17-Point Spring Cleaning Checklist to Get Your Yard All Spruced Up
Although it already feels like summer in San Diego, it’s spring that’s right around the corner. That means it’s time to make your spring cleaning list and get cracking on preparing your yard for March through May. Here’s a checklist to get you started sprucing up your yard for the fairest of seasons:
1. Clean your tools.
Sharpen your shovels, clippers, hedge trimmers, and weed whackers or take them to a local gardening or home improvement store to get the blades sharpened. Tune up your lawn mower and sharpen those blades, too. Gently sand your tool’s wood handles, scrub off any rust and apply a light coat of linseed oil, vegetable or mineral oil after the tools have been cleaned to repel future rust.
2. Take stock of your yard.
Tour your grounds. Check to see if you need to change anything, such as thinning out crowded landscaping areas, flower beds, or gardens. Also, look for any bare spots you want to fill. Make note of these areas and if you plan to add new plants, bushes, flowers, or trees to your yard, draw a picture of how you want your yard to look. From this drawing, make your list of what you want to purchase. To thin crowded flower beds, dig up perennials and divide them by leaving at least three stems per clump and transplant them to fill in sparse areas. Put shrubs and trees in bare areas.
3. Check your irrigation system.
Check, test and repair any irrigation breaks or leaks and fasten loose irrigation lines with pins.
4. Inspect your yard for wildlife.
Before you begin your spring cleanup, check for any animal damage, nests or burrows. Rabbits build nests in small divers in the ground and squirrel nests look like balls of leaves wedged in trees. If you find an animal’s nest, it’s better to leave it alone unless the creatures are creating problems in your yard by digging up the lawn, eating your garden, or otherwise wreaking havoc. If you must move the nest, your local wildlife rehabilitation center can give you guidance. Also, check out our guide on common creatures found in backyards and what to do about them.
5. Prune and weed away.
Deadhead your flowers, and cut any ornamental grasses to about 8-10 inches from the ground. Prune trees, shrubs and perennials. Remove any dead trees and plants. Prune back to live stems and shape your hedges. You’ll also want to prune roses before leaf buds open as spring advances. Don’t prune spring blooming trees and shrubs, however, because their flower buds are getting ready to open. For most plant pruning, you can start at the base of the plant and prune to open the center for light and air circulation. Make clean cuts at a 45-degree angle. Remove any broken, damaged, or diseased canes or canes that are crossing each other by pruning out the smaller ones. Get rid of thin, weak and twiggy branches.
For weeding, use a hoe and cut weeds off just under their root crown about a half-inch below the soil. This keeps new seeds from transferring to the surface where they can sprout.
6. Address overgrown areas.
Remove the old, woody canes on climbers and make room for the younger green ones to grow. If you need to hold the canes in place, use jute twine. Work around the edge of your flower beds with an edger, cutting about three inches into the bed and removing compacted soil and roots.
7. Clean up dead and rotting leaves and branches.
Take a rake to fallen leaves and dead foliage. Remove last year’s mulch, too.
8. Control insect issues.
Wash off trees and plants that may be homes to aphids, and ants. Pick off earwigs, slugs and snails, and then spray fungicides and insecticides where needed. Apply dormant oil to trees and shrubs that have an inclination for aphid or scale infestations, but take care to completely cover flowers and vegetation before spraying nearby trees. Read about natural pest treatments here.
9. Test and prepare your soil.
Test the pH of your soil – most plants prefer nearly neutral soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.2. – using a kit from any hardware or home improvement store and add any amendments necessary for spring planting. Use a spade or a rototiller to turn the soil over and separate it. After you till, place new plants in the ground.
10. Apply new mulch.
Give your garden a new layer of mulch. Also, mulch around your trees, shrubs and perennials to control weeds and retain moisture. Mulch flower beds and planters, too. Piling new mulch on top of the old can actually suffocate the plants in your garden. Keep mulch from direct contact with stems or trunks to avoid fungal infections in those areas.
11. Compost up.
If you have a compost pile, add the organic yard droppings like leaves, cuttings, dead foliage and old mulch to the heap. Shred leaves and cut branches that are thicker than 1/2″ to speed decomposition. Keep the pile moist but not wet, aerate with a pitchfork twice a month, and turn it often. Dig the compost into vegetable beds and let it sit for two weeks before planting. Read more about how to compost here.
12. Treat your lawn.
Give your lawn a good cleaning with a rake. Aerate, seed and lightly fertilize your lawn. Apply crabgrass treatment if you need it. If weed control is an issue, apply a pre-emergent weed killer, but not to spots that are freshly seeded. Read our tips about good lawn care here.
13. Tidy your hardscape.
Rake wayward gravel back to its original spots, and add gravel to low areas. Refill flagstone joints with sand or stone dust, water it to set it, and then do it once more. Clean leaf stains or other spots from patios and walkways with a pressure washer fitted with a low-pressure tip.
14. Patch or replace wooden structures and trim.
Get rid of any rotted or badly damaged boards, lattice, or fence pickets. Clean what remains with a combination of two gallons of water, two quarts of bleach and one cup of liquid soap. Patch all rotted areas with wood epoxy and install wood in areas that need it. Brush on a new layer of stain or paint on wood that you’ve scraped and sanded first. Fix trellises and fencing.
15. Wash windows.
Cut overgrown trees and bushes from your windows and wash them inside and out.
16. Freshen your exterior.
Clean your home’s exterior using a power washer and clean your gutters. Wash your driveway and weed it if shoots have pushed through the cracks and sidewalk joints. Clean your patio furniture with some water and mild dish detergent. Hose down paths and patios, and sweep stairs, too.
17. Clean your water features.
If you have standing water in saucers or fountains, dump it out so it doesn’t become a breeding ground for mosquitos. Wash down ponds and fountains and remove any debris. For a complete cleaning, remove any fish and plants and drain your water feature, hose down all rocks and replace any that may be out of place. Remove your skimmer, pumps, and filter pads and clean or replace them. Refill the pond or water feature and add chlorine and chloramine remover in the right quantities, so water doesn’t harm any fish.
For any algae, the best solution is to clean your fountain and use a water clarifier and algae preventative.
Once you’ve tackled your yard, it’s time to turn your attention to the inside of your house, so stay tuned for part two of our spring cleaning series. Meanwhile, what else would you put on the list for a seasonal yard clean-up?
Photo credit: Houzz and MorgueFile.com