How to Build Your Own Fire Pit

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DIY: Building a Fire Pit

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

Now that you know what to consider when building a fire pit, lets talk about an easy DIY project to build one! There’s a great satisfaction that comes from using something that you built yourself, especially something as wonderful as a fire pit that. Even though it may seem small, it can make a big impact on your outdoor entertainment experience.  You can refer back to our previous fire pit post for a list of things to consider before beginning this project.

 

Here is what you will need:

Cast concrete wall stones

Gravel base

Construction Adhesive

Edger

Fire bricks

Level

Tamper

Steel rake

 

Let’s get started!

1. Pick a safe location to build your fire pit, make sure the area is clear of debris or low hanging branches. It should be at least 10 feet from the house.

2. Lay out your pavers in a circle in the shape and size of the fire pit you desire. They should typically be 36 to 44 inches in diameter. Once the blocks are laid out, use your edger to mark out the outside of your fire pit design.

3. Once the blocks are clear, you can use your edger to dig out the area about 2 inches down and use your tamper to level it. Using your level will help to ensure the strength of the base.

4. Using the gravel base, spread 2 inches on the tamped soil area (a rake will help make the spreading easier). Once the gravel base is laid out – tamp it down to make it level.

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5. To ensure that the base is strong enough for your fire pit, you can wet the gravel base, tamp it, and add another ½ inch or so (and tamp it again). Always use your level to ensure that everything is even. If the base is not level you can adjust accordingly.

6. Now you can lay out your first layer of blocks on top of the gravel base – make sure the blocks are flush up against one another. You can check the blocks to make sure they are level as well and adjust accordingly.

7. When adding the second row, be sure to stagger the joints of the blocks – once the second row is laid out, remove two blocks at a time and apply construction adhesive to hold your fire pit together.

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8. The remaining rows are placed and cemented as the second row – staggered joints and construction adhesive to hold them in place.

9. When your rows are completed you can line the inner walls of the blocks with your fire bricks and use lava rocks to hold them in place

10. Once the fire pit is dried and completed you are ready to enjoy a wonderful night out by the fire with friends and family. Get those marshmallows ready!

DIY Scented Fire Starters:

For those of you who grow herbs in your home or garden, you can dry them and use them to create your own scented fire starter! The recommended herbs are: rosemary, sage, lavender and mint. All you need to do is dry some cuttings of your favorite herbs and once they are dry wrap them in newspaper and tie it up with some natural twine. Simply place your fire starter in the fire pit and get ready to enjoy the sweet aroma of your favorite herbs as you relax by the fire!

 

http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/how-to-make-a-backyard-fire-pit

DIY Family Garden Project

Kokedama Hanging Garden For Kids (And Adults!)

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

With the technology kids have access to nowadays, it’s hard to get them away from anything with a screen. So why not let them have a fun learning experience while fostering their creative side and gain quality family time all at once? Try this fun DIY garden project on for size! This project isn’t just fun for the children, but adults can enjoy it as well! Kokedama hanging gardens are fun to make and very easy to care for, so it is perfect for your children (and yourself!). Kokedama means: “moss ball” in Japanese. It is essentially a way to garden by covering the roots with moss and soil and more moss, and then a string is added to hang it up.

For this project you will need:

•   Small, shade-tolerant plant (baby ferns work the best)

•   Scissors

•   Peat soil

•   Bonsai soil

•   Mixing pot

•   Water

•   Garden gloves

•   ½ cup measure

•   Yarn or twine

•   Moss, collected from outside or purchased at a garden center

Here we go!

Step 1: Remove the dirt from the plant by tapping it gently. You want to have the plant so that it is mostly the plant head and its roots (as little soil as possible).

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Step 2: Mix the two soil types together – 3 ½ cups of peat soil and 1 ½ cup of bonsai soil. Add ½ cup of water to dampen the soil mixture

Step 3: Put on your garden gloves (or don’t if you don’t mind getting a bit dirty!) and shape the soil mixture into a ball – similar to rolling dough. More water can be added (a small amount at a time) if needed to get the soil mixture to stay in a ball shape. Make sure the ball is big enough for the plant roots to fit inside.

