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The Dirt

Book Giveaway: Sean Conway’s Cultivating Life – 125 Projects for Backyard Living

As editors, many great books come across our desks.  Going forward we’re going to offer up these books to you, our loyal readers.  This time we’re giving away a copy of Cultivating Life.  Just leave a comment to be entered.

Here’s what Artisan has to say about the new book.

Sean Conway’s Cultivating Life – 125 Projects for Backyard Living
By Sean Conway and Lee Alan Buttala

Artisan Books, April 2009
$35.00, 272 pages

The American backyard is being transformed from an unused patch of grass into a new oasis, an extension of our living space.

As Americans continue to nest and adopt the “staycation” in lieu of the traditional vacation, there’s a desire to make the most of the home by creating an atmosphere that is both familiar and luxurious.  Many families are now extending their kitchens with outdoor countertops and sinks, adding a graceful element to the age-old backyard barbeque.

Conway and Lee Buttala embrace this notion and showcase 125 simple projects – from creating a simple herb pot that yields seasonal ingredients right outside your kitchen door to building a portable salad table that’s ideal for growing baby lettuces in the spring time.  All of the user-friendly ideas provide easy elegance for an often overlooked place.  Packed with vivid photographs, fun sidebars, expert tips and easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, Conway presents examples of both small crafts and larger woodworking activities.

Sean Conway’s Cultivating Life offers the instructions we need to extend our home into the backyard by transforming this underused space in to a kitchen, a family room and a place to entertain–or simply a nice quiet spot.

Leave a comment on this post by 12am on Wednesday April 29 and you just might win this book.  One winner will be chosen at random and announced on April 29.

What outdoor projects are you planning?  Have you ever made a mosaic table?  A trellis? A planter?
We’d love to see what you’re working on.  Head over to the gallery and show us your projects.

View Comments


  1. tberning 04/22/2009

    I can't wait to 'live' in my backyard again!

  2. jcart 04/22/2009

    My backyard needs some serious help. We are taking on the challenge this summer!

  3. Kate_Frank 04/22/2009

    There were so many cool projects in this book that I was unable to part with my copy. Enter! Enter!

  4. dixiegalpa 04/22/2009

    This looks like a great book...would love to win it!

  5. Arcadia1 04/22/2009

    My yard is small on purpose since downsizing from last giant home to live more simply. This book would be a neat way to make the most of it!

  6. carriscary 04/22/2009

    Sounds like a fun read! I'm currently working on converting a portion of my front yard into a vegetable garden- maybe this would give me ideas that could make that garden more pleasing to the eye for my neighbors :)

  7. Oakland278 04/22/2009

    I enjoy his show and would love to receive a copy of his book - my yard could use the help!

  8. ShirleyBovshow 04/22/2009

    Please add me to your list of potential winners. I want this book.

    I'm working on two, gorgeous edible hillside garden projects right now. I'm also using California natives. The challenge is "user-friendly" hillside design, productive vegetation, beauty and not falling off the hill while I work!

  9. ter5 04/22/2009

    i love his show. his website is fantastic. he covers all the bases. i think it's neat how each week he has a subject, and the whole show is about that subject. (moss, rocks, etc.) would love to won his book.

  10. patsflo 04/22/2009

    This is just the incentive that I need to get me going

  11. LpAngelRob 04/22/2009

    I also am a fan of the TV show, so I wouldn't at all mind getting a book of his projects.

  12. user-7006864 04/22/2009

    I am a designer who is always looking for new ideas, for my garden and for others. The book sounds interesting.

  13. caeinct 04/22/2009

    This summer we are moving from a condo in CT to a home WITH A BACK YARD in Missouri. It has been a long time since I have actually "gardened" so 125 Projects for Backyard Living is just what I need.

  14. Bythesea 04/22/2009

    Looks like a great book!

  15. Boots1000 04/22/2009

    We experienced a severe ice storm this winter and lost four trees plus numerous branches off others. My formerly dappled shade backyard is now full sun. I've been creating new shade gardens for my seasoned shade plants and creating new sun gardens with new plants. I'm ready to take a break and gain inspiration for the next phase!

