Learn my tips and tricks to create a beautiful thriving garden bed in no time.

surefire way to create thriving garden flower bed

The SureFire Way to Create a Thriving Flower Garden Bed

We live on a beautiful tree-filled lot in North Carolina. I love all our trees, but sometimes I crave a spot for beautiful sun-loving flowers. The area near our mailbox is one of the only places that gets enough sun for a full-sun flower garden. Unfortunately, that spot by the mailbox wasn’t really thriving.

Back when I first created that flower bed, I was an inexperienced gardener. I didn’t condition the soil, and the only thing that really seemed to be happy there were a few transplanted iris tubers from our backyard. They never bloomed in the backyard, so I figured they’d be happy in a sunnier spot.

Each year I anxiously awaited some pretty iris blooms, but every summer I was disappointed. This Spring something unfortunate happened, that was actually a blessing in disguise. Our mailbox got hit and it split the mailbox post in half. At the time I was too busy to deal with it, so I put a few screws into the post and left it alone through the spring and the summer.

Now that Fall is here, it’s the opportune time to amend that area and plant a thriving sunny flower bed!

Why Fall is the Best Time to Plant a New Garden Bed?

Summer can be a formidable environment here in North Carolina. The hot weather quickly dries up any moisture in the soil and the sun can scorch tender shoots from new plantings. But, once Fall arrives, the temperatures are milder and not as harmful to those tender new plants. While it might seem like the plant isn’t growing when planted in cooler weather, under the soil those roots are growing and getting established. When Spring arrives, the plant will be more established and ready to send out new shoots and flowers.

How to Decide Between a Straight or Curved Bed?

It may seem daunting trying to decide a shape for your flower bed. Unless you have hardscapes that dictate your shape, look at your house style to help decide.

This right-angle styled backyard looks great against a large transitional coastal home.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, this Cape Cod style house looks right at home surrounded by loose curving beds.

Lowe's Spring Makeover Reveal | Pretty Handy Girl

An English countryside row house is perfect for informal plantings that hug the brick wall but spill into grassy areas.

In the city, where planting areas may be small, a few neatly planted foundation plantings look perfect.

Of course, these aren’t rules that can’t be broken. Ultimately, it’s your yard, so make it a reflection of what you love!

Planning Your Flower Bed:

Interesting flower beds have a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. Create a sketch for your ideal garden bed before heading to the nursery. In your plans, position taller plants at the back of your bed and shorter plants in the front. Make sure you leave enough room between plants as they fill out and mature.

flower bed sketch on graph paper

Although your plans might change once you reach the plant nursery, at least you have a general idea for what you want before being overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by the choices.

Perennials or Annuals:

Perrenials are plants that grow and return every year. They are the “plant it and be done” way of gardening. By contrast, annuals are plants that typically bloom once and then die. Some annuals will deposit seeds to start new plants next year, but typically they don’t return in full force like the parent plant. Although they don’t last, annuals are a great way to inject new colors and style into your existing flower bed (especially while you are waiting for perennial plants to fill out.

When combined, perennials and annuals can create a beautiful flower bed. Personally, I like to plant mostly perennials in a flowering bed because I’m lazy and I still get beautiful new flowers every year. Annuals are usually reserved for my planter pots. (You can learn how I create knock out container gardens in this article!)

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

However, to give some much-needed color to my new flower bed, I added some annuals (specifically some pansies). Our climate is usually mild enough that they will bloom once again in the Spring before dying. Then I’ll swap them out with seasonal perennials in full bloom. Buying plants in the Fall and Spring will give you a better idea of how the mature bed will look throughout the year.

What Exactly is Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, and Shade Conditions?

Plants each need a certain amount of sun, but those amounts and types are varied. To successfully determine the amount of sun your property receives, create a sun map by observing your yard throughout the day. (Tip: Don’t create your map in the winter or early spring before the trees have all their leaves out or you may be surprised when that sunny area is mostly shaded in the summer.)

  • Full Sun – Plants with a full sun denoted on their label need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun to thrive.
  • Part Sun – Plants in the part sun category must receive 3-6 hours of direct sun to be happy. But they require some protective shade or dappled shade the rest of the time.
  • Part Shade – Plants in the part shade category can also handle 3-6 hours a day, but they like early morning or dappled shade as opposed to receiving their sun in the mid-day when the sun is at its hottest.
  • Shade – These plants love nothing more than a good shady spot under a tree or shaded by a structure all day. They can handle a little morning or dappled sun, as long as they get to stay cool the rest of the day.

