How Backyard Gardening Improves Your Mental Health

How Backyard Gardening Improves Your Mental Health

Backyard gardening can improve your mental health with minimal effort on your part.

Join landscape designer and Done-In-A-Weekend Projects host Doug Scott to learn how. 

This post is sponsored by Exmark.


Hands planting a green plant in dirt
Gardening can take your mind off of daily stresses. (happy_finch, Getty Images)

Benefits of Backyard Gardening

The positive impacts of gardening are almost endless, especially when it comes to our mental and physical health. These benefits fall into two main categories: “active” and “passive.”

Active benefits are all about getting to work and doing something in your garden, helping you clear your mind while getting your hands dirty. Gardening, and similar physical activity outside, does your body wonders.

Studies show spending more time outdoors leads to fewer long-term health problems, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. These benefits include improved heart health, flexibility, strength, and dexterity — all leading to better mental health.

Contrarily, backyard gardening’s passive benefits are about simply being in nature or outdoor space. It provides a positive distraction from stresses in your life.

Many studies show just being in nature has a positive impact on our stress levels and brain chemistry, according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

Backyard gardening also helps you “feel alive,” letting you take your mind off work while giving you a new sense of purpose outside of the daily grind. 


Close up of a vegetables in backyard garden
Growing your own vegetables gives you the personal satisfaction of a job well done. (Ivonne Wierink, Adobe Stock Photos)

Backyard Gardening By Your Senses

The goal of backyard gardening is to create a yard and garden that reflect how you want to live outside. Doug recommends designing your mental health garden according to your five senses.

  • Sight: The simple sight of a breathtaking array of plants, an arrangement of your favorite flowers, or interesting objects in your garden is bound to boost your mood.
  • Taste: Growing your own fruits, veggies and herbs will provide you an incredibly rewarding harvest, in more ways than one. Not only are you able to enjoy the produce you have grown for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but you get the personal satisfaction of a job well done.
  • Hearing: Creating habitats for birds and other animals will add the sounds of nature to help you relax in your garden. Also, add wind chimes and water features that’ll produce soothing, stress-relieving sounds.
  • Touch:  From the light, feathery textures of flower petals, to the rough surfaces of tree bark or bush stems, touch goes a long way in giving you a deeper sense of connection to your garden. This all ties back to a combination of active and passive benefits of backyard gardening, helping you establish a deeper sense of purpose.
  • Smell: Certain smells can bring back forgotten, happy memories. Add fragrant flowers and herbs to your garden bed, so you can literally “stop to smell the roses.”

Stone path in a flower garden
Create pathways that lead to mini-spaces for a relaxing retreat. (Elena Photo via Canva)

Tips for Designing Your Mental Health Garden

When designing a garden, create “rooms” connected by meandering paths that let you get away from it all. These rooms provide mini spaces that you can retreat to, so you can rest, unwind, and feel restored.

However, your outdoor spaces don’t always need to be quiet and sedentary. If you enjoy being outside with others, creating gathering spaces in your yard is a great idea. And, if you have an outdoor hobby like exercising, painting, or writing, you can create spaces to do just that.

You shouldn’t get ahead of yourself and start creating a ginormous garden right off the bat. Start small, simple, and stress-free, and grow your garden out from there. Pick easy-to-grow plants that require little maintenance or start a simple vegetable garden in a raised bed.  

So, start backyard gardening today — your mental health will be better off because of it.


Looking for more tips to breathe new life into your outdoor spaces? Check out Exmark’s Done-In-A-Weekend project series, featuring simple, budget-friendly DIY projects.


Further Reading

How to Make a DIY Pizza Oven Stand

How to Make a DIY Pizza Oven Stand

Enjoy a perfect slice of backyard life by making a DIY pizza oven stand.

No day full of family, friends, and fun is complete without a great dinner to close out the night — and pizza makes for the perfect topping to any backyard party.

Follow along with Doug Scott, landscape designer and host of Exmark’s Done-In-A-Weekend project series, to learn how to build a DIY pizza oven station.


DIY pizza oven stand next to a Big Green Egg
This DIY outdoor pizza oven stand will complement any grilling area. (Exmark)

What You’ll Need

Tools

  • Miter saw
  • Screw/drill bits
  • 1 1/4 inch screws
  • 1 5/8 inch screws
  • 2-inch screws
  • Tape measure
  • Marking pencil
  • Eye and ear protection
Pressure-treated boards will stand up to the outdoor elements. (Exmark)

Materials

Legs

  • (4) 2 inch x 2 inch x 32 inch pressure-treated boards

Frames

  • (4) 1-inch x 4-inch x 26 1/4 in. pressure-treated boards
  • (4) 1 in. x 4 in. x 34 1/2 in. pressure-treated boards
  • (1) 1 in. x 4 in. x 24 1/2 in. pressure-treated board

