teacup bird feeder

It always strikes me as amusing how many DIY projects you see online that seem to require more time and more money than it would take to simply buy the thing they’re trying to DIY in the first place. I mean … are we missing the point?

I think that doing things ourselves and taking back the power to create instead of simply consuming is absolutely vital to the green movement. But if you don’t already have the materials and spend a lot of money purchasing craft supplies, does it really make sense to DIY?

These five projects are true do-it-yourself masterpieces. One-of-a-kind outdoor projects you can make for almost nothing, with supplies you most likely already have, or can easily pick up second hand for a song. Roll up your sleeves, let’s get started!

1. Teapot/Teacup Bird Feeder

Idea and photo credit: Dinah Wulf, DIY Inspired

Do you have one of Grandma’s old tea sets lying around that doesn’t quite fit into the sleek modern aesthetic you’ve been cultivating? Put it to great use by feeding the birds in your area — in style.

Thrift stores are always awash in old china, so if you don’t already have the old tea set, consider going wild and spending a few bucks for this DIY delight. You’ll find blogger Dinah Wulf’s instructions for the teacup bird feeder on DIY inspired.
Editor’s note: When making this project, please use a cord or sturdy twine instead of a chain to hang the feeder. Birds could catch their toes in the chain, which can cause them serious harm.

2. Gardening Tool Storage

DIY rake gardening holder
Idea and photo credit: Beth Logan, Artstuff Ltd.

What on earth do you do with those rusty-as-heck, old-school garden rakes hanging around your garage? Well, if you’re any sort of DIY genius, you rope them into service as a gardening tool holder.

Dreamed up by Beth Logan of Artstuff Ltd., this project seems right up my alley because it involves little more than finding something old and then mounting it on a fence or garage wall. Embarrassingly simple, but eye-catching enough to make you look like a DIY pro!

3. Bottle Garden Edging

Idea and photo credit: Felder Rushing, FelderRushing.net

Do you like wine? No, I mean do you really like wine? Do you want a reason to drink more of it? And does your garden need a cute border? This sustainable, upcycled garden border may be just the project for you. You might have to expand your drinking list to include bottles of various shapes, sizes, and colors, but you know what they say — variety is the spice of life!

When friends ask how you managed to collect so many bottles, just laugh gaily and then distract them with your dainty teacup bird feeder. Kudos to Felder Rushing for the inspiring photos of bottle art.

4. Colorful Outdoor “Tiles”

Painted Patio Tiles
Idea and photo credit: Elsie Larson, A Beautiful Mess

If your backyard isn’t perfectly landscaped and manicured, with an impeccably tiled “outdoor living space,” don’t despair! You can use up all those half-empty paint cans and create a Pinterest-worthy colorful backdrop for evenings spent clustered around a fire or barbecue.

Simply pop a few coats of paint on cement tiles and you have a one-of-a-kind flooring solution. If you rent, the same effect could be achieved on a more temporary basis by letting the kids go wild with sidewalk chalk and create a mosaic masterpiece. Check out Elsie’s Painted Patio Tiles on A Beautiful Mess for the back story on this DIY idea.

5. Home Sweet Gnome

Idea and photo credit: Jennifer Pilcher, Snapguide

Okay, this one might be the least practical idea of the bunch, but that may be why I love it oh so much. If you have a stump in your backyard and you’re not willing or able to pay the truly insane amount it costs to have it ground down and removed, how about making it into a little gnome home? This is the perfect outdoor project if you have small children in your life.

Simply construct the trappings of a little house — door, windows, winding garden path — from found objects or natural materials, and affix them to the stump to create a lovely abode for this mythical little creature. Bonus points if you don’t tell the kids about this particular DIY project and allow them to simply stumble upon it one day in the garden. Can you imagine? My mind would have been blown if I had come across one of these as a seven-year-old! You can find lots of ideas for your tree stump gnome home on Pinterest.

Feature image courtesy of Paul Appleton

Editor’s note: Originally published on June 17, 2015, this article was updated in May 2021.

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.