My Revised (And More Realistic) Outdoor Projects Goals

Can you believe it’s already September…and this month is almost halfway gone?! This year has flown by so quickly! And somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost sight of my overall master list of 2019 home goals. I’ve been focused on the studio for so long now (most of this year!) that other areas have been completely neglected.

As much as I’d love to have the studio finished, I also need to work around our central Texas weather. Cabinet building (which is the one last huge project that needs to be done in the studio) can be done inside and during the winter. So with cooler weather on the way, I want to be prepared to get some outdoor projects done!

Our temps generally stay in the 80s and 90s through September, but in October, we typically see some 70-degree weather at least on some days. And that’s the perfect time to get stuff done outside!

I was looking over my 2019 home goals list to see what outdoor projects I had planned for this year. Here’s what I had on that list…

  • Build and install five window boxes
  • Add a watering system on a timer for the window boxes
  • Finish installing the stone around the porch and paint it
  • Add some chairs, small table, and possibly a swing to the front porch
  • Mark where planter beds will go, and at least add mulch and a few plants
  • Get rid of that huge plant in front of the breakfast room (it needs to be pulled up by the roots or it’ll come back faster and bigger than before)
  • Add a water feature in the courtyard (my grand term for that tiny inset area in front of the breakfast room windows)
  • Lay sod, or at the very least, throw out some grass seed
  • Have the new driveway poured
  • Install lights, speakers, and outlets in carport area
  • Install the ceiling on carport
  • Paint the carport and the areas around it that have new siding
  • Add some landscape lighting in the front yard

That list seems a bit too ambitious this late in the year, but there are a few things on there that I’d like to tackle. And I noticed one pretty big project that somehow got left off of the list that I’d like to add.

Here are the projects I’d definitely like to do by the end of this year…

Finish installing the stone around the porch and paint it.

This is so close to being finished!! I have all of the stone, adhesive and paint. I’d just need to buy some mortar (since I installed mine with spacing between the stones), so finishing this up could be a relatively quick and cheap project.

Get rid of that huge plant in front of the breakfast room.

This thing has taken over. It basically fills up almost the entire area that I refer to as a “courtyard” in front of the breakfast room, and I would guess it’s at least nine feet tall now. I’ve cut it down at least two or three times now, and it just keeps coming back faster and bigger each time. So it definitely needs to be pulled up with a chain and a truck, or I need to find some way to actually kill the roots this time.

Build the steps to the side door on the studio.

I can’t believe that this didn’t make it on my original 2019 house goals list. This seems to be the door I use almost exclusively now, since it’s so convenient to park right next to that side entrance and go in that door. For the first year after that door was installed, I didn’t use it much at all because it was just a big step down onto dirt. Then when we had the carport built, I had them pour this little concrete pad by the door…

…and there are just three cinder blocks there for a step. (And, of course, the framing around the concrete pad is gone now.)

So now that this is my main entrance into the house, I’d like to have something a little more comfortable and convenient than cinder blocks to stand on while trying to unlock that door.

I want to build steps that will match the steps I built on the front porch…

DIY front porch steps and handrails

If you missed that project, you can find the detail here…

I want the side steps to look pretty much exactly the same — white newel posts, risers and railings, stained cedar steps and handrails, and black balusters. The only difference is that the side steps won’t have ice cream cone finials. 😀

So those are the three main projects I hope to get done this year. If time and circumstances allow, I’d like to add two more…

Build a pergola above the breakfast room windows.

I’ve wanted to do this project for a very long time now, and have just never found the time. But I want a pergola similar to this one that I can grow a pretty vine on above those breakfast room windows. I don’t have a new picture of this area (and it wouldn’t do any good to take one since the massive tree has overtaken the area anyway), but you can see the inset “courtyard” area with the three breakfast room windows to the right of the front porch here…

I think a pergola above those windows with some pretty vines would add so much to that area.

And finally…

Build and install five window boxes.