Tools & Materials to Create a Successful Flowering Garden Bed:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

Materials and Manual Garden Tools:

To create a new flower bed, you’ll need a few supplies.

Optional: Garden hose or string & stakes

Landscaping Power Tools:

Although you can create a flower bed by hand, having power tools at your disposal will not only save you time, but they can save you from an aching back and sore muscles. I can tell you first hand, breaking up tough red clay and compact soil can be one of the most sole-crushing activities if you don’t have a power cultivator! While creating my new garden bed, I fell in love with the power and versatility of the STIHL Battery-Powered KombiSystem.

Here’s where I need to let you know this post has been sponsored by STIHL. If you’ve been around for a while, you know I absolutely love the quality and power behind the STIHL name. For this project, my friends at STIHL sent me the battery-powered KombiSystem and some attachments to try out.

What’s so Great about the STIHL KombiSystem?

If you’re like the majority of homeowners, you don’t have a lot of storage in your garage or shed for yard tools. Although I built this cute garden shed a few years ago, it’s become the default storage for everything from yard tools, to bikes, and beach gear. We’re running out of space in there, which is why I love that the KombiSytem consists of one powerhead that powers a wide variety of attachment tools. This will save you tons of space in your yard storage area and allow you to acquire new tools as you need them without buying a new machine for each landscaping task.

Powerhead: KMA 130R

Attachments from Left to Right: Straight Hedge TrimmerAdjustable Hedge Trimmer, Adjustable Scythe, Pole Pruner, Lawn Edger, Brush Cutter, Bed Redefiner, Blower, Mini-Cultivator, Power Sweep, Bristle Brush Sweep

(Not Pictured: String Trimmer,  Reciprocator, and newer attachments can be found here.)

While you are saving space, there’s no lack of power with the KombiSystem powerhead! The powerhead are available in a battery-powered unit or several gas-powered ones. Personally, once you go battery-powered you never go back! Several years ago, STIHL convinced me to try one of their battery-powered mowers. I thought for sure it would fail to keep up with our 2/3 acre of lawn. Boy was I wrong. Since then, we’ve slowly replaced our gas tools with battery-powered STIHL tools. What I like most about the battery power versus gas, is finishing all our landscaping tasks without smelling like a gas station!

Lest you think battery-powered landscaping tools are only for neat little postage-stamp-sized yards, we live on a heavily-wooded lot. Our landscaping is a constant battle against nature therefore, there’s no room in our yard storage area for wimpy landscaping tools.

Personal Protective Equipment:

When using power tools, it’s imperative to wear appropriate protective gear. When creating your new flower bed, you’ll need to have these on hand:

How to Create a Thriving Flower Garden Bed in No Time

When you’re starting from scratch, creating a new garden bed can seem like a daunting task. But, I’ll show you the quickest and most effective way to create a thriving flower garden bed in no time! As I mentioned above, you can use manual hand tools, but you’ll soon find yourself fighting against hard-packed earth and wish you had power at your disposal.

Laying Out Your Border:

If your new flower bed consists of straight lines, use stakes and string (or long pieces of pipe or lumber) to layout your bed. But, if you want beautiful curves, you can’t beat a garden hose. The hose won’t easily create sharp bends, which means it will keep your lines smooth and aesthetically pleasing. Plus, it will hold its shape long enough to let you outline the bed with spray paint.

Once your bed outline is defined, set your plants and any objects into the bed and make adjustments to your bed perimeter as needed.

Outline your bed shape with spray paint and then it’s time to dig in that dirt! I created a video so you can learn the quickest way to create a new flower garden bed. (Hope you get a good laugh at my husband’s commentary.)

Video: Quickest Way to Create a New Flower Bed

Conditioning the Soil:

If you’ve ever dug a hole in a new spot and planted something only to find it dead a few weeks later, you now know how important it is to condition the soil before planting. New plants need soft and nutrient-rich soil to thrive. Think about how tiny and tender new roots are? They aren’t strong enough to push through tough red clay or compact soil. Plus, they need soil rich in minerals and nutrients to support healthy growth. To condition the soil, mix some native dirt with good quality topsoil and compost (if you have some.)

Composting: Black Gold for Your Garden and Flower Beds

If you haven’t started a compost pile, what are you waiting for?

