable Battery, already installed in the device, charged with a USB cable which is included in the package. ★Eco-friendly, non-toxic, humane and chemical free.
Portable woodburning stove, heats up tents, yurts & tiny homes
Weeds are a part of life, but having a good strategy makes them much easier to deal with. Most people don’t love to weed and procrastinate. Then, when their yard totally looks like it needs weeding it can take a long time to weed.
The best strategy is to weed when they are young seedlings. You can use a hoe and with little effort eliminate the majority of the weeds. If you weed once a month, with a hoe, it will take very little time. The most important weeding is early spring when water is abundant and seedlings are just sprouting.
Weed Killer Applications
Again, small weeds are much easier to eradicate than large weeds. If you start out while weeds are small, you can kill them with one light application. Large weeds take much more poison and even several applications. The main purpose of weed control is that it takes less time than hand weeding. If you have a large pasture or field that has got out of hand, this may be the only viable option.
Most people have found Round Up to be very effective. It will kill any weeds and even grass. Other applications are for the lawn and only kill broadleaf plants; like dandelions. If you hire a lawn fertilization company like Chem Lawn, you can have them spray the weeds for you.
Large Gravel Lots – Ground Killers
There is a weed killer called Pramatol that you can get at Intermountain Farmers Association. It comes in a white granular form. You can put it on the ground and it will take care of all the weeds for one year. However, if you read the container it will make the ground sterile for up to three years. We have only seen it work for one year, but it works very well with only one application. This product must be used with caution.
Some weeds can be sprayed repeatedly and don’t die. In addition, you can pull them by hand and almost never get out the roots. One example of this is Morning Glory. What is a homeowner to do?
You can wait until they die back and next spring hit them hard while they are first sprouting. And, since most of you don’t like this answer, I will give you an option to immediately get rid of them. You can take concentrated weed killer and very carefully, with heavy duty rubber gloves and eye protection, you can put concentrated weed killer on the plants with a paintbrush or rag. The high concentration is sure to kill the weed. Don’t ever just dump it on the weed. This would be dangerous to humans and is in violation of Federal Law. The goal is to use as little as possible and get the job done.
Another option is to use a propane torch. You can buy specialized propane torches that are made just to burn out weeds. It’s an easy and quick method that works well.
In reality, you should stay away from poisons as much as possible. They aren’t good for humans or the environment.
You may have the idea to just weed whack down everything. This will definitely give the property an overall uplift, but the weeds will come back soon. The best way is to spray the weeds first and wait a week or two; then weed whack. Not only does the poison work down to the roots better, but the added weed whacking will make it more difficult for the weeds to survive.
Fumigants kill the soil. They are used when the soil is contaminated in some way. For example, Fairy Ring in lawns. Fumigants are best left to professionals and are usually a last resort. In most cases, it’s better to replace the soil.
Why Do You Have Them?
Many people hate weeds and yard maintenance. They have a constant barrage of weeds every year. Usually, the problem is the yard plant design. A good design will produce few weeds. The biggest mistake is that people don’t plant enough plants in their yard. If flower beds are full of wanted plants, it’s difficult for the weeds to take root. The same concept goes for a lawn. Lawns that get a lot of weeds are those that aren’t cared for properly. Healthy thick grass makes it very difficult for weeds to become established.
Do you have weed barriers? Bark, wood chips, and compost make it more difficult for weeds to take root. In addition, there is weed mat that keeps out weeds. Make sure you have a high quality commercial grade weed mat. The most important barrier is curbing or metal edging between lawn and flower beds. It keeps grass from growing where you don’t want it.
There are lots and lots of varieties of weeds. Most people are familiar with that they have in their area. If you have question, take some of them to a local nursery for identification and recommendations.
Landscape author Kristy Snow recommends visiting Plant Life or Roach Killer to get unique landscape ideas.
How would you like a backyard sauna with a view? Also, you probably already noticed the flowing lines of the wooden interior seating. Summer saunas are good. Winter saunas can be great. And if you live up north, the cold season lasts a long time, so there are plenty of occasions to use one of these.
This sauna design is by Studio Smeets (note: it’s not “Studios Meet”). The design brand is the work of Thijs Smeets, who founded the studio in 2007.
He designs a lot of interior furnishings and decor. Chairs, tables, couches, stands, bowls, and a lot of other things. You can see his work at his website (click here).
The sauna design, however, is meant to NOT look, in Smeets’ words, “like a Finish wooden box.”
He designed the sauna “as a piece of furniture that enriches the interior or garden.”
I guess this sauna could well be placed inside a house, as a sort of modular unit, and could be transported the way modular construction is transported. However, having a ton of steam inside your house is something you’d want to research and understand first.
Some sauna’s are quite plain, and even slipshod — because they’re sometimes just backwoods throw-togethers, they can look a bit unsightly perhaps. But then there’s ones like this.
The sauna has a main steam room with wooden slats that form a recliner-style seating area. Beside that is a shower area, and outside the building is a porch. It has large glass windows that would provide a view of the surrounding nature — although it would get a bit steamy and streaky.
A swimming pool is something a lot of people want to add to their house. Exercise, the pleasure of being in water, the social aspect of gathering around a pool, a type of fun that can be enjoyed by the whole family or with friends are among the benefits of building a backyard swimming pool. You can also go for a swim first thing in the morning as a way to start your day, cool off in the afternoon, or calm down in the evening with a swimming pool.
A lot of people don’t want a bunch of chlorine or other sanitary chemicals on their bodies every day, though. One option for swimming pools without the chemicals is the “natural pool.”
A “natural swimming pool” (sometimes called a “natural swimming pond”) is a pool that doesn’t use chemicals to disinfect or sterilize the water. Instead, the pool uses biological filters and / or plants that grow in the water.
For example, what can clean a pool without chemicals? UV rays, ozone, copper / silver ions.
Natural swimming pools can be built from scratch, or can be modified from existing chemically-cleaned pools.
We found My Natural Pool, which provides information on natural swimming pools, as well as selling pdf ebooks on the subject (including swimming pool plans) for around $75.00 for a natural filtration system guide and $30 for a making-a-natural-pool guide (click here to visit them). They also deal with Aqua Diamante, which is a chlorine free and pH-independent broadband sanitizer for pools, another option for a chemical-free natural swimming pool for people’s back yards.
This is something prefab home buyers might be interested in, because a lot of these above ground pools can be ordered prefabricated. Not only that, some people are even building pools out of shipping containers, which is one of the most popular prefab building materials.
In the case of the picture above, the swimming pool we found comes as a building plan from Stevenson Projects, who are perhaps best specialized in boat building plans (sailboats, rowboats, etc), but who also do plans for vehicles, toy cars, sail cars, and this interesting-looking swimming pool.
Theirs is an above-ground lap swimming pool, which can be built quickly. The backyard pool is designed with a pump and filter system to be completely self-contained. It also includes plans for a solar cover system.
The stepped decking you see in the picture above adds strength to the structure. The picture shows a pool designed to fit into the left-hand corner of a back yard, but the plans can be flipped to fit a swimming pool into the opposite corner.
The pool dimensions in the building plans are 8X27.3 feet. The area needed to build the pool is 16X34 feet (the decking and walls are bigger than the pool, obviously). Stevenson Projects sells their swimming pool plan for $25 US (click here to visit them).
Now, about shipping container pools. We wrote about a fellow who converted a used shipping container (22X7 feet) into a swimming pool in his back yard. He called it the “pool box”. (Read about it here). He lined the pool with shielding foam, and enclosed the exterior with lumber (basically clad the exterior of the pool with 2X4s and added a few feet of decking on each side).
Today we’re going to look at some of the interesting shed ideas people have come up with over the years. I’d probably bet that, if this is your first time visiting this page, some of these are ideas you haven’t even thought of before. They were for me, and that’s why I put them together here for you. Others were just nicely done sheds I thought you might like to see, especially if you’re considering buying or building your own shed these days.
