Tag Archives: garden projects

DIY Insect Hotel

Insect hotels are an easy way to create habitat for beneficial insects in or near your garden. It’s basically the same concept as a bird house but for bugs instead. You can make yours to help attract solitary bees, wasps, predatory beetles, lacewings, hoverflies and more. These insects play an important role in your garden’s ecosystem, pollinating plants, and feeding on pests. 

To get started I’ll discuss the insect hotel I made as an example. It is made entirely from scrap and natural materials. The outside is scrap plywood and tin and the compartments are filled with bamboo, a log with drilled holes, pine cones, sticks, bark, hay, and bricks. What you make yours from is up to you. You can utilize what you have to create something fairly rustic like I did or get real fancy.


The bamboo and logs with drilled holes were added with solitary bees and wasps in mind. They both use or create holes, frequently in woody material, to lay their eggs. Predatory beetles and hoverflies can find places to hide and over winter among the pine cones, sticks, and bark. The hay provides good habitat for lacewings and the bricks add larger holes for spiders and other insects to use.

The most important part is add a mix of materials. Think about all the crevices and spaces you normally find insects in and mimic these in your design. If you’d like to attract a specific insect to your garden you can also search for its habitat preferences. Does it like cool damp places close to the ground? Or sunny, dry places up high?

It’s okay if your insect hotel is completely different from the one I created. Just as there’s a wide variety of insects that could use a helping hand there’s a wide variety of habitats you can use your insect hotel to create. A quick Pinterest or Google image search will turn up hundreds of inspiring ideas to help you create something that fits your needs. People have made giant insect towers from stacked pallets and little painted boxes that hang on the wall or fence. You can use hollow logs, stacked cinder blocks, or old terra-cotta pots to stuff with material. 


To put mine together I measured and then cut the plywood using a circular saw. From there I screwed the plywood together to form a box using some screws leftover from another project. Then I decided to add more plywood to create small compartments or shelves so I could easily add different types of material. I found a perfect size scrap piece of tin that I hand for the roof and screwed that on as well. I haven’t yet, but I need to staple on some scrap chicken wire I have to hold in loose materials like the pine cones. This will also allow me to stuff the materials in tighter.

If you don’t have access to power tools think about ready made containers you could use rather than building a box like I did. Maybe you have an old wooden crate handy or could use an old pot, block, or hollow log like I mentioned above.


There are a few general ideas that can help you make the most of your insect hotel. First while some insects like damp conditions you might still consider putting something that sheds water on the top. That way your materials will last longer and even if it sits directly on the ground you can keep the upper layers dry for certain species. 

Secondly it’s best to use compostable or recyclable materials. Your insect hotel probably won’t last forever. Building one that can easily be recycled or returned to the earth at the end of it’s use is good planning. Just because straws and pvc pipe have the same shape as bamboo doesn’t mean that they’re good alternatives. 

Consider your hotel’s location carefully. If you have a small space you might have limited choices. However if possible it’s best to place your hotel where it’s sheltered from some of the prevailing winds. If you like bees you may also want to look for a sunny location as they rely heavily on the sun for warmth.  

Lastly don’t stop with just your insect hotel’s structure include some “landscaping” for it too. Insects are more likely to utilize your hotel if you add features around it they like. You can plant a flower mix around it, add a lot of mulch to that area of your garden, let the nearby grass grow tall, or add a place for them to access water.

Insect hotels are a great weekend project. They’re a quick and easy way to help your garden and the natural world. They’re also an excellent project to get kids involved with. Remember that you can make an insect hotel with anything you have on hand, there’s no right or wrong way to make one, and even if it comes out a little wonky it’s okay. The bugs don’t care if you measured everything perfectly!

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Rainy Day Garden Projects

While rain is great for growing plants it’s not necessarily ideal for that weeding, planting, harvesting or other major garden work you were planning. Not only will you end up soaking wet, walking on wet soil can be detrimental. Wet soil is more easily compacted which will make it harder for beneficial insects, fungi, microbes, and your plants to thrive. That doesn’t mean you need to take they day off though. There’s plenty of important and fun gardening tasks that can be accomplished on wettest days without setting foot in the garden. Many of these are also great for the dead of winter when you can’t stop thinking about gardening.


Continue your gardening education. Reading gardening or farming books can be a great way to expand your knowledge, get more project ideas, and stay inspired. Check out Southern Exposure’s book and DVD section here.

Organize your seeds.

No one likes chaos and wasted seeds. Go through all your old, new, and saved seeds. It’s best to find some way to organize your seeds whether it’s a binder with baseball card sleeves, files, or even just a shoebox with cardboard dividers for your different types i.e. greens, tomatoes, flowers, etc. When order time rolls around you’ll know what you need and what you already have.

For old seeds or those you’ve saved you may want to do a simple germination test. Place 10 or 20 seeds in a moist but not soaking wet paper towel, roll or fold it up, and place it in a clear plastic bag or container to prevent it from drying out. Check occasionally to ensure your paper towel stays moist, larger seeds will use more water. After your seeds germination period (or a couple of days) you can count how many seeds have sprouted. For more on germination visit this article, How to Test Germination.

Use a garden planner.

Garden Planner Example 2017

Garden planners like the one offered by Southern Exposure can help you to make the most of your garden space and ensure you’re garden stays healthy. You can keep track of things like crop rotations, soil amendments, and where you’ve used cover crops. Check it out here.

Get your orders in.

If it’s an appropriate time of year rainy days can be a good time to the office work side of gardening. You may want to get an early start ordering next years seeds, perennials, even compost or a soil test. Don’t wait till it’s a perfect day to actually be working in the garden to think of these things.

Make plant markers.

Especially if you have kids making your own plant or variety markers can be a fun project. There’s so many options and you can find some great ideas online. A few ideas include popsicle sticks, painted rocks or bricks, painted wooden spoons, or even beaded wires.

Preserve or use your harvest.

For many, one of the most important parts of having a garden is enjoying the harvest. Rainy days are the perfect time to do kitchen activities like canning and cooking. Try pickling some peppers or making some delicious squash souffle.

If you have goods already in storage it’s also a good day to do a quick check on them. Make sure all your cans still look good, that none of your green beans are getting freezer burned, and that none of your potatoes have started to turn.

Start a garden journal.

Remembering all the events in your garden from year to year can be a struggle but sometimes the little details are great to have on hand to look back on. While a garden planner may help you organize the bigger picture a garden journal can help you remember all the little things like your last frost date, when the robins came back, and specific notes on new varieties you may be trying out. Garden journals can be as simple as a handwritten notebook or a highly organized binder or even word document of information.

If you’re at a loss for where to start, begin with the basics. Keep track of the weather, planting dates, frost dates, fruiting dates, and the natural world. This can also be an excellent projects to get the kids involved with.

If you were planning a super productive day in the garden, rain can be a let down but it doesn’t have to be. Get ahead on important projects like ordering soil amendments. Make good use of your harvest with a delicious homemade meal. Start getting organized with a garden plant, journal, and/or seed organizer. Just like the plants in your garden you can do your best with what nature throws your way.