How to Compost - Magnificent Garden Soil| Pretty Handy Girl

This is FREE nutrient-rich soil for all your gardening needs! It’s also a great way to recycle your veggie scraps, coffee grounds, eggshells, fresh flowers, and even your newspaper! To learn how easy it is to start a successful compost pile today, read my article here.

Free the Roots:

Potted plants can have roots that have outgrown the pot. When this has happened, they will grow around the inside edge of the pot creating a root-bound situation.

It’s important to cut into the perimeter of the root ball and free the roots to encourage them to grow out into the new soil.

Planting for Optimal Success:

Now that you have your good soil and a plant ready to spread its roots, it’s time to plant. For the best chance at survival, dig a hole twice as wide as your plant’s root ball. Add several inches of quality topsoil and compost into the base. Then put your plant in the hole. Fill the sides around the rootball with more topsoil and compost material. Then gently step around the plant to compact the soil against the root ball. Doing this will get rid of any air pockets around the roots.

Landscaping 101: Tools, Planting, and Adding Color to your Landscaping | Pretty Handy Girl

Types of Mulch:

Mulch is an important addition to any flower garden. It helps retain moisture so your plants don’t need to be watered as often. Mulch also acts as a weed barrier. And finally, it acts like a blanket protecting new root systems from a sudden cold snap.

beautiful two color mulch pathway

Shredded Hardwood Mulch: Shredded mulch is my preferred choice of mulch. It’s easy to acquire, organically breaks down adding nutrients to the soil, tends to stay put, and adds a nice dark brown color letting the colorful flowers really shine. The faster decomposition is the only negative to this choice because you need to re-apply yearly.

Pine Nuggets: Pine nuggets tend to last a little longer than shredded mulch. It also adds a nice dark color around flowers. But, pine nuggets are lightweight and tend to float or blow out of the bed easier than shredded mulch.

Pine Straw: Pine straw is an easy mulch to get your hands on. It’s sold in bales and is lightweight and easy to spread. If you have lots of pine trees, you probably have plenty of free pine straw. Unfortunately, when first spread, pine stray doesn’t retain moisture as much as other types of mulch. It also decomposes quickly. Finally, a strong wind can blow pine straw out of your flower beds.

Rubber mulch: A while ago, someone discovered old tires could be turned into mulch by shredding and coloring it. This seemed like an environmentally-friendly idea at the time (because how many discarded tires can we reuse for creative projects)? Ultimately, using rubber mulch has several downsides. It’s been highly popular under playground equipment because it offers a little cushion. But, colored mulch easily stains clothing. When heated by the sun, it emits a rubber odor.  Rubber mulch can also burn, and heaven forbid it catches fire, it will spread toxic fumes into the air. Finally, although it doesn’t break down as quickly as natural mulches, it will eventually break down and leach chemicals into your soil (not good for your garden!) Let’s all agree to stick to natural materials for mulch, okay?


New plants need more water than established plants. Water the soil until damp daily for two weeks. Skip watering if you have rain in your forecast. Too much water can cause a host of problems, so try to water deeply once a day until the soil is wet, but not soggy.

After two weeks, you can lighten up on watering and only water if you haven’t had rain in a while.

What to Do if Plants Die?

The first rule of gardening is to learn from your mistakes and don’t give up. If your plant dies, try to determine why. Did it get too much water, was the soil not conditioned? Was it getting too much sun or too much shade? Do you have deer or animals that ate it or perhaps you had a harsh winter that killed your plant. It’s also possible the plant wasn’t healthy when you bought it. (Many nurseries have a warranty of new plants, check with them to find out how long they will guarantee your plant.)

Regardless of how a plant died, don’t beat yourself up about it, go ahead and dig it up and put something else in the spot. Every gardener learns from their mistakes. Over the years they learn which plants thrive for them and how to make some plants happier.

I leave you with some pictures of my new flower garden around the mailbox! When you plant your new flower bed I’d love to have you share them with me!

If you like our new mailbox obelisk, I’ll share plans for you to build your own soon.

In the meantime, learn how to paint any metal copper for cheap!

And finally, learn how to use concrete pavers for professional-looking edging.

What do you think? Big improvement?



I think I’m going to love a sunny spot for more flowers this year!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for STIHL™. I was honored to work with them on this project and was given complimentary products. All words and opinions are my own. I have not been told what to say. As always I am very particular about the sponsors I work with and you will be told if you are reading a post that has been sponsored or in which materials were provided.

