Thrift Diving’s 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul Makeover

Two years ago I signed up for Serena’s Thrift Diving challenge: a 30-day outdoor patio makeover. She’s hosting another one this month, also outdoors. It’s amazing how these challenges can light a fire under your feet.

Serena hosts these challenges a few times a year. You can read about her April challenge here. Several of us sign up for the extra motivation that comes with a deadline. She even has a closed Facebook group where we can post pictures, ask questions and share in other do-it-yourself projects. It’s a lot of fun.

Today, however, I’m feeling the pressure of the challenge. We have college tours coming up this month and a weekend away chaperoning a school activity, so I need to keep moving. Writing this post will help me collect my thoughts. I have a good start thanks to Serena’s Outdoor Overhaul Makeover Journal. 

These are my goals for my 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul

Goal #1: Clean, *repair* and paint my old potting bench

green potting bench

15 year-old garden/potting bench

Repair wasn’t part of the deal, but this morning I moved the bench on my own to the patio for cleaning and broke one of the planks. The bench is 15 years old and stays outside year round so it’s not that surprising. It looks like they used staples instead of screws to attach the top planks. I’ll need to sort that out.

The broken plank exposed a few startled silver fish. After they vacated the premises I employed my multi-step cleaning process.

I used my small leaf blower to chase away the large debris. I used a small brush to clean the crevices, then a larger brush and finally gave it a strong blast with the hose before one last scrubbing.

We have two more sunny days before a set of storms pass through, so I’m taking advantage of the weather.

Then, finally, the fun begins: repainting my old potting bench

Goal #2: Research gate options for side yard

makeshift gate

Makeshift “gate” to keep Tessa and our other cats safe in the yard

This is a long story, but I’ll try to make it quick. We had to replace the damaged fence along our side yard over a year ago. It took nine months from the start of the quotes to a finished fence for a variety of reasons. We had cat-netting along the old fence to keep the kitties safe in the yard. I wanted to add a second gate so we could reduce the amount of netting which gets tangled in the vines, but one that you could see through. The fence company couldn’t do it.  It’s now been six months and I still haven’t sorted out a quote or a DIY solution to keep our climbing kitten safe in the yard.

 Goal #3: Outdoor sandbox for cats

Tessa's future sandbox

Back corner of garden under neighboring pine tree

Yes, you read that correctly. When you have small children you keep your sandbox covered to avoid unwanted deposits from the cats. My boys are young adults and the sandbox is history, but our kitten, Tessa, prefers using the garden mulch to take care of business. I’m hoping to add a sandy area along the back fence to encourage her to use that instead. Cats like sand, so it should do the trick.

Goal #4: Camouflage and Beautify

back corner of garden

Back corner of garden where things don’t like to grow

The back corner of the garden has always been challenging. A large, neighboring pine tree shades the area, drops pine needles and sends up roots. It’s almost impossible to dig in that area, and when we have managed to wrangle the roots out-of-the-way to plant other things, they struggle to thrive.  I’m going to look for a planting box that sits on the soil at an angle. I’ll plant a shade-loving vine, then add a trellis behind the box. This will beautify the area, and at the same time camouflage Tessa’s outdoor facilities.  Win-win!

Goal #5: Create a step up to the raised garden along the back fence

Fence line

Raised garden bed along fence line. A few pavers should do the trick

Ah, age! It doesn’t look like much of a rise, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get up and down from the raised planting area along the back fence. It hurts my back, or my knees or my feet. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, but I’m going to buy a few pavers to create one or two steps to make it more accessible. After these last storms I can remove the cover from the table and chairs.

Tessa loves spending time in the garden. It will be nice to have her company as I work through this 30-day challenge.

Tessa on the potting bench

Tessa lounging and playing on the potting bench

Thank you Serena for inspiring us.

Do you have a room, patio or deck in need of some TLC?

40 thoughts on “Thrift Diving’s 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul Makeover

  1. Those are all plans that have been well thought through Alys which is just as well really as you have such a full month ahead of you! Tessa sounds like Orlando with his ‘don’t fence me in’ mentality. (Although he did run inside for years to use his potty before eschewing it altogether.) Your last sentence made me laugh – as you know my entire house is in need of an upgrade 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pauline, I would have bet money that I replied to his comment. I’m starting to think WordPress has a comment-eating gremlin. I will say that on occasion I start to write a comment on my tablet but don’t hit send, then find it weeks later sitting there waiting for me to hit “post comment”. Today I’m using my laptop.

