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30 Thrifty Tips For Your Outdoor Spaces

Save those odds and ends from around your house! Give them a new life outdoors with these genius ideas.

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simple veggie washer 5 gallon bucketFamily Handyman

Simple Veggie Washer

If you love growing fresh vegetables but hate all the dirt that comes inside when they’re picked, do this. Drill holes in the bottom and sides of a 5-gallon bucket with a 5/8-inch spade bit. Place your fresh-picked veggies in the bucket and hose them off before you bring them inside. The dirt and sand stay out in the garden and only the veggies end up in your kitchen. Do you know which vegetables take the least amount of time to grow?

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shady flower shelfFamily Handyman

Shady Flower Shelf

Here’s a beautiful idea for sprucing up the space between tree branches. Make yourself a shady plant shelf! Just measure the gap and cut your shelving to fit. Cut a notch in each side of your board so that it “hugs” the tree and sits securely. Set your shelf gently inside the gap, place your shade-loving plants on it and enjoy your blooms all season long.

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HH key ring plant tag organizerFamily Handyman

Plant Tag Organizer

You know those plant tags you save to reference later, but aren’t exactly sure what to do with? To keep them organized, punch holes in the tags and slide them onto a key ring. These are the best herbs to grow for your garden.

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HH baking cup cocktail capFamily Handyman

Cocktail Caps

Keep bugs from swimming in your drinks by topping glasses with baking cup liners. Cut a small X into the center of each liner, poke a (reusable or paper) straw through the hole and enjoy your beverage pest-free. It’ll work perfectly for these summer cocktails to enjoy while poolside.

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Citrus-rind seed startersFamily Handyman

Citrus Rind Seed Starters

Grapefruit, orange and other citrus rinds are just the right size for starting new seedlings. Make a hole in the bottom of each one for drainage and add some damp seed-starting mix and seeds. Then, when it’s time to move them outside, plant the whole works in the ground—peels and all. The citrus rinds make the soil more acidic, however, so only do this with acid-loving plants like radishes, peppers and the like.

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HH direct plant watering bottleFamily Handyman

Direct Watering Bottle

For healthy plants, it’s important to get water to the roots. Here’s an easy method: drill holes in water bottles and bury them alongside plants, leaving just the cap above the ground. To water the plants, unscrew the bottles’ caps, fill the bottles and screw the caps back on. It requires some extra effort, but it conserves water, and the plants—especially the tomatoes—will thrive like never before. Read up on the easiest foods to grow at home

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HH utility tackle box camping supplies Family Handyman

Utility Tackle Box

Instead of throwing extra tackle boxes away or just piling them in the garage, fill them with toiletries, first-aid supplies and other camping and fishing gear. Tackle boxes keep these odds and ends organized and easy to pack before heading out on a camping or road trip. Speaking of camping, these are our favorite campsite hacks.

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HH no rust garden tool pot holderFamily Handyman

No-Rust Garden Tools

Regular maintenance keeps your garden tools clean and rust-free. To avoid much of that maintenance, fill a bucket with sand and mix in a plant-based oil, such as boiled linseed oil. Plunging a blade, tines or teeth into the sand a few times cleans off any dirt and gives them a light coating of oil for rust prevention. You can even store your tools right in the pot.

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HH camping toilet paper cd caseFamily Handyman

Camping Toilet Paper Hack

To keep toilet paper dry and at the ready while camping, put the roll in a coffee can or CD/DVD container. It makes a handy, weatherproof dispenser right next to the biffy. These easy camping meals can be prepared right on the campfire.

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HH silica packets gardening seeds freshFamily Handyman

Keep Seeds Fresh

If you don’t use up all of your seed packets, store them in an airtight container with silica packets to keep them fresh for next year. The silica packets prevent the seeds from germinating or getting moldy. Plus, check out these tips for creating an affordable garden.

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HH Handy Hint Plant seeds in toilet paper tubesFamily Handyman

Cardboard Seed Tubes

For an easy and green way to start seeds, save your toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Cut the tubes into 2-inch lengths and set them in a waterproof tray. Fill the tubes with potting soil and plant your seeds. When the seedlings are ready to move to the garden, plant them right in their cardboard tube. The cardboard will decompose. Be sure to keep the tube below the soil surface, so it doesn’t wick moisture away from the roots.

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HH Handy Hint Wine Cork Fire starterFamily Handyman

Wine Cork Fire Starters

Fill a mason jar with wine corks and rubbing alcohol, and let the corks soak. The corks will burn after soaking for a couple of days, but for best results, soak them for a week. Be sure the corks are natural, not synthetic. Make sure you know how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew in case you forget one on your next camping trip.

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HH Handy Hints Pop cans save soil gardeningFamily Handyman

Saving Soil with Old Cans

For deep planters, fill the bottom with old cans or plant pots. The cans and pots improve drainage and create air pockets for better aeration and healthier soil, and will help you have on soil. Here are some handy tips for growing a great raised bed garden.

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HH Handy Hint Micro Green house pop bottleFamily Handyman

Micro Greenhouse

Do you have a hard time starting seeds or cuttings? Try soda bottle greenhouses. Cut the bottom off 2-liter soda bottles and remove the labels. Remove the greenhouses once the seeds have germinated and cuttings are rooted. Check out these solutions to the most common gardening problems.

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milk jug watering can 2

Turn a Milk Jug Into a Watering Can

If you don’t want to buy a watering can, turn to an old milk jug. Just wash an empty milk (or juice) jug, drill a few holes in the caps, fill up the jugs with water and you’re good to water all your plants. Here’s how you can take your garden from good to great.

