7 DIY Yard and Garden Projects: Pergola, Porch Swing, Small Cabin, and More

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Poindexter and Morning Chores

With fewer plants to tend to during the long winter season, it can be difficult to remain as productive during this twilight time of year as you were in previous seasons. Even if your homestead garden no longer requires the type of attention and care that kept you bustling in the spring, winter can be a great opportunity to take on a truly gratifying endeavor. Get started on any of these amazing DIY ideas for a project that will have you beaming by last frost.

1. Build a Pergola

Photo by A Beautiful Mess

This project is especially exciting if you have been interested in growing vines but as yet had no ideal spot for them. You may also prefer this option if you do not feel there is enough space for a full-sized gazebo. Your pergola can be free-standing in a basic square frame or mark an elaborate extension to an outdoor patio.

Pergola plans are available in a variety of possibilities and are suitable for amateurs or any skill level. You can stylishly divide up your outdoor scenery with some well-needed shade. Construct a comfortable spot to enjoy meals or just lounge. Accentuate your garden with picturesque accessories, or add shelving, hanging plants, even delightful planter boxes to suit your taste. The simplistic structure of a pergola enhances a garden without interfering with future planting seasons.

2. Build a Porch Swing

Photo by Simply Designing

Porch swings are more than just iconic decor, this cozy addition creates and ideal spot for everyone in the family to read, rest, or watch the sunset. Adding a swing to your front porch brings a fun, personal touch to the home that can be creative and easily suits to any design style of your choosing.

Even without a front porch, you can build an attractively pleasant swing that hangs in its own freestanding A-frame, from the branches of your favorite tree, even in an indoor room. A fun trick is to bring familiar, personalized touches to what begins as a simple design. You can add cushions and cup holders for that particularly homey feel.

Because swings can be constructed from multiple materials- rope and wood, chain and metal -you can design and build using whatever supplies you find convenient.

3. Build A Playhouse (or Swing Set)

Photo by Ryobi Tools

Why spend money on a tacky plastic eyesore when you can custom build for your children their very own playground and enjoy the years of outdoor play that will follow? Playhouse and swing set designs are fun because even a basic A frame or hanging tire can be included with a number of amusing creations.

This project is a perfect opportunity for the entire family to collaborate, and more additions can be continually added over the years. Add a slide, a jungle gym, a miniature fort, or a mock kitchen. The joy of this creation is all the imaginative possibilities. An outdoor playground will encourage your kids to spend more time unplugged and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

4. Build A Treehouse

Photo by The Classic Archives

Every kid dreams of playing in their own private treehouse. Why not reward and impress your family with an iconic delight of childhood fun? Use a treehouse as a unique chance to deliver the fun and zany ideas not practical enough for a standard adult project, like crawlspaces, ladders, and toys. Install a swinging rope and a pulley system, places for your children or grandchildren to crawl, climb, and play.

Even if no trees on your property seem adequate to support a large structure, a simple deck is still a great spot for camping and a fort for hiding. A treehouse can be as elaborate or as basic as you prefer, even if you are only an amateur builder. Give your children an opportunity to participate in the planning and building, and the work will be all the more meaningful.

5. Build A Gazebo

Photo by Melco

While pergolas are always an attractive addition, a gazebo brings in the added functionality of structure and design. Whether you have a small corner or a large space to fill, you can transform any area in need of additional splendor into a welcoming spot for lounging, grilling, or just appreciating nature. A well-constructed gazebo will feel like an additional room of the house, bringing the comfort of outdoor scenery within an impressive structure.

Like so many of the projects listed above, plans can vary in size, difficulty, and detail, so you can construct an attractive and suitable design regardless of the area. The rounded shape of a traditional gazebo creates an illusion of larger space, and strong roof will provide a usable outdoor seating area even in bad weather. A basic wood frame or an elaborate brick setting can bring a welcoming ambiance to your property. Try these plans from MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

6. Build An Outdoor Chair

Photo by Skip to My Lou

If you spend much time with carpentry work at all, the thought of a cozy chair has probably already crossed your mind. Traditional rocking chairs are a popular choice for any busy carpenter, but this particular design of outdoor chair allows for versatility and affordability. The Adirondack-style of chair design is ideal for quickly constructing a sturdy outdoor seat with minimal material costs. The unique shape has become quickly popularized due to the reliable strength and comfortable reclining posture.

By recycling pallets or leftover lumber from any of your previous work, you can enjoy the added benefit of productive work and practical resourcefulness. You can apply a chic finish for a more modern look or keep an organic and natural appeal to blend in with the garden environment. Every skill level enjoys building these chairs, and even a master can undertake the challenge of a unique matching outdoor set with multiple chairs.

7. Build a Small Cabin

Photo by Joalex Henry on Instructables

Building a simple cabin on your property is an exciting project and proud homage to early American builders. A wonderful feature of cabins is the surprising affordability as well as the option to build off supplies you may already have available. A small cabin on the property can suit a number of useful benefits, whether you begin with a simple A frame or an entire two story build.

Well-made designs actually produce a construction that is warmer and cozier than many people realize — try these plans and cabin-building resources from MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Your cabin can become a pleasant home away from home, suitable for housing guests or just enjoying a little privacy. Not only will this project produce ample opportunity for numerous features and amenities, but many cabin designs can be suited for multiple additions and alterations in later years.

You Have Some Work to Do!

Waiting through long winter months can be frustrating if your usual outdoor routine is stalled while you wait for planting season. No one wants to spend weeks at a time without productive hands-on work. Any of these do-it-yourself projects can yield satisfying results that benefit the look and function of your home for years to come. As always, be sure to carefully follow the instructions for the safety and accuracy that make your projects successful and durable. Leave a comment to ask questions or tell us about your own winter projects.

Jennifer Poindexter and her husband raise most of their food and a variety of animals in the foothills of North Carolina, where they built a small homestead on very little money. She writes about all of her adventures at Morning Chores, where she shares the knowledge she has gained with others that might want to take the full plunge into homesteading. Read all of Jennifer’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

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