  16. katklaw777 04/22/2009

    Husband is retiring, so I need at least 125 projects to keep him busy in the backyard...........or he will drive me crazy! Thanks for a great give-away!

  17. JACOBLADY 04/22/2009


  18. oroszc 04/22/2009

    Just moved to an unlandscaped property and can't wait to get out there and dig in the dirt. Will need to work with clay soil - new challenge.

    This book sounds amazing!! The yard is as important to me as the house is. I have woods outback and already have up to 3 young deer at a time visiting me. This makes for an interesting challege - clay soil and deer.

  19. dirtdiva 04/22/2009

    Looks like a great resource. When you live on 22 acres, there's no end to the projects.

  20. tlvdinoh 04/22/2009

    I would love to receive this book! I already have a long mental to-do list for our yard, but could always use some inspiration, or tips for how to accomplish my ideas. Thanks!

  21. Haggis 04/22/2009

    This book sounds intriguing. I'd love to get some new ideas for my backyard after living and working in it for over 40 years!

  22. Josefly 04/22/2009

    I started last fall clearing out a large area of my back yard for a make-over. I'd love to have this book.

  23. catsco 04/22/2009

    This book sounds great. Lots of variety. I won't run out of ideas with this book.

  24. hortiho 04/23/2009

    Even a Garden Designer like myself can use some new ideas. I'd love a copy! :)

  25. Loued007 04/23/2009

    We've done stone walls, stone paths, mosaics, trellises, brick edging,....oh yes, lots of gardening. But there's always another project to inspire us - especially by Sean Conway!!!

  26. minime2 04/23/2009

    I don't know if this book can save my yard -- I've been trying to be a gardener for 7 years now but still my yard/garden (if you can call it a garden) looks like I never put any effort or imagination into it. So if I win this book, I'll send you before and after pictures of projects or ideas I get from the book.

  27. Knittingrid 04/23/2009

    I've taken over a neglected garden, and would love any ideas.

  28. gonetotexas 04/23/2009

    I've just completed a major renovation of my backyard into a wildlife habitat certified garden. But I also have filled it with pots of the many plants I love to collect, including dyckias, gingers, coleus, caladiums, bromeliads, and lots of things for shade. Now I need the decorative touches. Sounds like Cultivating Life is just the book to solve that problem.

  29. daleebennett 04/23/2009

    I would really put this book to good use.

  30. skcolonel 04/23/2009

    My mate tells me if I "include him" in any more of my projects, he's "quitting". So, this book is just what we need. If he thinks it is bad now, wait until I get my hands on this one!

  31. glasslady 04/23/2009

    I haven't run out of ideas yet, but would love the book to give me even more.

  32. olsoul6308 04/23/2009

    This is just what I need for my neglected yard.

  33. user-7006868 04/23/2009

    Moving our indoors into the yard may be taking a new look, but the concept of taming the wild is very old. While I am planning on building a new entrance and deck for our first home, my extended "indoor living" will end at the deck. I'm looking forward to effectively inviting the wilderness "back to my place", with plenty of native shrubs, ferns, bulbs and trees.

  34. NJGardener 04/23/2009

    I'm always looking for new projects! The portable salad table sounds intriguing . . .

  35. NJGardener 04/23/2009

    I am always looking for new project ideas! The portable salad table sounds particularly intriguing . . .

  36. gardenwriter 04/23/2009

    Sounds like a fantastic book!

    I'm starting a nonprofit that builds backyard raised bed gardens for seniors and low-income families. These gardens will of course feature fruit and vegetables to feed the body, but they'll also include flowers and art for the soul. We'll also encourage our new gardeners to save a planting square to grow something to share with friend and neighbors.

    Cultivating Life would be both inspirational and instructional. I'd love to have a copy.

  37. dirtundermynails 04/23/2009

    I'm always looking for new ideas and especially ones that my 4 1/2 year old granddaughter can help me with. We're planting pumpkin seeds this year. I would love to see what projects you have in your book.

  38. greenthumbz 04/23/2009

    This books looks like an answer to my doldrums.

  39. jdigi 04/23/2009

    Ideas from experts are always inspiring. Then I feel motivated to get up and get busy. This book looks like a winner!