This is another project I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and I even purchased the little corbels for the boxes about a year ago. They’re just sitting in a box in the sunroom waiting for me.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that this will have to wait until the spring. Two of the windows where the window boxes will go are being replaced during the Phase 1 bedroom/hallway remodel. If you missed that, you can read about it here…

So the timing of the window box project will depend on when those new windows are installed. I won’t get my hopes up, and I won’t be too terribly disappointed if that has to wait until next spring.

But for now, the porch stone and the side steps are my main outdoor priorities. Those two things barely make a dent in my original list of outdoor projects that I had planned for this year. But if I can get those two finished, I think they’ll go a long way towards making the front of the house look finished.

Now, fingers crossed for cooler weather soon. 🙂

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  1. I love the pergola idea. A Wisteria vine would be beautiful there and the purple blooms would look good from inside! Lol Also the scent is amazing! So fun to see your outside looking pretty also!
    Sheila F.

    1. Wisteria is beautiful, but not native and can be very invasive. Also probably too big for this area. Ditto for trumpet vine. Look for a native plant that is sized to fit.

      1. I agree with Karen. I made that mistake with wisteria. After the second year it actually pulled out the screws in the pergola I had built and totally took over. And it was a much bigger space than this.

      2. You could try looking at the native American wisteria which is not invasive and is much smaller growing than the Chinese varieties. Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ is one cultivar that is nice and would grow in your area.

        1. I wonder if Jasmine grows well in Texas? It has a lovely scent, tiny white flowers. Of course Roses would be awesome too, and I’m pretty sure they have a yellow climber (for Texas!) I’m glad you will get outside soon, I think you will enjoy the change. Have you done anything about taking down that tree in the back?

      3. I so enjoy your blog. I’ve even shared it with my sons. You have such beautiful style and design ideas. Could you please share the exterior colors of the siding, shutters and door? Thanks so much!!

  2. If you want to try cutting that bush again, as soon as you cut a limb, drench it with Round Up. I usually don’t like to use those chemicals, but it will soak in and kill the roots.

    1. With a shrub like that, Roundup (and more Roundup, and more Roundup) is not the way to go initially. Will take too long for it to die. Better to yank it, pull out as many roots left behind as possible, and then deal with the smaller shoots as they come up.

    2. If any of the Round up gets into the ground, it might also kill anything that gets planted there. I would not bother with chemicals, just yank it and be sure to get all the roots out!!!

  3. Oooh! Extra exciting for me b/c I’ve been looking a pergolas for a long time, too! We have a huge space just above our garage doors that are begging for one. I’m a little reluctant bc I would want to have one that didn’t need frequent repainting. SO…can’t wait to see yours!

  4. I love the pergola project from a more egotistical viewpoint as I mean to build one myself and would love to have you teach me how 🙂 I think to do the stones and the steps first are a very wise decision, because both projects will have a great impact on your life and the look of the house. I keep my fingers crossed for the right temperatures!

  5. Love the idea of a pergola over the breakfast room area! What about building all the window boxes at the same time, get them ready, but only installing the two or three that you can? Those would look good and have the promise of the spring to come.

  6. Good plan and can’t wait to follow your progress. If I could offer a suggestion, I would prioritize planting in the yard over window boxes. Fall is the best time for planting and establishing a lawn. Realistically, you won’t use the window boxes until next spring anyway. If you hold off landscaping until then you will spend a lot of time watering and replacing dead plants. Ask me how I know. :-(.

  7. Good update to the list. I would add that several items from your list naturally fell off when you made the decision to build your workshop under you carport. When do you think you’ll be able to schedule that work? I’m guessing that and the driveway are kind of limited by your budget. You may be able to throw down some grass seed? Maybe check with a landscape person. Can’t wait for cooler weather. It’s HOT!

  8. I just have basically a concrete stoop with a couple steps but would love to cover in wood like you did your front porch. Not sure i have room for the furring strips and flooring due to door placement. May not be enough room under door for them. Pergola with a clematis might be good in your courtyard.

