Saturday, April 1, 2023

Plan for spring projects to fight winter boredom

Now is the time to start dreaming and planning for the perfect outdoor fire pit. — Metro Creative photo

Every year, about this time, homeowners get this unsettling feeling that they should be doing something.

It always seems to happen between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. It seems it is hard-wired in every homeowner’s DNA that there is always something one should be or could be doing to help maintain or improve the household.

But, for many homeowners, the cold, bitter months do not lend a good opportunity to do things outside. And as such, they become, for the most part, bored.

Not having a lot to do during the cold months should be a blessing. With the lack of snow this year, however, it’s given homeowners a little extra time to, for example, clean up the leaves that didn’t get done before the fall ended. But there’s got to be something one can do other than making up for the slack during the fall.

Thankfully, there’s never too much planning a house owner can do. And getting a jump on organizing and getting ready for spring projects when the warmer temps come is always a great idea.

The first step is making a list of what you want to create, fix and or upgrade.

Every household is different, but my situation is trying to upgrade some of the things to a house my wife and I bought a couple years ago. We have a big, fenced-in yard and a smaller-than-we-want house (no basement). We planned on adding onto the house, but with inflated prices the way they are now, well, we’re putting that plan on hold for a bit. Until then, we’ve decided to improve what we can within a relatively workable budget.

So I’ve come up with these ideas:

• Redesign of flower bed

• Spruce up the fire pit

• Find new items to plant in the garden

In my opinion, you need the ideas that you’ve come up with to be put in two categories: A To-Do-Now category and a I’ll-Get-To-This-Later one.

The To-Do-Now category is for ideas that you definitely plan to get finished before the year 2023 is over.

The second category, well, if you’re a bit of a procrastinator like me, then be real with yourself and don’t be ashamed to put a couple of these ideas in this category. Hey, they’re on a list, so that’s a good start, right?

Most of the items/tools/supplies you need for your projects most likely can be purchased from a one-stop-big-box-shop like Menard’s or online, and I’m sure I’ll plan to use those avenues. There’s no shame in that.

But if you’re like me and you like to shop local when you can, do so.

I’ve found when you go to smaller, local shops, you are more surprised with certain items that can be found that are just as good or better than what the big box stores provide.

Plus, guess what, you’re bored in the cold months, so you have time to meander through all your local shops to prep (as long as they’re open, that is).

So there’s my “shop local” plug. Let’s move on.


This is something my wife and I had the idea to do last fall, when we were winterizing our house. Now I’ll admit, the big boxy-stores have lots of choices when it comes to brick pavers, but local places like Wayside Gardens in Greenville, also supply a limited number of brick pavers. New owners Tom and Jullian Kutzli said they’ll be providing more brick pavers to choose from this spring, so be sure to check your local niche stores like Wayside first.

Our plan is to do a three-brick-stack, serpentine wall along the front of our house. We actually used Menard’s Design&Buy Landscaping online design assist feature to help us figure out how many brick pavers we need to buy.

On the west side of our property, we have nothing along the house and it’s 100% shaded, so our plan is raise the flower bed up along the front of the house first, add some shade flowers like hostas (I love those plants) with something like spiderwort (a purple flowered plant) or violas (multi-colored flowered plant), and then see about extending that flowerbed wall to the west side of the building.

Doing this in two stages seems like the smart thing to do, especially if you don’t want to feel overwhelmed, both physically and budget-wise.

I’d like to add a platform at the bottom of the flowerbed wall, too, which would extend out so that I can just mow over it. This will eliminate the need to weed-wack along the flowerbed wall. I’ll probably just use some patio stone or deck tiles for that feature.

Installing a raised flower bed may have its small challenges. There may be obstacles that could be cumbersome to work around, such as storm drains and the ever annoying water meter.


Nothing says boring in my backyard more than my poor fire ring.

It is as simple as they come, just a ring. For some, that’s all that is needed. But for me, I’d like to spruce it up a bit, make it look a little more dazzling. I want my visitors to my backyard to go, “Oh wow, that’s cool,” when they see my fire ring.

So my plan is to not only cover the ring with fire resistant brick paver, but to lay down a bit of patio paver to go around the fire ring, an area wide enough to have fold-out chairs, or a bench or even a couple of those hanging basket seats to create a bit of a feng shui feel.

I thought about filling the area with pea stone or wood chips, but because I have a thick amount of leaves that fall from the trees in the backyard, I’m afraid those ideas would make things messy if I go to rake the leaves or use a leaf blower. I’m leaning more towards patio pavers, easy to install and usually a variety to choose from.

There are some nice, helpful graphs and calculators you can find online to figure out how many brick pavers is needed for your fire ring. If you know the inside diameter, these sites can tell you how many pavers you’ll need to buy.

For instance, a fire ring with a 27-inch interior diameter takes 61 bricks. A 60-inch interior diameter fire ring would take 134.

For mortar, one 60-pound bag of mix is typically all that is needed for most fire rings/pits.

Using fire bricks or a steel pit liner will extend your fire ring’s longevity, however, the downside of a pit liner is you’d have to be building your ring from scratch to install the liner, and you’re limited to the size of pit or ring you want to build.

If you are planning on building a fire pit, or adding to an existing one, be aware of how tall you make them.

I’ve seen some fire pits that are higher than the 10-inch-tall ring I have. To me, that doesn’t allow the heat from the fire to expand out to the people sitting next to it. Your face may feel the heat, but speaking from personal experience, anything lower than your chest area doesn’t feel that heat as much. To me, the height of my fire pit is most ideal. But to each their own.


When it comes to vegetable gardening, I’m no expert. But I do love to experiment.

Last summer, we made a raised garden with scrap pallet wood. It worked like a charm, except for the fact we planted the seeds and small plants too close together. By the height of the summer, we had a traffic jam of veggies in our small raised garden. Lesson learned.

This summer, now that I have the basics down, and I plan to build a bigger raised garden, I want to add something a little fun and exotic to our garden. So I’ve decided to grow some gem corn.

I cannot get over the wonderfulness of just looking at gem corn, with its rainbow of colors, you almost forget that you can actually eat this wonderful piece of nature’s art.

I think it will be fun to add a colorful item like gem corn to your garden, which can also be used for fall decor.

Other not-so-familiar items I’m thinking of trying to grow, too, are:

• Achocha: also knowns as Bolivian cucumber, it tastes like a cucumber when picked early and like a bell pepper when picked later. Achocha is an ancient crop — grown by the Incas in South America — and is in the family of cucumbers and squash.

• Black tomatoes: Also known as the Indigo Rose tomato, this neat vegetable originated from Oregon State University, which a study was conducted to create a more antitoxidant-rich tomato, to which they apparently succeeded. They are grown just like a common tomato.

• Wolfberries: Also known as goji berries. These little red fellas, which taste like cranberries or sour cherries, aren’t hard to grow and are loaded with important nutrients and antioxidants. The only possible issue with eating these is that they may not agree with blood thinning medication or diabetes and blood pressure drugs. So if you fall in that category, seek the advice of your doctor first.

Tom Kutzli of Wayside Gardens said he plans to bring in more of a variety of sweet corns, bush beans and other seeds soon. And, if you’re like me looking for some very specific, he said Wayside is open to looking into helping customers with ordering specific items, as well.

If you’re like me, then you’ll have loads of fun just planning on spring projects. Hopefully, the actual labor of getting this projects done are as fun as planning them — for both you and me.

Good luck and happy planning.

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