  40. Seamwrite 04/23/2009

    Choose me! Just moved in, new construction, have our landscape plan with all plantings and hardscape, but it is those special "touches" that make the outdoor rooms our favorite. (BTW, loved the article about painted items for the garden - great inspiration!)

  41. prettyribbons 04/23/2009

    I would love to win this book. I want to go into my garden and just have and just see a beautiful extensive maze of flowers. I want to learn more about what plants look good together. I would also like to build some raised beds(I hope my husband will help me with these) I have alot of different animals in our yard from deer to rabbits.. I could certainly use some help on these plans I would like to acquire in our yard.

  42. user-7006869 04/23/2009

    I have many books with good ideas for garden structures, plant combinations, you name it. But, as many others have said, I an always looking for more. I have over an acre of yard that I am gradually turning into a garden, complete with many more trees, flower beds, and a small vegetable garden. I have just completed an addition to the house and greatly enlarged my deck. Projects that are in some stage of development include a white picket fence for the front, arbors for the back, and a patio next to the new deck. I look forward to reading this book.

  43. Tamawi 04/23/2009

    I used an old laundry line post for an upside-down tomato planter. I buried the concrete bottom nub of the pole in my veggie garden, nailed a board across the top to make a T-shaped, and then slipped the METAL handles of two painted plastic kitty litter buckets (with a small hole cut for the plant) on each side, for my planters. I've used it for 4 seasons now.

  44. sassynana 04/23/2009

    I would love to win this book!!! I have a 3 acre yard and are trying to develop it into a garden. I also have a oblong out door table that the glass was broken during a tornado and would love to salvage table by puting in a new table top. I have thought about doing this with tile. I am looking for ideas and suggestions.

  45. Jasper519 04/23/2009

    I would love to win this book. Last year due to a very bad wind storm we lost 3 large (70-80 ft, tall)trees in our backyard. Needless to say, we went from a shade garden to a sunny garden so I'll need all the help I can get to put my garden back into shape. Thanks.

  46. Joleen 04/23/2009

    After 18 years, we are finally ready to redo the backyard - I cannot wait and would love to win this book for some creative ideas.

  47. foobazel 04/23/2009

    Gardening is my passion and it is contageous!
    Would adore having a great book like this!

  48. CTGarden 04/23/2009

    I'm what you call an accidental gardener. I started 8 years ago and have some great gardens...but now I am realizing I need a plan. Every spring and fall I'm moving things around to have a better layout. Any help would be great!

  49. Martinone 04/23/2009

    New ideas keep my mind young as I grow old. This book would help. Seems like everyday I find more and more things in the world of gardening and flowers that I want to do. There will never be enough time. It's a whole new world.

  50. aboyer 04/23/2009

    My backyard has been a work in progress for many years. We have clay soil, so compost is added occasionally but never is enough.

  51. ytellmey 04/23/2009

    Inspiration needed.

  52. kris71617 04/23/2009

    After a very long, wet winter in the Northwest, I really need some inspiration!

  53. Heartache 04/23/2009

    My backyard is my second home and landscaping is my life.

  54. lacopeland 04/23/2009

    I would love to win this book. I am always working on new gardening projects.

  55. SSDesign 04/23/2009

    No matter how long we've been gardening - we can always use some inspiration. Sean Conway has a wonderful way of making projects interesting and do-able. Would love to have this book to try some of his projects in my back yard!

  56. pburgardener 04/23/2009

    I'd love to win this book. We spend almost all of our time outside. I could use a few more hints.

  57. LollyW 04/23/2009

    Any ideas in there for sharing the back yard with a big dog? The book sounds inspirational, and who can't use a bit of inspiration?

  58. jakki 04/23/2009

    I love to make projects for my garden which I then paint in bright colours! This book would be very helpful in giving me new ideas.

  59. quickquilter 04/23/2009

    I'd love to be able to improve "my" back yard, but it's common land in our condo so I'm limited to improving my permitted garden. Would love to find ways to do that.

  60. quickquilter 04/23/2009

    I'd love to be able to improve "my" back yard, but it's common land in our condo so I'm limited to improving my permitted garden. Would love to find ways to do that.

