Monthly Archives: May 2015

Outdoor Refreshers – How to Install a Sprinkler System

How to Install a Permanent Sprinkler System

Dragging garden hoses around the yard and setting up sprinklers is one summertime chore no needs to sweat over. Keep the lawn, flowers, trees and shrubs looking their best by installing a dedicated sprinkler system in your yard.

Do Your Homework

If you’re an intermediate do-it-yourselfer, installing a sprinkler system yourself will take several days, yet the extra planning and set-up on the front end of the project will be worth it as the growing season progresses. Before heading to the hardware store, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you need a building permit to install a permanent sprinkler system?
  • Do I know where the underground utility lines are located in my yard? If not, what’s the number for your utility company?
  • Are any local watering restrictions or ordinances in effect?
  • Do your state/ local regulations require a licensed professional to help with part of the installation? Some require professional electricians and plumbers to handle the technical stuff.

Once your homework is done, focus on the details of your sprinkler project. First, set an overall budget that includes the use of professional service people to connect the timer box or tap into the main water line of the house. Also, if you are adding a system to an existing lawn, then factor in what it will cost to fix the damage that trenching may leave across the grass, such as additional sod, grass seed, fertilizer, etc.

Use a Sprinkler Template

Many sprinkler manufacturers can create a customized design for your landscape. They offer templates for you to map all of the features in your yard like shrubs and flower beds, areas of sun and shade, and hardscapes like retaining walls. From this, they will help you design a sprinkler plan with the correct number of zones and suggest the materials needed to install your system. This service may cost a nominal fee but it is worth it to have the details worked out so you don’t have to.

Turn on the Waterworks in 13 Steps (It’s Lucky, We Tell You!)

  1. Mark the location of all the trenches and sprinklers with stakes or plastic flags.
  2. With a gas powered trenching machine, dig trenches 4-12 inches deep according to your plan. The manufacturer will have taken into consideration the area you live and how deep the water lines need to be to keep them from freezing.
  3. Turn off water to house at meter.
  4. Cut into the main water line. This may be where you want to hire a professional plumber to make sure that the work is done properly and your water pressure is maintained. They can also install a backflow prevention device.
  5. Dig a trench from the main water line to the valve box location. At the end dig a hold about 18 inches deep and 2-3 feet long. Line hole with 2 inches of gravel and set the valve box into it. The box lid should be flush with the grass.
  6. Next glue together the manifold and attach the zone valves. Set manifold in box.
  7. Dig a shallow trench from valve box to the location you want for the timer. Lay the 24 volt underground wire in the trench and connect it to the wires leading from each valve.
  8. Place pipes in trenches leading from the valve box. Whenever a pipe branches off you will need to splice a tee fitting to the main pipe and attach a short length of flexible pipe.
  9. Using 90 degree PVC elbow joints join pipes in trenches to the valve box. Turn on the water and flush the pipes to eliminate dirt in line and avoid clogs. Turn water back off.
  10. Install pop up sprinkler heads to each of the flexible pipes.
  11. After mounting the timer box where you want it, attach the 24 volt wires from the zone valves to the timer. You may want to hire an electrician to run power to the timer box.
  12. Set timer and run tests on the system to see where sprinkler heads need to be adjusted. Check lines to make sure there are no leaks that can cost you money down the road.
  13. Fill in trenches with soil and repair the lawn with sod or seed.

Take Time for the Timer

You may want to save money doing the job yourself, but that’s no reason to skimp on the quality of the parts you use. Sprinkler heads take a beating from day to day use and getting mowed over. Putting money into quality sprinkler heads will cut down on you having to go back and forth to the hardware store. Also, research the features you want on your timer. You may want one that allows you to test the system without having to disrupt your programmed schedule. You may also want features like rain sensors or frost sensors so the system doesn’t run during those times.

Homework, folks, will help you avoid any headaches and get you the sprinklers you want. Now sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor and forget all about those stupid garden hoses – except, of course, if you like watering your prize roses by hand. Then by all means, find a great water hose at Runyon!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From landscaping tools to a trencher, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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3 Options for How to Replant Grass in Your Yard

If looking out over your yard at the brown patches left by winter’s brutal temperatures isn’t enough to make you throw in the towel on growing a lush lawn in Indiana, then we may have some tips that can help.