If you liked this tutorial, you’ll love my tutorial for creating an easy and inexpensive mulch and stone path:

How to Create an Inexpensive Stone & Mulch Walkway

Or how to create a rot-resistant raised garden bed:

How to Build a Rot-Resistant Raised Planter Bed | Pretty Handy Girl



In the two decades we’ve lived in Raleigh, we’ve learned the Absolute Easiest Way to Get Rid of English Ivy. No back-breaking pulling or bending over. This is truly the best way to remove English ivy.

The Easiest Way to Remove English Ivy

Easiest Way to Get Rid of English Ivy for Good

We are fortunate to have a beautiful yard that backs up to a forest of trees and a creek. We love the greenery and nature at arms reach, but we also have a beast that’s been spreading its destruction and darkness in the woods and recently it was spotted in our yard again.

This predator creates a safe haven for rats, mice, spiders (non-venomous and venomous), mosquitoes, termites, and snakes (yes, we’ve found several copperheads hiding in it)! What is this awful horror-inspiring thing? Hedera helix or more commonly referred to as English ivy.

If you haven’t learned the dangers of this plant, let me give you an ivy league education in the dangers of uncontrolled English ivy. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, California, or southeastern states (including the Carolinas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia), English ivy is considered an invasive species because of how quickly it grows and how difficult it is to control.

Dangers of Planting English Ivy

Homeowners mistakenly plant English ivy and let it run wild thinking it’s a great ground cover. But, little do they realize when not contained in a pot, this plant can soon cause serious problems if left unchecked. When grown in the yard, this plant can cover the ground not allowing native species to thrive. It is a real problem when it reaches the trees. The vines can strangle the roots of a tree and can cause damage to the bark, plus it adds excess weight to the tree.

Once ivy reaches a mature age, it sends out flowers and berries. Ingestion of berries or leaf material in may cause mild gastrointestinal issues in small doses. Eating larger amounts of the plant can cause breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, coordination problems, fever, hallucinations, and even coma.

English Ivy Flower Berries

Once berries form, birds will eat the berries and deposit seeds in their droppings. That’s all it takes for more ivy to grow. Think about the issues this causes when English ivy begins to grow unchecked in a state park, national forest, or wooded yards?

That small patch of ivy you planted as ground cover could cause far-reaching issues!

But, Ivy Covered Houses are So Pretty!

What happens if you want to decorate your brick house with ivy? Believe it or not, English ivy can cause property damage as well. Although it looks pretty on the surface, underneath it’s hiding an ugly secret. The roots of the ivy dig into the softer mortar of your brick wall and weaken it. This allows moisture to get into and behind the brick. Ivy shoots can easily grow bigger in these weak spots and will worm their way into windows and under siding. As ivy stems grow thicker, it expands and causes more damage.

Saving Etta - The Story of Saving a House Built in 1900 | Pretty Handy Girl

Have I given you enough evidence to keep you from planting English ivy in your yard? If you already have English ivy, I hope I’ve convinced you to remove it permanently!

But, before we get to the procedures you’ll need to get rid of English ivy for good, you should know this is a sponsored post for STIHL. I’ve worked with STIHL before to tame the wild and unruly yards of the properties I purchase to flip and renovate.

Today I’m fighting against ivy to protect my trees, my house, my kids, my dog, and my property! I’m taking matters into my own hands and I’m breaking out the big guns.

The STIHL FSA 57 battery-powered string trimmer is the perfect tool to fight back against invasive English ivy. It may look big, but weighing in at only 7.5 pounds, this string trimmer is very comfortable to use.

If you have a flat area that doesn’t have any dangers underneath like rocks, sticks, or logs you can speed the task by using a mower like the RMA 460 battery-powered mower. I’ve previously written my review about the RMA 460 mower, and I stand by every word I wrote. It’s still our favorite mower.

Product Review: STIHL RMA 460 Battery-Powered Mower

Besides the string trimmer and the mower, I’m actually in love with their entire line of AK battery-powered tools.

Easiest Way to Get Rid of English Ivy FOREVER:

To help you get started on the right foot, I’ve put together this video tutorial to show you the easiest way to eradicate English ivy. We’ve learned from experience that pulling it at the roots can be time-consuming and a real back-breaking chore. But, I hope you’ll learn from our experience that it doesn’t have to be a physically exhausting chore.