  61. quickquilter 04/23/2009

    I live in a townhouse condo complex, so my "improvements" have to be limited to my garden. Woul love to hear more.

  62. quickquilter 04/23/2009

    I live in a townhouse condo complex, so my "improvements" have to be limited to my garden. Woul love to hear more.

  63. NegFoto 04/23/2009

    Please add me to the list of potential winners. My wife and I spend most of our time outside, from April to November.

  64. NegFoto 04/23/2009

    Please add me to the list of potential winners. My wife and I spend most of our time in the backyard, in our garden.

    sorry if this is a double post, the first one i submitted did not show.

  65. Greenthings 04/23/2009

    Looks like a great book! Can always find time for more projects.

  66. Irene_R 04/23/2009

    Since retiring, gardening has been my joy. To enhance our bird bath which was left by the previous owner 40 years ago when we moved here, we covered the crumbling concrete bowl with small tile pieces. It looks great! Birds like it too.

  67. Scarlett007 04/23/2009

    I could certainly Use THIS Book, looks fascinating. I could help my friends with their gardens much better than I now do!! Thanks for the chance! Rebecca in Tucson, AZ

  68. TammyK 04/23/2009

    This book looks great! I would love to enter. My backyard could use some help.

  69. hudson 04/24/2009

    I'm planning three 5' wide, 9' high arbors over a 4' wide sideyard sidewalk, using 5' x 16' heavy wire cattle fence panels, to hold vines and make the sideyard/sidewalk a sheltered private "walk through" area. I'm planning side frames of PT 4"x4" posts and bending the panels to fit between the frames.

  70. AnnJoan 04/24/2009

    This book sounds like it could be very helpful. We have many challenges in our yard since the tornado!

  71. empi 04/24/2009

    This book will be an inspiration to create something new and different in suburbia!

  72. TWillett 04/24/2009

    This book looks like just what I need.

  73. sharkness 04/24/2009

    my daughter just bought a house, this will be the perfect gift for her

  74. ganoo 04/24/2009

    Only 125 backyard projects? this book is going to be great in my library. I can't wait to share it with my family and friends.

  75. OutrageousGarden 04/24/2009

    Anything by Sean is fabulous and Fine Gardening only recommends great resources so "what's the question?"
    I hope there are a few things about container gardening in it! I see salad gardening mentioned!

  76. dirtjunkie 04/24/2009

    This looks like a great book. I spend considerable time outside, making our little piece of earth more enjoyable. I am always looking for new ideas to improve our space, and especially ideas to entice our kids to stay outdoors and enjoy the living space around them. I look forward to checking this book out, and would love to add it to my bookshelf.

  77. dbarriss 04/24/2009

    This sounds like and absolutely "must have" book for gardeners. My husband is retired and not really enjoying it. He loves to work outdoors in his garden and I believe this book would be the perfect addition to his garden library. We have moved recently, many backyard challenges...this book sounds like the answer!

  78. mamacool 04/24/2009

    Great idea! My family loves to be outside and I've been looking for ways to make yard more fun!

  79. Cayugamorning 04/24/2009


    This book look great. In spring and summer, we spend half our time outdoors, swimming in our pool, gardening, watching the kids run around, and dining. This book looks like it will have many helpful suggestions. I already grow herbs for the kitchen and hope this year to sell them at the farmer's market. I would like to make some trough-type planters for our new deck (hypertropha?). I'd also like to make a bamboo-lattice fence to hold back the ferns behind the pool. This book looks like it will have a lot of great ideas.

  80. PaigeInLA 04/24/2009

    Wow! My husband and I just moved into a older house and have inherited a messy, overgrown garden with lots of potential. There's a trellis begging for flowery vines, the perfect spot for growing tomatoes or maybe herbs, and ugly concrete patio that would benefit from colorful mosaic pots. We're completely overwhelmed but eager to create a beautiful outdoor space. Sean Conway new book sounds like the perfect inspiration we need.

  81. violap 04/24/2009

    I would love to win this book as I am in the process of extending my home to the back yard on a very fugal budget and can use all the ideas I can get.

