Spring into Cleanup    
by Tony Bissell

You've almost made it through the long, cold winter months, and now spring is just around the corner. You been cooped up for weeks and have developed a serious case of cabin fever. You can't wait to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. But as a homeowner, you've got a little yard work to do to reverse the ravages of Old Man Winter before you can sit back and enjoy the warmer temperatures. You don't have to think of it as work, though. Why not get some friends and family together for a spring clean-up party? Put together a simple meal as incentive, and offer to reciprocate by helping them clean up their untidy yards when the time comes. Before you know it, you'll have more volunteers than you can handle!

Once you've got your clean-up crew, set aside a weekend to accomplish the task. Make a checklist, remembering to include walkways, decks and patios, furniture and any other outdoor gathering spots.

Before you get started, take steps to ensure the safety of your volunteers and yourself. Always wear goggles and gloves when operating power equipment such as mowers, leaf blowers and edgers.

It's usually easiest to begin with your driveway, walkways and steps, so break out the broom and clear away any salt and sand from those areas. After sweeping away the loose debris, check for any loose steps, flagstones or handrails. Next, remove stains and mildew from walkways with a sturdy brush or a power washer, and finally, seal driveway cracks with a sealant designed specifically for that purpose. Check with the city if you believe a walking hazard exists on a public sidewalk adjacent to your property.

With the walking surfaces in good shape, it's time to move on and shape up the yard itself. Using a leaf blower and/or a rake of power rake, gather up any fallen leaves or moldy leaves near a structure and bag them properly, paying attention to city ordinances governing the types of bags you should use and pickup dates, if that service is offered. It might be tempting to use the street as a convenient dumping ground, but you should refrain, unless your city offers scheduled leaf pickups using vacuum vehicles. If not, check with your local city authority - they may allow only bagged or bundled refuse. If your city or town doesn't offer leaf pickup, or you simply prefer an environmentally friendly alternative, consider composting leaves and greens.

Now that you've taken care of the leaves, start to prune tree branches and cut back shrubbery. Bundle the broken branches for pickup or run them through a chipper. If you have a garden which has lain dormant over the winter, remove any debris, weed it and replace the mulch. Don't forget to apply a pre-emergent weed killer to the lawn. Be sure to fertilize it upon the first sign of spring growth.

After you've gotten walkways, driveways and the lawn in top shape, it's time to clean up the living spaces. Start with the simplest jobs, like taking down holiday lighting, cleaning dirt from water meter accesses and checking eaves for loose vents or nests. Remember never to use a ladder when you're alone.

Next, check your sprinkler system and consider building additions such as a deck or patio. If you've already got one or more of those, it's time to make sure they're ready for spring as well. Scrub up your deck with a pressure washer or wash it with a brush broom and deck detergent to remove any discoloration. Rinse it thoroughly, and when it has dried completely, apply a water repellent. You might want to sand, paint or reapply varnish or stain to your patio, if necessary, and always check furniture for damage. Clean the furniture covers before use.

Now that you've made all the required repairs to get your outdoor areas in prime condition for the warm weather, you can sit back and enjoy it with pride and a sense of accomplishment. And if you've truly enjoyed the experience, why not think about taking part in a city-sanctioned cleanup campaign? And if your city or town doesn't have a cleanup campaign, consider starting one, possibly as a charitable fundraiser. You'll get the satisfaction of working outdoors while also helping the community.

About the Author

Author Tony Bissell is a retired electronic engineer and Vietnam Veteran. He invites you to visit his e-commerce website www.ShopCedar.com where he sells a variety of outdoor wood furniture. Now that your spring cleaning is behind you, why not relax and enjoy the great outdoors seated on comfortable, affordable and long-lasting wood furniture.
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