Protective Equipment for Fighting Ivy:

Let me first start by saying, this battle is a tough one, and you’ll need to gear up before going to battle. Remember what I said about the ivy being a haven for spiders, snakes, and rodents? Need I say more? This is the protective gear you should wear before starting this landscaping task.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Tools to Get Rid of English Ivy:

Optional: Garden Sprayer

Cut the Ivy First for Best Results:

(This is a tutorial on removing English ivy, you don’t want to use the same method for poison ivy as cutting it will spread the poison ivy sap and could cause a hazardous reaction.)

Ivy has a waxy leaf that is highly resistant to herbicides, therefore it’s best to score or cut the ivy before applying your choice of an herbicide or vinegar. You can use a string trimmer to cut the leaves off the ivy. This will create an open would and allow the plant to absorb the herbicide more easily.

To speed the task of cutting, you can use a lawnmower on flat areas as long as you don’t have any hazards underneath the ivy (like rocks, large limbs, or dips in the ground.)

Handling Ivy Growing on Trees:

Ivy growing on trees requires a few more steps. Sever the ivy around the tree trunk using loppers or pruning shears. Then pull the ivy several feet away from the trunk of the tree. Inspect the larger roots at the base of the trunk and look for ivy growing over the roots. If you spot any, cut it to prevent the ivy from strangling the tree roots.

Resist the urge to pull the vines off the tree because it can damage the bark. Once the ivy dies the greenery will turn brown and will eventually fall off.

Herbicide vs. Vinegar to Kill English Ivy:

After you cut the ivy, you’ll want to follow up with an herbicide to kill English ivy.

You can choose your poison (so to speak.) I’ve used herbacides specifically designed to kill ivy to eradicate the English ivy in our yard. The herbicide should contain glyphosate, triclopyr, imazapyr, or a combination of the three. This path is a little more forgiving if you get some on nearby plants or trees. But, if you want to go natural, you can use one gallon of white vinegar mixed with a teaspoon of dish soap, just be very careful not to get this mixture on any plants or trees you want to keep.

Pour the mixture in a garden sprayer and saturate the ivy. Then wait a week.

Removing the Ivy:

After a week or so, the ivy should start to die and will loosen its grip on the ground. Use a garden rake to remove the ivy strands from the ground. If any roots resist raking, use a hoe to dig the roots out. This process will be much easier after a rainy day as the ground will be softer.

Tips for Removing Ivy Forever:

Depending on the amount of ivy in your yard, this may be a multi-year battle. But each year the amount of ivy will be less and less. You can do a few things to help make this battle easier:

  • Cut and spray the ivy on a sunny day. And choose a day with no rain in the forecast for at least 24 hours.
  • Follow up within a few weeks with your raking (don’t just spray and leave the roots.)
  • Rake on a day after it’s rained as the ground will be much softer.
  • Pull the ivy out of the ground. Then put the ivy in trash bags or let it dry out on a pallet, cardboard, tarp, or anything but the dirt.
  • Next season, remove any small ivy shoots immediately before they start to spread.

Okay, it’s time for confessions. Have you planted English ivy? Did it take over? Or have you thought it was a pretty element in your landscaping?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for STIHL™. I was honored to work with them on this project and was given complimentary products. All words and opinions are my own. I have not been told what to say. As always I am very particular about the sponsors I work with and you will be told if you are reading a post that has been sponsored or in which materials were provided.

I’ve heard so many stories from people who’ve been scammed by tree contractors. In fact, we’ve had our own negative experience with one, but luckily I had enough information and experience to not get scammed. With over two decades of wisdom and expertise, I’m happy to share and help you avoid any mistakes when hiring a tree service.

11 Things You Should Always Do Before Hiring a Tree Service

11 Things You Should Always Do Before Hiring a Tree Service

Fall is fast approaching, and most people begin looking up at their trees to assess if they will pose a threat come winter. We live in a beautiful neighborhood with lots of trees. Unlike newer communities, when our neighborhood was developed, the builders left many of the mature trees in place. Hooray!

Although we love all the big trees, it’s our responsibility to keep an eye on the health of them and occasionally we have to remove a few trees if they pose a threat to our house, if they show signs of rot (or disease), or if a tree is compromising the health of a larger tree. (See if you can spot that issue below. Look closely and you’ll see one tree has rubbed into a nearby tree creating a big wound.) Although it saddens us to take down a tree, we learned the hard way what happens when a tree falls on your house.

