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50 Brilliant Ways to Spruce Up Your Backyard This Summer

From building a simple platform deck to greening up your grass, all of these ideas will instantly improve your outdoor space.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.

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FH19MAY_594_50_100_hsp-1200 platform deckFamily Handyman

The Easiest Deck to Build

Whether it’s a deck or stone patio or even a patch of grass, defining a place to gather is a must, even for small backyard designs. In this project, we’ll show you how to build a platform deck in just three days. (Yes, you read that correctly—three days!) Since it’s not connected to a house and sits just inches above the ground, it’s an inexpensive, quick-to-build alternative to standard decks and patios. Check out the full plans for this project here, so you can build this platform deck in your backyard.

Pro tip: Your deck can be any size. But if you’re using 2×6 framing material, place footings no more than 5 ft. 11 in. apart, and limit joist length to no more than 6 ft. 8 in.

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plant in a pot landscaping design seasonal mums HH Handy HintFamily Handyman

Pot-in-a-Pot Landscaping

Ever wish you could reorganize your garden after seeing how the mature plants look? Here’s a clever way to do it. You’ll need a bunch of landscape pots of the same size, so they’ll nest in each other. Put your plants in doubled landscape pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you want a change, lift out the top pot and put in a different one. This is also really slick for bringing plants indoors over the winter. This method is great for quickly changing out seasonal plants, and allows for easy experimentation with color and placement of plants and flowers.

Want to add more color to your landscape this season? Check out these 49 Colorful Plants to Brighten Up Your Landscape.

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fire pit for ultimate backyard

DIY Fire Pit

Build a fire pit for not much more than the cost of a flimsy store-bought fire ring. With tips from a veteran bricklayer, we’ll show you how.

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build a garden archFamily Handyman

Easy Garden Arbor

This classic garden arch has just six parts and can be built in less than a day. Create a gateway, frame a walkway in a hedge, or make it part of a trellis or pergola. We’ll show you how to make it.

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Family Handyman

Build in One-Day Storage Bench

Just as with any living space inside your home, adding storage and a few indoor comforts to your outdoor space is a must. Get plans for this easy-to-build outdoor storage bench here. They may look like high-end furniture pieces, but these outdoor storage benches are easy and inexpensive to build. Check out 40 more of our favorite outdoor woodworking projects that can be incorporated into any simple backyard landscaping ideas.

Pro tip: This project is really just a plywood box dressed up with solid wood slats.

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wet grassLeigh Prather/Shutterstock

For Greener Grass Water Deeply, But not Often

If you water frequently and for short periods, the grassroots have no reason to grow deep. Those shallow roots can’t reach deep soil nutrients or deliver the water when you skip a watering. Instead, water deeply enough to penetrate the soil 4 to 6 in. Do our little test for a few waterings and you’ll get a sense of just how long and often. It’ll depend entirely on weather conditions and your soil type.

Water for 30 minutes. Then plunge a spade into the soil and pry out a wedge to see how far the water has penetrated. Four to 6 in. deep is ideal. Not deep enough? Water longer. Once you know how long to water, use a water timer and you’ll know what to set it for every time.

Heavy soils should be watered less often and less heavily but for longer periods of time. Sandy soils, on the other hand, can handle heavy, fast watering but dry out faster. In hot, dry weather, you may have to water every two to three days.

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spring in your backyardFamily Handyman

Build a Spring in Your Backyard

If you’ve ever been to Yellowstone, you probably remember the magic of the natural springs. Water bubbles out of the ground from seemingly nowhere. We can’t promise you the grandeur of our national parks, but in less than half a day you can build a small spring that will spark a similar sense of wonder. You can build this backyard spring in less than half a day!

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kitchen pavilion shed featured photoFamily Handyman

Kitchen Pavilion Shed

This is the largest shed Family Handyman has ever created in the 60 years we’ve built sheds and shown how to build sheds. We joined storage and outdoor living with our latest shed, the outdoor kitchen pavilion shed, for the Ostertag family to enjoy when they have time away from their latest project

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HH tarp trailer lawn clippingsFamily Handyman

Tarp Trailer

The next time you have to do some trimming this clever handy hint! With a big plastic tarp, you can easily drag leaves, branches or mulch around your yard to wherever you need it. A 9 x 12-ft. tarp costs about $9 at home centers and hardware stores. —Daniel Rodman

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weeds: Simon Kadula/Shutterstock

Attack Broadleaf Weeds in Mild Weather

You need to kill weeds when they’re growing. That’s because the herbicide is absorbed through the leaves and then sent throughout the rest of the plant. When the weather is too cool, the weed isn’t growing and the herbicide won’t be absorbed, and the chemical isn’t as effective. Too hot and the herbicide will stress the grass. The product directions will give you the best temperature range. Apply herbicides when rain isn’t forecasted; a soaking will just rinse off the herbicide before it can do any good.

