1 of 21Typically used indoors for coats, a Shaker peg rail can also serve a summertime purpose: as an outdoor home for wet and sandy items. Paint the rail to match your house's exterior, and then mount it to wall studs with 2 1/2-inch screws.Photography: Kate Mathis
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What could make spending time outdoors better? Try these why-didn't-I-think-of-that ideas and you will never want to come inside.
Safeguard against hazardous slips and falls on the porch steps with several stripes of homemade sand paint. It's simple to prepare and just as easy to apply.
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Scent Your Charcoal
Instead of making a marinade with rosemary for grilling, place the herb right on the coals. The smoke enhances food in the same way burning wood chips does. Once the coals are uniformly gray and ashy, loosely cover them with fresh rosemary branches (be careful not to burn your hands). Almost any meat or vegetable will benefit from this savory smoking.
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Set Up a Rinsing Station
To avoid tracking in sand or soil after a day at the beach or working in the garden, set up a rinsing station just outside your door or at another convenient location. A teak bath mat provides slip-free footing and good drainage. The steady stream from an ordinary watering can cleans every unwanted speck from your feet and flip-flops or waterproof garden shoes.
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Avoid Bee Stings
Bees and wasps do not tend to sting unless disturbed. Bright hues and strong odors attract them, so opt for light-colored clothes and avoid perfume, blooming plants, bananas, and scented toiletries.
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Create a Natural Border
Flexible and strong, willow edging is a traditional English garden border whose form is naturally in line with its function. The willow branches have even been known to take root and sprout, creating a living, organic boundary. Buy willow sticks at a local landscape supplier (they're usually sold in bundles about 7 feet high and 100 sticks to a bundle), or cut your own. Start from one end of the area to be edged; insert branches of equal length into the ground 4 inches apart, leaning sideways at 45-degree angles. Bury enough of the branch in the ground so that they'll be secured, 1 to 2 feet. Repeat from the other end, with the willows angled the opposite way. Weave the branches together so that they hold one another in place. Tie the branches with waxed or linen twine where they intersect at the top.
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To sway, spin, and fly through the air -- that's what swings are good for. The tire swing is a classic, and hanging it from a tree brings the fun to your own backyard.
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Colorful pinwheels, made out of coordinating sheets of origami or lightweight paper, stand tall against a blue summer sky, poised to whirl at the slightest suggestion of wind.
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Don't let yesterday's rainstorm dampen your plans for a picnic. You can waterproof a cotton or wool blanket by adding a protective backing of water-resistant fabric such as ripstop nylon or oilcloth, and safely lounge on damp grass.
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Soothe Mosquito Bites
Soothe an insect bite or numb a mild burn without freezing your fingertips by using ice frozen in a film canister. Wash canister with soap and water beforehand, fill with water (allowing room for its expansion), cover, and freeze. To use, run cool water over the canister, then uncap, and gently squeeze to loosen the ice.
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Create a Garden Shelf
To create an attractive multipurpose garden shelf, lay a sturdy weathered board across the tops of two large pots. Use the surface as a staging area for plants on their way to the garden, to showcase smaller specimens that might get overlooked on the ground, or to provide a spot where houseplants can get fresh air and sunlight in the summer.
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Tame Your Plants
Here's an attractive way to prevent invasive plants such as dwarf bamboo from overrunning your garden: Plant them in terra-cotta chimney flue tiles. Use a tile with a diameter that is at least 4 inches wider than the plant's root ball. Sink the tile into the soil so that the lip sticks up 1 inch; plant inside the tile.
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Set Out Cooling Sprays
A refreshing spritz of fragrant water is a great way to keep cool in summer. To create sprays, simply fill mist bottles with water and a few strips of julienned cucumber or sprigs of lavender and mint. Label bottles (labels from chroniclebooks.com), and set them on a tray at your next backyard barbecue. Bonus: Cucumber is known for its hydrating properties, and lavender and mint are reputed insect repellents.
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Don't miss out on fresh herbs (or pay a lot for them at the market) just because you don't have a big yard. Situate this compact herb garden in a sunny spot near the kitchen door for easy snipping.
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Cushion Your Bucket Handle
The next time you retire a leaky hose from the garden, don't toss it into the trash. Instead, cut it into shorter lengths and slide the pieces over the handles of your buckets. When you carry heavy loads, the rubber will cushion your hands and ensure a nonslip grip.
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Make a Moveable Trellis
It's hard to clean or paint behind latticework, so make a hinged trellis that swings open. Fasten a strip of 3/4-by-1-inch wood to the wall about 1 1/2 feet from the ground; screw hinge plates to the underside of the strip and the bottom of the trellis. Attach another wooden strip to the wall at the level of the trellis's top crossbar. Screw metal eyes into the strip's ends and metal hooks into the ends of the crosspiece so the trellis can be unhooked and pulled away.
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Kill Weeds Naturally
Pour boiling water on weeds growing between pavers of a pathway. Keep the kettle close to the ground to avoid splashing yourself -- or any nearby plants you want to keep.
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Drill for Better Drainage
Washing your outdoor trash can should be a breeze if you first drill several 1/2-inch holes in the bottom. The drainage holes will allow you to hose down the insides of the barrel without having to dump out the dirty water; this will also prevent rainwater from collecting.
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Keep Predators at Bay
An office in-box can work hard outside, too. Turn one upside down and place it over young plants to protect them from curious cats and other creatures. The metal grid keeps pets from uprooting and trampling delicate plants, such as herbs, and will allow your plants to grow freely.
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Trim Enviable Topiaries
A morning of pruning by eye can turn into an afternoon of trying to balance lopsided shrubs. With a tripod template as a guide, it is easier to trim plants into even, well-proportioned cones. Tie three bamboo poles of appropriate height together at the top. The feet of the poles can be spread or pulled closer to form a broader or taller cone.
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Make Use of Overgrown Basil
Garden-grown basil can pile up fast. Here's a good use for it: basil-flavored oil, delicious on salads or drizzled over baguette slices topped with ricotta cheese. To make it, blanch 1 cup of basil leaves and blend them in a food processor with a 1/2 cup olive oil and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to a week.
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