The Great Outdoors: Making the Most of Your Yard

By: Danny Lipford

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Whether it’s cooking on the grill, planting a garden, or simply relaxing in a hammock under a shade tree, homeowner’s love their yards. Here are some tips and cool products to help you get the most out of the great outdoors at your home.

Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen is perfect for entertaining in your backyard. If your grill will be used under a covered area, include a power vent hood or other method for venting the smoke.

The cabinets for an outdoor kitchen should be built to resist the elements. This could be custom cabinets, using treated lumber and plywood, or ones made from a weatherproof material such as the polymer based Perma-Panel cabinets from Atlantis Outdoor Kitchens.

Choosing a Grill

Appliances and grills for outdoor kitchens are usually made from stainless steel to make them weatherproof as well. While most grills today are gas fired, cooking with hardwoods—like hickory, pecan, or oak—can produce better results. Using starter sticks, rather than lighter fluid, to light a wood or charcoal fire can improve the taste of the food.

The insulating qualities of ceramic charcoal cookers, like the Big Green Egg, allow them to be used as a conventional grill or as a smoker oven for slow cooking.

Grill Maintenance

Use a wire brush to clean the cooking grate after each use. Once a year, disassemble the grill and clean it thoroughly.

  1. Remove cooking grates, soak in liquid grill cleaner, scrub with a wire brush, and rinse.
  2. Take out the ceramic plates or briquettes and clean them with a wire brush.
  3. Remove the burners and use a wire brush to take off residue and rust.
  4. Clean out the burner holes by inserting a toothpick into each hole.
  5. Use a wet/dry vac to vacuum out the inside of the grill.
  6. Reassemble all the grill components.
  7. Light the grill and leave it on for a few minutes to burn off any remaining residue.

Keeping Cool

Shade is essential for summer backyard activities. Popular options include:

  • Shade arbor: An outdoor arbor covered with vines makes a cool retreat on a hot summer day. Watch our video on How to Build a Backyard Arbor Swing to find out more.
  • Extended Roof: Extending the roof of your house to cover a patio works well, though it can be an expensive option.

  •       DIY Misting System.

  • Awning: A retractable awning, such as those from SunSetter, is a great way to create shade when and where you need it.
  • Misting System: Outdoor misters keep you cool by spraying a fine mist of water in the air. Since cooling occurs when the water evaporates, misting systems work best in climates with low humidity. Misting systems are available as inexpensive DIY Outdoor Cooling Kits as well as portable misting umbrellas that hook to a garden hose.
  • Water Feature: The soothing sound of falling water from a fountain or waterfall can make your yard feel like an oasis during a summer heat wave. Premade water features are available, or you can build your own custom water feature for your backyard.

Outdoor Sound System

Speaker disguised as a rock.

A custom outdoor sound system with hidden speakers, like those from BSUN Media, can add a touch of class to your outdoor environment. Use weatherproof speakers dispersed around the yard, alternating between the left and right channel. Speakers can be disguised as rocks or other natural features to blend in with the outdoor environment.


ThermaCELL Patio Lantern.

Mosquitoes are not only annoying, they can carry serious diseases such as the West Nile virus. While spray on repellents work, they can be messy to use, have an odor, and bring strong chemicals in direct contact with your skin.

To keep mosquitoes from ruining your time outdoors, consider an area mosquito repellent like those from ThermaCELL. They are available as a patio lantern or appliance. Simply insert the butane cartridge and repellent pad, then turn it on. They provide a 15’x 15’ odorless, mosquito free zone that can keep your outdoor activities bug free for hours.

Green Lawn Care

To make taking care of your lawn easier and more eco-friendly consider:

LawnBott Robotic Lawn Mower

  • Robotic Lawn Mower: Battery powered, rechargeable unmanned mowers, such as the LawnBott can cut 3,000 sq. ft. or more on a single charge. When the battery needs recharging, the mower automatically returns to the charging station, recharges itself, and resumes cutting.
  • Eco-Friendly String Trimmer: The Lehr Eco Trimmer has an efficient four-stroke engine that runs on propane. It produces zero emissions and is much quieter than gas powered trimmers. Since there’s no gas tank to fill, it helps reduce the 100,000 gallons of gasoline that are spilled every year filling gas powered engines.

Other Tips from This Episode

Door Painting Tip

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Door Painting Tip

The best way to paint a door is by laying it flat on sawhorses. To paint both sides at once, screw two 3” drywall screws in the bottom edge of the door, leaving 1½” protruding, and one screw in the center of the top edge of the door. After painting one side of the door, pick up the door using the two screws on the bottom, and turn it over by pivoting it on the top screw.

Freshaire Choice Paint

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Freshaire Choice Paint

Freshaire Choice Paint is the first tinted paint that’s completely free of volatile organic compounds to help reduce indoor air pollution in your home. Freshaire goes on smooth, covers flawlessly, and dries in minutes. It comes in 66 different colors, carries a lifetime warranty, and is certified by the GreenGuard Environmental Institute. Freshaire paint is available at The Home Depot.

Recycling Newspapers

Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Recycling Newspapers

Bundle newspapers for recycling by putting two pieces of string at right angles in the bottom of a child’s wagon. Place the pile of newspapers in the wagon, tie the ends together, then use the wagon to carry the bundle to the curb. For more on recycling, see our article Get Onboard the Recycle Cycle.



Please Leave a Comment

2 Comments on “The Great Outdoors: Making the Most of Your Yard”

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  • Lilia Says:
    March 2nd, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been looking at getting one of the misting systems you mentioned. You say they really make a difference in places with low humidity, I’m excited to try mine out!

  • Deryk Says:
    August 22nd, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Its green except for where all those empty propane cylinders end up. IN THE LANDFILL

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