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string lightsimging/Shutterstock

Hang String Lights

There’s nothing quite like the twinkle of outdoor lighting on a cool summer night. To get you inspired, we’ve rounded up 10 of the most breathtaking outdoor lighting looks to take your backyard oasis to the next level.

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Affordable Garden Path Walkway IdeasFamily Handyman

Provide a Path

As you incorporate gathering places, gardens and other backyard landscaping ideas throughout your space, a great way to tie everything together (and make it easier to get around) is to create paths. Check out this extensive how-to guide for creating a charming backyard path that doesn’t break the bank.

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Classic Copper Plant Markers

Finding plant markers that can withstand sun, wind and rain is a challenge. And you want them to be attractive, easy to make and reusable year after year. These cheap, durable plant markers are the perfect solution. Don’t limit yourself to the shapes shown here. Be creative! See how to make classic plant markers.

And if warmer weather still hasn’t arrived, check out these 10 indoor plants that grow well in winter.

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Family Handyman

Portable Backyard Fireplace

Providing something to gather around such as a fire pit or charming outdoor table will take your backyard to the next level. This DIY modern outdoor fireplace looks expensive (and really heavy)—but it’s not! It’s actually one of our favorite backyard ideas on a budget. Click here to learn how easy it is to make this outdoor fireplace yourself. Place it by your deck one day and then move it somewhere else in your yard the next.

Pro tip: This outdoor fireplace uses the same components that fuel a typical gas grill.

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CrabgrassChristian Delbert/Shutterstock

Kill Crabgrass Before it Spreads

Crabgrass preventers (aka pre-emergence treatments) do one thing and one thing only. They prevent crabgrass (and any other seed) from sprouting. Once crabgrass sprouts, it’s too late. Here’s the key. Apply preventer between the second and the third mowings. Because crabgrass starts sprouting a few weeks after the grass greens up, that’s generally just the right time.

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garden path in a wheelbarrowFamily Handyman

Path in a Wheelbarrow

This garden path is as easy to build as it is to look at and walk on. A bundle or two of cedar shakes, a roll of landscape fabric, a few bags of mulch and a couple of hours are all it takes to build it. No heavy lifting, no fancy tools and really, really cheap!

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finished and painted cornhole boards

Make Your Own Cornhole Game

This classic backyard game is easy and inexpensive to make yourself. And with legs that fold up, it’s easy to tote along this cornhole set for tailgating, camping and more. Get the step-by-step instruction here!

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zip-tie vine winder

Vine Support

Getting my vines to run up just how I want tricky. To direct the vines, I fasten zip-ties around the stalks, strapping them to anything stable. Don’t strap the vines too tightly. They need to be able to move and grow. — Craig Sullivan

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viking tableFamily Handyman

$200 Viking Table

When the Vikings of yore built something—a longboat, a lodge, even a drinking horn—it was sturdy and simple, functional yet attractive. This table fits that mold. It’s big, rock-solid and buildable with basic tools, yet it has a certain elegance to it. Here’s how to build it!

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flower bed stonesElena Isida/ Shutterstock

Use Flower Bed Stones in Your Landscape

Flower bed stones add a finishing touch to your landscape. Whether you stack them for a border wall or use them for an insect-proof mulch, stones serve a variety of purposes that are both natural and attractive.

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FH19APR_59367_017shutterstock_254487943_hsp-1200 backyard swingBackground Image: White78/Shutterstock

Backyard Swing

A seat like this is usually called a “porch swing,” and a porch certainly is a good location for it. But a hanging seat can go just about anywhere; unlike a chair, it doesn’t require a firm, flat surface beneath it. This swing design is especially forgiving. If your cuts are slightly inaccurate or not quite straight, the swing will still turn out just fine. Here’s how to build it!

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trim a tree with long shears tree pruningFamily Handyman

Long Reach Shears

Make your yard trees look neat and tidy by slipping PVC pipes over the handles of your pruning shears and tape them in place to extend your reach and clip high branches without a ladder.

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Lawn Dominoes

Take your love of dominoes to the great outdoors by whipping up a super-sized set that will get you on your feet in the sweet sunshine. This tutorial shows you everything you need to add this to your repertoire of backyard games.

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chimney flue planters terra-cottaFamily Handyman

Chimney Flue Planters

To make these terra-cotta planters, go to a brick supplier and buy 3-ft. lengths of clay chimney flue liner ($15 each). Cut them to different heights using a circular saw fitted with an abrasive cutting wheel. You can put them on a deck or patio, or accent your yard wherever you like—just pick your spots and bury the ends in the soil a little. Fill the liners with gravel for drainage, leaving 8 in. at the top for potting soil. Since the water can drain, the liners won’t crack if they freeze. Or just set pots on top of the gravel and bring in the plants for the winter.  — Nancy Belmont

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deck planters

Built-In Planters

Planters make a striking addition to any deck, and also create more privacy, making the outdoor space feel almost like a separate room. Get full plans for building these amazing deck planters here.