      I’m laughing at the idea of Orlando running indoors for his potty breaks. You must admit, a clean, well maintained litter box probably does have its appeal. Lindy prefers using it to the garden.

      It has been a busy month with more to go, but I’m large eschewing social media and find that a) it’s a much-needed and welcome break and b) I can get so much more done when I avoid the rabbit hole known as Facebook…or Twitter…or Instagram. I refused to give up my WordPress pals though. I’m just slower than I would like to be to read and respond.

      xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a whole backyard in need of TLC, but it’ll have to wait till I’m mobile again. There are some trees that need planting, beds that need clearing of a season’s worth of weeds, the side floodwater drain to rake out, the back patio to weed and scrub, things that need pruning. I’m trying not to look at it just now, as I can’t do any of it with my knee still stitched, bandaged and stiff….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate, how did the surgery go. I’ve been busy and out of the loop, so perhaps you are well on the mend. I hope so! I’ll go see what you’ve posted. Perhaps this is a year to have some help come in and do some of the clearing for you. Is that a possibility. I wish I were closer. I love tackling a good pile of weeds. I think it’s the organizer in me. xo

      Like

      • The surgery went well, and I’m healing fast 🙂 In the backyard, what I need is a guy with a posthole digger so I can get a bunch of potted plants and trees in tubs into the ground. I also need the knee to get better so I can kneel on it! For the first, I just need to get around to it, for the second, only time will fix it.

        Like

        • Kate, I’m glad you are healing fast. That’s excellent news. I know all about “getting around to things”. Sometimes the list is long and tedious and other things get in the way. This challenge is good for me for that very reason. I’m getting to some things that have been on the list for awhile. I know autumn is a good time to plant trees, so perhaps you can put a date on your calendar and tell yourself that by “such and such date, the trees will be in”. That often works for me. Your’e so organized and disciplined that I know you’ll sort this out.

          Like

  3. That sounds like a terrific project albeit an exhausting one, Alys. What a great idea to build up the bed under the pine. Those kinds of corners can be very tricky in a garden. We used to have a cat, but we don’t any more, and I still miss his company. Your Tessa has a very interesting face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane, it has been both so far! I’m three weeks in to the projects and had hoped to be done. I need to shop for sand and pavers for the steps and the bench needs its second coat of paint. I’ve sorted out the side-gate issue, and I also bought a lovely planting box and a Camellia to go in it so that’s progress.

      We rescued Tessa from the battery compartment of my husband’s Tesla. She has quite a back story! She was only seven weeks old. We took her to the car dealer to help get her out and the first thing I noticed was that amazing split face. It’s striking.

      I hope you’ll find a way to have a kitty in your life once again. They’re such amazing creatures.

      Thank you for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tessa is a chimera? Such a rarity, I wonder if she is related to the famous Venus, of internet fame?
    I love your cute potting bench and your projects sound like they will keep you busy until the heat sets in. Good luck and keep us posted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Eliza! Tessa has the features of a chimera, but we’ve not been able to confirm if she is a true chimera. You’re right, though, that she is very much like Venus, albeit far less famous. 😉

      She has the same colored eyes (Venus has a blue and a green) but she does have two colors of whiskers: black on the dark side and white on the orange side.

      We’ve gone from raining days to heat now so I’m going to try to get up early tomorrow to paint the second coat. Spring is fickle that way, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your projects, Alys. Areas under trees are very difficult to plant in; your idea of the vine in a planter box is an excellent one. And Tessa the Supervisor will be able to keep an eye on her new area too! I too have a whole backyard, and front yard too, in need of some TLC, but the Autumn weather is encouraging me to get out there.
    I posted the pumpkin to you yesterday 😃….I am still having trouble with your email ☹️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anne, your incredible mixed media pumpkin was waiting for me when we arrived home on Sunday. It is *gorgeous* and even more spectacular in person since I can see the texture. I love it and hope to post about it soon. I wanted to let you know it was here.

      I wonder why we’re having trouble with email. I know it’s worked for us before. Best of luck with your yard. It seems you’re filled to the brim with projects. Autumn is a great time to get things done with it’s cooler weather. Best of luck. And thanks again for reserving the art for me. I’m tickled!