Let’s get to that list of 11 Things You Should Always Do Before Hiring a Tree Service! Ready to learn?

1. Hire an Arborist First

If you’re in doubt or don’t know the health of your trees, hire an independent arborist to assess the trees on your property. It’s important that this person is not affiliated with the tree company. You don’t want him (or her) to have any financial gain by recommending you take a tree down. Many tree companies have arborists on staff, but I prefer to contact an independent arborist.

2. Get More than One Quote

Never settle for just one quote. I like to get three quotes from different companies. I also make sure they come to my property and look at the trees and any potential issues they may have to contend with. When you do get the quotes back, don’t be afraid to haggle on price, especially if you are taking down more than one tree. Over the years, I have learned that it’s not always best to hire the cheapest contractor. Oftentimes, that decision could leave you with a mess in the end.

3. Mark the Trees to be Removed

When it’s time to remove a tree or two, be sure to mark all the trees you need to remove with a colorful ribbon or spray paint. Don’t take any chances and risk having a tree taken out that you wanted to keep.

4. Get Current References

Ask for a list of current references for jobs completed in the last three to six months. Contact all of them. I wrote an article about how to hire great contractors and included a list of questions that can help weed out poor contractors. My favorite question is “If they made any mistakes, how were the mistakes handled.”

5. Get Proof of Insurance

I can not believe how many people don’t get proof of insurance from their tree service contractors! You should never be ashamed or scared to ask for proof of insurance. If the company is reputable, they will have general liability and a workman’s comp policy. Ask to have their insurance company provide the proof of insurance directly to you. If something goes wrong (and the contractor runs off), you can file a claim with the insurance company. Worse yet, if someone is injured or killed on your property and the contractor doesn’t have insurance, you could be held liable.

6. Do They Have Any Specialty Equipment?

Not all tree service companies have all the equipment necessary to complete the job or handle tricky removals safely. Ask if your tree contractor has a stump grinder, a crane, wood chipper, etc. Ask if your trees need to be removed by crane, or ask how they intend to take them down safely. When the tree that fell on our house was removed, the insurance company sent a company that uses a crane (and I was thankful they did).

7. Will There Be Any Impact to Your Landscaping

It’s a good idea to ask if there’s anything on your property that will be impacted by the tree work and if there is anything they can do to minimize damage. When the trees are dropped, what landscaping could potentially be damaged and how will they minimize the risk. For example, our tree contractor removed our mailbox when they were dropping a tree near it to prevent any damage. Some tree contractors will put down plywood to protect your lawn if they have to use any heavy machinery. Finally, ask if they have to remove any sections of the fence or ask them to explain how they will get to the backyard if removing trees in the back. You don’t want any surprises.

8. Will the Stumps Be Ground?

You’d be surprised how many tree services will remove trees but leave you with unsightly stumps in the void. Personally, I hire a tree contractor that also grinds the stumps after the trees are removed. Occasionally I’ll save some money by not having the stumps ground if they are in the woods or we decide to make the stump into something (like a fire pit seat.)

9. Will the Debris be Hauled Away?

Removing a tree (even a relatively small one) comes with lots of branches, wood chips, leaves, and logs. Make sure you know what will be hauled away and what (if anything) will be left behind. Will the company leave you logs for firewood? Are they going to grind up the limbs into chips? If so, do you really want the wood chips? (Be forewarned, fresh wood chips pull a lot of nitrogen out of the soil. You should wait about a year to use them around plants and trees.)

10. Create a Contract

It’s a good idea to have a detailed contract with all the things listed that you’ve discussed. Items on the list can be (but are not limited to):

  • How many trees (and which trees) are being taken out
  • Date and timeframe work will be completed
  • Will the trees be hauled away
  • Will the stumps be ground
  • Will tree debris be blown or raked up
  • Will they leave wood chips
  • When will final payment will be made (at completion)
  • Is a deposit being made (for a very large job, some services may require a deposit to hold your spot, but normally you shouldn’t need to put a deposit down.)

It’s important to make sure you both agree on everything in the contract. Then both sign it.

Finally, the most important thing you should always (or should I say never do), is:

11. Do Not Pay until the Job is 100% Complete

Don’t let a tree contractor give you a sob story about how he needs to pay his guys. If he runs a reputable business, your job is not the only source of income he has. I’ve seen far too many people pay a tree contractor before completion and then they are left with a mess in their yard and unreturned phone calls. Always hold the final payment until the job is finished and you are satisfied.

