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Spring Yard Maintenance: Where to Start

As soon as the weather begins to warm up, it's time to start getting your yard ready for spring! By clearing out the harsh winter damage and preparing for the new growing season, everything will be ready to enjoy the outdoors all season long.

Time for spring cleaning

Clean the yard thoroughly.
  • Remove any burlap that you added to the trees and shrubs to protect them over the winter.
  • Use a rake or leaf blower to collect any dead leaves that were trapped under the snow throughout the winter. Use yard waste bags to properly dispose of all the debris.
  • Use a pressure washer to clean the home’s exterior. The recommended strength for either an electric- or a gas-powered pressure washer is 1200-3000 psi.
  • Do a little experimenting on a corner of the siding, for example, to make sure the pressure is not too high to cause damage. Do not power wash window screens.

Prune all tree branches

Early spring is a good time to prune all tree branches that may have dried up over the winter.
  • Use a bow saw for branches that are over ½" diameter.
  • Shape large hedges using a hedge trimmer. Go lightly on the trimming so as not to kill off any potential growth. Make sure you trim your hedges annually.
  • Prune unwanted shoots at intersecting tree branches using a pruning saw.
  • Prune rose bushes before the buds appear.
  • Prune spring blooming shrubs such as the forsythia after it begins to flower.
  • Prune evergreen trees back to intersecting branches.
  • Provide supplemental deep food for tree roots, especially for small trees that are not yet established.
  • Do not ever trim more than 1/3 of a tree.
  • For hard-to-reach tree branches, you may want to use a telescopic pole saw.
  • A chainsaw can be used if you need to clear out a fallen tree, remove low branches or cut down a dying tree. A chainsaw should never be used higher than shoulder level.
  • Hire a licensed, insured arborist for trimming large branches.

Prune perennial plants

Prune perennial plants in flower beds to prepare for the new growth season fast approaching.
  • Trim down perennials to a height of 4" - 5".
  • Trim ornamental grasses to a height of 2" - 3".
  • Transplant plants such as daylilies and hostas leaving at least 3 stems per clump.
  • With climbing plants, remove older woody canes, then use jute twine or a textile fastening system to reshape vine plants.
  • Mix rubbing alcohol with an equal part of water and put into a spray bottle to apply to the pruners after snipping each shrub to prevent the spread of shrub disease.

Prune the rose bushes

If there are rose bushes on your property, begin to prune the roses so that healthy new growth starts as the weather warms.
  • Prune repeat-blooming rose varieties in early spring.
  • Trim rose canes to 1" below blackened areas.
  • Dab wood glue at the end of pruned canes to deter insects.

Start regular lawn care maintenance

Begin lawn care maintenance in early spring to jump-start a healthy lawn throughout the growing season.
  • Check the soil's pH and then apply soil amendments if needed.
  • Remove turf damaged by salt, plows, or disease and reseed bare areas.
  • Grass seeding can begin when the weather is warm in the spring, past any concern for frost. If you have a forsythia plant, a good reminder is to start grass seeding once the forsythia starts to bloom.
  • Add a 1/2" layer of compost to perennials and any grass seeding areas.
  • Lawn fertilizers should be added as soon as the temperature begins to remain warm consistently.
  • Crabgrass treatments can be applied once temperatures begin to warm up.
  • If the lawn needs new grass seed and treatments for weeds, seed first and wait a couple of weeks before treating the lawn for weeds and crabgrass. Remember that seeding can also be done in the fall as an alternative option.
  • Wait until your grass is at least two inches (5 cm) before you begin to mow. Never remove more than one third of your grass when mowing, as any larger cut could create stress on the grass and affect its growth.
  • You can keep your grass long or short, depending on your preference, but two inches is typically the ideal length.

Remove any noticeable weeds

Remove any noticeable weeds now before they seed and spread.
  • Pull up dandelions using a weeder before seeding begins through the lawn.
  • Do not add weeds to compost piles because sprouts could shoot up and reseeding could eventually occur.

Check outdoor spigots

Check to see if outdoor spigots suffered freeze damage.
  • Turn the water on and try to hold a thumb over the hole, if the thumb can stop a flow of water, then there is likely damage that will need to be fixed.
  • Check the garden hose to see if it there are cracks or holes, and purchase a new one if needed.

