Spring marks the time most plucky amateur gardeners take a deep dive into the way back of their sheds only to find themselves hopelessly unprepared: No gardening supplies. Rickety old furniture. A bunch of useless odds and ends lying around. Without a trip to the hardware store, the season is as good as lost.
But instead of shelling out big bucks to turn your yard into a fair-weather paradise, everything you need is actually sitting right in your house. With these DIY hacks at your disposal, you’ll have your backyard looking like a million bucks without ever having to reach for your wallet.
1. Instead of mulch or rocks, try laying your flowerbeds with pinecones. Not only will the cones insulate your plants, but they’ll also prevent your pets from digging up the dirt and ruining your garden.
2. Sick of those tacky tiki torches? With an empty wine bottle, some lamp oil, and a wick, you can turn your recyclables into beautiful outdoor light fixtures to mount or even for use on a table as a centerpiece.
Garden Lovers Club
3. Every kid dreams of having a water slide in their backyard, and with just a tarp and hose, they can! Just lay the plastic sheet against a play set slide and hose it all down for slippery fun to last the whole summer.
4. Wooden pallets are a common garbage item, but with a little elbow grease, you can transform that dirty scrap into a cozy swing. Just remove any jutting nails, sand and paint the wood, and then hang from a sturdy branch for a seat even your pup will love.
5. Say goodbye to tossing towels over a nearby chair and hoping they dry: using PVC pipes, you can construct a high-quality towel rack that’ll have your swimwear ready for your next dip in no time.
6. No — this isn’t a suggestion to swap your hydrangeas for a nice stack of Pampers. But to help your plants retain moisture and keep them fresh longer, stick a diaper — clean, of course — in the planter before putting your flowers inside.
7. A game of horseshoes is the perfect compliment to a summer barbecue, and now, the fun doesn’t have to end once the sun goes down. With a glowstick and a few glow-in-the-dark necklaces, you can keep the party going all night long!
8. No summer get-together is complete without a few cold ones, but who wants to bother walking back and forth to the cooler to get them? With a saw and some plastic for insulation, an ice cold beer will never be too far out of reach.
9. Use a hula hoop and spare blanket to create a cozy outdoor hideaway. Simply secure the blanket to the hoop and suspend it from an overhanging branch for a shady hangout spot the kids will never want to leave.
10. Why spend hundreds on an expensive solar cover when a few hula hoops will do the trick? Just wrap the hoops with black plastic and toss them in the pool — the plastic will absorb heat from the sun and then transfer that heat to the water.
11. String lights have somewhat lost their charm over the years, but a quick trip to your grocery store’s baking aisle is sure to change that. By placing paper cupcake holders over the bulbs, you’ve just created artsy shades guaranteed to be the life of your next backyard party.
12. Swing sets and slides are a great way to keep kids busy, but why not exercise their minds along with their bodies? A simple piece of slate secured to a wooden board will make the perfect canvas for your child’s imagination.
The Creative Crate
13. Garden gnomes and bird baths not cutting it? Spruce up your garden decor by spray painting small objects with metallic paint and scattering them throughout your yard — just make sure not to trip over them!
14. Everyone has at least a few old keys that don’t open anything, but instead of leaving them in your junk drawer, why not string them up into a wind chime? Plus, you could also hang a spare along with them and no one would ever know!
15. Tired of your back patio looking that depressing shade of gray? With a little latex paint, you can add a pop of color to any outdoor seating area, taking it from drab to fab with just a few coats.
A Beautiful Mess
16. You might have licked those tin cans clean, but your feathered friends are just about to get started. That’s because with a little birdseed and a small wooden dowel, you can create a feeder that’ll have birds lining up for a bite.
17. A garden can brighten up any space, yet with all that greenery packed together, an already tiny yard may wind up looking even smaller. To give your garden the illusion of greater space, place a mirror or two and watch your yard open up.
Pacifica Landscape Works
18. Wait! Don’t chuck out those old tires just yet! Instead, apply a few coats of colorful paint to create a set of funky planters that’ll make your garden the talk of the town.