Why You Shouldn’t Cut Down Your Trees:

I want to leave you with some words of wisdom about trees. Healthy trees are an asset to your property.

  • They are important to support wildlife habitats
  • They protect your home from cold in the winter by blocking wind
  • Keeps your home cooler in the summer by providing shade
  • They prevent water and soil runoff.
  • They provide plenty of oxygen
  • Mature trees are desirable landscaping features
  • They can increase the value of your home if you have attractive and well-maintained trees
  • They provide privacy
  • And finally, let’s not forget they can be fun to climb

I hope this article helps prevent you from being scammed by a tree service and helps you maintain a safe and healthy home. I’d love to hear if you think I left anything out or if you have any tree service horror stories.

Get a load of this transformation! See Millie’s Remodel and her exterior front reveal. Plus, I’m sharing tips to help you keep your home protected from termites when landscaping.

Millie’s Remodel Update: Exterior Front Reveal

This update of the Millie’s Remodel project is sponsored by Corteva, the makers of Sentricon. I’m grateful to have Sentricon on board as a Millie’s Remodel sponsor!

Although I still have a lot to catch you up on inside the Millie’s Remodel house, the exterior siding, brick, and front door has been painted. I chose a pretty bright blue for the front door. It’s Loyal Blue from Sherwin Williams.

I built the shutters using leftover tongue and groove planks from the porch overhangs. I promise to share a tutorial for you in the near future.

And I added a modern address plaque beside the door. Also, a DIY I’ll share a tutorial for later.

Although the shutters have been hung and the house numbers look amazing, I feel like something is missing. The house feels a bit naked from the waist down if you catch my drift. It needs some landscaping!

Unfortunately, I’m a little over budget on all the renovations at Millie’s Remodel, so I need to save some money on the landscaping. I decided to plant a few bushes out front and call it done.

Budget Landscaping for a Mid-Century Modern House:

With my budget being under $200, I was able to put in some foundation plantings and one feature plant to give Millie a more finished look outside.

I planted three Fatsio Japonica bushes (the wider bushes with bigger leaves).

Between the Japonicas, I planted two Golden Ticket privet bushes. They should fill in a little over time, but for now, they certainly help ground the house.

For the feature item, I chose a pretty yellow Amber Gold arborvitae for the small bed between the front door and the driveway. I like the color and the tall skinny look of this tree. When full-grown it may be up to 5′ wide and 10′ tall. But, hopefully, it won’t reach full width and can stay a little narrower. I’ll have to keep an eye on it and trim the sides if it starts to get too big.

Luckily, I had a pile of wood chips in the backyard where I had to take out a large rotted tree that was hanging over the house. I was able to use the chips as fresh mulch around the plantings.

Although it’s hard to tell, in the above photo, I kept a barrier of bare earth (and no wood chips) against the foundation of the house. Why? Let me take a moment to talk about how to landscape while keeping your house protected from termites.

Landscaping While Keeping Your Home Termite Free:

I know we live in an area that is overpopulated with termites, so I’m very careful about protecting my homes from conditions that could lead to a termite infestation. Most plants need moisture to stay alive, but unfortunately, termites love wet mushy wood because it’s easier to chew and more tempting! For that reason, it’s important to pay attention to moisture around your home’s foundation. All the tips below will help you reduce the likelihood that termites will find your home tasty.

  • When spreading mulch around plantings, keep it away from the house. Leave at least a one-foot perimeter along the foundation clear of mulch and other organic matter
  • Plant bushes so as to maintain a three-foot clearance from your home (be sure to look at the mature height and width information on new plantings)
  • Never pile firewood, lumber, mulch, soil, or other “termite-friendly” matter against your house
  • Don’t use wood timbers or lumber to create garden beds against your house
  • Install gutters and use downspouts to move water away from the foundation
  • Always make sure your land is graded with a slope away from your house
  • Keep gutters clear of debris to prevent them from overflowing.
  • Contract with a good termite treatment company (you can read how I chose Sentricon in this post.)
  • Keep up with scheduled inspections with your termite company.

My local termite company that installed the Sentricon system came back two weeks ago to check on the system to see if there was any termite activity and inspect the bait stations to see if they needed to be replaced. My technician was able to find most of the bait stations from the map he created during installation.