  9. A pergola will be beautiful. Be cautious about it blocking some of the sunlight that shines into the breakfast room though…I have that situation with an area off the back of my family room.

  10. Doing the entrance to your studio to match the front entrance steps will be beautiful! Love your front porch steps. Can’t wait to see.

    1. I love your porch too! It makes your house look so grand. It’s going to look so good with the matching side porch. Ice cream cone finials! Ha!

  11. I have battled native wisteria for years…so invasive!! We have a lovely Lady Banks Rose on our pergola. Beautiful but lets the sunshine through.

    Unrelated- I would love a tutorial on basic re-upholstering. Have you ever done this or would you try? I’ve done dining chairs, but would love to tackle something bigger.


  12. You never cease to am Me with your endless talents! I love everything! One suggestion regarding the courtyard and the water feature. I installed two fountains in my yard, directly on the soil- big mistake because the ground constantly shifts and causes the fountains to be not level and then they don’t flow properly. Consider installing a concrete pad or nicely level pavers to put the foundation on top of. In the end it will be worth it. Knowing you, you probably already know this lol! The pergola is a wonderful idea! I look forward to seeing the results.

  13. This is what I have used on stubborn vines and woody plants.

    I’ve mainly used it for vines, but I did have a couple of large tree-like shrubs I used it on. On those, I drilled holes into the stump after I cut it and then put a generous amount of it in the holes. Nothing came back. Not even on one that I thought would probably take another treatment. I waited for signs of life and they never came. That’s been three years ago now so it seems to have worked!

    1. Thank you for providing this information and the link. I placed an order for it yesterday. Four years after digging up a giant crepe myrtle stump and as many roots as we could get I am still fighting stragglers. Hoping this will do the trick.

  14. There is a product called Stump Out. Cut down that Bush, drill holes into the remaining stump, fill with the powder, etc. Directions on the container. Takes more time but cheaper than hiring someone with a tractor, etc. and you don’t know where the roots spread to or what/if they could cause damage in the pulling. The roots will die with the Stump Out.

  15. I think your revisited goals are very realistic and I’m sure you will get them done. That porch will be wonderful to use when the temperatures moderate.

    As for that invasive plant, I think pulling it out by the roots is a good idea. You might want to try epsom salts in the root hole to make sure the root is killed.

    As for a viney plant, many are invasive. Maybe a morning glory vine or two would look great. AT any rate you should have a greenhouse/nursery in the area that could give you a lot of great ideas.

    Happy Outdoors!

  16. Not sure what your feelings are about weed killers, but you can cut down the big plant, then drill holes into the stump and pour weed killer in. We’ve done it with a number of shrubs and trash trees and even some very invasive pampas grass.

  17. I purchased Tordon from our neighborhood farmers coop. I. Immediately after cutting down the stump’ apply liberally to the cuts. Works like a charm.

  18. Kristi, you need something like a dump truck and a thick chain*; I had huge bushes torn out of my house and the landscaper did just that. It looked like they were pulling big hairy teeth, roots and all. And in Ohio, wisteria is lousy with bees, so sitting out there wouldn’t be pleasant.
    *dont attempt with your pickup, you’ll ruin your axle.

  19. After “chaining” it out by the roots (Cathyrn above); put in a beautiful Japanese Maple. Gorgeous color with the most delicate leaves and will be enchanting to see outside of that window! Just check with your nurserymen to see what works well in the Waco area. There is probably one for you! They are great — no pruning (essentially), slow growing and really used as an ornamental (versus shade). I love them! Great article recently in southern living about them and which ones to pick for what area. That’s my 2 cents!

  20. To kill the bush, look for vine/stump/shrub killer that has triclopyr in it – paint or dab it on the fresh cut and it will kill the roots. I bought a gallon of the Triclopyr concentrate since I have a LOT of poison ivy to kill on my Texas hill country property, and lots of scrubby mesquite on fence lines on our southern Arizona place. It hasn’t killed any of my desirable plants/grasses/trees, but has done an awesome job on the poison ivy and mesquite.