Summer Spruce Up for the Front Yard

We’ve obviously been very focused on the interior of the house during our first year as home owners, but with our second summer in the house flying by, we’ve been excited about a few small updates to the exterior. Luke is starring in this post and sharing our DIY cedar window box how-to, plus he reviews the new yard power tools he is thrilled with from our sponsor TORO.

When TORO approached us about a collaboration, Luke was jumping out of chair with excitement over the idea of long-lasting battery powered lawn tools. He requested both a string trimmer and blower from the Toro PowerPlex™ 40V Max* Lithium Ion Products collection. Now let me just say, I’m down for yard work but he tends to be the power tool junkie around here, so here’s Luke’s review on the tools.

  • “The String Trimmer/Edger is an awesome addition to my tool collection. I’d owned a cheap electric trimmer that got the job done, but was a total pain to use. The Toro PowerPlex™ 40V Max* Lithium Ion
    battery power is the best feature. Before, I used to have to run an extension cord from our living room through the window to get clean edges on my lawn. Also, the auto-feed feature for the trimmer line is great. I never have to fuss around with anything. I can just grab the tool, plug in the battery, press a button and I’ve got clean edges to my lawn instantly. It’s amazing how much clean edges on your lawn makes your house look better.”
  • “The Brushless Blower is another great addition. In the summer, I’ve found it so much easier to clean up grass clippings from mowing/edging the lawn using the blower. I used to use a broom, which would take about 10-15 minutes, even for my small yard. I can clean off my sidewalks now in less than a minute. Also, in the spring we got a lot of seeds/buds falling from some nearby trees. Having the blower made that clean up easy. And, obviously, when the leaves come of the trees in the fall, I’ll leave the rake in the garage and do the job with the blower.”

With yard cleaned up, we moved onto creating a cedar window box. All the bungalow style homes in our neighborhood have stone brackets for a sweet little window box, so it was sort of a no-brainer that we needed one stat! Luke was able to build and spray paint the box in just a few hours, while I ran to the local garden center and bought all the plants we needed.

To Construct the Window Box: Tips from Luke

  • Wood choice: 1×8 cedar boards, I chose cedar because it is a rot-resistant wood good for outdoor projects. The same project could be done with pine, which would be cheaper, but might not last as long. I avoided using pressure-treated wood for fear of the chemicals leeching into soil and bushes below. 
  • I used 1×8 boards to minimize the number of cuts I needed to make. I made a few cross-cuts for the length (6 inches past the existing brackets on our house seemed like an appropriate length for our house). I used the cutoffs to make the ends of the box.
  • Constructing the box was pretty simple. I just used butt joints and screws. The choice of screw is important. You need to use weather resistant screws like stainless steel, or coated screws. Avoid regular construction or drywall screws. I chose stainless because I had some lying around form an earlier project.
  • Originally, we were undecided on painting the wood or leaving it bare. Once I built the whole box, we put it next to our house, and realized painting would be a better look. We opted for a simple white spray paint, rated for outdoors.
  • For our house, attaching to the front was pretty easy. Nearly every Chicago bungalow has built in concrete brackets for holding window boxes. With the weight of the soil in the box, there was no need to even attach the box to the brackets. They just sit on top. On a different style house wood or metal brackets could be used. Just make sure to caulk/seal any holes that might get water in them.
  • Make sure you drill holes in the bottom of the box for drainage. This is important. Also, avoid just filling the box with soil. I put a thin layer or pebbles (easily purchased at any garden center) at the bottom. This allows for better drainage, and prevents the soil from falling through the drainage holes. This will helps plants grow and make sure moisture doesn’t accumulate in the bottom of the box.
  • Picking the flowers was pretty easy. We asked for help at a local garden center. Our house faces north, so we needed plants that would work well even without direct sun all day.

A quick update that makes the front of the house a little happier for summertime! I also planted a few planters to frame the front door. I got a lot of help on which plants to use in lower light from the garden center. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, the staff member helped me layout all the best flower choices and we created a repeat pattern. I took pictures so I didn’t forget the order when I got home. I’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to gardening, but so far so good!

XO – CLAIRE + LUKE

* This post was sponsored by Toro, but all opinions are our own. Thanks to the brands that help this blog run!