At this time of year, DIY-gardeners have three options for replanting an existing lawn and giving it some love.

  • Over-seed
  • Plug it
  • Start over in the fall – the best time to replant grass in your yard

Although there’s no guarantee your lawn will improve if you engage one of the spring options instead of waiting until the fall, each one is worth a try. 

Climate Zones Determine Grass Growing

Climate Zone Map

In Indiana, climate zones 7 and 8 help determine what types of grass you should grow.

  • Cool weather grasses – the top third of the state falls into this category. These are grass types that grow better in areas that have cooler summers and winters. Some grass types in this category are Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Rye and both Tall and Fine Fescue. You primarily plant these type lawns in the early spring or the late summer/ early fall since they take time to germinate.
  • Warm weather grasses – the bottom third of the state falls into this category. These are grass types that grow better in areas with warmer summers and winters. Some of these are Bermuda grass and Zoysia. These grasses can be planted in the late spring as long as they have enough time to establish before the summer heat comes on.

1. Over-Seeding

If you want to over seed an existing lawn, be prepared to put in the time it will take to maintain it until the seed establishes. On an existing yard of Kentucky Bluegrass try seeding with a mixture of Bluegrass and Fine Fescue. The Fescue will establish faster and give the Bluegrass seed time to germinate. Here are a few basic steps to over-seed any type of lawn:

  1. Set your lawn mower at the lowest setting to remove most of the vegetation from the lawn. It will make it easier for the seeds to reach the ground.
  2. Rake the grass and top ¼-inch of soil underneath it and dispose of debris.
  3. Add fertilizer – apply per manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Broadcast seed over lawn in parallel lines – first in north/ south direction and then in an east/ west direction to avoid missing any areas.
  5. Use backside of rake to spread about ¼ inch of dirt over seed.
  6. Cover the ground with a thin layer of mulch made from wheat straw. You can rake straw away once grass starts to appear.
  7. Water lightly each day until grass is 2 inches tall.
  8. Best to wait to mow until grass has reached about 3 inches in height.

2. Lawn Plugging

If seeds are too slow for you then lawn plugging is the way to go. A “plug” is a 2 x 2 inch piece of sod that you can use to fill in bare spots on your lawn. You will need to till up the area you wish to plant, amend the soil with compost, and then create holes using a hand held grass plugger or an aerator/plugger. Place the plugs in a checkerboard pattern and fill the holes with lawn starter fertilizer. Insert the grass plugs and pack down the ground around them to eliminate air pockets. Give the entire area a thorough watering. Check out our blog, How to Plug Your Lawn in 3 Easy Steps, for additional details.

3. Great Grasses for Indiana

Whether you over-seed, plug or wait until the fall, here is some information on the different grasses that work well in our area. We have listed which are cool season grasses and which are warm season grasses. Depending on how you plan to proceed with improving your lawn one of these grass types may offer you a solution.

Kentucky Bluegrass – This is a cool season grass

  • Performs best in full sun
  • Slow to germinate
  • Winter hardy
  • New varieties are more disease resistant
  • Will need more fertilizer and water than other types

Fescue – This is a cool season grass

  • Drought, heat and shade tolerant
  • Requires less fertilizer
  • Grows deeper roots
  • Different varieties – Tall (broad leaf, clumping) and Fine (thin leaf,non-clumping)

Bermuda grass – This is a warm season grass

  • Best in full sun
  • Medium to fine texture
  • Drought resistant
  • Turns brown in winter when temperatures drop to point of frost
  • Can be aggressive and will take over flowerbeds
  • Need to keep in check with trimming or use of organic herbicides like vinegar

Zoysia – This is a warm season grass

  • Spreads and forms dense sod
  • Slow upward growth so needs less mowing
  • Low water consumption
  • Good for high traffic areas
  • Somewhat shade tolerant
  • Needs no pesticides or weed killers since it chokes out pests and weeds
  • Thrives in heat, goes dormant in cold weather

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From seeders and tillers to aerator pluggers and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. To learn more about your lawn, check out our helpful how-to guide, How Well Do You Know Your Lawn?