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fertilize Family Handyman

Don’t Skip Fall Fertilizing

Before the lawn goes to sleep for the winter, you should feed it well. Even after the grass seems to go dormant, the roots are soaking up nutrients and storing energy for the next growing season. Surprisingly, it’s much more important to fertilize in the fall than in the spring, when most people do it. Like watering, this is one of the most important favors you can do for your lawn.

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fold-up grill table

Fold-Up Grill Table

After building this collapsible cedar table, your family will wonder how they ever grilled without it. The legs nest under the top for quick storage or carrying to all kinds of other jobs, indoors or out. Learn how to build this handy companion for your barbecue that collapses for easy storage.

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mini greenhouse with old windowFamily Handyman

Mini-Greenhouse from An Old Window

Whether you want to prolong your growing season or get a jumpstart on spring planting, this mini greenhouse is for you. Start with some cedar boards and a few basic power tools, and you can knock out this outdoor project in just a couple of hours!

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no-trim border wallFamily Handyman

No-Trim Wall Border

If you’re building a fence or a retaining wall, set a course of protruding stones in the soil beneath it. That way, your mower can cut all the grass—no hand trimming needed. The stones should protrude about 4 in. from the wall and stand at least an inch above the soil so grass doesn’t creep over them. You’ll still have to pull out grass from between the stones occasionally. —Gabriel Castillo

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3-Season Planter BoxFamily Handyman

3-Season Planter Box

This 3-season planter box uses plastic containers or liners to keep moisture and dirt away from the wooden parts, meaning it will survive the outdoors a lot longer than other planters. Learn how to build the 3-season planter box here.
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Use Accent Lights

Using even just a small accent light can work wonders for the dark corners around the yard. Not only will it create even more beauty, but it can also help keep away potential intruders who seek out dark places to stay unnoticed. Check out these 15 outdoor string lights that may make you want to live outside.

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garden trellisFamily Handyman

Cedar and Copper Trellis

Climbing plants like vines and roses lend a lot of charm to an ordinary garden, especially when they’re winding up a trellis planter as stunning as this one. And its character just grows richer as the wood turns gray and the copper develops a beautiful green patina. Get the full plans for this cedar and copper trellis planter here.

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Life-size Chess Board

Ready to take your game of chess to the next level? Make it an active event by creating your own life-size chess board that will wow your guests. Just be sure you can beat them! Check out this tutorial.

Here’s how to build a chess board for inside your home, too.

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hose reel hideaway

Hose Reel Hideaway

This latticework structure was designed as a hideout for clunky plastic hose reels—but it can turn into a fun shady hideout for kids and pets as well. In a few years, the lattice will be covered with a dense mound of vines, and you’ll be the only person who knows there’s a hose hiding underneath. Learn how to build this home for your watering equipment here.

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soil and shovelJurga Jot/Shutterstock

Test the Soil pH Level

Grass grows best when it’s growing in the “pH happy zone.” Grasses like a pH level between 6 and 7.2. If the soil is too acidic or too alkaline, the grass won’t thrive even if you do everything else right. So collect one tablespoon-size sample a couple of inches under the sod in three different places in your yard and take the three samples in for testing. Some garden centers offer the service or search the Internet for “soil testing” to find a place to send it.

You’re after a pH between 6 and 7.2. If it’s too high, you’ll treat the lawn with iron sulfate or sulfur; too low and you’ll use pelletized limestone. Whoever does the testing will tell you what and how much to use to fix the pH. Applying the treatment is as easy as walking around the yard with a spreader.

Learn how to correct soil PH in our video tutorial.

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soothing fountain complete backyard projects

Build this Soothing Fountain in an Afternoon

This soothing fountain is a “disappearing fountain” so there’s no exposed standing water. This means there’s less maintenance since there’s less chance debris and critters will wind up in the water. Yet it provides the soothing sight and sound of running water people love. Another bonus—since birds love moving water, there’s a chance you’ll attract some of these outdoor friends. This quaint fountain is proof that good things come in small packages. You can build it in an afternoon for under $80.

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deck lighting

Backyard Deck Lighting

Plan and install a low-voltage lighting system to light up your deck. No electrical skills needed; you simply plug the system into an existing outlet. It’ll highlight deck features without glare and is safe and easy to install.

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Hiland Electric Umbrella Heater

A great option for evenings around the patio table, this electric umbrella heater from Hiland warms up to 15 square feet and is designed to work under patio umbrellas. With three burners and a variable temperature control, it’s a great way to stay warm once the sun sets. Buyers noted it was easy to install and remove when you need to put the umbrella away. Yet another reason why we think this is one of the best outdoor patio heaters. These 15 ideas for outdoor string lights will make you want to live outside.