      Like

  6. Wow, what a set of projects, Alys! They all look pretty fabulous. I wonder, although your idea for the camouflage sounds good, whether you ever tested the Ph in the soil back there. I bet it’s acid from the needles dropping. You could probably lower the Ph and plant directly, which would, on hopes, need less watering? I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lisa! The soil is acidic which is why we planted azaleas and hydrangea there. The bigger problem seems to be the deep roots coming up from the pine tree. When we still had a lawn, they would protrude to the extent that they became a tripping hazard. Mike helped me extract the roots so we could plant back there, but they just come back and I think choke the roots of the plants before they’re established. I’ll keep you posted.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds ambitious! Our summer project is to replace radiators and our heating system (we still have the original everything and our house was built in the 40’s). So nothing I can show off, but it will make things more comfortable. Good luck, I’m sure your results will be wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember getting quotes to replace our house furnace (at the time it too was about 40 years old). The guy told me I could get the bottom of the line product and it would still be twice as efficient as the old clunker we had. We compared products and went with an efficient, mid-line system. We added AC to that system this past January, so this is our first year in 22 years to have AC in our house. Woot woot. You probably feel the same way about your heater.

      Like

  8. Wow! That’s a lot to do in an already packed month. At least you have a good plan and maybe implement it throughout the summer. Just getting the bench done this month would be a big deal. I have a lot to do outside but nothing like what you have planned. Pressure wash the back deck and stairs off the back and front porch. Then re-stain the stairs. Good luck with the college search.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marlene. The month is flying by. I’m so tired, and realize I may have bitten off more than I can chew as the saying goes. Between busy and the unexpected and unseasonal rain and even *hail*, I’ve had little opportunity to paint. I finished one coat before the travel and weather. I need to get on the second coat and then the stencil work which should be the fun part.

      Do you own your own pressure washer and if so, do you remember the brand? I’m considering investing in the Ryobi. Thanks for your good cheer. Two more college tours to go, then the final decision by May 1. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: 18 in 18 update | Anne Lawson

  10. Good luck with your goals Alys. We have a million things to do too! First up is replanting some pots for spring and early summer and tidying up all the twigs and branches that came down from the woods next to us over the winter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cathy! You have such a vast gardening area that I can only begin to imagine how much work is involved in clearing it after a long winter. I had some much-needed professional tree trimming done yesterday, and although they’re pretty good about hauling most of the debris away, many small twigs and branches remain.

      We’re half way through April now, and I’m making good progress with everything but the painting. We’ve had rain, winds and hail, all of which are highly unusual for San Jose this time of year. My potting bench has spent more time under a tarp than I ever expected. I’ll post about it soon. Good luck with your garden cleanup.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lots of good plans Alys. Do you plan to keep your cats inside the fenced area completely? I can’t imagine mine not being able to find a way out somehow. As for an outdoor kitty sandbox – I already have one – it’s called ‘the garden’. I do have six cats though so if they all used one place it would be a bit nasty – well, it would be if it weren’t for the fact that my dogs hoover it all up anyway. (Dogs really are disgusting – well, mine are anyway).
    I am in love with your little potting bench as it is – very shabby chic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn, it’s amazing what dogs will eat. They must have amazing constitutions. We had six cats (sort of) once upon a time. Three were ours, a fourth was a stray that eventually stayed, and a pair of neighbor cats that invited themselves over every day. Mr. Cat used to come and sleep on our bean bag chair. Al would swing by and pick him up at the end of the day. What a character! I missed that old cat. He was 24 when he passed.

      Here is what I mentioned to Kerry, below, about the cat netting:

      As for Tessa scaling the fence, we have a product called cat fencing made by a company in Las Vegas. It’s strong netting with a strap running through one edge. You secure it to the top of the fence, then attach it to angled brackets. This prevents cats from getting over the fence.

      Believe it or not, the neighbor behind us, who once had a cat of his own, trapped my cat Grant, removed his collar, and dropped him off at the animal shelter. Grant’s crime: entering the neighbor’s cat door and eating his kitties food. The neighbor never came and spoke to us, he just took him to impound, where I had to pay to get him out. I was seven months pregnant at the time and didn’t know what to do. We started keeping Grant inside and within a week, even though he was neutered, he started quietly spraying the interior of the house. That’s when I discovered the cat fencing. Mike added some height to the fence using lattice, and then we added the netting. We’ve had seven or eight cats since then, and none of them could exit the back yard except Tessa. We’ve since added more netting to the back fence and had the trees trimmed as well. The funny thing is, the moment she gets out she wants back in. I think she’s chasing squirrels and then thinks…oh…wait.

      We live on a small lot (6,000 square feet) so it keeps everyone happy when we can keep the cats secure.

      So you have six cats. How many dogs? What a happy household, and in France no less. I’m drooling.