Clean out the flower beds and flower borders

Clean out the flower beds and flower borders to prepare the soil for fresh plantings.
  • Rake out fallen leaves and dead foliage.
  • Pull up annuals if not already done so in the fall.
  • Remove existing mulch to set the stage for new mulch.
  • Push down the roots of heaved plants.
  • Add plant food in the bed.
  • Add a 5-10-10 fertilizer around bulbs.
  • Use a square-head shovel to give the flower beds a clean edge.

Prepare lawn and landscape tools

Bring tools out of winter storage to spring and summer storage areas.
  • Take stock of what tools you have, if any need to be repaired, or if you’re missing a tool essential for spring yard maintenance.
  • Start up powered tools to verify they run smoothly.
  • Carefully clean all tools.
  • Maintain tools that need repair or yearly maintenance.

Maintain the gas-powered lawn mower

Make sure your lawn mower is ready for the first round of seasonal mowing.
  • Empty the gas tank, and refill. You may want to try premixed fuel.
  • Disconnect the spark plug before inspecting the machine.
  • Remove the blade and clean thoroughly with a brush and water. Dry the blades carefully after washing.
  • Drain the oil, and refill.
  • Clean the undercarriage by spraying it with the garden hose. Take care to dry the undercarriage carefully.
  • Change the air filter.
  • Replace the spark plug when the maintenance work is complete.
  • Once all these steps are complete, your lawn mower should be functioning well. If not, it may be time to replace your mower.

Ensure the structural integrity of retaining walls

Structurally repair walls that have bulges or loose areas.
  • Clear out weep holes to ensure free drainage of backed up water trapped behind the retaining wall.
  • Consult a professional if the problem has persisted for the past few years.

Prepare patio furniture

Clean all structures with cold, soapy water and then rinse well.
  • Clean fabrics and cushions based on manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Tighten all fasteners.
  • Oil aluminum swivels, glides, hinges, and joints.
  • Remove rusted areas with sandpaper.
  • Add liquid or paste wax to treat unpainted metal surfaces yearly.
  • Repaint metal furniture frames with rust-inhibiting primer and paint.
  • Fill in cracked areas of wood frames with epoxy putty or wood filler, let dry, sand, and seal.

Do maintenance work on outdoor wood structures

Ensure that your deck and other wood structures are safe and stable.
  • Scrub wood structures clean with a mix of: 2 gallons of water, 2 quarts bleach, and 1 cup liquid soap.
  • Prepare for repainting by scraping off old paint, sand with 60 grit paper, and begin painting when temperatures remain above 50° F (10 °C).
  • Remove rotted and damaged structural wood pieces such as pickets, soffit boards, siding, porch supports, and lattice.
  • Check fence posts to secure them if they are loose.
  • Install new wood where needed.
  • Patch rotted sections with wood epoxy.
  • Automobile body filler can be used to repair water damaged wood on non-structural items such as shutters and trim. Fill in damaged areas with the automobile body filler, sand, and paint.

Make your footpaths safe to use

Rake scattered gravel back into aggregate walkways and patios.
  • Add more gravel into areas where there are large holes.
  • Refill sand or stone dust back in between flagstones.
  • If pavers have been heaved out of place, remove the paver, replenish the base material, then reset the paver.
  • Use a power washer with a low-pressure tip on pavers to remove slippery algae spots and leaf stains.
Weber gas barbecue

Clean your BBQ

Get your grill ready in anticipation of the warmer weather.
  • With gas grills, clean out the burner jets for any clogging.
  • Secure gas hoses and connections.
  • Check the propane tanks and replace if low.
  • Charcoal grills need to be cleaned of last year's grilling ash.
  • Use barbecue cleaner to clean all surfaces of the charcoal grill of grease residue.
  • For pellet grills, scrub the surface grates and use a shop vac to remove any ash from inside the burn pot.
  • If your barbecue does not turn on or connect properly, you may need to purchase a new one.
  • Make sure to keep your barbecue clean and well-maintained throughout the grilling season.

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