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11 Tool Organizing Hacks to Make Yard Work (Kinda, Sorta) Fun

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Untangling the hose. Searching for the spade. Stepping on a rusty rake and getting whacked in the face like you’re in a cartoon — again. It’s not that you expect yard work to be as easy as sipping a cold hefeweizen on the patio (it is yard work, right?), but does it have to be a drag before you even get to the work part?

It doesn’t, actually. These 11 tool organizing ideas are so clever, they’ll help you whip through all your yard tasks with such a can-do attitude, you’ll be on the patio sipping that beer in no time.

#1 Put Your Hose in a Bucket

A green bucket with a gray house on a wood platformImage: Henry McIntire

If you haven’t invested in a wall-hung wind-up reel, an inexpensive, galvanized bucket is a great option to corral your hose — especially if the alternative is a muddy, rubber rat’s nest behind the bushes. Be sure to cut drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket to avoid creating a mosquito haven.

“This would also make for easy winter storage,” says Sara Pedersen, a professional organizer from the Twin Cities. Just pick up the bucket, and put it in the garage.

#2 Use a Pallet in That Awkward Garage Space

A pallet against a garage wall with outdoor toolsImage: Carole Fearon

A slim pallet can make clever use of what is typically unused space between the wall and garage door frame. Snag a pallet — after asking for permission! — from a building site or behind a grocery store.

You can even attach it to the wall with hooks, as this homeowner did, so she could lift the whole thing off the wall to clean behind it.

#3 Go Vertical With Shelves

“Any time you can get items off the floor and onto the wall is a good thing,” Pedersen says. People tend to forget to go vertical. Now you’ve got room underneath for a small work table or storage bins.

Simple shelving systems come in many price points. You can add or subtract shelves to fit your space. “It’s also really helpful,” Pedersen says, to “set up zones for different types of items, gardening, sport, car maintenance, etc.”

#4 Use S-Hooks on Easy-to-Install Bars

Hang a couple of inexpensive Ikea storage bars, designed for kitchens and baths. Simple S-hooks allow for lots of small tools to hang. If you need more storage, just add more bars.

#5 Hang an Old Box Spring

The best outdoor organization tool might already be in your attic gathering cobwebs. A bed spring “potentially has room for every small tool,” Pedersen says. “It’s a great use of vertical space.”

If you don’t want a rusted look, spray the springs with Rustoleum paint. You may also want to situate it under a protective overhang or use it for element-proof tools only.

#6 Convert an Unused Filing Cabinet

Red filing cabinet turned rolling tool storage cartImage: Haydee Letonja

Who has paper files anymore? Scan and shred those documents, and give your old filing cabinet a more exciting second career. Turn the cabinet on its side and install sturdy casters. Pegboards on each end offer additional space for smaller items.

“My clients would love this; it’s easily accessible, and you can just shove in tools without worrying where they have to be placed,” says Lisa Mark, a professional organizer in Los Altos, Calif.

#7 Customize Your Own Tool Cart

Amanda KovattanaImage: Amanda Kovattana

Like the file cabinet cart, this idea also recycles old stuff: Here it’s two doors, unused sewer pipe, salvaged closet rods, and a pegboard. Unlike the filing cabinet, you can determine where the separations go — customizing the width of each storage section — and design the pegboard area to really fit your needs.

#8 Turn an Eyesore Into Storage

Cut off the back of a $20-yard sale armoire for a perfect way to hide that jumbled group of utility meters — and providing a place to store your yard stuff.

This one is attached to the wall with L-brackets and concrete anchors. A concrete and stone base keeps it safe from standing water, and a coat of marine varnish keeps it dry.

#9 Don’t Forget the Kiddos!

Green wire baskets with plastic kids tools on a fenceImage: Nordic in Kent

Kids love digging in the dirt. These planters-turned-storage bins keep kids’ “tools” handy and allow dirt and water to fall right off. Stick with plastic items to avoid rust issues and “just make sure the holder is low enough so kids can easily grab what they want,” Mark says. And more easily put them away, of course (if you’re so lucky).

#10 Build Fold-Out Storage in a Tight Corner

This storage cupboard fits snugly into what otherwise would be unused corner next to a patio door. And the smart engineering makes it deceptively roomy inside. “A simple unfold reveals whatever tool you’re looking for,” Mark says.

When you’ve got what you need, the accordion-like hinged portion on the left side folds back up to cover the cubbies. Tools are protected from the elements, and you’re protected from having to go on a scavenger hunt to find your shrub rake.

#11 Dream Big With a Shed

If you’ve got the budget, a shed is the ultimate fun solution. And think about a wide doorway — for moving a wheelbarrow, ladders, mowers, etc. in or out — but note that “a really big swinging door [is difficult to open and] can be a barrier to use,” Mark says. Opt for an easy-open sliding barn door.

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How to Personalize Your Outdoor Space

Transform your patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style.

As the temperatures rise and the days get longer, it’s time to create an outdoor space that’s a welcoming extension of your home. The inside of your home is a reflection of your style, and your outdoor space should be no different. Struggling with how to bring your design taste outdoors in a way that’s unique to you? With a few special touches, you can transform any patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style.

Choose Furniture Based on Size and Lifestyle

To get started, consider the size and function of your space to select the right furniture. Whether you have a huge backyard complete with a large patio for alfresco dining or a small balcony in a city apartment, make your outdoor space completely your own by focusing on how you can enjoy it most within the space limitations. For example, your balcony space may not support a dining area, but it might comfortably fit two lounge chairs and a bistro table, perfect for outdoor dining.

If you’re looking to create a cozy, personal getaway to curl up with a book, choose a few chairs, a side table and a chaise lounge. If you love to host outdoor parties during the spring and summer months, consider adding a full outdoor dining set, multiple lounge chairs and even an outdoor bar cart. If you want a place for a large family to gather under the stars, choose a sectional. Everyone’s outdoor style is different, so think about how you envision using the space. Start with what you need, and know that you can always add pieces as your needs change.

Select Accents that Speak to Your Decorating Style

Once you’ve chosen outdoor furniture and decided how you’ll use your space, you get to have some fun decorating! This is where you can truly let your personality come through and give your outdoor space the fun touches that will make it shine. Here are the elements to consider:

Colors. Start by choosing your favorite color scheme. If you like bright colors, go for a bold combination of yellows, blues or reds. Navy is a great option for a poolside retreat. For a contemporary look, blues, whites and greys all blend well. Love a minimalist style? You can’t go wrong with classic black and white.

Textures. With your color palette in mind, search for outdoor rugs and textiles that create a cohesive look. Then, add finishing touches such as copper lanterns, twinkling string lights, stylish planters or metal wall art. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you really love and that feels personal.

Add One-of-a-Kind Elements
Of course, no space is complete without a few special touches. You probably don’t want to subject family photos or treasured souvenirs to the elements, but you can still personalize your outdoor space with decor pieces that hold special meaning. Choose touches like a hand-painted birdhouse or homemade musical wind chime. If you have a green thumb, plant your favorite flowers in planters for a sweet reminder every time you see them. However you choose to decorate, you’ll know yours is a one-of-a-kind outdoor space.

Sara Marie Hall creates original online content about outdoor furniture for Crate and Barrel, where you can find options for spaces of any size.  She enjoys spending time outdoors and loves adding new personal touches to her outdoor space each summer.

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How to Grow Herbs in 6 Simple Steps

herb-garden-diy

A DIY herb garden is an easy way to have fresh basil, cilantro, and other kitchen staples on hand—no more running to the store or wasting cash on wilted parsley! What’s not to love?

But if you’re wondering whether a DIY herb garden is easy to set up and keep alive, rest assured, it’s the perfect choice for a beginner. Here’s how to get started in six simple steps.

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1. Determine the best place for an herb garden

Photo by Randy Thueme Design Inc. 

Find a patch of lawn that gets full sunlight for at least six hours a day.

“If you live in foggier, coastal climates, plant on the south or southwest side of your lawn,” recommends Rhianna Miller of Rubbermulch.

Be sure to steer clear of grass or turf that’s been treated with pesticides, says Sam Souhrada, maintenance division manager at FormLA Landscaping.

“These chemicals don’t always stay where they’re sprayed, and the rain can cause them to run off and travel to your herb garden,” he explains.

2. Choose your herbs

Photo by Lenkin Design Inc: Landscape and Garden Design

Most perennial herbs (e.g., sage, mint, and thyme) and many annuals (e.g., basil, cilantro, and dill) will thrive in much of the U.S. As for your own herb selection, don’t go wild and pick a lot of oddballs. Instead, plant the ones you like and will actually eat.

For example, chocolate mint sounds fun, but most people prefer regular mint for cocktails and iced tea. Basil is popular in salads (with tomatoes and mozzarella), pesto, and savory dishes. Bonus: Basil is known to keep mosquitoes and houseflies away, reports Amy Lowe, a nursery specialist at Lowe’s.

Other low-maintenance herbs include thyme and rosemary (the latter can survive on very little water).

3. Plant the herbs

Photo by Aloe Designs

“Planting from seeds is less expensive, but also less predictable, and it takes more time,” notes Souhrada. And if you don’t know what oregano looks like, you could end up plucking it out when you weed. Instead, cut to the chase and put in small plants from the farmer’s market or nursery. Look for bright color, plenty of foliage—and no bugs.

Space herbs out (10 to 12 inches between each) since many spread as they grow. Gently remove the plant from its container, squeeze the bottom roots to loosen them, and then nestle it into a hole. Lightly pack dirt around the herb, and then water it well.

You might want to label each section with the name of the herb painted on a rock or written on a wooden stick.

4. Water and feed the plants

Photo by Bachman’s Landscaping & Garden Services

Water when the dirt is dry, during the morning hours. Direct the water spray at the soil—not the leaves (this can promote mildew and disease).

“You may need to water frequently, even daily, in very warm climates,” says Miller.

How often you’ll need to weed is also related to rainfall, according to Souhrada.

“Check the area weekly to be sure weeds aren’t outcompeting the herbs,” he says.

Add 2 inches of mulch around your plants, as it’ll release nutrients and help retain moisture so you can water a bit less. Target weeds naturally with a spray made from white vinegar.

5. Pinch and prune flower buds

Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden

See flower buds forming? Snap them off, which will help keep the herb’s flavor from turning bitter.

“Some flowers, like chives,  are edible, but it’s not a good idea to allow your herbs to flower early in the season,” says Miller.

Once this happens, the plant is signaling that its life cycle is ending. To keep this from happening, pinch off buds as they appear.

6. Keep animals away

Photo by Rock Spring Design Group LLC (David Verespy, ASLA)

Brace yourself: Rabbits, mice, deer, and squirrels all want a piece of your herb bounty. You can plant herbs in raised boxes and enclose them with chicken wire to keep critters from stealing the harvest. Or sow with critters in mind.

“Rabbits love lettuce, but not rosemary or cilantro,” says Souhrada.

Tackle insects (beetles, mites, aphids, and whiteflies) with organic or homemade sprays made with orange, cedar, peppermint, lavender, or neem oil, recommends Miller.

“Using insect sprays for a five-day cycle will typically rid your herbs of the offending bugs,” she explains.

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