Our backyard is essentially divided into two spaces, the normal backyard with the lawn and the plants and the patio table, and then a long driveway that leads from the street to the garage. There’s a gate across the middle of it. We don’t park our car in the garage because it’s full of our crap, and honestly nothing of any great value should be stored in there anyway because it’s probably on the verge of collapse.
Anyway, the point is we have this long cement driveway which is blocked off from the rest of the backyard and it’s really nice because it’s sort of a “work” area – we have our trash cans there, we do painting projects and that sort of stuff over there. It’s also a great place to keep all the kids toys, but it becomes a wretched eye sore really easily – add a few cardboard boxes we’re waiting to recycle and some old boards no one knows what to do with and the bottom part of our box spring that we couldn’t fit in the back of a Jetta and it pretty much looked like a homeless encampment for all of last year. This year I was hoping that it would look less like a homeless encampment and more like a fun place for kids to throw sand at each other.
So I’ve been working on the stupid side yard for months now and although it’s slow going, I think it’s really coming along. We got rid of the box spring! That was a happy day. I lined the dirt edges of the driveway with large rocks to keep the dog from flinging dirt all over the backyard. I want to add a potting table and a composter and a storage bench for dog food and kids toys, but I think we’re not going to get there until July. Or September at this rate.
Anyway. The other thing we needed over here in the driveway was some kind of shade, because you know, it’s hot in the central valley and all that. I have a patio umbrella, but all the bases I tried for it were either so heavy they couldn’t be moved, or not heavy enough and the umbrella would fall over. BOO.
I based this idea on an idea I stole from Sunset Magazine:
only I wanted mine to be easily moveable.
Here’s how to do this.
Buy a large pot. I got mine at IKEA because normally a large pot like this is REALLY expensive but at IKEA they are in the $7-$9 range. You also need a piece of PVC pipe that fits your patio umbrella, a bag of cement, some potting soil or dirt, some river rocks or some plants (more on this later), and a rolling plant stand.
The first plant stand I bought on Amazon was rated to 150 pounds and promptly broke when I put my pot full of cement on it. The second one I bought was rated to 500 pounds and is working quite well.
So. Stick the pvc pipe in the plant pot. (If you insert it AFTER the concrete, it will fill with cement and it won’t leave a hollow for your umbrella.) You can trim it to the height of your pot with a hacksaw, but I left mine long because my umbrella needs all the help it can get and I didn’t mind the look. If I buy a fancy striped umbrella that’s not about to snap in two at a stiff breeze, I may trim the pipe down at that time. (I got my umbrella at Raley’s. It cost $19.99, and it’s on its second summer, so it’s a little…dicey, maybe.)
Dump in your cement, add some water, and mix mix mix. Be careful because the cement can get hot during this step, and it’s messy, and heavy. It helps to have one person hold the pvc pipe while the other person deals with the cement. FYI we used almost an entire bag of cement, and it filled the pot about halfway. (You don’t want to fill the entire pot with cement because otherwise you can’t plant anything in it and it will weight 10,000 pounds).
Let it set for 24 hours.
After the cement is dry, add dirt to the top of the pot. You can plant whatever you want in it at this point. I chose to use river rocks instead of plants because plants plus toddlers seemed like a bad idea. Once my children are less beastly I will probably add petunias or something.
Have someone who can lift 100 pounds hoist this onto your plant mover.
And voila! Shade where you want it, that won’t blow down.
More details on the chalkboard later! Happy Thursday, though.
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