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Garden To-Do’s Part 3: Planting Trees & Shrubs

Planting Trees and ShrubsWith the crazy weather we’ve been having, it’s hard to know when it is safe to plant trees and shrubs. A good rule of thumb to follow: if the ground is 60 degrees or warmer, then it’s safe to plant. Get busy deciding where and what you want to plant. We’ve put together some helpful tips, once you have made your final decisions.

  • Check the site – You need to make sure the tree or shrub will have room to grow over the years. Take the time to scout out the area now so you don’t have to move or lose a bigger plant later, if it grows into overhead power lines.
  • Inspect the soil – Determine the condition of the soil and if there is adequate drainage. While you’re doing that, check to see if the plant have enough light in this spot and will it be protected from the wind.
  • Call before you dig – It is better to be safe than sorry, so call your local utility company and find out where underground lines may be hidden.
  • Look at the root ball – That mass of roots circling the pot usually means the plant is pot bound. “Teasing” the roots or cutting the root ball will help them break free. It will keep the roots from “girdling” or strangling the tree or shrub later.
  • Soak the root ball – A good soak before putting the plant in the ground will help hydrate the roots and wash off any contaminants that might be hiding in the potting soil.
  • Set it free – Cut away any plastic or burlap holding the root ball together. Be sure to remove any wires or staples as well. Many of these materials will not disintegrate over time so don’t take the chance of restricting your plant’s growth.
  • Think wide not deep – Dig your hole twice as wide as the diameter of the root ball. You need to keep the top of the root ball above the surrounding ground.
  • Pack it down – Don’t leave loose dirt at the bottom of your hole. It will allow the tree/shrub to settle and can affect drainage around the tree/shrub.
  • Put it in the ground – Position the tree in the hole and then check to see if it is level from several different views. Fill the hole with native soil instead of amended soil to avoid shocking the plant.
  • Mulch – Put a 2-4″ thick layer of mulch around the base of the tree but avoid putting the mulch right up to the tree base. This can allow disease and pests to attack the roots.

Establish Trees & Shrubs with Life-Giving Water

Most gardeners do not realize that winter is actually a dry season for plants. Yes there is plenty of snow on the ground at the time but until it melts and the ground thaws the plants do not get the moisture they need. This is why if you decide to plant your trees or shrubs in the spring, you will need to make sure they get enough water to help them transition from the shock of planting. Give them a good soaking every couple of days but allow the top soil to dry out in between watering. It will help your plants become established and get them ready for the heat of summer. Don’t forget to give them extra water in the fall to prepare them for the “dry” winter.

Happy Planting

Selecting a native plant will give it a better shot at surviving the long winter months and continuing to grow year round. Take a look at some of the trees and shrubs that are native to our hardiness zone (6a). Here are a few we like:

Native Trees

  • Silver Maple
  • Paw Paw
  • Redbud
  • Sweet Gum
  • Leyland Cypress
  • American Hemlock

Native Shrubs

  • Sweet Shrub
  • Winterberry
  • American Cranberry
  • Bayberry

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From landscaping tools to augers and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week. For more Spring gardening tips, check out our infographic, 11 Lawn & Garden Tips for Spring and our blog, 5 Ideas to Spruce Up Your Garden with New Plants.

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Garden To-do’s Part 2: Planting Annuals

How To Plant Spring Annuals

Looking at your yard this spring, you are overcome with a desire to change things up. Where to start? You don’t have the budget to rip everything out and start again so do you live with what you have? Don’t fret, we have just the solution. Plant some annuals.

Set your artistic side free!

Sure, annuals are one-season flowers and plants but they can give you the creative freedom to experiment with your landscape. Introducing a touch of color here or a spot of texture there may be just the thing to take your garden in a whole new direction. Annuals come in every color, height and texture. They are an easy way to change things up without having to totally recreate your garden.