Cleats

  • (2) 1 in. x 2 in. x 31 1/2 in. pressure-treated boards
  • (2) 2 in. x 2 in. x 21 3/4 in. pressure-treated boards

Top

  • (5) 2 in. x 6 in. x 48 in. pressure-treated boards

Shelf

  • (10) 1 in. x 4 in. x 24 1/2 in. pressure-treated boards

Riser

  • (7) 1 in. x 4 in. x 21 in. pressure-treated boards
  • (2) 1 in. x 4 in. x 24 1/2 in. pressure-treated boards

Backboard

  • (9) 1 in. x 4 in. x 24 in. pressure-treated boards
  • (2) 1 in. x 4 in. x 53 1/2 in. pressure-treated boards

How to Build a Pizza Oven Station

The two 1-inch x 4-inch boards give the legs extra support. (Exmark)

1. Take two of the 2-inch x 2-inch leg boards and one of the 1-inch x 4-inch x 34 1/2-inch frame boards. Place the 2-inch x 2-inch boards on both ends of the 1-inch x 4-inch board, making sure to align the edges and corners.

Then, take the other 1-inch x 4-inch board and repeat the step above for the other end of the 2-inch x 2-inch leg boards, but instead align it about five inches from the end of the leg board.

Drilling a screw into pressure-treated wood
This 1-inch x 2-inch cleat will hold up the bottom shelf boards. (Exmark)

2. Screw a 1-inch x 2-inch cleat horizontally along this second 1-inch x 4-inch board, making sure it’s aligned between the 2-inch x 2-inch leg boards.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the second pair of legs.

The 1-inch x 4-inch x 26 1/4-inch frame boards complete the frame for the top. (Exmark)

4. Stand up both sets of legs, making sure the ends with the 1-inch x 4-inch boards are flush with the ground, and that the sides with the cleats are pointed inwards. Take the 1-inch x 4-inch x 26 1/4-inch frame boards and use them to connect the two sets of legs, screwing them into the corners of all four frame boards.

5. Flip the build over.

These notches make the bottom shelf line up flush with the frame boards (Exmark)

6. Next, take two of the 1-inch x 4-inch shelf boards and cut out a 2-inch x 2-inch square on the corner of each end of both boards. These squares should be on the same side of the boards.

Screw the newly cut board onto the cleat. (Exmark)

7. Take your newly cut boards and nest them in between the top frame boards, making sure the square you just cut out is flush with the leg boards, and screwing them into the 1-inch x 2-inch cleats.

The bottom boards should be spaces enough for water to drain. (Exmark)

8. Then, take the remainder of the shelf boards and screw them in between the two you just placed.

This middle board gives the top more support. (Exmark)

9. Screw the 1-inch x 4-inch x 24 1/2-inch frame board, aligned horizontally, into the middle of the top 1-inch x 4-inch x 34 1/2-inch boards.

The top boards will be screwed into these front and back cleat boards. (Exmark)

10. Screw 1-inch x 2-inch cleat boards on the front and back of the very top of the build.

Just like on the bottom shelf, the top shelf boards should have some space between them. (Exmark)

11. Take all five of the top boards and screw them into place, using the cleats you just installed.

The backboard support boards should be spaced about 5 or 6 inches apart. (Exmark)

12. Take the 1-inch x 4-inch x 53 1/2-inch backboards and screw one to line up vertically with the back left corner of the build. Screw the next board in, spaced out about five or six inches to the right of the first.

The riser boards should extend 1 inch off of the inner backboard. (Exmark)

13. Take the other 1-inch x 4-inch x 21-inch riser boards and screw them horizontally in front of the vertical boards you just installed, aligning them so the right vertical support is one inch off the end of the 1-inch x 4-inch x 24-inch boards.

The oven platform creates space for utensils under the pizza oven. (Exmark)

14. Finally, put together the oven platform by placing the 1-inch x 4-inch x 24 1/2-inch boards on their sides (long ways) and screwing the 1-inch x 4-inch x 21-inch boards to adjoin them, making sure all the corners are flush.

Watch the video to see how it’s built!



Of course, no build is complete without the paint or stain to match your backyard aesthetic, and the necessary sealer to help it withstand everything Mother Nature will throw at it.

Once your DIY outdoor pizza oven stand is assembled, all that’s left to do is invite your friends and family over, buy the ingredients and bake away!


Looking to breathe new life into your outdoor spaces? Look no further than simple, cost-effective DIY projects. Exmark’s Done-In-A-Weekend project series will help you enjoy a better backyard life!


Further Reading

5 Modern Front Porch Ideas to Improve Curb Appeal

5 Modern Front Porch Ideas to Improve Curb Appeal

Boosting your home’s curb appeal doesn’t require a massive amount of time and effort. 

