Garden crafts for the birds and the kids

August 19, 2014

 

Chris Hoaglund

Zenith City Weekly

 

There’s always that one dead spot in the yard or garden that won’t grow. Perhaps the pH of the soil is off, or there’s a rock or stump buried underneath. A surefire way to fix it is to cover it up. Adding a birdbath, gazing ball, or statue not only takes care of an empty spot, it adds style and interest to your landscape.

 

Ready-made garden art can get expensive and many store-bought birdhouses are not made for actual birds. You can build your own with leftover scraps of wood. Leave a hole large enough for the bird to get it in, and a trapdoor for cleaning. You’ll need to be able to empty it from season to season in order to keep new families nesting there. You can paint it with acrylics and, if you don’t want it to fade, apply a weather resistant topcoat or varnish. 

 

Photo by Chris Hoaglund

In one swoop, you can make a nest for birds, add visual interest to your garden, and enjoy a craft project with the whole family.

 

Birdbaths can be easily made by stacking cheap terra cotta pots on top of one another. You’ll need several pots of graduating sizes. Turn them upside down so the opening faces the ground and stack smaller pots on top in the same manner. Once you get it as tall as you like, glue a large saucer at the top with cement adhesive and paint it.

 

You can create some interesting Zen statuary with rocks. Large stones with flat sides are ideal to work with. You’ll need rebar, a heavy-duty drill, several diamond drill bits, and water to constantly keep the bit cool.

 

This takes some skill and patience and is best for someone who has done some ceramic drilling before. Bury the rebar into the ground at least a foot and drill holes in the rocks slightly larger than the rebar. Once all the stones are drilled, stack them onto the rebar. Drill the top stone only halfway through, so you can cap your statue. For a simpler option, use Gorilla Glue to make small rocks into cute shapes, such as small animals and frogs.

 

There are many new paints on the market for craft projects. Create interest at night with glow-in-the-dark spray paint. Simply spray stones of various sizes and shapes and place them around your yard or garden. They soak up sunlight and at night put on an interesting display.

 

Or try Looking Glass paint. On clear glass and acrylic, it creates a reflective finish, but it can be used on other items to add depth and perspective in the garden.

 

Another interesting paint is Never-Wet. It comes in a kit and can be used on a variety of surfaces to repel water. Create unique designs on sidewalks, patios, or fences that only appear when they get wet.

 

Utilizing thrift store dishes, sea glass, or glass gems, you can create one-of-a-kind mosaic stepping stones, using mortar to adhere them to existing pavers, or create new stones with cement.

 

You can make leaf-shape stones with large-leaf, veiny plants, such as rhubarb or Elephant Ears. You just need playground sand, quick-dry cement, and time. Mix your cement per instructions, until it has the consistency of thick batter. On a large tray or piece of cardboard, mound some sand in the center if you want your leaf to be concave and hold water, or spread it evenly for a flat stone.  

 

Place the leaf facedown on the sand. Spread the cement in an even coat on the leaf at least ¼ to ½" thick around the edges and a little thicker in the middle. Make sure your cement goes no farther than the edge of your leaf so it holds the shape of the leaf. Let dry for at least 48 hours.

 

Once it has cured, flip it over gently and peel off the leaf, being especially careful around the edges. Use a wire brush to eliminate any pieces that might have stuck and to smooth out the edges. You’ll want to use two coats of a sealant like Thompson’s Water Seal to protect it. Once they are dry, you can paint it with a cement stain.

 

Fill orange rinds with bird seed and nuts or spread peanut butter on cardboard tubes and roll them in seed. You can even string grapes, apples, dried fruits, or nuts together. These can be hung with wire from tree branches. The birds love them, and the kids will love making them.

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