But, if the stations were buried, he could use the detector to find them.

You can learn more about the Sentricon system and how it’s installed by watching my previous video:

We saw some minor evidence that they had found the stations. This is good because it means they are feeding off the bait stations and taking it back to the colony.

Unfortunately, the memory card in my camera was corrupt, or I’d show you the bait station after almost a year. Luckily, Sarah has an excellent photo of her Sentricon bait station after being in the ground for almost a year.

A Look Back at Millie’s Front Exterior Transformation:

Together, I think the landscaping (although only 6 plants and some mulch) and painting made a big difference. We should look back to when I first bought the house. Remember how she looked? The greenery you see was all weeds!

Then, after painting, she looks great, but still needs some architectural pizzazz.

Finally, the shutters and painted front door made a big difference, but she was a tad naked around her base.

Now she has some beautiful modern greenery out front.

Did I do okay on my minimal budget?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Corteva, the makers of Sentricon. I was provided complimentary termite protection for a year and was compensated for my time and efforts to promote Sentricon. I was not told what to write. All opinions are my own. I am particular about the brands I represent and will always let you know when you are reading a sponsored post.

DIY American Flag Planter Box

Want to add a little bit of a patriotic flair to your Summer porch or patio? This DIY American Flag planter box is so simple to make from start to finish, you can easily create one for yourself.

DIY American Flag Planter Box

DIY American Flag Planter Box

I hope you all enjoyed the Make It May series. I leave you with this adorable Americana planter Amanda created and hope you’ll make one too for your porch.

I’ve been slowly adding patriotic pieces, like this Americana plant stand, to my porch decor over the years. With a few extra fence pickets left over from a previous project, I decided to whip up this planter box to add some extra red, white, and blue to my Summer porch.


(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)


1. Cut the wood pieces

Measure 6″ from the end of one fence picket and mark with your speed square. Use the miter saw to cut the fence picket at the marked line. Repeat this step until you have six boards cut to 6″ each.

Measure 8 ¼” and mark with speed square. Use the miter saw, cut the wood at the mark you just made. Repeat this step until you have four boards cut to 8 ¼” each.

2. Assemble the planter box

Apply glue to the edges of each board where they will connect with each other. This step makes your box extra secure.

Use the nail gun to attach the boards together to create the base.

Continue nailing until the bottom tier of the DIY planter box is complete.

Repeat the steps for the second tier of the planter box. Apply wood glue to the bottom of the second tier and place it on top of the bottom tier. Use clamps to hold both tiers in place and allow to dry for 12 hours.

3. Paint the American Flag Planter Box

Paint stripes on the longer sides of the planter box with red chalky paint. Use painters tape to create straight lines (or just free hand it like I did).

DIY American Flag Planter Box

Fill in the rest with white chalky paint stripes.

Paint the shorter sides with blue chalky paint. When it’s dry, free hand white stars or use a stencil. In my opinion, freehand painting gives this American Flag planter box a nice rustic touch!

DIY American Flag Planter Box

Add little feet if desired to the bottom of the planter box using wood glue.

Fill with potting soil and add flowers! You could also skip the soil and set a pre-planted 6″ flower pot inside the planter box.

DIY American Flag Planter Box

Red Geraniums and white Alyssum look great in this DIY American Flag Planter Box. The red and white combo really completes the patriotic look.

If you build this planter box, what flowers would you try?

I’m Amanda, and I am the creator and voice behind the food and DIY blog, Domestically Creative. What started as a place to share updates with friends and family after we moved from Illinois to Tennessee and then to Texas, turned into a passion for finding creative and frugal ways to feed us and decorate our homes.

I have always had the “make it myself” attitude and I’m not afraid to bust out the power tools or get creative when it comes to decorating our home on a budget. You can usually find me scouring the local thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales looking for my next makeover (like this litter box cabinet), or dreaming up ways to make our new house feel more like home. My most recent project was giving my home office a much needed facelift. Some of the plans included creating a fun inspirational accent wall and adding pegboard to store my craft hoards.

I currently call Missouri home, where I live with my husband, dog, and 2 cats in a pretty dull, late 90’s split level. My husband and I both love to travel the U.S and recently purchased a small travel trailer to tag along in our journeys. In our free time together we can usually be found working together on a home project, exploring a new place, or just lounging with our pup, Delilah.

I’d love for you to connect with me on social media via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter!