53 favorite backyard projects
Our favorite DIY patios, paths, trellises, planters, fountains, and more
A friend helped her make this 5-foot outdoor Scrabble board with scored concrete in a wood frame.
Think of the possible uses for this circle of bricks. You can tuck it into a perennial border. Or place it in a remote corner of your garden, where you can linger at day's end over a glass of wine, or on Sunday morning with your coffee and magazines.
You can make one using a ready-made redwood window box from the nursery.
Create your own romantic lighting for an outdoor dinner party by suspending votives (we used mini recycled-glass tea light lanterns) at varying heights from low-hanging branches. Use clear fishing line and be sure to keep candles a safe distance from the leaves.
For a stained-glass version, cover chandelier lanterns with tissue paper and get a soft glow. Don’t be afraid to try different patterns, abstract shapes, and colors. We designed ours as a nod to artist Mark Rothko.
Supplies: Ruler, pencil, scissors, tissue paper, small foam brush, Yasutomo Nori or similar paste, and glass lanterns or jars
1. Measure and cut tissue paper into desired shapes and sizes (we used long strips for easy application).
2. Dip foam brush into paste. Holding a piece of tissue paper against the outside
of the lantern, paint an even coat of paste onto tissue paper and adhere to glass.
3. Repeat until lantern is covered. Let dry overnight, then hang.
Tip: Keep lanterns away from moisture.
The unusual pattern is easy to create with a saber saw. We cut each of the boards freehand, then added readymade legs from Ikea.
Time: One weekend (4 hours of labor, plus drying time for sealer)
Difficulty: 3 (on a scale of 1–10; requires modest woodworking skills)
Cost: About $170
The decorations aren't permanent, so you can change the colors anytime you wish.
The umbrella rises from a sleeve centered in a flowerpot that's filled with three layers of material: a bottom layer of lava rock to hold the sleeve in place, a center layer of concrete for extra rigidity, and a top layer of planting mix. When there's no need for shade, just lift out the umbrella -- the plants should mask the sleeve.
The average woodworker can build the swing in a weekend for about $150. (Staining and sealing will add several more days.)
Most cuts can be made with a circular saw, handsaw, or saber saw, but the angled back support would be more easily cut with a table saw. A full-service lumberyard can generally do this for you.
Wrens, chickadees, and bluebirds will appreciate its deep overhang and perchless entry.
This nesting block is simply a piece of untreated lumber with a grid of holes drilled into it.
Sturdy ground covers, such as moss, ivy, thyme, and small sedums, will grow in the shallow depth of the feeders' roofs. They're fun to look at while they shelter the seeds.
We built the fountain pictured here for about $160 (not including stones), using two glazed pots (a shallow bowl nests snugly inside the larger pot), a bucket, and a small recirculating pump.
This one features flagstones set in Salmon Bay gravel. As edging plants (here, blue fescue and petunias) grow, they'll create a graceful, soft edge.
The gently curving path invites you to stroll among the plants, and leads to a small circular patio.
Place it within easy reach just off a garden path or outside the back door.
Building a bench and arbor combo is in some ways less complicated than building a standalone bench. The arbor provides the structure, and the bench comes along for the ride with no complex angles or fancy joinery.
Not only does the structure put the veggies at a convenient height for harvesting, it creates a focal point on its own.
Once vines climb onto the obelisk, the contrast between natural and constructed elements only enhances its appeal.
Building it takes about two days of grubby work, but the reward: wonderfully rustic pizzas, roasts, vegetables, and crusty loaves of bread from your own backyard.
Get the complete how-to, plus heating guide and recipes
With our checklist of tools and materials, you can make yourself for about $300.
The use of potted plants, PVC pipe, and mosquito netting make it a snap to assemble. Just add candles or string lights to make the space shine at night.
For the final touch, plant something stunning (we chose New Zealand flax).
It can be built in just two days, but requires intermediate woodworking skills.
This stylish ranch-style dog house is made from three sheets of plywood and is big enough for a large dog. Redwood lattice battens and a shed roof create the rustic ranch-house look.
A little arbor of 2-by-2s above the door adds interest and provides shade, and a removable asphalt-shingle roof makes cleaning inside easy.
Whether the desired look is mod, delicate, or casual, floral moss can be used to create a unique and refreshing tabletop garden.
This planting includes ferns, bromelaids, coral bells, spider plants, and elephant ears.
Build the frame yourself and plant your own cuttings or buy an all-in-one succulent garden kit.
You can build the shady trellis yourself or hire a contractor to build it for you.
These simple fixtures ― flat, battery-operated lights that turn on when tapped on top ― are sold in packages of six for about $20 at hardware stores and general merchandise stores.
Add your own embellishment by wrapping a piece of translucent rice paper around the base and taping the ends of the paper together with double-sided tape to form a cylinder.
Expect finished compost in about six weeks.