It’s official. Spring is well and truly here..
..and summer is just around the corner! Now that the sun’s back in the habit of peering out to say hello, you probably don’t feel like you need much excuse to spend a bit of time outside. But if you wanted one anyway, here it is: spring is the perfect time of year to check over your outdoor area and give it a bit of a spruce-up. Here’s our quick guide to getting your backyard ready for summer.
How will you be using your backyard?
Before you do anything else, have a think about how you’re going to use your backyard in the warm and sunny months to come. Who’s going to be here? What will they be doing? Does it need to be kid-safe? Do you have pets? Will you be hosting any parties? With a clear idea of what’s going to happen in your backyard, you’ll have a better idea of what the most crucial tasks are to prepare it.
Make the whole household help
If you don’t live on your own, don’t try to do everything on your own. Many hands make light work, and by working as a team you’ll get to enjoy the fresh air and spring sunshine together. This is also a great opportunity to help kids or teenagers earn a few life skills that will help prepare them to live well once they’ve fled the nest.
Clean garden tools and organise supplies
Cleaning your tools will help prevent the spread of any plant pathogens and also gives you a chance to spot which tools need repair or replacement. More than that, clean and sharp tools work better and last longer. Remove any dirt or debris and then dip into a disinfectant solution. Scrub off rust and apply mineral oil to prevent more rust from forming. Sharpen any tools that need it. Spend a little time bringing your tools up to scratch and you will save yourself time in the long run. Supplies you might want to check your stocks of include fertiliser, plant and potting mix, and cleaning products.
Getting your lawn ready for summer
A good lawn is a multi-use space. If you have children – either the sort with two legs or the ones with four – a lawn is the perfect area for them to play. It’s also the ideal area to hang out when you have guests over on a lovely summer evening. A healthy lawn has a wonderful cooling effect on your property on a hot day: water evaporating off the grass cools your garden and in turn your home. This makes you more comfortable on a hot day and will reduce your air conditioner needs too, saving you money and reducing your energy use. A well-maintained lawn also smells nice and looks gorgeous, and provides a great setting to relax and let go of stress. For all these reasons and more, it can be a great idea to give this space a bit of care and attention in spring.
First give the lawn a thorough scan and remove sticks, leftover autumn leaves, and other debris. The idea here is to remove anything that might get in the way of sunlight and oxygen. Then rake the lawn to remove thatch that will stop the soil getting the oxygen it needs. Test your lawn’s pH and correct if necessary: most lawn grasses perform best between 6.5 and 7. If you have any bald patches, sow some seed. Fertilise the lawn. These little tweaks will all do their bit for a lush and healthy lawn in summer.
Most plants adore the warmth and sun of spring. For weeds, it’s a party! Given the chance, weeds will have their way with everything they can, so be swift and merciless in serving harsh garden justice. Rip weeds out of the ground and regard them with scorn and derision as you doom them to the compost heap. (Strictly speaking, you don’t have to utter grand declarations of victory and power as you tear the weeds from their soil homes, but it seems silly not to.) Destroy weeds before they multiply. This is very much a case of “a stitch in time saves nine” because a few weeds can quickly turn into many weeds, which in turn means more work.
After a thorough weeding, give the garden a thorough feeding. Once the next rain has passed over, scatter slow release fertiliser over everything.
Spring is also pruning season for many plants. Remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems. Spring is also the right time to prune summer blooming plants. Spring flowering plants should be pruned after they’ve finished blooming.
Don’t forget the pot plants! Most healthy container plants eventually outgrow their pots. Even if the plant hasn’t outgrown its pot, it might still need repotting as the potting mix can grow tired and run out of nutrients. Check to see which plants need repotting and then repot them.
Plant some herbs or start a vegetable garden
If you don’t yet have a little herb and/or vegetable garden in your backyard, spring is the perfect time to start one. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to venture too far for fresh, home grown produce. Home grown produce always seems to taste that little bit better than store bought produce, and you’ll never eat fresher. Why not take the time to find a nice, sunny spot in your garden and grown your very own vegetable patch today? Growing vegetables can be fun. It’s a great little project for children and a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy the warm spring/summer days. Your family and friends will love you for it and we’re sure you’ll enjoy caring for your little patch of goodness.
Find a sunny spot in your garden. Most vegetables like plenty of heat. If you are limited by space and need to plant your herbs and vegetables in pots, make sure you choose the sunniest position on your balcony or courtyard. If you’ve only got space for one or two pots, don’t be put off! You might be surprised what one lonely plant is capable of. A single basil plant often produces more of the stuff faster than a whole household can eat it for months and months to come.
Learning which vegetables to plant and how to tend to them for the best harvest is probably easier than you think. Planning is important. If you plan it right, you can enjoy a beautiful garden full of delicious vegetables and herbs all summer long. For a good overview of what delicious munchables can go into the ground right now in your part of Australia, check out the Gardenate website. Decide which vegetables you and your family enjoy most and start small. Don’t overdo it and end up with a whole lot of vegtables going to waste. Determine how much space you’ll need and find the sunniest spot in your garden. Vegetable patches thrive off heat! The next step is to design and plan out your patch. Soil is also very important when it comes to creating a vegetable patch. Most vegetables do best in moist, well-drained soil that’s rich in organic matter, such as compost. Once you are happy with your soil it’s time to start digging. Loosen the soil and then lay compost down working this into the soil. When you’re done digging, smooth the surface with a rake, then water thoroughly. Allow the bed to rest for several days before you plant. After a couple of days it’s time to start planting. Dig small holes and plant your chosen seeds. You’ll notice there is a huge variety of vegetable plants to choose from. Each variety will be a little different, so take time to read the tags and ensure you are planting exactly what you’d like. Once your seeds have been planted it’s important to keep the area moist, but not so much that they’re standing in water. About an inch or so of water per week is about all they need. Fertilizing is also important for growth and longevity.
Then comes the best bit: harvesting. This is what it’s all about. Don’t be afraid to pick your produce. If it looks good enough to eat then it probably is. The more you pick the more you produce! Enjoy.
As the days become longer more and more people choose to sit outside and enjoy their outdoor areas at night. