From Dumpy To Divine: Easy DIY Projects To Transform Your Backyard

The backyard. For some of us, it’s one of our favorite places on Earth. For the rest of us, it’s a thorn of embarrassment stuck in our side. Such a beautiful chunk of space should be the home outside the home, but many of us are lucky if we can get the lawn mowed before it’s turned into a grassy plain. But some simple DIY projects will shift that backyard from nagging to-do to a glorious retreat that you tend to with pride.

Fire Pit

Be it metal, stone,  or a freestanding concrete bowl, the fire pit is the DIY project that keeps on giving. We could all use a little extra help getting outside to unplug, and the fire pit is a total magnet pfor dinner parties and kicking back solo. When it comes to building a fire pit, priority one is to factor airflow into your fire pit design (especially important for pits with high walls, or fire pits dug into the ground). Number two, is to plan out some sort of drainage system so that your pit doesn’t double as a bird bath. The next priority is to compact the soil or lay down some sort of foundation that will create a level pit resistant to the sinking-effects of critters and mother nature.

And while you’re designing your fire pit, don’t forget to throw in some fun little tweaks! Landscaper Thomas Lowe at eHow suggests making fire pits multi-functional. One way is to build walls 12-16” for a makeshift counter top, and/or to make walls 18-24” tall for bonus seating. You can also turn that pit into a (yard)work of art by making room for a tabletop/pit cover, decorative mulch, pebbled pathways, a stone patio, a sand pit, and <insert creative design idea here>. While you’re at it, bust out some mason jar crafts. You can turn them into candle holders or glow-in-the-dark lanterns that can be dangled from trees, hung from the patio, turned into a rustic chandelier, or planted along the fire pits border.


There are some ridiculously awesome DIY furniture projects that call to all sorts of DIYers. Upcyclers can make tire patio chairs. Pallet lovers can pull from their pallet pile and make a wood pallet chair, sofa, or dining set (check out the water cooler deck!). Even cinder blocks and a few 4×4’s can be turned into snazzy seating. And while you’re perking up your patio, don’t forget to add plants to the landscaping. Better Homes & Gardens suggest playing around with bold contrasting colors, devoting a chunk of yard to a single plant, or creating a landscape of plants that share something in common (ie. shape, texture, or color). You can tie plants into the color or style of your DIY seating, or even use the scraps to whip up crafty pots or decor.     

Wining & Dining Tables

Build a screen wall or throw up some curtains, and you’re ready for quiet romantic dinners or a secluded solo session of star gazing. If you can come by a wooden cable spool, then a little sanding and sealing will give you an instant table. Pallet lovers and newbie Divas can create a simple pallet patio table that’s simply fantastic. All it takes is two pallets and a handful of nails, but throw on some wheels and that patio table will make life so convenient, it may be unbearable. Unless you have a toddler like my own son. In that case, a mobile patio table will still be unbearable, but there will be nothing convenient about it. 😉  

More adventurous divas and handymen can give DIY patio dining a go. Reclaimed wood and a hammer can create a picnic table with detached bench seats than can be tucked out of the way (plus serve as emergency table space). However, if outside dining isn’t your cup of tea, a patio bar may get you to raise your glass. Wood pallets, barrels, old doors, bricks, and vamped up ladders are super functional and unbearably delightful. bridge-53769_1280

Fish Ponds

If there aren’t any curious cats or hungry blue herons lurking around the neighborhood, then a fish pond is in order. The sound of bubbling water and the whisp of fluttery fish are as relaxing as a box of wine, and the sight of a pond is just heavenly. The standard fish pond starts with digging a hole, and then laying down a water resistant foundation using a combination of rocks and sand, plastic sheeting, or concrete. Now, building a fancy pond may sound like a lot of work — and it is — but you can take a shortcut if you make an aquatic pond with old tires. It really works! And they can house fish and aquatic plants of all types. Of course, climate is a big factor in having water friends since pond fish do best at 55-85 F. So, folks up North should be ready to install some sort of fancy (or creative and ingenious) heating system. Or they can just stick with building a summer water feature that doubles as a fancy cube during winter.

Screen Wall

Wood pallets are a thrifty diva’s best friend, and they really shine with landscaping. They can be hammered into a screen wall to hide those horrifying electrical boxes and ugly trash bins. If you have extra fittings in your toolbox, you can take it a step further by turning your wall into a flowery garden wall, or outfit it into a tool hanger. Reclaimed or leftover wood has a place here too. Even though they vary in size, color, and texture, they can be fashioned into an eclectic wall that feeds the eyes like chocolate feeds the soul. If you happen to be DIYing on pennies — or you have a never ending stick pile — you can whip up an uber cheap (and uber hands-on) wattle screen for rustic-style privacy.  

Retaining Wall

Whether it’s made of wood, stone, concrete, or bamboo, or it’s stepped, terraced, or sloped; you can use ‘em all for a retaining wall. They can be used to resist soil erosion — a huge plus — but they can also double as decor, a flower garden, or a haven for wispy grasses and flowery plants. There also a great way to hide foundations. And if you’ve got a big green thumb, they’re one heck of a tool in maximizing garden potential. Raised beds are able to warm up faster than surface level soil, and they allow for deeper and wider roots plus easier weeding and lawn mowing. Gussy it up with a cool copper weathervane (bonus emergency GPS should that phone go for a swim in the fish pond).

Article written by Ash Stevens, blogger over at One Damn Good Woman. Ash is a mother, writer, and a wannabe shaman. She loves health, gardening, simplicity,culture, chocolate, and sarcasm. If she isn’t writing about family and relationships on her blog, then she’s surely playing badminton with the kids. Find her on Twitter or Facebook and make a new friend!

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One Comment

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