Now that winter has come and gone, it’s time to stop hibernating and start enjoying the outdoors again. Kick off the warm season by tackling some spring cleanup outside your house. Be sure to click on the Project Shopping List to stock up on everything you need to prep for spring.
Step 1: Clean Out Your Gutters
Check your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause damage to your home when water doesn’t flow away from the foundation. Use a ladder to get onto the roof, and then remove leaves and twigs with gloved hands and/or a large gutter scoop. Place the debris in a trash bag, carefully dropping it to the ground when it’s full. Use a hose to flush out the gutters after you’re done cleaning. With the hose running, you’ll also find any leaks that need to be repaired.
If you find that you do need to make repairs, you can patch a leaky gutter yourself. Scrub the inside of the gutter around the hole with steel wool. With metal snips, cut a patch of metal flashing that is slightly larger than the hole. Use a putty knife to coat the back of the metal patch with asphalt flashing cement or gutter patch and press into place. Smooth any adhesive that oozes out with gloved hands. Get detailed information on gutter maintenance.
Step 2: Clean Up Your Yard
Start by picking up leaves and other debris. Use a rake to collect leaves and debris and use yard refuse bags for disposal. You can also shred or mulch leaves with a mulching mower so that they compost on the lawn and provide added nutrients.
This is a good time to help trees, shrubs and flowers start their bloom. Prune any dead, diseased or out-of-control branches from trees and shrubs. Use a handsaw to cut off branches that are dead, infested with insects or disease, or that have grown too close to power lines and pose a safety threat. Bypass loppers work well for smaller branches. Always cut away from yourself so the branch does not fall toward you.
Always keep ladders, tools, equipment and yourself at least 10' away from any overhead power lines.
Make sure to wear safety goggles when working with a handsaw or loppers.
Observe basic ladder safety procedures to avoid serious injury from a fall. Invest in an adjustable ladder stabilizer that attaches to the ladder and braces onto the roof.
Collect clippings in yard refuse bags or trash bags for disposal.
Pull up weeds and crabgrass. Remember to remove the entire root system by pulling firmly by hand, or by using a shovel or weeding tool. Spot-check your garden once a week to keep weeds from coming back. For an onslaught of weeds, use a post-emergent herbicide that works on weeds that have already begun to grow. When using post-emergent herbicides, take care not to damage wanted plants. Avoid spraying herbicides on newly seeded grass or in the garden.
Many post-emergent herbicides are toxic. Purchase only as much as you need and wear protective clothing and garden gloves. Dispose of herbicides according to instructions.
Step 3: Clean Your Home’s Exterior
Use a pressure washer loaded with detergent to remove caked-on dirt and grime from the exterior. Clean with slow movements of the wand. Let the washer’s cleaning solution work into the area for a few minutes before you rinse with a water-only stream from the washer, or water from a garden hose. Always start with a lower pressure when unsure of the effects it may have on the surface. For more detailed information, see the project Pressure Washing Your Home.
Don’t forget to clean your windows. Spray each windowpane with water from a garden hose and then clean it using window glass cleaner and a large strip applicator or window washer/squeegee. You can also dilute dishwashing soap in a bucket with water. Dip your cleaning tool into your bucket or apply the cleaner to the pane and then start at the top, working your way down, to decrease drips. Rinse the windows to remove debris from cleaning. Finish cleaning panes by using a squeegee or the rubber blade of the squeegee side of a window washer, to remove water and any cleaning solution from the glass. Wipe the blade clean with a cloth after each pass with the squeegee. For more detailed steps, see the project, Window Cleaning Tips.
Step 4: Dethatch and Aerate Your Lawn
Thatch builds up when grass clippings are not chopped finely enough with a mulching mower or if excessive clippings are not removed after cutting. You should dethatch and aerate your lawn after the grass has begun growing for the season—usually after the first or second mow. You’ll know you have to dethatch if clumped, dead grass is more than ½" thick. Use an iron rake or a thatch rake to cut through and remove thatch. For large lawns, consider renting a walk-behind dethatching machine.
Aerating allows for greater movement of water, fertilizer and air in and out of the soil. It also encourages deep root growth. So be sure to aerate before applying fertilizer.