Lemon Bean and Things
19. Metal folding chairs may get the job done, but, boy, are they ugly. A few coats of spray paint are sure to brighten things up, and if you want to get really crazy, a little upholstery can turn those $10 chairs into works of art.
A Gathering Place
20. Solar lights aren’t just for lining your walkways or brightening the area around your pool. Try sticking a few in your outdoor fixtures for soft-glowing lights that’ll shrink your power bill too.
When the cold months come, however, you’ll need a completely different set of hacks to weather the winter. A cheap and easy way to keep the heat inside your home and your energy bill low is to use a low-cost insulator. Bubblewrap is inexpensive and can be placed over non-insulated areas like windows and door frames.
Mpsportfolio / YouTube
2. DIY texting gloves: It’s incredibly frustrating trying to use your phone in 20° weather. This simple hack can make any pair of gloves touchscreen friendly. Just sew some conductive thread into the glove tips and never miss a call again.
3. Park your car facing east: By parking your car facing east, the sun will begin to warm it and defrost your windows before you get outside. You may need to do a little work, but the light of the sun will give you a jumpstart!
Rob Boudon / Life Hacker
4. DIY winter bike tires: Once it gets cold enough and the ice sets in, it gets very difficult to ride your bike. You shouldn’t have to give up your lifestyle for a little bit of ice. Just place zip ties around your bike tires for traction. Once the winter is over, just cut them off.
5. Electric plug insulator: It’s not commonly known, but mishapen electrical outlets can be the culprit when it comes to drafty homes. If you cut a packaging envelope into the shape of the outlet cover, it’s a great way to eliminate drafts and provide a little extra insulation.
BigBear1107 / Reddit
6. Foil behind the radiator to redistribute heat: Many radiators are designed to direct a lot of heat towards your wall and not out into the room. Most of that heat is absorbed by the wall and you end up losing heat. If you just place a sheet of tin foil behind your radiator, it will reflect that heat and redirect it into the room.
7. Prevent fogging with shaving cream: You’re playing with your defroster and you have no idea why the inside of your windshield won’t defrost. Skip the hassle and prep your windows before winter’s here. Coat your windows with shaving cream and then wipe it off. It’s as simple as that!
8. Spray your shovel with cooking spray: Shoveling snow is back breaking. To make things worse, when the snow is really heavy, it can stick to your shovel. Just spray your shovel with cooking spray before going outside to clear the walkway and you’ll find it’s much easier to move the snow.
9. Prevent pipes from bursting with WD-40: In the dead of winter, it’s sadly common for pipes to freeze and burst from the frigid temperatures. Using WD-40 to spray the exterior of the pipes and joints, can help prevent them from freezing and bursting.
10. Defrost car lock with fire: Ice can lodge itself in any tiny space, including your car’s lock, leaving you standing in the cold. Just grab your lighter and hold it under the tip of your car key for about five seconds. The heated metal should melt away that little bit of ice causing you big problems.
11. Reverse the rotation of your ceiling fans: Ceiling fans just sit idle during the winter months because many people don’t realize that there is a switch you can flip that will reverse the rotation of your fan to redistribute heat that rises to your ceiling. It keeps the heat in circulation and keeps your heating bill down.
bl-999 / Reddit
12. Boil mulling spices: The cold, dry winter air can do a lot of damage to your skin. It makes it really hard to keep your skin moisturized. Keep a kettle of mulling spices boiling when you’re in the house. This will add moisture to the air, and your skin, but also keep your home smelling warm and cozy.
Vicky Wasik / Serious Eats
13. DIY snowshoes: You’ve probably had the same dull pair of snow boots for the past ten years. It makes walking on the icy sidewalks really dangerous. Well, you can easily and cheaply make a pair of removable DIY snow grips for the bottom of your shoes. You just need a t-plate and some bolt screws and you’ll never fall again.
14. Keep socks in your glove box: Even the best cars can get stuck in some icy slick snowfall. In case you ever need to get out and push your car, keep a pair of wool socks in the glove box. Pulling them on over your shoes helps you get more traction on the snow!
15. DIY hand warmers: Make your own hand warmers with these four materials: two Ziploc bags (two sizes), calcium chloride pellets, and water. Fill the larger bag with the pellets, then fill and seal the smaller bag with water. Place the water bag inside the larger bag and seal both bags. Squeeze the water bag until it pops. The chemical reaction will produce heat and warm your hands.