Here are five modern front porch ideas — best of all, you can tackle all of these projects in just one weekend.


This front porch is low to the ground, and the homeowners don’t have special accessibility needs, so we removed the railing.
This front porch is low to the ground, and the homeowners don’t have special accessibility needs, so we removed the railing.

1. Remove the Porch Railing

Modern front porches have clean lines and no clutter, so here’s an idea for folks with ground-level porches: remove the railing. 

Elevated front porches need railing for people’s safety. However, if the railing on your low-lying front porch is more of a barrier than a safety feature, get rid of it!  

You can easily remove wood front porch railing with a sledgehammer. Just knock the balusters out one by one, then remove the top and bottom rails. 

If your railing runs between columns, use wood putty to fill holes on the columns. Once it’s dry, lightly sand it and paint to match.


Tall bushes block the view from your front porch — so lose them.
Tall bushes block the view from your front porch — so lose them.

2. Take Out Overgrown Shrubs 

Tall, out-of-control shrubs make your front porch feel claustrophobic. Plus, they block the view.

Modern front porches are easy on the eyes, so here’s an idea: Dig up those shrubs’ roots with a garden shovel and remove them. A quality garden shovel should be sharp enough to cut through the roots so you can remove them by hand.

If you have a truck with a trailer hitch, here’s a fast way to tackle the job: First, wrap a tie-down strap around the shrub and attach the other end to the trailer hitch. Then, slowly press the gas to drag the shrub out by its roots. 

But before you do this, loosen up the dirt around the shrub so you don’t take a huge chunk of soil out and are left with a deep hole to fill.


Gray — or any neutral, timeless color — will give your shutters an instant modern update.
Gray — or any neutral, timeless color — will give your shutters an instant modern update.

3. Paint Shutters a Modern Color

Modern front porches feature contemporary colors, so here’s an idea: head to the home center and pick out paint that will stand the test of time. Just changing the color of your shutters can have the same impact as a whole-house paint job. 

Switch out a distracting or dated shutter color with gray. This modern, neutral color will blend the look of the shutters seamlessly with the rest of your home. 

Of these five modern front porch ideas, this one is probably the easiest. You don’t have to remove the shutters to paint them.

Just clean the shutters with soapy water and a rag and wipe them dry with a microfiber cloth. Then, line the edges with painter’s tape and start painting.


A stenciled pattern hides imperfections and gives your porch a new feel.
A stenciled pattern hides imperfections and gives your porch a new feel.

4. Paint a Fun Pattern on the Floor

Does your front porch floor look dull and plain? Make it pop with a pattern! 

Painting a pattern on your concrete floor will add character and hide any imperfections. The design you pick can also make a drastic difference, so choose carefully. A zigzag pattern adds visual variety and vertical lines give the illusion of elongating your porch.

All you need is a stencil pattern, some painter’s tape, a brush and your favorite paint color. 


Spread-out, low-growing plants extend the porch area to make it feel larger.
Spread-out, low-growing plants extend the porch area to make it feel larger.

5. Replace Tall Bushes With Low Plants

Tall bushes can make your front porch feel more like confinement than a retreat. Modern front porches have a streamlined appearance. So, if you want to keep some green along your porch, here’s an idea: plant some low-growing plants.

Short perennials like geraniums and violets stay low to the ground and will add a splash of color along your front porch.

For green foliage all year long, plant hostas and monkey grass. Both plants don’t grow too tall, plus they’ll display colorful blooms during the summer.

Spread these low-growing plants out for a more open feel and extra impact. Fill in the space between each plant with some pine straw bedding.


Want to extend your modern front porch update to your backyard? Exmark Backyard Smart answers the lawn-and-garden questions homeowners are looking for. Find projects and inspiration to help you live your best backyard life.


Further Reading

Vertical Garden: How to Build One From a Pallet

Vertical Garden: How to Build One From a Pallet

Running out of room to plant things? Don’t fret! Instead, look up — and create a vertical garden.

Whether you’re planting an herb garden or an array of annuals, this build is bound to boost your backyard’s appearance.

Even better, you can use vertical gardens to create consistent aesthetics throughout your yard, defining separate living spaces.

Follow along with Doug Scott, landscape designer and host of Exmark’s Done-In-A-Weekend project series, to learn how to build a vertical garden.

Your backyard will never be the same.


Vertical garden on a wood pallet in a backyard by a grill and swimming pool.

How to Create a Vertical Garden

You can build a vertical garden in just a few hours. Here’s what you need.

Materials

  • Recycled pallet
  • Backer board, cut to the pallet’s dimensions
  • Roll of landscape fabric
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Marking pencil
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Crowbar
  • Hammer
  • Drill/Driver
  • Screw/Drill bits
Man's hand with hammer removing wood board from pallet to make a vertical garden.

