DIY Project: Fixing Broken Bricks in Path

by Mark Malarkey

Tools Needed: Chisel, quick dry cement, trowel, bricks.

  1. F&*%ing chisel missing, but find three 4-inch paint brushes under pile of rags.
  2. Go to Hardware Harry’s. Buy chisel, bricks, cement, and 6 friggles (might come in handy).
  3. Chisel out bricks. 3 bricks on either side break. Hurry to store and buy 8 bricks.
  4. Mix cement and spread with trowel. Last 2 damn bricks won’t fit. Fill space with extra cement. Will probably settle.
  5. When wife visits sister, call builder to come fix path.

DIY Project: “Touching Up” a Small 6 x 8in. Flaking Paint Area on Garage Door

by Mark Malarkey 

  1. Sandpaper area. Sandpaper missing. One hour later, find scraps of used sandpaper under box of broken tools next to 10-year-old leaking cement bag now stuck to shelf.
  2. 4-inch paint brush missing–F*$K!
  3. Discover used can of matching paint. Lid not on. Paint resembles industrial strength glue.
  4. Go to Hardware Harry’s Discount (located next to RESTIN’ Peace Funeral Accessories: “Tasteful Accents for the Discerning Mourner”). Buy 4-inch brush, sandpaper, and small can of paint (more or less the same color as garage door).
  5. Sandpaper area. Area has mysteriously increased in size to approximately 6 x 4 FEET. Paint area looks darker than rest of door. Crap! Not to worry, will probably fade to match…
  6. When wife goes out shopping, call painter to paint both garage doors.

NEXT PROJECT: FIXING SHELF ON WHICH CEMENT BAG IS PERMANENTLY BONDED 

Garden Containers

Of all the garden ornaments, containers can be the most satisfying way to express one’s artistic leanings. They can transform a drab section of the garden or brighten an apartment balcony. Vast acres and a deep purse are not needed for this hobby. Large containers are indispensable for use as focal points, while the smaller ones are useful for moving around or filling in seasonal gaps in beds.

Various containers grouped imaginatively can have an immediate impact on a bare concrete path or patio. While large urns or wooden tubs should be positioned with care (and once placed are difficult to move), smaller pots can be constantly moved to suit a gardener’s whim. The advantage of large containers is that they allow the gardener to create bold, lavish designs and if planted with a long term shrub can provide year-long interest. Fox example, a large urn with a centerpiece of either clipped rosemary or a small Alberta spruce with cascading verbena can be striking. Large containers lined up and planted uniformly make a useful boundary marker; this method could be used to break up bare expanses of wall.

Garage sales can turn up a surprising number of quirky and unusual containers. Old tin buckets, milk pails, and watering cans with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage would make an interesting centerpiece for a cluster of small pots. Daisy-like flowers such as gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia hirta) or Coreopsis “Sunray” create a more informal look.

Balconies:

On an apartment balcony, a sense of summer can be evoked by using pots of various sizes and planting them with perennials and annuals. Perennials such as lavender, marguerite, and pincushion flowers are but a few of the myriad choices. A north-facing balcony could have pots filled with impatiens or begonias. Ferns incorporated into this shady scheme would add textural contrast.

Vegetables in Containers:

Certain vegetables will grow happily in pots–another boon for the sunny balcony. Voracious slugs and their equally repulsive brethren are less prevalent in container-grown vegetables. Lettuce (buttercrunch), spring onions, and radishes will make a nice little salad. While you might not be able to feed ravenous guests with the modest output of your little garden, it will give you a sense of satisfaction when you snip a lettuce, parsley, and spring onions. Tomatoes too can be grown successfully in a container; the taller plants might need staking.

Tips:

  • Containers must have adequate drainage. Place a few small stones over the drainage hole to prevent soil seepage.
  • Mix half cow and compost and potting soil to fill container to within a  few inches of the top.
  • The plants should be well-watered before planting. Plant in the cool of the evening. After planting, sprinkle with Osmacote or any slow release fertilizer. Water gently but thoroughly every morning and evening during hot spells.
Classical Urn

A classical urn.

Another Classical Urn

Another Classical Urn.

Petunias.

Petunias.

Annuals in a variety of pots.

Annuals in a variety of pots.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.

A charming cluster of stone pots and baskets.

DIY Project – “Fixing” Outdoor Chair that “Rocks”

by Mark Malarkey

Tools needed: saw, sandpaper, heavy file.

  1. Saw four inches off three of the legs to even out. File legs, sandpaper them. Front leg uneven.
  2. Saw five inches off front leg, file, sandpaper. Two back legs uneven.
  3. Saw three inches off front legs. Still uneven.
  4. Saw two inches off all damn legs. Chair seems to be one foot lower than other chair.
  5. I know! Attach thick cardboard to legs to stabilize. Wind duct tape around cardboard, use glue to make sure cardboard is firmly attached. Chair still “rocks.” *%$&.
  6. Buy new chair. DIY Outdoor Chair

Perennials: A Picturesque Portrait

Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,

Who would not admire a perennial bed?

Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.

Planning a Large New Border:

Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.

Digging:

Roses are reddish,

Violets are bluish,

But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!

Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.

  1. Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
  2. The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
  3. Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)

Planting:

Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.

