15-Minute Garden Projects
DIY garden markers
Make your own garden markers.
What you'll need: Outdoor-safe clay (such as Sculpey Premo, available at crafts stores and online)
Wooden craft sticks
How to do it: Knead clay to make it soft and pliable. Roll the clay on wax paper to 1/4-inch thickness. Form shapes with cooke cutters and bake in the oven per manufacturer's instructions. Decorate with paint pens. (We used metallic silver.) Hot-glue to wooden craft sticks, holding the shapes in place until the glue dries.
Recycle those doodads you've been saving for a good purpose by putting them on top of garden stakes. You'll have decorative stakes that can serve as garden art or be used to support veggies and vines.
What you'll need: Material for stakes, such as bamboo, wood dowels, plastic pipe or broom handles
Nails, screws or epoxy glue
Everyday objects to top your stakes, such as drawer knobs, fishing bobs, large wooden beads, plastic Christmas ornaments, doorknobs, or twists of copper wire strung with beads and stuck in a cork
How to do it: Use a nail, screw or glue to attach the topper to the stakes. Make several at a time, then enjoy them in your garden.
Birdbath in a flash
Create a splash with this easy birdbath, made from two terra-cotta pots and a saucer.
What you'll need: Two different sizes of terra-cotta pots (a 12-inch pot over a 16-inch pot works well)
Large terra-cotta saucer
How to do it: Overturn the pots and stack them, putting the smaller pot on top of the larger one. Set the saucer on top and fill it with water. You'll have an instant attraction for robins, chickadees and other warblers! For a way to decorate your birdbath, see Create Mosaic Magic
Attract living, breathing artwork to your garden by enticing butterflies to visit. Plant species that both caterpillars and butterflies like--not only will they show up, they'll make themselves at home and lay eggs.
What you'll need: Leafy plants that caterpillars feed on, such as milkweed, parsley or dill
Nectar plants that butterflies feed on, such as phlox, aster and bee balm
How to do it: Start with a couple of easy plants; stick to natives when possible. Keep pesticides out of your garden--what many gardeners consider weeds are actually fodder for caterpillars or butterflies. Check out Monarch Watch for more information on plants plus details on the monarch butterfly. Monarch Watch
Top-dress a pot
Add decorative materials to the top of containers. They'll not only look cool, the topping will also help retain soil moisture.
What you'll need: Container plant
Your choice of soil toppers from garden centers, florist shops, crafts stores, even from around your home: shells, marbles, smooth stones, glass drops, quartz pebbles, sheet moss, pea gravel
How to do it: Spread your creative "mulch" around the top of the soil in the pot. Use toppings that complement both the container and the plant. In our pot, seashells surround 'Elijah Blue' blue fescue (Festuca glauca).
Labels from leftovers
Mark your sprouts with these easy-to-make plant labels, using recycled stuff from around the house.
What you'll need: Canning lids or plastic plant pots
9-gauge aluminum wire
Polyurethane spray (optional)
How to do it: Just pound a nail through a canning lid to create a hole. Label the lid with the plant name, using a permanent marker. Thread aluminum wire through the hole and poke into soil. To use the tag again next year, spray it with polyurethane. For plastic tags, cut any shape from last year's plant pots and mark with a silver marker if the plastic surface is dark. Download our plant tag template
Go wild for wildflowers
To decorate your garden as Mother Nature would, scatter wildflowers native to your area. Easy to plant and grow, they'll lavish the ground with color in practically no time. For help selecting the right ones for your area, go to the University of Illinois website below.
What you'll need: Wildflower seeds or plants from nurseries
How to do it: First, visit the online Directory of Wildflowers, which lists and describes more than 160 plants native to the eastern two-thirds of the Midwest. The guide includes growing conditions and Zones, plant height, bloom time and flower color. See what you might like in your garden--and enjoy growing plants that typically thrive with very little care.
Fashion a "sculpted" plant. Use rosemary, as we did, or any other type of plant suited to shaping, including hollies, ivies and boxwood. Or try flowering plants such as Lantana, fuchsia and hydrangeas.
What you'll need: Rosemary plant in 6- or 8-inch pot
Twist ties, raffia or jute
How to do it: Trim off lower branches, and carefully prune upper branches until you've created a globe shape. Use twist ties to tie the plant fairly snugly to the stake, and let the plant grow in a sunny spot. Water well. Pinch off growing tips to maintain a full, dense top and encourage branching. Repot or trim the roots as it grows to prevent it from becoming rootbound.
Recycle a container
Scour your garage, basement or neighborhood yard sale for unusual items to hold potted plants.
What you'll need: Plants in various sizes of potsSalvaged containers such as buckets, wheelbarrows, wagons, bicycles with baskets, toy trucks, galvanized watering cans or weathered wooden crates
How to do it: Arrange potted plants inside the container and fill in between them with moss. Change them out seasonally for different looks. This flower cart holds elephant's ear, baby's tears, sweet potato vine and petunias. More ideas for inexpensive garden art
Use a vintage rake and some Indian corn to make a colorful decoration for the garden shed or outside the garage.
What you'll need: Vintage garden fork or rake
Assorted ears of Indian corn
How to do it: Pull back the husks from the Indian corn, then wire the ears to the rake or pitchfork. Hang securely on a door or wall. That's it!