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flower stair step plant display

Stair-Step Plant Display

If you’re as hungry for spring as we are, maybe this simple plant stand will help. You build it from boards that are cut into just two lengths, stacked into squares and nailed together. You’ll only need seven 8-ft. long 1x2s, exterior wood glue and a few dozen galvanized 4d finish nails. We used cedar for its looks and its longevity outside, but any wood will do. Build this handsome, durable plant stand in one morning.

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how long does it take for grass seed to growphilmillster/Shutterstock

Reseed Late in the Growing Season

Reseed in the late summer/early fall. Whether you’re seeding a small patch or a whole yard, you’re going to be much more successful if you wait for the cooler, damper weather of late summer or early fall. It’s almost impossible to get seed to survive during the dog days of summer. It’s simply too hot and dry. You’ll most likely just waste your time and expensive seed.

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pint sized water gardensFamily Handyman

Pint-Sized Water Gardens

These pint-sized water gardens are extremely low maintenance. Top them off with water before you go on vacation, and they’re still beautiful when you come home. Container water gardens are inexpensive and easy to build, too. So here’s how to get into the swim of things with a container water garden.

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privacy screen on deck

Privacy Fence

Convert a deck railing into a handsome privacy screen and block nosy neighbors, unsightly views, wind and noise. It’s easy to build and will fit most decks. And it’ll make your deck a more comfortable, welcoming place. We’ll show you how to do it step-by-step.

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sturdy deck planter flower box

Sturdy Deck Planter

This sturdy deck planter has a clever design so it can rest securely on a 2×4 or 2×6 deck railing or sit on a patio, porch or deck floor without tipping. Plus, it can be made just about any length you want. If that’s not enough to get you building, it’s easy to make, even for first-time woodworkers. Learn how to build this outdoor project here.

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Family Handyman

Move-Anywhere Umbrella

This moveable umbrella is one of our favorite reader-submitted DIY deck ideas. “I needed a stand for the large shade umbrella I bought for our patio,” says reader Brenda Barnes, “but all the ones I could find were designed for use under a patio table. Then I had a brilliant idea. I bought a large resin flowerpot and filled it about a third full with concrete. While the concrete was wet, I inserted a short length of PVC pipe that was just slightly larger in diameter than the umbrella pole. I covered the bottom of the pipe with duct tape so it wouldn’t fill with concrete. Then I drilled a few drainage holes above the concrete, filled the pot with potting soil and planted some shade-loving plants. Now I have a windproof umbrella stand and a beautiful pot of flowers in one!”

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paver-path-that-growsFamily Handyman

A Paver Path That Grows

Weave this Trustone paver path just about anywhere in your yard. There’s no thick base to install or difficult cutting and fitting; you just lay the stone over a simple dirt bed and lay sod squares. This easy-to-build paver path will last a lifetime and looks great too!

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color treated wood chairFamily Handyman

Add Color to Treated Wood

If you want to apply a colored finish to new furniture, choose one that you can renew fairly easily, because no finish is likely to last more than three to five years. We recommend either a semi-transparent or a solid exterior stain. The solids will protect the wood longer than the semi-transparent stains. Here’s how to decide if you’d prefer a solid color or semitransparent color.

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Sunjoy Propane Heater

Great for those who may want to move the heater from one spot to another, this propane heater from Sunjoy has wheels for easy transport and mobility. It heats an area with a radius of 9.5 feet and has a safety shutoff valve in case the heater tips over. “The heater feels very sturdy and well-made. We can’t wait to enjoy those cool California nights out on the patio this winter,” said one buyer. These are the 10 best patio ideas for small spaces.

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bluebird house birdhouse

Build a Bluebird House

Bluebird populations declined during the first half of the last century as habitat loss and the introduction of “pest” bird species claimed many of the bluebird’s natural nesting sites. Now, however, bluebirds are making a dramatic comeback, thanks to thousands of dedicated folks who have put up bluebird nesting boxes. Here’s how to build one for your yard.

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Jumbo Jenga

What’s better than gathering around an intimate table after dinner and playing a game of Jenga? DIY jumbo Jenga in the backyard, of course! You may have noticed some restaurants and parks have added an interactive space to their patios and open areas with this game, among others. Now it’s your turn to build the game yourself. Here’s a great tutorial to try out for adding life-size Jenga to your backyard fun.

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shaded pergola

Shade Shelter

You don’t have to let the blazing sun or drippy weather drive you indoors. One of our favorite DIY deck ideas, this simple covered pergola, will keep you comfortable long after your neighbors with unsheltered decks have given up and gone inside. Get full plans for building this shaded pergola here.

Do you have the DIY bug but only a Saturday morning free to get projects done? Here are 101 amazing Saturday morning home improvement projects that you can do in just a few hours or less!