There are three types of annuals:

  • Hardy annuals – these plants will tolerate the first frost.
  • Half hardy annuals – these plants can withstand a mild frost but not sustained low temperatures.
  • Tender annuals – these flowers and plants will die off at the first sign of cooler weather.

The most convenient way to get annuals is from your local garden center. Buying annuals at a garden center will allow you to get a jump on designing your yard. These plants are already established and flowering. You just have to put them in the ground. If you’re looking for a wide selection of native or exotic plants, check out plant sales at local public botanical gardens, arboretums and specialty plant growers.

If you are determined to have hard-to-find annuals in your landscape then you can start them from seeds. Just be aware that this takes time and effort. We suggest you start slow and go with all approaches for your garden. Purchase annuals from your garden center, local specialty growers and more from seeds you grow yourself.

Here are a few of the annuals available to you:

  • Coleus
  • Impatiens
  • Heliotrope
  • Dianthus
  • Zinnia
  • Pansies
  • Foxglove
  • Dusty Miller
  • Petunias

Planting Annuals is Simple … and Satisfying

Start with soil that you have amended with compost or manure. Try to place the plants in the ground at the same depth they were growing in their starter pots. It will help avoid stressing the plant during transition to the garden. Spacing is a matter of preference. As your plants grow they will spread out and fill in but if you aren’t willing to wait for that to happen then go ahead and plant them closer together. Just know that you may have to remove some of them later in the season if overcrowded.

Caring for annuals is pretty low key. Here are a few things that will keep your plants thriving throughout the summer:

  • Water – Soak the ground thoroughly. Soaker hoses and drip systems are the best. Allow the soil to dry out in between watering.
  • Mulch – This will help retain moisture and keep weeds down.
  • Weed – When annuals are first put out it is vital to keep the weeds to a minimum. They compete for the nutrients in the soil and sap the strength from the new plants.
  • Cover – If a frost is forecast, protect new plants at night, removing the cover in the morning so plants can soak up the warm sunshine or rain.
  • Pinch – Remove the small developing leaves on the tips of the plant to help it grow fuller and to keep it from becoming too “leggy.”
  • Stake – Tie up tall plants to prevent them from falling over. Insert the stakes in the ground next to the plant but far enough away to avoid damaging roots.
  • Dead-Head – Remove blooms that have faded to help plants flower longer and more profusely. Annuals like Begonias that readily drop their spent flowers do not need to be dead-headed.

Now is the time to fire up those creative juices and get ready to paint your landscape with a rainbow of colorful annuals. Don’t worry about making a mistake because this is one gardening experiment that can’t fail. If your design doesn’t work this summer then you can change it up next year. You can even make it an “annual” thing! (pun intended).

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From landscaping tools to tillers and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Garden To-do’s Part 1: Plant Bulbs

How To Plant Spring BulbsSome say gardening is a relaxing pastime, when in truth, it’s a never-ending cycle of things to do. Here we are just emerging our arctic winter, celebrating spring, when we find ourselves looking at the calendar wondering, “What’s next?” Well friends, it is time to consider planting bulbs for that wave of summer color we all crave in our yards.

Once the ground has warmed up to about 60 degrees or higher, DIY gardeners can plant summer blooming bulbs. A good rule of thumb is, if folks in your area are planting tomatoes, then it is time to set out the bulbs. So decide on what you want to plant and get busy.

These are a few summer blooming bulbs to consider:

  • Begonias
  • Caladium
  • Cannas
  • Dahlias
  • Gladiola
  • Calla Lilies
  • Tuberose

After deciding what you want to plant, select a well-draining location in your garden. Good drainage is key to preventing mold and rot from developing on the bulbs. Here are a few simple rules to follow when you are ready to put the bulbs in your garden.