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Step 4: Take some of your moss and wrap a small amount around the bare roots of your plant (this will help your plant retain moisture)

Step 5: Poke a hole in the soil ball big enough to fit the plant roots in, while maintaining the ball shape of the soil

Step 6: Insert the plant roots into the hole and mold the soil ball around them (again still maintaining the ball shape)

Step 7: Wrap the outside of the soil ball with the remaining moss

Step 8: Take your twine or yarn and wrap it around the ball several times to help keep the moss in place – make sure you leave some yarn or twine above the ball in order to hang it up

Step 9: Take your beautiful new kokedama hanging garden and hang it in a shady place for everyone to enjoy – to keep it healthy simply mist it!

 

 

http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/28869/kokedama-hanging-garden-for-kids

Attention S’mores Lovers: What you Need To Know About Fire Pits

What to Consider When Planning A Fire Pit

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

The definition of an outdoor space is changing drastically as the years pass; it has gotten to a point where simply having a deck and a grill just won’t cut it. Backyards everywhere are becoming much more detailed and full of “accessories”. From outdoor kitchens to outdoor living rooms complete with fireplaces and detailed stonework designed to look like elegant area rugs. As backyards everywhere are being transformed, the number one fixture being implemented into almost every outdoor design is the fire pit. If you are thinking about adding a fire pit to your outdoor space, here are several things to keep in mind:

1. What is your budget? When planning the design of your fire pit, you want to keep your budget in mind. Fire pits can be all different shapes and sizes and can be made of a variety of materials; the cost of a fire pit can range anywhere from $200.00 and up. If you are building a small fire pit, you can buy the stones and dig the hole yourself or buy a simple fire pit unit from a retailer to keep the cost low. The cost can obviously get increasingly high depending on the sophistication of your fire pit.

2. Will it be permanent or portable? Are you looking for a fire pit that will become the focal point in your yard or do you want to be able to bring the fire pit along with you to a gathering? For a built-in design, the materials should match either your home or other materials in your garden so that everything can flow together smoothly. Portable fire pits come in a wide variety of materials and shapes. There are fire bowls, fire tables and also chimney-style options as well. Whatever style you chose, make sure to use to proper stones and materials for your fire pit to work safely. 

3. Will it use wood or gas? Wood and gas are the most common choices for fueling a fire pit. If you are looking for that all too familiar true fire pit smell, then wood is the way to go – just make sure your fire pit has a screen. If you don’t care if you have that smell or not, or you want a quick starter, you can go with gas or propane. Some of these fire pits have remote start capabilities. The fire from a gas-fueled pit won’t be as hot as a wood fire; you also won’t hear the crackling or get that smoke that comes from a wood fire.

4. Where will it be placed? When placing a portable fire pit, it is best to use it on a natural surface – concrete, stone, grave, or brick (for example) will work fine. Embers could fly from your fire pit and could start a fire if not placed on the proper surface. Permanent fire pits are typically built on a gravel base. The fire pit should be built so that it is proportional to the size of your yard and will allow for seating and proper air circulation. In terms of its location in the yard, most areas have a requirement that the fire pit must be at least 10 feet from the home and neighbors’ yards. Permits are sometimes needed for larger fire pits and some require a site inspection to make sure that the location is safe for a fire pit. Before building your fire pit make sure to check your local ordinances to see what is required.

Whether you decide to build your fire pit with a premade kit from a local retailer or you opt to have a landscape professional design and install it, it’s always important to plan thoroughly before beginning the installation process. When it comes to your fire pit, you want to think “safety” above all else.

Safety Tips:

1. Check wind direction before lighting a fire

2. Don’t use flammable fluids to light/relight fires

3. Don’t ware flammable clothing (nylon) or anything loose-fitting

4. Avoid using soft woods (pine/cedar) – they can “pop” and throw sparks

5. Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away from the fire

DIY: At Home Soil Tests

Testing Your Soil: Texture and pH Level

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

            The soil in your garden is extremely important to your plants: it provides nourishment during the growing season, protects the roots in the winter and allows them to grow and reach their full potential. Testing your soil regularly can help ensure that the plants in your garden are happy and healthy year round. Knowing what type of soil is in your landscape and knowing the pH level of that soil is more important than most people would think. The pH level of your soil effects what nutrients are present and how available they are for your landscape plants. Although soil tests are usually inexpensive, it does require money nonetheless – not to mention time to receive your results. In this article I’m going to explain a step-by-step method to test your soils pH level and texture without a kit. With this DIY soil test you’ll be able to learn what amendments you need to make to provide your plants with a healthy soil environment and allow for maximum plant growth.

