Archive of ‘DIY’ category

Raised Garden Tutorial

You might say my husband and I are a bit on the nomadic side, seeing as in our eleven years as a couple we have shared 5 apartments and 6 houses together. That’s a grand total of 11 residences (not counting the couple of times we moved in with my parents when our leases expired before we found a new home). We’ve run the gamut of living quarters. There was a 4-story loft apartment in Richmond’s Downtown area, a 1 bedroom mere blocks away from the housing projects in Church Hill, a tiny cape cod in the suburbs of Mechanicsville and a 4500 square foot McMansion just to name a few. We don’t let the grass grow under our feet for long and even though we’ve been in our current home just under a year, we’re already discussing what’s next. The difference is, this time ‘what’s next’ is going to be a purchased home, not a rental. A place where we can finally put down roots.

Speaking of putting down roots, one of our more recent houses came with an enormous vegetable garden in the back yard. Completely overgrown and ignored for years, it was in terrible shape when we moved in. I set to work on it before I so much as unpacked our boxes and by the end of that Spring we were enjoying the fruits of my labor (literally). It was eventually over run by some overzealous acorn squash, but I did manage to capture a picture before the squash took over. This was right after the first seedlings went in, so it’s not quite showing its full glory.Since leaving that home I’ve deeply missed the garden and have wanted another. I decided on a raised  bed garden because when we pull up stakes here we can take it apart if needs be. I looked around for inspiration which was a little depressing because I came up with this:


..and this:Needless to say these weren’t going to fit my budget. Or my back yard for that matter. But I found plans for a more realistic garden which we tweaked a little to make our own and I am very pleased with the results. Here’s the How-To:


  • One 6-foot-long 4-by-4
  • Three 8-foot-long 2-by-12s
  • One 10-foot-long 1-inch PVC pipe
  • Two 10-foot-long ½-inch PVC pipes
  • 32 3½-inch #14 wood screws and 16 ½-inch #8 wood screws
  • Two 4- by 5-foot roll of ¼-inch-mesh hardware cloth
  • Eight 1-inch galvanized brackets
  • 35 cubic feet (1 1/5 cu. yd.) bagged garden soil
  • One package of protective mesh netting
  • One 2mm thick plastic drop cloth (like you use for painting)

The hardware store people will cut your lumber for you. Ask for the 4×4 to be cut into 4 separate 16-inch posts. Then have one of the 2x12s cut in half. Lastly, you want to cut the 1-inch PVC pipe into four 12-inch sections. Here’s what you’ll have at checkout: (Excuse the image quality as my camera phone is so old I’m surprised it doesn’t have an antenna.)Once home, lay out all your pieces in the shape of your bed and drill the sides into the four posts.

Notice that crack in the patio? That was from the big earthquake that hit Virginia last summer. The children are convinced it will open up to the center of the Earth at any moment. This is what you have after all the pieces are assembled. Hopefully you’ve thought ahead and built this close to where it’s going to end up, because it’s quite heavy. Next take it to its spot and mark where the posts are so you know where to dig (you could presumably do this by measuring but we didn’t have a measuring tape handy so we just lugged the entire garden back and forth a few times). Our back yard is a slope, so after digging the four holes for the posts, we also (and by “we” I mean “my husband”) dug a ditch along the top edge of the garden so that it would lay evenly when we settled it in. No special measurements were made. I just kind of pointed with the camera and said “I think you need to dig a little more out there”, and “Is that deep enough? Do you think maybe you should take it down a little further?”. I’m so helpful. Then we sunk the four 1-inch PVC pipes in until they were even with the top of the garden and drilled them in using the metal brackets. The pink hand belongs to our four-year old, who was mighty proud to be able to help with the project. Next we raked all the dirt flat and covered it with the plastic drop cloth so that weeds can’t make their way into the garden. Then we covered that with the wire mesh, to keep out moles, rabbits and gophers. We cut the mesh with wire cutters so that it fit neatly around the posts and poles. Next we dumped all the dirt in. Then we discovered that we didn’t buy enough dirt and had to go back to Home Depot for five more bags. (I put the full amount of dirt needed in the materials list so that hopefully you can leave that step out when you make your garden.) We raked all the dirt flat and inserted the long poles into the 1-inch pipes. (I took this picture before our second dirt run).Now the fun part- planting! The kids and I started these from seeds about two weeks ago in the house. No one told me that you don’t need to start beans inside and I didn’t read the instructions so naturally we were all surprised when we had 4 inches of bean growth within two days.

Here’s our finished garden! I added the trellis in the back so the pole beans have something to grow on and the protective mesh drapes over the two white poles to keep the deer from treating the garden like a salad bar. When it gets cold, we can drape that white greenhouse plastic over the arches to overwinter the garden.

No garden would be complete without a touch of Milk & Honey, so I added these: These are my own, but I also made a set for the shop with herb names on them and will be adding more sets with different vegetables over the coming weeks. Just click the photo below to go right to them:

DIY: Silhouette Wall

Lots of people (myself included) like to have one of those photo-walls, a massive collection of family pictures hung close together with the only unifying element being the same color frame (I’ve done one with all black frames and later, all silver). I still like the look of it, but I wanted to make it a little simpler. Around that time my mother in law gave me a silhouette of my husband as a child. I loved it and it immediately went on the photo wall. Later we had our children’s silhouettes cut and they also went on the wall. That was when I had the idea to transform all the pictures into silhouettes. This was a long and tedious process and I was so relieved when I was finished. I had my family over and I proudly showed them the finished product. My brother immediately pointed out a tiny 3×5 empty frame that I somehow missed.Thanks a lot buddy. That little frame has nagged at me ever since. As long as I had to make one more, I decided to make it into a photo tutorial. And away we go..