      Like

  12. I have no doubt you’ll be celebrating your garden projects in 30 days! You are so organized. I haven’t even considered the yard yet because of our nasty non-spring weather. I always think new paint makes everything look a lot better. When I hosted the Urban girls last fall, I sprayed everything to freshen it up. I was scooting through Wayfair one night and found all sorts of gardening pots for vertical gardening. Check them out for that back area, using key words ‘Vertical Gardening’. Great prices and they deliver to your door. The hardscape elements in your garden are so gorgeous! I love the shape of your patio and that fence is a work of art! You have so much privacy, it’s wonderful. Silly Tessa, why would you ever want to leave? xoxo K

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the Wayfair link. I had a good, long browse a few days ago, and I’m just now making it back here. I start a new client project today, so I’m up early doing a bit of catch up.

      I love vertical gardening and have another area (for a different project) where I will employ the technique. In the end I bought a large Camilla (not a vine!) and it’s perfect. They love both shade and acidic soil so win-win! I’m sorry your winter refuses to give in to spring. The east coast continues to get walloped as well. Here we had hail which is unheard of in San Jose. Just crazy. Love you.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Whew–that’s quite a plan! And it’s gotten me thinking about my own outdoor spaces and all the works that awaits . . . Surely Tessa can scale that fence, can’t she? If she was really determined?

    Like

    • Kerry, I’m already half way through the month! It goes quickly when you’re chasing a deadline. I’m also crazy-busy this month, but I’m determined to make this work.

      As for Tessa scaling the fence, we have a product called cat fencing made by a company in Las Vegas. It’s strong netting with a strap running through one edge. You secure it to the top of the fence, then attach it to angled brackets. This prevents cats from getting over the fence.

      Believe it or not, the neighbor behind us, who once had a cat of his own, trapped my cat Grant, removed his collar, and dropped him off at the animal shelter. Grant’s crime: entering the neighbor’s cat door and eating his kitties food. The neighbor never came and spoke to us, he just took him to impound, where I had to pay to get him out. I was seven months pregnant at the time and didn’t know what to do. We started keeping Grant inside and within a week, even though he was neutered, he started quietly spraying the interior of the house. That’s when I discovered the cat fencing. Mike added some height to the fence using lattice, and then we added the netting. We’ve had seven or eight cats since then, and none of them could exit the back yard except Tessa. We’ve since added more netting to the back fence and had the trees trimmed as well. The funny thing is, the moment she gets out she wants back in. I think she’s chasing squirrels and then thinks…oh…wait. I’ll find the link to the netting. I’m glad you live near a lake with space around you for your cats to explore. It sounds idyllic.

      Like

      • I cannot believe your neighbor did that! What a horrible thing, not to talk to you first. The cat fencing is a great solution, though–I bet it cost a fortune but lots of cats have benefited from it. My cats would tear this house apart (and spray everywhere) if I didn’t let them out. When we lived in Buffalo and just came here for summers, it was funny–they were outdoor cats here and indoor cats in Buffalo–and they never had a problem with that. It’s as if they didn’t know the outdoors existed there! I do worry a little about letting them out here–but we’re at the end of a 2 mile long dead end road, so there are no fast cars, we have a pet door they can access, and they are *always* in at night. And they so love being outside . . .

        Like

        • I’ve had cats most of my life, and they’ve always preferred the outdoors. I think we all benefit from the outdoors, it’s just not as safe as it once was. I’ve had a cat blinded after he was hit by a motorbike, and another contracted feline AIDS through a fight. Numerous cat fights lead to abscesses and trips to the vet and believe it or not, my cat Grant gained access to a neighbor’s condo via a poorly designed attic system. When we installed the cat netting, I calculated the cost against a visit to the veterinarian. The cat fence-in system cost the equivalent of two vet visits. Of course the piece of mind has been priceless.

          How funny that your cat’s stayed indoors in one place and outdoors at the lake. That made me smile. They’re such wonderful creatures. I can’t imagine life without them.

          Like

  14. We have a corner or two where it is difficult to get plants to grow – in fact I have just spent all day planting holly bushes in the drizzle in the hope that these will now grow in the shade where everything else has failed.
    I would join in the makeover but it will coincide with our Italian trip so I will do a very mini makeover at home on our patio perhaps next weekend if the weather is good.
    Keep us posted on your progress – your garden is lovely and that pine tree is certainly something!

    Like

  15. Pingback: Reveal: Thrift Diving’s 30-Day Outdoor Overhaul – Gardening Nirvana

Please join the conversation by leaving a comment, below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.