We’ve seen a brutal winter this year, but March always carries the promise of spring. Before you know it, temperatures are going to rise, and the flora in the backyard will come out of dormancy and start growing with a vengeance. Spring fever will drive you out to the deck or patio to enjoy the sunshine and warmth. Spend a couple of weekends getting the backyard ready for the warm season, and this will make those gorgeous spring days even more relaxing and enjoyable. Here are seven essential tasks that’ll help you whip your yard into shape in no time.
Take Stock of Your Tools
Gather the yard tools that have been sitting around all winter, and get them ready for another season of use. Clean them with soap and water, and rub mineral spirits into the wooden handles to help prevent splintering and preserve the wood. Replace any tools that are broken, and acquire any tools you’re missing.
Before mowing season arrives, tune up your lawn mower. Sharpen the blades, replace the spark plug, change the oil, and fill it up with fresh gas. Inspect and clean your other gas- and electric-powered tools to make sure they’re ready for the growing season.
Rake and Trim
Early spring is an ideal time to rake out the planting beds and trim your trees and shrubs. Trimming keeps plants compact, promotes optimal growth, and gives them a pleasing shape.
Must-have tools for trimming and shaping include a quality pair of pruning shears, which work like scissors, or anvil shears, which have a pinching function. These shears can cut branches up to 3/4 inches in diameter. A good pair of lopping shears will cut larger branches up to 1-1/4 inches in diameter. If you have even larger branches to trim, invest in a bow saw.
Inspect, Repair, and Revamp the Deck
Your decking is exposed to the elements all winter long, including the damaging freeze-thaw cycle, which can do a number on the appearance and structural integrity of the deck. A thorough inspection in early spring will reveal any damage that needs to be addressed to get the deck ready for regular use.
Check the entire deck, including underneath. Specifically for wood and composite decking, check for rot and mildew. Also look for loose boards, railings, nails that have popped out, and repair any problems you find. Thoroughly clean the deck surfaces with a pressure washer, or use a brush and good old elbow grease to scrub the boards with a specially formulated deck cleaner. Once it’s dry, apply a fresh coat of stain or sealer to make your deck look brand new and protect it against the summer elements.
Tend to the Fences
Inspect the fences that enclose your backyard, and fix any damage you come across. Look for loose or rotten fence posts and pickets, loose or rusted hinges on the gates, and holes dug under the fence by wildlife or pets.
If you don’t have a fence but want one, spring is a great time to make it happen. Building a wood fence can be a fun DIY project. Take a look online at the huge variety of fencing materials and designs, and choose something that will make your backyard or patio oasis extra-special.
Clean Out the Shed or Garage
If you have to fight cobwebs or climb over things to get to the back of the shed or garage, a bit of spring cleaning is in order. Starting the warm season with a tidy, accessible space for your outdoor tools and supplies makes it much easier to get chores done. Install shelves for storage, and consider hooks and clamps that mount to the wall to store your hoses and long-handled tools. A work bench or potting table is an invaluable addition if you’re an avid gardener or always have a backyard project going on.
Clean Up the Grill
Grilling season arrives quickly in the spring, since most of us can’t wait to fire up the grill once the weather warms up. But before you do, give your grill a little TLC to ensure it’s ready for the long grilling season ahead. Empty out the old ashes in your charcoal grill, or clean the connections and stock up on fuel for your propane grill. Give the whole thing a good scrubbing inside and out with steel soap pads. Clean the racks with a scraping tool and soap pads to remove cooked-on food and rust.
Inspect your grilling tools, and invest in new ones if the old ones are worn out. If your grill, too, has seen better days, it may be time to replace it.
Make it Easy to Maintain
The easier it is to maintain your backyard throughout the spring and summer, the more time you can spend relaxing and enjoying it. Here are a few ways to make your backyard a low-maintenance space.
Put down mulch. Covering your planting beds with three to four inches of mulch helps your plants stay hydrated, and it protects the roots from the elements. Mulch also keeps weeds down, and it dresses up the yard, giving it a manicured, finished look.
Choose native plants with low-water needs. Shrubs and flowers that are native to your area will need less maintenance throughout the spring and summer. Native plants are often hardier than imports and require less water.
Reduce the size of the lawn. More and more homeowners are shrinking the size of their lawn to reduce its negative environmental impact and make maintaining the yard easier. Consider replacing some lawn with a flower or sculpture garden, a water feature, or a play area. Lay down crushed gravel, Mexican pebbles, or another attractive material to keep weeds out, or plant a hardy, native ground cover.
Spend a little time on maintenance each day. Walk through your yard and gardens each day, and perform basic maintenance tasks like pulling stray weeds and inspecting for pests or other problems. Spending a few minutes each day maintaining the backyard keeps jobs from piling up, and it ensures your yard is ready to enjoy any time the sunshine calls you outside.