            The pH level of your soil is key; when the pH level rises, nutrients like phosphorus and iron (for example) become less available. When the pH level drops, you run the risk of your soil becoming toxic and causing harm to your plant material.  Each plant has a preference in terms of the pH level of the soil; most plants do well in a slightly acidic environment with a pH of 6.0 – 6.5. Some plants however, like hollies and azaleas, thrive in a more acidic environment. Knowing the acidity level of your soil will help you to identify and fix any deficiencies that may be present.  This DIY pH test is very simple: all you need is vinegar, baking soda, distilled water and of course, soil!

Step 1: Collect 1 cup of soil – for the most accurate results collect samples from different spots in your garden. Try to dig at least 6 inches down to collect your samples.

Step 2: Mix your soil samples together thoroughly; get two empty containers and put 2 teaspoons of your soil sample into each container

Step 3: Add a ½ cup of vinegar to one of the cups of soil

**If the mixture starts to fizz then you have alkaline soil – a pH between 7 and 8**

Step 4: Add distilled water to the other container of soil – enough to make the soil muddy

Step 5: Add a ½ cup of baking soda to the muddy mixture

**If the mixture starts to fizz then you have acidic soil – a pH between 5 and 6**

**If your soil doesn’t fizz at all in either container then the soil is neutral with a pH of 7**

 

            Now that we know roughly the pH level of your soil, let’s take a look at the soil texture. Soil is made up of 3 main components: clay, sand and silt. Knowing the texture of your soil will show you how your soil absorbs water and what you will need to use to amend it (compost, mulch, or manure for example).  The ideal mix of these 3 components would be: 20% clay, 40% silt and 40% sand – this would be considered a loam soil which is the ideal soil texture. All you need for this soil texture test is a clean jar with a tight lid (a pint or quart mason jar works the best), water, dish soap and soil. 

Step 1: Collect soil samples from your garden (if you did the pH test you can use the leftover soil) – and using a mason jar, fill it halfway with soil.

Step 2: Fill the jar with water so that it is about ¾ full then add in a teaspoon of liquid dish soap.

Step 3: Tighten the lid and shake the jar for several minutes to mix up the particles.

Step 4: Put your jar aside and let it sit for several hours to give the particles time to settle

Step 5: Use the soil textural triangle to calculate your gardens' soil texture

 

            The particles will separate into layers: the heaviest particles will sink to the bottom – this will be the sand layer, next will be the silt layer, and on top will be the clay particles. Any organic matter in the soil will float to the top of the jar. The color of the soil itself will tell you about the organic matter content of your soil. Lighter soils have less organic matter and darker soils will warm up faster in the spring. 

            The longer you wait for soil test to settle, the more accurate your reading will be. When I did this test I left my soil sample to sit for just about 24 hours and then took the reading the following afternoon. You can use a ruler to measure your layers: take the measurement of each layer and divide it by the measurement of all 3 layers combined and multiply by 100 to get the percentage. You can use a permanent marker to mark off the layers to make the measuring a bit easier. Once you have your percentages, you can use the soil textural triangle (pictured below) to decipher what kind of soil you have; simply plot your percentages on the triangle to find your exact soil texture. Once you have found your soil texture, you will be able to plan a course of action to amend it (if needed).

 

            Based on your soil pH reading and the results from your texture test you will know what amendments need to be made to ensure that your soil is as healthy as it can be for your plants. You can test your soil yearly if significant amendments need to be made or you can test it as needed. If you do decide to test your soil regularly, it’s best to test it in the fall and any amendments you need to make should be done in the spring. These tests are very easy to do and will tell you a lot about your garden; the more you know about your soil, the easier it will be to provide your plants with the healthiest growing environment.