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Handy Hint HH flamingo blow up pool toy shop vac nozzleFamily Handyman

No Air Pump? Use a Shop Vacuum

If you don’t have an air compressor to inflate your air mattresses or pool toys, you can use your shop vacuum instead. Just pop the top off a plastic squeeze bottle and fit the top to your vacuum’s hose. You may have to use duct tape. Once the top is secured to the hose, attach the hose to your vacuum’s exhaust port. It’ll blow up your inflatables in no time. To deflate, attach the hose to the vacuum port and suck the air out.

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HH milk jug plant protectorFamily Handyman

Protect Your Plants with Milk Jugs­

Are you eager to get your plants in the ground? Cut the bottoms out of gallon jugs and set them over new and fragile plants to protect them from bugs or a late frost. On the flip side, here are 10 veggies you should start inside.

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HH kiddie pool bush clippingsFamily Handyman

Corral Your Clippings

When trimming hedges, use a plastic kiddie pool to catch clippings, kicking it along as you clip. When you’re done trimming, dump the clippings into your mulch pile. Check out these essential yard maintenance tips.

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HH DIY hose drip watererFamily Handyman

DIY Drip Waterer

Here’s an easy way to turn any hose into a drip-watering hose. Drill 1/8 in. holes every 2 inches and screw a cap the end. Weave the hose around your plants and turn on the spigot. You’ll have to do some testing to figure out the right setting. Want to add more color to your home? Take a look at these colorful plants to add to your home office.

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HH Garden sprayer labels Family Handyman

Garden Sprayer Labels

Always remember what’s in your garden sprayer, with key labels. After mixing, fill out a label and wrap it around the sprayer’s handle. Then keep the rest on a pegboard, so you can easily switch them out when mixing something different. Here are some benefits of having a healthy yard.

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HH hedge trimmer pipe insulation bungee cord Family Handyman

Hedge Trimmer Sheath

If you’ve lost your hedge trimmer’s blade sheath, you’ll have to get creative to safely store the tool. A piece of foam pipe insulation will be just right. Cut two 1/2 in. foam tubes to the length of the hedge trimmer blade. The tubes are slit down their length, so they slide easily over the blades. Then use three 4 inch bungee cords to hold them in place. Easy!


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permanent tiki torch pvc holders

Permanent Tiki Torch PVC Holders

If you like to set tiki torches around your patio but the ground is rock hard, here’s a solution. Cut 5-inch long pieces of PVC pipe to hold the torches and use a maul and a block of wood to pound them into the ground. (You might have to pull them out a couple of times during the process to dig out the clag plugs.) Then just slip the torches in and out of the sleeves, and you can mow right over the PVD holders without a problem.

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kitchen sponge noisy drip stopperFamily Handyman

Noisy-Drip Stopper

Do you have a noisy drip coming from the downspout that’s driving you nuts? Here’s an easy way to stop the drip—just push a kitchen sponge into the bottom of the downspout. It’ll muffle the dripping noise without blocking the water flow. Take a look at these smart ideas for your next backyard party.

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Lawn chair umbrella holderFamily Handyman

Lawn Chair Umbrella Holder

Escape the hot sun with this simple umbrella holder, which clamps right to the lawn chair. Bolt a piece of 1-1/2-inch PVC to the chair and secure it with a 4-inch hose clamp. It works great, and all you have to remember is to collapse the umbrella when you get up or a sudden breeze will blow it over. Check out these backyard trends that will be popular this year.

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handy branch hauler HHFamily Handyman

Handy Branch Hauler

Need a way to haul branches over to your fire pit? Carrying them in your arms is dirty work and trying to stuff them into a plastic bag is awkward. Try using a sturdy plastic shopping bag with handles. Slit the sides, lay it flat and fill it with branches and small logs. It loads easily and lets you carry wood without getting your clothes full of sap or mud.

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Water break on the go lawn mowerFamily Handyman

Water Break on the Go

If you don’t want to stop mowing the lawn just to run into the house for a drink of water, attached a bicycle water bottle holder to the mower arm. Now you can fill up the bottle at the start and take water breaks without breaking your stride.

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Temporary extension cord exterior protectionFamily Handyman

Temporary Extension Cord Protection

If you’re having a graduation party or some other occasional event out in the yard, you may require extra electricity. Here’s a great way to keep extension cord plugs dry. Cut notches in the opposite sides of a reusable plastic container and snap on the lid. Your plugs will stay dry if it happens to rain or the ground is moist.

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Mowing in comfortFamily Handyman

Mowing in Comfort

Your mower will be a pleasure to use thanks to the pipe insulation taped to the handle. Make sure the insulation doesn’t interfere with your auto-shutoff bar, if you have one.

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lawn mower twig pick up hhFamily Handyman

Lawn Mower Hack

Before you mow, you most likely go around and pick up fallen twigs and other debris. Inevitably, sometimes you’ll miss some and have to stop and pick it up. To solve the problem, attach a wastebasket to your  mower. Now when wrappers, cans and sticks suddenly appear, you can stuff them into the basket and keep moving. This is why cats love to eat grass.

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paper shreds HHFamily Handyman

No More Smelly Lawn Clippings

After mowing, dump all of your lawn clippings into a “green refuse” bin. But after a day or so, the grass clippings turn into a slimy, smelly mess. To combat the stench, raid your electric paper shredder and through a few handfuls of shredded paper into the bottom of the barrel. The paper helps absorb the moisture and reduce the smell. Plus: Here’s why you shouldn’t mow your lawn every week.

Originally Published on The Family Handyman

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