Mick Telkamp / DIY Network
16. Socks on windshield wiper: Ice can freeze your wipers and ruin them. The solution? Place socks over the upright wipers to prevent excess ice buildup and to save you an extra headache in the morning.
17. Built-in headlamp: When there is cold, there is usually darkness. Just because the sun sets by 4 p.m., doesn’t mean your day is over. Instructables walks you through attaching a DIY headlamp to your ski hat, so you’re never left in the dark again.
rbateman / Instructables
18. Shave away sweater pills: Every winter it seems that our sweaters get more and more pills from the wear and tear. Those little balls can be unsightly and very annoying. The best way to rid of those pests is to use a razor to lightly remove them without ruining your clothes.
19. Prevent mirrors from freezing with sandwich bags: Nothing is worse in the morning than having to unexpectedly wait for your car to defrost. To be one step ahead, take a sandwich bag and place it over your side exterior mirrors, and then secure it with a rubber band. This will help prevent them from freezing.
20. Orange peels are fire kindling: When a snowstorm sneaks up on you, there’s not always enough time to gather wood to sustain your wood burning stove. Dried orange or lemon peels work great as kindling, and they make your fire last longer too! Plus, they fill your home with a citrusy clean smell.
Not convinced you need these hacks? Well, love him or hate him, Old Man Winter still shows up every year to shower us with frigid temperatures and blustery winds. And when winter peeks its head into our lives, it’s impossible not to notice…
1. This ominous photo looks like a still shot straight out of the movie The Day After Tomorrow. But nope, it’s a very real frozen-over lake. You can just picture an ice tsunami forming and totally annihilating the helpless city cowering in the distance.
2. If the owner of this vehicle carefully collects every individual piece of perfectly frozen ice from their car, they could build the world’s first ice-mobile! Now if only cars ran on cold water instead of gasoline…
3. This mesmerizing explosion of powder is what happens when you take a pot full of boiling water and toss it straight into negative 40-degree air. That guy is a brave soul to head outside with no shirt on.
4. Some people like their pasta noodles soft and chewy, and some like them al dente, a little firmer. But here we have a bowl of pasta so firm it’s inedible! The cold froze those noodles so stiff they held the weight of a metal fork!
5. Anyone who thinks firefighters only deal with heat needs to take a good look at this stunning photo. Ice enveloped this rescue worker, but he didn’t let it slow him down one bit. Now, this is bravery!
6. Jack Frost must have used the restroom before he left; one flush from his icy fingers solidified the entire tank! These people need some heated toilet seats for the next time he comes snooping around.
7. Someone call the police! The invisible man is scouring the neighborhood and screaming in people’s front lawns. It’s going to be impossible to catch him if he takes off those pants though…
8. This has to be clever camera work right? Nope. It was actually so cold bubbles would freeze as soon as they were blown. This guy should try catching some and have the world’s most delicate snowball fight.
9. Whoa, this person took off part of the car when they opened up the door! Even though weather this cold is never pleasant, it definitely makes for unique and awesome photo opportunities.
10. That row of thick unforgiving icicles looks like a long line of frozen soldiers ready to storm New York City. Little does the ice know New Yorkers are some of the toughest and most resilient people around. Bring it on.
11. Fire during a winter storm? These commuter train tracks are experiencing a controlled burn so they don’t freeze with ice and derail the transportation. Extreme situations call for extreme and unconventional methods.
12. In Iowa, it was so cold that it turned a bottle of antifreeze into a solid. Antifreeze. The name literally means “no freezing.” The entire purpose of the stuff is to help things avoid exactly what it fell victim to.
13. You can train for as long as you want to be a makeup artist, but you’ll never be able to achieve this incredibly delicate look. Who knew Old Man Winter was so fashion forward.
14. The dark icy abyss that formed in this toilet stares directly through your soul. This looks like the kind of darkness Frodo would need to drop the ring into to vanquish it for good. The Toilet of Mordor!
15. It’s days like this that you cross everything off your errand list and crawl back into bed. Why would you ever want to venture outside and see what’s behind these frozen doors?
