If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting anxiously to get outdoors and start to spring clean your yard in anticipation of spring. In most of the country, it seems winter is finally coming to an end, and spring has sprung.
While I love the warmer spring weather, my first forays into the garden usually reveal how much time I need to spend spring cleaning the yard and the garden before I can start planting and enjoying my outdoor spaces.
Winter can be hard on your yard. After months of rain, snow, and cold, most garden plants are in n need of some TLC. And often our patios, decks, and yard furniture are as well.
If you’re ready to put your yard in shape for spring and then a summer of backyard relaxation and fun, here are some simple steps to spring clean your yard and garden, and put it in top shape for the season.
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Wait Until it Warms Up to Spring Clean Your Yard
Don’t get so anxious to start on your spring clean that you jump the gun. You should wait until temperatures are consistently in the 50s before tackling garden chores. You can focus on other maintenance tasks earlier, like cleaning patios, gutters, and furniture, but leave the plants until it warms up a bit.
The reason for this is that many critical garden pollinators, including bees and butterflies, often spend the winter buried in your garden’s dead and dormant plant matter. If you remove all that too early, it may be too cold for them to survive. In addition to protecting those essential critters, you’ll improve your chances of a healthy garden ecosystem going forward.
Clean the Shed
Before starting on the yard cleanup, tidying the shed and organizing your garden tools and supplies is a good place to begin. By starting here, you can make sure you have all your needed supplies close at hand and ready to go.
Prep and Maintain Your Tools
When was the last time you gave your tools a good once over? If you cleaned, oiled, and put them away carefully last fall, bonus points for you. You should be ready to go.
Chances are, though, that most of us aren’t always as diligent about tool care as we could be. If you’re like me, you may need to clean some tools, lubricate others, and even sharpen blades before you begin. You may even need to replace or upgrade some of your tools.
Here is my list of go-to tools for making your spring cleanup easier and faster.
Leaf Rake – rake leaves, lightweight debris, lawn clippings,
Hand Rake — use for cleaning up small spaces around plants, loosening soil, working out small stones and weeds
Hand Pruning Shears — ideal for cutting plant stems, small shrub branches, harvesting flowers and vegetables
Lopper — a lopper is useful for trimming larger shrubs and small tree branches. Their longer handles can make it helpful to reach trees and tall shrubs.
Broom — a good push broom is invaluable outside. Use it for sweeping patios, decks, and walkways without unnecessarily using water to hose it down.
Garden Cart – a garden cart is a must for moving mulch, fertilizer, lawn seed, gravel, and other heavy loads.
Clean Your Walkways, Deck, Grill, and Patio Furniture
While waiting for the spring warm up, you can start the spring clean of your yard by taking care of all the non-plant areas. Sweep the walkways, clean off the deck or patio of all the debris and leaves that may have piled up over the winter.
If a sweep and a wipe down aren’t enough to have everything looking fresh for spring, you may want to consider pressure washing. Our kids gave their dad a pressure washer for Father’s Day a couple of years ago, and now I wonder how we ever lived without one.
Not only did he use it for washing cars and cleaning the driveway, but we also used it this spring to clean our siding, deep clean the gas grill, and make the patio furniture sparkle. In addition, I used it to clean and prep my grape arbor for repainting, and lent it to my son to prep his deck for refinishing.
Show Your Lawn Some TLC
Deep rake first with a good leaf rake to break up and remove thick areas of thatch (more than ½”) and allow your grass to thrive.
If your lawn needs aerating, this may be a good time to plan that. When you aerate depends on where you live and the type of lawn you have. You can rent an aerator and do it yourself, or you can hire a pro for this job. This is also a good time of year to evaluate your fertilizer needs. Lawns are usually hungry when they wake up in the spring, so it’s a good idea to start the growing season with some good nutrition. Be cautious in applying herbicides and pesticides to your garden as they can be harmful to some of our beneficial bugs like bees.
Before it’s time to mow, give your lawnmower a tune-up. Consider having the blades sharpened, as a sharp blade cuts more easily and won’t pull the grass. Make sure everything is clean and any old dead grass from last season is cleaned out from the wheels and undercarriage.
Clean up the Garden Beds
Now is the time to spring clean your garden beds and prepare for planting. In your flower beds, remove any leftover dead annuals. Annuals live only for one year in cold climates and won’t grow back like perennials. Cut back dead foliage from perennials, and if they need to be divided, do that and replant them. Remove any other dead plant matter. Clean up leaves, old mulch and other debris. Then till any areas where you are adding new plants.
In the vegetable garden, pull out any dead plants left over from last year. Remove as much debris and old roots as possible. Rake up the beds and loosen the soil to prepare for this year’s plants. Consider some crop rotation instead of growing the same plants in the same place every year. This will help keep your soil from becoming depleted. For more tips on growing a successful vegetable garden, check out this post.
Prune Trees and Shrubs
While the optimal time for pruning shrubs and trees will vary by the type of plant, and where you live, early spring can be a good time for pruning some plants. Broken branches, and those that may cause a hazard in your garden should be pruned as needed. When to prune, and how much to prune depends on the plants. For specific pruning guidelines for your area, check with your local university’s agricultural extension office, or a website like Almanac. I have to look up some of my plants every year because there are too many for me to remember them all.
Add the Finishing Touches
Once you’ve finished spring cleaning your yard, you’re just about ready for spring planting and enjoying the season. There are a few last-minute items to ensure you are good to go.
First, add a new layer of spring mulch to your planting beds. Mulch can help reduce weeds, reduce evaporation and help the soil retain water. Mulch can also prevent erosion and supply additional nutrients to your hungry plants.
Next, consider a compost pile or compost bin to recycle your garden matter and return it to the garden instead of sending it to a landfill. Composting is good for the environment and good for your garden. Learn more about the benefits of composting here.
Finally, upgrade your garden décor. Yard art, a wind chime or new pillows for the patio furniture can give your garden some new zip once you’ve finished spring cleaning your yard.
And now, it’s time to enjoy outdoor living. What projects do you have planned for your yard this year?