The first one I want to mention is the triangular garden shed. This shed was thought up because not everyone has a lot of space in their back yard. They also might not even need that much shed space. So one option is to just take a corner of a yard and put one of these little guys in. I’ve only seen these types of sheds sold from one place, which is called Dunster House. They’re a UK company that does a lot of sheds and garden offices — that sort of thing. They were selling these for around $1150, but they’re “currently unavailable.” If they come available again, I’ll update this. But does it matter. The idea might be enough, if this is something you might want to build in your yard.
Another option if you just need a small shed is to build a tiny square shed. A mean about as small as you could go. As wide as a door. Actually, there are a number of these sheds out there made just out of old doors. Some have peaked roofs like this one. Some are double wide, some just one door’s length on each side.
Now for something a little bigger: this shed is called “the Roost” and it appears quite different from most sheds you might have seen. It has that curved roof, which some think makes a structure appear bigger and more spacious. This “garden studio” is a LEED-certified one, and was designed by Martin Liefhebber of Breathe Architects.
The fourth shed I’ll mention is a garden office by the same company that did the triangular shed, Dunster House. They have quite a lot of models for these garden sheds, which could actually be tiny houses as well — or prefab modular houses. These aren’t cheap, though. They market them for $12,800 dollars. Actually, if you’re using it as a house, that isn’t expensive either, but of course you wouldn’t have amenities like a bathroom or kitchen.
Stamped concrete is a method of applying an interesting pattern and texture to your concrete paved surfaces, like your walk or garden seating area, for example. A lot of people pour concrete in their back yard or garden area, and this is one way of making that concrete more aesthetic or stylish. You can get a wide range of colors, textures, and pattern shapes, so that it looks like nutmeg-brown square rocky tiles, or light blue multi-sided polygonal tiles, or whatever else.
How it’s done: the most important thing is that this is just concrete, but you use a pad or mat, which often looks like the shape of the floor mat of a car, which has the embossed shapes of “tiles.” Those are placed face down on the recently-poured concrete and stamped down with something heavy, which creates creases in the surface of the concrete.
For color, they often add colored clay powder or other colored material before applying the stamped pad. You can dye the surface of the concrete or a powder any color.
For texture, you can apply rocks to the surface or anything else, which, when it makes impressions in the concrete, will create a texture on the surface.
Taken together, these three elements form the basic parts of “stamped concrete” projects.
You can get a stamped concrete job done by local builders, for sure, but you can also do it DIY style. These people in tropical Thailand did outside their house where their parking lot area had gotten a bit worn-out looking.
pour the concrete into the boxed off area
Let it dry a bit (the right amount)
apply the colored powder
pound the color in until the right coloration is achieved
apply another color if you want a multi-colored appearance
apply the mats that have the surface pattern (usually, this isn’t done with so many mats they cover the whole concrete slab at one time, but instead they work from one corner across, stamp them, then move the pads)
go over the grooves of the pattern with a finishing wheel if you like
finish the pattern by creating grooves to the edges of the slab (with a finishing wheel or other tool)
How many of you have looked into these Quonset building kit homes? First thing you might notice is that there are a couple of standard types, based mostly on the roof. These are P and S styles. According to SteelMaster, “Quonset homes are becoming more and more popular with the DIY crowd; they can be […]
This is quite the building and quite the setting, too. In a wide open piece of green farmland sits this newly built traditional style metal barn house. Metal homes as an alternative building method that allows for inexpensive, strong and durable buildings that can also be reused, recycled or modified later on, and barn homes […]
So you may be familiar with prefabs made of wood, stone, metal, bricks — we have a number of those covered on this websites — and even foam prefab and modular houses, but now in the everexpanding market of home building materials: cardboard. The idea here is that a Dutch house designer thought up cardboard […]
Here’s a DIY tiny house unlike any you might have seen before. These fellows did it with just a bit of lumber and that piece of corrugated metal. Interested in trying something like this yourself? They’re a couple of Californians, named Matt & Margo, and they built this one over a dry creek bed (usually dry, anyway). […]
We’ve talked a lot about prefab homes, and they have their strengths to be sure, but now people are also talking about another building style called “flatpack homes.” They’re kit homes — actually they’re considered a type of modular home — that come flat in a box (or without a box), and then they’re set […]