  • Give a Little – Amend the soil by tilling in compost or manure. It helps the roots establish and promotes better blooms.
  • Go Deep – Dig a hole for the bulbs that is at least 3 times as deep as the bulb’s diameter. Follow the directions on the packaging.
  • Drinking Allowed – Make sure the bulbs are well watered after going in the ground but allow the soil to dry out between watering.
  • Don’t Say it! (Just do it) – Yes, that 4 letter word – weed. These pesky sprouts will rob your plants of the key nutrients they need to flourish, so just get rid of them.
  • Feed Me – Once your plants have broken ground and are blooming, treat them with a balanced fertilizer to help fortify the roots and give you a second round of blooms during the growing season.

If you haven’t had good luck with bulbs (those darn squirrels!) or if you just want summer blooms sooner, there is hope for you. Try buying pre-start plants from your local nursery or online plant supplier. There are plenty of them out there for those of us that are bulb challenged.

Speaking of squirrels and other vermin that will be taking aim at digging up newly planted bulbs, we’ve got a few suggestions for keeping them at bay.

  • Blood meal – Sprinkle this on the ground where you’ve put your bulbs and it will keep some animals away. Be warned that it can also attract raccoons and skunks.
  • Chili pepper – Use either the liquid or powdered form and spread it over your garden.
  • Predator hair or urine – Putting dog, cat or even human hair over the planted area will repel squirrels. You can also spread used kitty litter around the plants.
  • Un-tasty bulbs – Squirrels dislike daffodils, snowflakes, alliums and squill, so plant these bulbs around the area you are trying to protect.
  • Chicken wire – Place it or a window screen over the dirt. Once the plants start to break ground you can remove it.

Envision the Future

Before you get discouraged by the amount of gardening projects that your calendar holds, take a good look at your yard. Picture the beautiful flowers and plants that will spring up from the bulbs you so lovingly planted. Relaxation does comes at the end of a long day of weeding and watering. Sure, you may be sore and can’t raise your arms to drink that cold one in your hands, but doesn’t your yard look fabulous?!

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. From wheelbarrows to tillers, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-to’s, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Spring Refresh DIY Idea #4 – How to Construct a Poolside Bar

How to Build a Poolside BarIf you are looking out at your lonely pool, still garnishing the cover, devoid of any lawn furniture, it just makes you sad. Cheer up, though – temperatures are rising and the pool will soon be back in use. Sure, you have some spring cleaning to do but why not indulge your dreams of adding a poolside bar? Just think – no more wet feet running through your house in search of food and drinks!

In your mind, is your poolside bar a stand-alone structure away from the water? Or do you want a bar with in-pool seating? Let its location, the style of your home and your budget dictate your choice for making it a reality.

Tiki Bar Technique

A stand-alone bar can be one that you build from scratch or assemble from a kit. You can even retro-fit a former garden shed by opening up one wall and building the bar there. There are so many options! Keep a few things in mind if you go with a stand-alone.

  • You need to make sure the structure has a firm foundation or is anchored to the ground to avoid being toppled by strong winds.
  • Extend the roof out over the bar and chairs to provide cover from the elements for your guests. You can line it with bamboo or palm leaves to give it a tropical feel.
  • Consider adding a raised deck floor in front for bar stools. It will help anchor the structure and will allow guests to get their feet off of the hot pool deck.
  • Add some hanging lanterns around the roof for a pop of color during the day and a romantic glow at night.

I’m Never Leaving This Pool-Side Bar

A swim-up bar can look a little intimidating but don’t let that hold you back. Keep in mind the bar needs to be accessible from the pool and dry land, so it will need to be an open structure on two sides. Again, you can choose to build it yourself or purchase a kit. Here are a few tips:

  • Choose a section of the pool that is 30 inches deep to allow you to add the in-pool features.
  • Add a raised shelf poolside and cover with tiles.
  • Since you need to clean the pool anyway, drain the pool in order to install the bar stools. These are usually made of concrete pillars and the seats can be covered with tile that matches the new shelf.
  • Give enough space between stools to allow guest to come up on their floats.
  • Install a canopy of sailcloth or thatch out over the poolside shelf to allow swimmers to get out of the sun. You can use the same covering over the dry side of the bar as well.
  • String lights beneath the canopy to give the bar an inviting feel at night.