Sun-Loving Perennials

  • Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
  • Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
  • Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
  • Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
  • Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
  • Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Achillea (Yarrow) "Paprika"

Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”

Aster Novae-Angliae

Aster Novae-Angliae

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

DIY Project – How to Fix a Lattice Fence

by Mark Malarkey

I woke up last Saturday to find that during the night, a gust of wind had blown down part of the lattice. The wife said she’d call the fence people on Monday, though secretly I’d intended to fix the fence myself. The wife and the kiddies were going to visit her mother (great news), which meant she’d be gone for at least 7 hours. This would give me plenty of time to fix the fence without all that nagging and advice.

With the little lady out of the way, I inspected the damage–which seemed worse than I’d initially thought. Two of the posts were leaning and the wood of the lattice was badly splintered. Not to worry, I’d soon have this sucker ship-shape. I made a list of what I’d need:

Quick dry cement, spade, saw, industrial strength glue, hammer, and nails.

I assembled the tools–hammer, spade, saw…where’s the ^*%$ing saw? I searched through the garage (what are we doing with all this STUFF?) but found only a missing chisel under a pile of National Geographic magazine (1978). I eventually found the saw under a pine tree where someone had left it; it was rusty and unusable.

I immediately jumped into my car and in my hurry, backed into the *^#%ing mailbox. I left the debris on the sidewalk, sped to Sam’s Surplus Tools/Body Piercing Parlor, and bought quick-dry cement and a new saw.

Back at the house, I dug around the fence posts, mixed the cement in an old salad bowl I found in the kitchen, then poured the cement into the holes. The posts still seemed to lean slightly, but not to worry, they’d probably settle. I used the saw to saw one of the badly splintered lattice; the rest were easy to stick together with glue and duct tape. I fixed  the missing part of the two lattices with pieces of wood I found in the garage.

One panel looked a bit crooked, but was easily fixed with more duct tape. That’s when a large splinter pierced the palm of my hand…

When I got back from the emergency room, the little woman had returned–and surprise, surprise, her mother (that sour-faced bag) was with her. They were inspecting the fence, I could see that they were impressed with the work I’d done. The wife was holding the salad bowl; I suddenly remembered it had been a wedding gift from her Autie Irma.

It was obvious I’d saved a bundle by fixing the fence myself. So I can only say to all of you do-it-yourselfers: go for it, you’ll save a lot of money!

Repaired Lattice Fence

Repaired Lattice Fence

DIY Project #1: How to Build a Pond by Ernie Eager

There are some unfortunate women who are married to men who like to fix and build things themselves. Though unskilled in painting, carpentry, and plumbing, they forge ahead with their projects in the misguided belief that they are saving money.

I decided to build a pond in the backyard; the wife was unenthusiastic. I canvassed everyone I knew who could advise me, including two neatly dressed gentlemen who came to the door clutching fistfuls of religious material–the mailman and both garbage collectors.

Hot diggity! My Uncle Jethro and Aunt Edie arrived in their motor home for their month-long stay with us. Uncle Jethro assured me he was an expert on pond building.

“Piece of cake,” he said, clicking his dentures. “We’ll have this sucker finished in no time.”

The wife said i should hire a contractor, then we’d have a guarantee.

“Guarantee!” Uncle Jethro said. “Don’t waste your money. They don’t mean nothing, boy. President Kennedy took out his gun and fired at the shooter. Guarantee? Crooks and thieves.” I gave up trying to make sense of the ideas rattling around under his John Deere cap; there was an ominous silence inside the house where the wife was sulking. Auntie Edie sat on the porch knitting a garment for her 82nd grandchild. When we started digging, she shouted encouragement every now and then.

The area seemed larger that I’d planned, but Uncle Jethro said, “No use fiddling around with a few cups of water, you want a pond you can see! You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.”

We started hitting large rocks; the shovel broke. Even the pick couldn’t move those rocks. Though Uncle Jethro was spry and enthusiastic, he had to retire to his motor home with a sprained muscle.

I asked my next door neighbor if he knew where I could rent a backhoe and a small tractor. He replied: yes, the neighbor’s cousin could help, but he could only do it on Saturday. Unfortunately, Saturday was the day the wife’s sister was getting married.

“No sweat,” said Uncle Jethro, “Me and Edie will be here to oversee.”

On Saturday just before we had to leave for the wedding, my neighbor’s cousin arrived with the machinery. With him was his 14-year-old son who was wearing pants so baggy the crotch reached almost to his knees; a purple Mohawk haircut and two eyebrow rings completed his outfit. The cousin explained that he had to go to another job, but that Shawn here was experienced. In fact, ever since he was knee-high to a grasshopper he’d been messing around with machinery.

I had to leave, the frantic honking from the driveway warned me I’d better get going. Though nervous about leaving this child with serious pieces of machinery, Uncle Jethro’s words were soothing. I also remembered Aunt Edie’s shouts of encouragement from the patio.

Five hours later, I returned to find Auntie asleep on the patio, and a hole only slightly smaller than the Grand Canyon where my backyard used to be. A mountain of soil covered three prize lilac bushes.

Uncle Jethro tottered from his motor home, where he;d been taking a four hour nap. Gaping at the disaster, he adjusted his dentures and said, “What the f&%k??” That’s when two things happened:

1. Through the open window, I heard her ladyship talking to a lawyer about a divorce.

2. Uncle Jethro decided to cut short his stay.

When the wife put the phone down, and I called two contractors to come and give me an estimate for building a pond.

The lilac bushes never recovered…