Using a crowbar and hammer, remove every other horizontal pallet board to provide access, and equal spacing, between the remaining boards.

Man's hand with pencil and measuring tape on black fabric

Measure spaces between the uprights for width. Then, measure the fabric height, allowing the fabric to be attached on the top of a board, down the length of that board and to the back, and back up the length of the adjacent board on the backside.

Man's hand with scissors cutting black fabric

Cut the landscape fabric to the length and width of each section.

Man's hand stapling black fabric to wood pallet board for a vertical garden.

Use the staple gun to attach the fabric to the top of the frontside board —folding the fabric 1/2-inch and stapling through the fold for added strength.

Then, attach the fabric to the back of the backside board—running it along the side and over the top of the board, leaving enough fabric to create a trough between the boards.

Man's hand with screwdriver screwing a screw into a backer board for a vertical garden.

Take the backer board, line it up with the corners of the back of the pallet, then screw it into place.

That’s all there is to it! This quick and easy build is a great way to provide some depth and breadth to your garden, as well as grow fresh herbs in unexpected spaces.


Looking to breathe new life into your outdoor spaces? Then, look no further than simple, cost-effective DIY projects. Exmark’s Done-In-A-Weekend project series will help you enjoy a better backyard life!


Further Reading

Front Porch Railing: Remove It or Repair It?

Front Porch Railing: Remove It or Repair It?

Front porch railing — some homeowners love it, some hate it, and some absolutely need it.  

This railing can make your front porch feel cozy or claustrophobic. Whether or not you need it is up to you and your style.


White front porch railing with green top rail
There are four basic components of front porch railing.

What are the Parts in Front Porch Railing?

A front porch railing has four basic components: posts, a top rail, a bottom (base) rail and balusters. 

The posts are the thickest vertical planks of wood that hold your horizontal top and bottom rails. 

The balusters are the vertical slats of wood between the top and bottom rails.


Rotting wood front porch balusters
If your wood railing is rotting, you can remove it, or repair it.

Removing Railing

If your front porch railing seems more like confinement than a retreat, you can remove it to have a clear and open view of your yard. 

Also, if your railing is rotting, that’s even more reason to get rid of it. The most common cause for a rail to rot is the bottom of the railing not being painted while it’s being built.

Even though the bottoms of the balusters aren’t visible, it’s still vital to paint them. The unpainted wood will soak up water like a paper towel and accelerate rot.

Also, if the railing is made with untreated wood, this could further accelerate rotting.

First, you’ll need a mallet or hammer. Knock out the balusters down one by one, and then remove the top and bottom railings.  

After removing the front porch railing, apply putty and sand the columns so it’s like they were never there, to begin with.

This railing was easier to remove because the base railing was a few inches off of the ground. If you don’t have a base railing and your balusters are embedded in the concrete, you’ll need to get a utility knife to dig out the wood railing within the concrete, then patch the hole with a concrete patcher. 


Repairing a porch bottom rail with plywood
This method for repairing front porch railing will also strengthen the balusters.

Repair Front Porch Railing

One thing to consider if you are thinking about removing front porch railing is safety. Does the railing keep children out of harm’s way?

If safety is your concern, you need to make sure your rails are functional. The purpose of front porch railing is to be held onto, so it should be able to hold your weight.

Also, what if you need it in the future?

Now more than ever, people are desiring to age in place, so will this railing be useful later on? Or, do you have an aging relative who could be living with you sometime in the future?

Keep railing height in mind. To be compliant with the American Disabilities Act, the front porch railing must be 34-38 inches high.

If you want to keep the railing for these reasons but it’s in bad condition, you can repair it.

Create two plywood forms and clamp them on the top and bottom of the rail. Then, use a plastic putty knife, and apply auto body filler to the front of the rail. Paint the forms to match your railing.

Watch ‘Tip for Repairing Damaged Porch Railing‘ here.


Front of a house with grey shutters, ferns and a rocking chair plus a pine-straw garden bed
Having the right type of plants can transform the look of your front porch.

Other Ways to Add Front Porch Curb Appeal

Whether you decide to ditch the railing or keep it for safety reasons, there are more ways to add some curb appeal to your front porch.

Change up the color scheme. A new paint color can elevate your home’s exterior. Paint shutters and the front door for a punch of fresh color.  

If the concrete floor of your porch is looking a little dull, add some character to it with a paint stencil. Watch ‘How to Stencil a Pattern on a Concrete Porch‘ to learn how to do it.

Finally, replace overgrown shrubs with lower plants spread out in a larger bed to cover a wider area.

Watch the video above to see what a difference these changes make!


Further Reading