For moderately compacted soil in a small to medium area, systematically prick holes in the soil with a coring aerator, or a spading or digging fork. Holes should be 2" to 3" apart and 1" to 2" deep. If you're dealing with a large lawn area, or you want to make the task easier, there are several types of push-spike aerators you can purchase or rent. Some models look a little like a manual push mower with spikes or star-shaped wheels instead of blades. Others are designed as attachments that fit behind a power mower. For medium-to-large areas, you’ll want to rent a gas-powered spiking aerator.
Lawn aeration is generally easier to do when the soil is moist, but won't be as effective if the ground is wet.
Step 5: Fertilize and Seed Your Lawn
Fertilizing your lawn enriches the soil and creates a hardier, greener lawn. It promotes new growth and healthy roots while healing the grass from damage caused by foot traffic, pets and the elements.
Some fertilizers are packaged for certain uses and types of grass. Before you begin, determine what kind of grass makes up your lawn. A balanced lawn fertilizer contains equal proportions of nitrogen and potassium. This is indicated by the nutrient ratios on the package. Read fertilizer labels for proper application times, amounts and conditions. Apply only as directed on the package.
Purchase a soil testing kit to determine your soil’s pH levels and existing nutrient levels to help you choose the correct type of fertilizer.
Use fertilizer designated for spring. They’re designed to boost early growth and often contain herbicides and insecticides to protect the grass.
In the spring, it’s a good practice to overseed your lawn to make the turf denser and more robust. Apply seeds by hand or with a spreader. Moisten the soil lightly with water from a garden hose before and after applying grass seed.
Step 6: Fertilize and Mulch Your Garden Beds
Remove weeds and add to enrich the soil and create stronger, more beautiful plants and flowers. Read labels for application amounts and recommended conditions. Apply only as directed on the package. As you would with your lawn, use a soil testing kit to determine soil pH levels before choosing a fertilizer.
Mulching your garden beds helps prevent weeds, reduces the amount of water needed and keeps soil temperatures consistent. Layer mulch 2" to 4" deep—it should be thick enough to block light and keep weeds from sprouting.
For more information, see the project Fertilize and Mulch a Garden.
Step 7: Prepare Your Patio
Check your patio or deck for wear and damage. Make any necessary repairs. Sweep decks and patios with a broom, then use a garden hose or a pressure washer to remove remaining dirt, dust and other material. Set the hose or pressure washer to spray a fan of water to push dirt and debris away faster. Spray between decking boards and remove any mildew with a formulated deck cleaner.
Bring patio furniture out of storage and check it for wear or damage. Wipe down each piece with damp cloths and dry. Use patio furniture cleaner or dish soap, water and a scrub brush for tougher dirt and stains. Wipe down cushions and pillows. Bring out your outdoor rugs or mats, planters, lighting and wind chimes.
Set up your grill, dust it off and give it a good, once-over inspection. Remove grates and scrub them with a wire brush to remove burnt-on particles and debris. You can also use a spray-on grill cleaner. Clean the inside and outside of the grill thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Rinse with a garden hose and let dry.
Now that your outdoor living areas are cleared, cleaned and prepped, you can enjoy the best of spring and summer weather!
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.
- Large gutter scoop
- Trash bags
- Garden hose
- Steel wool
- Metal snips
- Metal flashing
- Putty knife
- Asphalt flashing cement or gutter patch
- Yard refuse bags
- Mulching mower
- Bypass loppers
- Safety glasses
- Adjustable ladder stabilizer
- Weeding tool
- Post-emergent herbicide
- Garden gloves
- Pressure washer
- Window glass cleaner
- Large strip applicator or window washer/squeegee
- Dishwashing detergent
- Patio furniture cleaner
- Iron rake or thatch rake
- Walk-behind dethatching machine (optional)
- Coring aerator
- Spading or digging fork
- Gas-powered spiking aerator (optional)
- Lawn fertilizer
- Soil testing kit
- Grass seed
- Garden fertilizer
- Deck cleaner
- Scrub brush
- Wire brush
- Spray-on grill cleaner