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Spring Cleaning for Lawns and Landscaping

Cleanup Checklist: How to Get Your Yard Ready for Summer

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Snow drops photo.

When the snowdrops arrive, it's time to pick up after Old Man Winter.

David Beaulieu

Just as people speak of "spring cleaning" tasks performed to freshen up a home that has been shuttered up all winter, so lawns and the rest of your landscaping need some TLC at this time of year, to prepare your yard for the growing season. A cleanup checklist for outdoors can be divided into 5 categories of related tasks, one of which truly does involve something of a cleansing: the removal of refuse (natural or otherwise) from your grass and planting beds. The other types of tasks I discuss below involve getting your yard ready for gardening:

A thorough spring cleanup readies your lawn and landscaping for summer, but it can accomplish more than just that. In some cases, it will save you from headaches farther down the road. Other articles in which I address similar issues include:

Spring Cleanup With Rake, Trash Bags and Scissors

In this first category of spring cleanup tasks, you will be picking up after Old Man Winter and any other slovenly bad neighbors you may have to put up with. Roll up your sleeves and start removing:

  • Litter and dog feces
  • Dead grass, leaves, pinecones, etc. on lawns
  • Dead leaves and stalks on perennials

Unfortunately, many neighborhoods contain at least a few thoughtless individuals who insist on being litterbugs. One of the first spring cleanup tasks I tackle is removing the litter they've deposited in my yard over the course of the winter, the sight of which tends to put a damper on even the most pristine April day. Don some heavy work gloves for this task, as it may involve removing broken glass.

Another unpleasant task in spring cleaning outdoors is dog waste disposal. It's especially unpleasant when you're picking up after someone else's dog. There's not much you can do to stop litter, but there is something you can do to help keep other people's dogs from defecating on your property: Begin researching dog repellents. You don't want to be out there all summer long with a pooper-scooper, do you? And no, don't compost dog feces, for the same reason you shouldn't try to compost cat poop: Carnivore feces contain pathogens, the removal of which through the composting process is best left to experts.

With the less wholesome aspects of spring cleanup out of the way, let's move on to lawn care. If you raked leaves thoroughly in the fall, you've aided your chances of avoiding the fungal disease known as "snow mold." But, inevitably, there will still be some stray leaves to rake come March. That's OK, because even without leaves you would want to break out the rake as part of your spring cleaning work on the lawn. Why? Because a deep raking will also help control thatch build-up.

While you're raking the lawn, you'll also want to remove pinecones or any other instances of "nature's refuse." Pinecones don't break down particularly easy in a compost bin, unless they are first shredded. Some people use pinecones in craft projects, such as making kissing balls, but, for the rest of us, they're just a nuisance.

Spring cleanup in the perennial bed begins with removing any dead leaves and stalks from perennials and ornamental grasses that you didn't remove in fall. Scissors often work better than pruners for this task (you can get into tight spaces easier with them). For more on spring cleanup in perennial beds, see Page 3.

On Page 2 we'll take a look at preparing beds, planting, and prevention issues....

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