Question from Gerald in IN: Hi Brian, I’m one of the unemployment casualties of COVID-19. I’ve been out of work since April. I’m back to work almost full time but the household budget is still tight. That along with the ongoing virus threat means the family is planning to stay home this summer. As a family of four, what DIY projects will help entertain us in the yard?
Answer: Hello Gerald. You’re not the only person asking that question. I’ll get to the fun part shortly but first, work before play. Now is the time of year you need to be taking care of some outdoor maintenance projects. Below are some that almost anyone can do to save a few bucks:
Once the summertime work is finished, it’s time to get to the fun stuff. Gerald, I don’t know if you’re planning to entertain much but with the right games and toys, you will make your yard the season's hottest destination. A backyard filled with games for all ages and abilities becomes a place for both innocent recreation and/or heated grudge matches. Games like bocce, horseshoes, and croquet were once the games of kings and knights because they require strategy and skill.
Horseshoes are popular because most people are at least vaguely familiar with the simple rules. There are several different ways to put in a good horseshoe pit without meeting the exact tournament regulations. For the most part, you don’t want to just pound two stakes in your lawn because thrown horseshoes will do a lot of damage to grass in a short amount of time. The most important requirement is that the stakes be precisely 40 feet apart from each other. Instead of digging out a long sand trap between the stakes, you can box in separate sand traps around each stake. Regulations require the box to be at least 31 by 43 inches and cannot measure larger than 36 by 72 inches. If you want top-notch sand traps, excavate 8 or 9 inches down, shovel in 6 inches of gravel, top the gravel with a vegetation barrier cloth, and finish with 2 or 3 inches of sand on top. If you don’t want to be hit by a badly thrown horseshoe, put backboards up behind the sand traps.
For Croquet, the kings preferred a thick turf next to a birch-tree forest for shade. It will cost you some money but you can put down sod and be ready to play in less than two weeks. Otherwise, it will probably be at least two months to grow the grass from seed. Good grasses for croquet courts are bluegrass, rye, and fescue. You’ll want to level the ground before putting in the grass. An official court takes up 5,000 square feet at 100 feet long by 50 feet wide. But you can easily have six players on a court measuring about 25 feet-by-80 feet.
Regulation bocce courts vary a little in size but most are 91 feet by 13 feet is long. If you want to go strictly regulation, you’ll need the same clay surface used on traditional tennis courts. But your grass croquet court is also going to be perfectly acceptable for a backyard game of bocce. Heck, most backyard players prefer a slow-paced game, enjoyed with the sun low, and a cocktail in hand.
Gerald, after the sunsets, you and your friends will probably enjoy gathering around a backyard fire pit. This might sound like a glorified campfire but for home safety, a lot more goes into building a fire pit. At a minimum, you need sturdy walls of stone to contain the flames and heat. Maybe we’ll get into that in another article before this summer is over because fire pits are popular right now and from all the way back to our cave-dwelling days, people still call the hearth home.
Please add your comments about summer entertainment in the backyard. Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to [email protected].