First, I selected the final image for the silhouette. I chose this one of my husband and daughter in a porch swing overlooking the Piankatank river. I took it on a warm July day when we were celebrating my mother in law’s birthday. One of those perfect summer afternoons you long for in mid-February. (“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language” ~Henry James)

I previewed the photo on my desktop and hit the “fix” button at the top. Then I changed the image to black and white (using the “saturation” tool under the color tab to the right of the screen), and adjusted the brightness and contrast to make the picture as close to true black and white as I could. This isn’t a vital step, but I find it helpful to get a feel for what your finished product is going to look like. There have been several pictures that I thought would make great silhouettes, only to find that they were unrecognizable once I’d finished.

Next, I printed the image (you can print directly from the preview, or insert the image into word and print from there). Then cut it out carefully. I like to use hairstylist scissors because they are smaller, sharper and have the little hook on the bottom to steady your hand. Once you cut out the main image, go in with an x-acto knife and cut out the center details. I do this right on the glass top of my desk (because I am campaigning for a new desk and destroying this one will further my cause. Just as my husband leaves the perfectly good grill uncovered in the rain and snow when he thinks it’s time for an upgrade. Soon enough it will rust and he’ll get his new grill). If you aren’t actively trying to destroy your furniture, just use a cutting board for the x-acto part of this. Here is the image after being cut out: Next you trace it onto the back of black card stock. You can get card stock at any craft store for a few cents a sheet. When I began my silhouette wall, my plan was to cut the images in one pattern of card stock and mount them on a contrasting pattern. Then I realized that went against the point of simplifying so I stuck with black and white. But by all means, do yours in whatever colors or prints you’d like. Here is the tracing:You might notice that I did not reverse the image before tracing it. This made my final silhouette a mirror image of the actual picture. This will likely bother me every time I look at it until I finally take it down and re-do it. Save yourself the hassle and flip the image before tracing on the back of your black card stock.

After tracing, just cut it out again with the scissors and x-acto knife. Then turn it over and find that you’ve accidentally cut into the black surface of the card stock. They make high quality paper colored all the way through so that this doesn’t happen. Obviously this is not high quality paper:That’s okay. Sharpie to the rescue:Now it’s time to frame it. Take some tape rolls and apply to a few spots on the back. You don’t want to completely tape it down or use spray glue because the image needs to sit just above the white backing so that it casts a faint shadow, giving it dimension.Next, apply it to your white (or whatever color you chose) card stock backing like so:I probably should have taken a nice “after” picture of it in its frame, but I was in too much of a rush to get it up on the wall. Here is the silhouette wall, finally completed:See, there it is, top center. Try to ignore all that empty space on either side of the console. I used to have potted plants there but I killed them and haven’t decided what to put in their place. Open to suggestions..

DIY: Apothecary Jar Terrariums

I have a slight apothecary jar addiction. I am literally incapable of entering a housewares store without buying at least one apothecary jar (also on that list: throw pillows, white sheets and soy candles). I have them in my master bathroom holding q-tips and cotton balls. In the guest bath they hold shea-butter soaps and more cotton balls. I can’t think of a single reason a guest in my home would need easy access to a large supply of cotton balls, and yet there they are:

(We aren’t even going to discuss the color scheme in there. It was like that when we moved in and I usually keep the door closed and pretend it doesn’t exist.)

This would be a good time to mention that I kill plants. Thousands of them. Each and every houseplant I have ever bought has died by my hands. There was a period where I was going through 7 or 8 orchids every six months until my husband suggested that perhaps I move on to cheaper victims.

Then something surprising happened. I was in my sons room and I noticed that the very large, very 1970’s style terrarium my mother had given him was full of leafy, living plants.

I vaguely remember putting a few ferns in there when he got it last year, but since then have not so much as looked at the thing. That’s when I realized that perhaps I could marry my personality flaws of apothecary-jar-hording and plant-homicide to create unique and stylish terrariums. I started with this:

Four empty jars, freed from being relegated to a life of holding cotton balls. If you look out the window behind them on the right, you will notice last summers attempt at a container garden. I left it there as a reminder that if I want heirloom tomatoes I should go to the grocery store, not to the plant section of Home Depot.

Anyway, I gathered my supplies: potting soil (I chose the looser kind used for seedlings. My only reason for this was that I thought it was prettier dirt), small plants, rocks.

I’m willing to admit that I might have gone overboard with the plants:

The rest was easy. First I added a few stones to the bottom of each jar:

Then I added a bunch of soil to each jar which ended up being a mistake because the plants all poked out the tops of the jars. So don’t do that. I had to dump all the soil back into the bag and got it all over my desk, proving once again that sewing tables do not make good potting sheds. Here I am cleaning up my mess:It worked better to just remove the plants from their planters and loosen the soil at the bottom until it was no longer planter-shaped. Then I put them on the stones in the jars and used a spoon to add a little potting mix around them. I put two plants into most of the jars, spooning soil around them until they felt secure, but still loose enough that they could settle down a little when I watered them. Here I am spooning soil, in case you wanted to know what that looks like.Then I gave them a light watering and put the lids on:After that I had to clean up a large amount of spilled soil and debris from my table, but I was happy with the results so it was worth the mess. Here they are all finished. I’m hoping that they’ll sink in a bit more, otherwise I might go back and remove some more soil. Supposedly they create their own atmosphere and don’t need much watering. If, like me, you’ve killed many a cactus because you water them even though you know you’re not supposed to, don’t fret. All you have to do if you over-water is take the lid off for a day or two and they’ll dry out. I might move them to a sunny spot where they don’t have to stare at what’s left of my container garden, wondering if they’re next.

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