16. After the landlord of this apartment building turned off the building’s heat, this tenant got creative with their stove and a fan. Although it worked, a fire warden would never approve.
17. How would you like your eggs: scrambled, fried, sunny-side up, or iced? This proves that neither the chicken or the egg came first; it was actually a winter storm!
18. So much for starting your car so the engine warms up. Looks like this person is staying in for the night, which is never a bad thing in this kind of weather. It’s called Netflix and chill for a reason.
19. Even the water pressure a fire hydrant provided was no match for these subzero temperatures. It might have seemed like a good idea to pop the hydrant to prevent freezing but then there was a huge hockey rink in the middle of the sidewalk.
20. How about this ice sheet that was left behind after a freezing rain event? It looks as though a ghostly replica of the truck was left in place to document a moment in time that once existed… an eerie reminder of what was once there.
21. There are fewer joys in life to a dog than rolling around in fresh powder, and this American Eskimo Dog really became one with the snow this winter. If you had only glanced at the snow patch, you just might miss that little fluff ball.
22. What kind of sorcery is this? How is it possible that a powerful cascading waterfall can become completely frozen in time? We wouldn’t mess with any magical being capable of pulling off this level of voodoo!
23. One of the coolest things about winter is that your car can apparently develop defensive spikes on its hubcaps. Even Transformers would be totally jealous of your wheels — this makes the other Autobots look far less superior.
24. Billions of snowflakes can fall from the sky in a single snow event. All of them together create a swirling picture against the purple hue of the night sky. But have you ever caught a single snowflake on your coat and looked at the intricacy of that small piece of art?
25. This man didn’t go for the standard snowman, or even an igloo — he tediously created the world’s first ever snow fruit roll-up. This was definitively more than three feet of fun!
26. This time of the year, Mother Nature thinks she’s funny and likes to play games with you. Your guess is as good as the next person as to which traffic color is lit behind its snowy hiding spot. Red Light, Green Lot doesn’t seem so fun now.
27. Winter also can be a bit odd sometimes. In the chaos of the snowstorm, cascading sculptures formed off the edge of the roof. They look as if they are defying gravity because of some magical spell they’re under!
28. Everyone knows that heavy snowfall can block roads and make them inaccessible, and this city worker put that knowledge to the test: he built a few roadblocks out of giant, muddy balls of snow.
29. It’s all fun and games until Mother Nature decides to raise the thermostat from 32°F to 33ºF. Then all of a sudden your creation goes from Frosty the Snowman to used car lot’s wacky, waving, arm-flailing, inflatable tube man.
13. Porcupines are cool and all, but have you ever had a porcu-car? The pros include: all the fun of a porcupine with none of the responsibilities. The cons include: cleaning your car off. That’s probably a pretty dangerous task.
30. These ducks are literally all of us on a cold winter morning. The second that door opens and the blistering wind smacks you in the face, you respond with a big ol’ “nope” and retreat back to your cozy bed.
31. This photo can really play mind tricks on you. What looks like the middle of a storm-struck Bearing Sea is actually a windblown, frozen street. You don’t need a boat to cross this path!
32. Snow is a great sidekick when you’re a sleuth. It’s like memory foam, holding the imprint of anything that trespasses on your property behind your back. Looks like a gang of critters scurried through here late last night. Case closed!
33. Mother Nature said, “You shall not pass,” but thankfully we have snowblowers capable of plowing through several feet of snow. So have no fear, you’ll still be able to get to work on time and clock in a full eight hours.
Susan Watts / NY Daily News
34. When this person opened their trunk, the snow just…stayed in place. They didn’t have to play a game of snowstorm roulette and wonder, will the snow fall inside the car? Will the door be frozen shut? Hopefully their luck doesn’t run out.
35. When Stanley next door refuses to shovel his sidewalk after a sidewalk, it is, for the most part, a pain in the butt. Still, his disinterest in his civic duties makes for an truly wintry picture.
36. “Go outside,” they said, “it’ll be fun,” they said. If having your hat and scarf frozen to your face while your eyeballs become completely frozen shut is your definition of fun, then you must be missing something.