  82. moonflower09 04/24/2009

    I would love the book! We plan to re-do our back yard and would love some help!!

  83. annsw 04/24/2009

    The nice weather is coming and it is always good to get outside and play in the dirt! But, I can always use extra advice.

  84. quiltybird 04/24/2009

    This book would be great for me. I have a brand new back yard and I need all the help I can get for landscaping and gardening. I'm so eager to get out and work in the yard.

  85. BeachwalkerMari 04/24/2009

    A friend just told me about this site and it looks like I will enjoy visiting on a regular basis. Thank you!

  86. msfsc 04/25/2009

    I love building stuff. This book looks great

  87. kopper 04/25/2009

    Spring has finally arrived. Yahoo!!!

  88. jelybene 04/25/2009

    I would love some new and creative ideas for my yard. I look forward to reading this book.

  89. swedeshollergardener 04/25/2009

    The transformation of the back yard from a patch of grass to an oasis may be one of the few blessings of the economic downturn.

  90. swedeshollergardener 04/25/2009

    The transformation of the back yard from a patch of grass to an oasis may be one of the few blessings of the economic downturn.

  91. mares13 04/26/2009

    I would love this book! First spring in a new house and I have all sorts of updates to do, and this sounds like a great read to inspire ideas!

  92. barbarajade 04/26/2009

    I spent the entire previous summer re-planting my so-called front lawn and creating a front yard garden. I now wait for evidence of successes but patience is not a particular virtue. Moreover, my backyard, my sanctum sanctorum, went by the wayside. The birds are enjoying it but me--not so much. I need ideas to enhance this most restful place while I wait to reap the benefits of last year's efforts in the front--a pleasant, neighborly, but hardly restful spot.
    I'd look forward to getting a copy of Conway's book.

  93. tvvsmom 04/26/2009

    My yard is a the stage where all my perennial flower/shrub beds are made and there is really only maintenance now. I think most of the fun and enjoyment I found in my yard was in the planning and building stage so I really, really miss that aspect of it. This book would give me the excitment of having new projects to build. Please pick my name--there is nothing I would love more than to have the 'rush' of making something new instead of the dreary maintence part!

  94. RRJ 04/27/2009

    So excited to see this book. We are working toward becoming a self sufficient property and want this 2.5 acre piece of heaven to be a welcome respite for family and friends. Will look for this book in the book stores.

  95. Plumterry 04/27/2009

    I think people also want a place of 'peace' to just destress. That is why a book of this kind is so important, to help create the environment to destress.

  96. Flrnut22 04/27/2009

    Boy do I need this book! I have a good sized sideyard just waiting for me to plan the serene garden getaway and entertainment space I've imagined for years. I think we all need a peaceful place to collect our thoughts and reconnect with the earth. And it's nice to have a few friends and family over once in awhile. I'm putting this book on my birthday list!

  97. jleige 04/27/2009

    I got rid of my front lawn several years ago and most people Love it and of course I do too... So much more interesting to see all the different plant life and critters out there now.

  98. khatlin 04/27/2009

    I'll be looking for this book in stores. We are slowly but surely trying to reclaim a neglected lot.

  99. DBG 04/27/2009

    Boy, could I use this book. I'm starting a new garden/yard with extremely poor and sandy soil.

  100. plentygoat 04/28/2009

    It is snowing here in Colorado (again). I would love this fabulous book to go and read by the woodstove.

  101. Chione 04/28/2009

    Learning about backyard gardening is very high on my priority list -- this would be a great resource!

  102. Plantdoctor 04/29/2009

    Creation of my garden is my life. On sick leave for a year, and heading for medical retirement my love of plants and gardening give me joy. My early university life of Paleo Botany provided the start I needed for my current life of reading writing and thinking of plants and gardening. Your book sounds just perfectperfect.

  103. katklaw777 04/26/2010

    I enjoy watching this program on PBS, so I know I would enjoy this book. thanks.

  104. gem514 06/16/2010

    I would love a copy of this book to make more use of my backyard!

  105. Ruth 06/17/2010

    gem514, sorry to tell you that this giveaway was in 2009.

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