A poolside bar is a great way to create a gathering place for friends and family. Be sure to decorate your new structure in whatever theme strikes your fancy. Make it a Tiki bar with palm leaves and bamboo or give it a nautical flare with anchors and fishing nets –whatever looks great against the backdrop of your home. Your bar can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. What matters the most is the hours of fun you will have outside with your loved ones. So light those Tiki torches and mix up some fruity drinks, your new bar is ready to open for the summer.

Expert Advice

Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects. If you’d like some advice about how to build your own fire pit, check out our blog post, How to Make a Concrete Fire Pit or Fire Bowl in 5 Easy Steps. Or better yet, you can purchase a completely all-inclusive glass fire pit from us! From concrete mixers to tile cutters and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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Spring Refresh DIY Idea #3 – How to Build a Patio

How to Build a Patio

Now that spring is here it’s time to get outside. Time to put those DIY plans you’ve had rattling around in your head all winter into action. Let’s build that patio you’ve been dreaming of.

First things first, make a few key decisions before starting to haul in the pavers.

  • How will you use the patio? – For entertaining? To relax? How you plan to use it will determine the size and materials you will need.
  • Where will you build the patio? – Look for an area that has good drainage, isn’t too close to trees, and is away from any buried utility lines. Call the power company before you start to dig and they can mark the location of the lines.
  • How much do you have to spend on the project? – Figure out how much you have to spend and let that help you determine the size of the patio and the materials to be used.
  • Do you need help? – Don’t forget that much of the materials needed are heavy and will have to be delivered. You may not be able to deposit the sand, gravel or stones close to your project site which means you may need to use a wheel barrow or front end loader to move the materials around.

Once you have determined your design plan, location and budget, then you will need to choose the materials you want to use. Here are a few options:

  • Concrete – This is probably the cheapest way to add a hard surface to your landscape but it can be problematic. If you choose to dye it with a coloring agent then you will need to be prepared to reapply the coating every couple of years in order to keep the color.
  • Natural Stone – Flagstone, slate, bluestone and limestone cost more. The thicknesses vary so you have to carefully install each stone in order to keep the patio level.
  • Brick – Offers Old World charm but needs maintenance. It is very porous and cold weather can cause it to crack leaving space for weeds or moss to grow through.
  • Pavers – Home improvement stores carry a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They are all uniform in thickness so they are easier to install than natural stone and they are fairly inexpensive.

Get Down to Building

Your materials have been delivered and you are ready to begin. All patios need to be built on a level surface no matter what materials you use. Cracks, uneven surfaces and water pooling can all be traced back to not having a proper, level foundation. Let’s get started.

  • Mark the site – Whether you use the old string and stake method or the new aerosol paint technique, outline the area where you plan to build.
  • Dig, man, dig – Excavate down at least 8 inches for the sub-base of your patio. Whether you are going to pour concrete or lay pavers, the process is the same.
  • No sub-standard sub-base for you! – Clear the area of all roots, rocks and debris. Stamp down the dirt with a hand or power-driven stamper. Check to see if the ground is level. If it is, add a layer of gravel and pack it down. Once again, check to see if it is level.
  • Power to the pavers – Time to add the paving stones. Once you have laid them out in the design you want, stamp them down, and check to see if they are level. Adjust where needed.
  • Sand in your pavers? – Spread sand into the joints between the stones. Don’t scrimp on the sand. Work it in between the pavers to help lock them in place.
  • Wash down – Spray the remaining loose sand into the joints and now you are ready to clean up the patio and decorate.

Now, you are the proud owner of an outdoor room. “What will I do next?” you may be saying to yourself as you roll that shiny new grill across the new patio surface. Anything! The world is your oyster. Go forth and build more.

Expert Advice

Need more inspiration? Read our recent blog, Stir Up a Little DIY Inspiration with these 3 Project Ideas. Our expert staff is always on hand to help you with your yard and garden projects.

From power driven stampers to front end loaders and more, if you have any questions about what to choose, pricing or how-tos, don’t hesitate to contact us. Stop by our store — we’re open seven days a week.

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