Whether it's improving your garden or making your patio BBQ-friendly, these clever tips will have you taking your space to the next level, all for practically nothing.
1. Bring in the Birds
Don’t throw out those net bags that onions and citrus fruits come in! In early spring, fill them with anything that might appeal to nest-building birds: pet hair, human hair, lint, plant clippings. Then tie off the bag and hang so birds can help themselves and nest nearby. You can use the same bags to serve suet to your feathered friends in the winter.
2. DIY Birdbath
Want to try a birdbath but don’t want the expense and commitment of those heavy commercial types? Simply use a sturdy tomato cage as your base, topped with a round drainage tray for potted plants. It’s easy to move and very affordable! Place some colorful marbles or pebbles in the tray before adding water—the brighter the color, the better to attract birds.
3. Get Reddy for Hummingbirds
These fast fliers are attracted to red. But if your garden color scheme is less fire engine and more pastel, you can fake it. Just wire some red silk flowers around the garden until they discover nectar-filled flowers you’ve offered in other colors.
4. Make Your Own Nectar
Don’t spend money on hummingbird nectar when it’s so simple to make! Just dissolve 1 part sugar in 3 parts water, then add a few drops of orange extract or orange juice. Use it immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
5. The Butterfly Water Cooler
Butterflies like puddles to gather around and drink. Make a butterfly water station out of an old cookie sheet or big saucer lined with gravel. You can also “plant” an old mug up to its rim in the soil, and fill it with water when rainwater doesn’t keep it supplied.
6. Baby Your Garden
Got some old baby gear in the basement or attic? Make your family wonder by getting it out! Then take it outside. Baby gates, spindle cribs, and even the metal springs from cribs make easy trellises you can train flowers or vegetable vines to climb.
7. Stones From a Tree
Having a tree taken down? Put it to good use! Cut some “slices” (about 2 inches thick) to use as stepping-stones.
8. Mulch with Souvenirs
Every beach vacation, we bring home more shells and stones than we can use for decoration around the house. So we now bring many into our outdoor spaces. They make perfect mulch and accents around plants, just like purchased pebbles from home centers (without the steep price)!
9. A Sweet Concrete Cleaner
Powdered lemonade mix can come to the rescue to help scrub away stains on your concrete! Simply add a few drops of water to the drink mix, just enough to form a paste. Apply the paste to a concrete stain and use a stiff scrub brush to scrub the area clean.
10. Lanterns for Much Less
Trendy outdoor dÃ©cor stores sell lanterns for a pretty penny. But you can make your own with all kinds and sizes of jars—from baby food and minced garlic to pasta sauce and even large pickle jars. Once they’re clean with the labels removed, simply place a votive candle in the jar. You can add pebbles or sand to the jar to raise the height of the candle or steady a taller candle. Want a hanging lantern? Fine-gauge wire can be bent to form a handle, with the rest wrapped around the mouth of the jar to secure.
11. Create Your Own Luminarias
Have empty tin cans you can repurpose? Fill them with water and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can use a large nail and hammer to punch holes in a decorative design on the cans. Need a guide? Draw the design you want with a dry-erase marker that you can wipe off later. After the design is complete, simply let the water thaw, empty, and dry the can. Light a tea light inside for your own custom luminaria!
12. Color Swatch Your Lights
White string lights can go from simple to sensational with a trip to the paint counter—or maybe even your junk drawer! Collect some paint swatch strips in fabulous, bright colors. Curl them into cylinders (with the color sides facing out) and secure with clear tape. Slip one sleeve over each bulb on your light string, and attach it to the wire with tape or a small binder clip. Magical mini lampshades for free!
13. Ladder Up
Need more serving space while entertaining? Place plywood planks across the rungs of a stepladder. Runners can cover the plywood for a fancier look. Now you have a tiered serving station for food or drinks that tucks away again until the next time you need it!
14. Protect Those Drinks
Keep bugs out of drinks by supplying cupcake liners. They easily slip over the tops of cans and glasses. And you can pop a straw through them if desired. Put a stack in a mason jar for a pretty display that you can label with the intended use.
15. Forget the Ice
Replace the ice for your drink cooler, tub, or kiddie pool with frozen water balloons. To make them, fill the balloons two-thirds full and stick in the freezer. When the drinks are gone and the ice has melted at the end of the day, have fun!
16. Condiment Cleanup
Repurpose inexpensive, clear soap dispenser pumps as condiment servers. You’ll upgrade your picnic table from plastic bottles, and make topping that burger or hotdog easier, with less mess.
17. S’more Solutions
Is it feeling crowded around the fire, or are flames rising too high for kids to toast s’mores? Line terra-cotta pots with aluminum foil. Then add charcoal and light. These handy little cookers allow each person to have their own fire to toast marshmallows with ease. Sticking with one big fire but need to toast a lot of marshmallows for the hungry masses? Use a clean metal rake to fit them all over the fire at once.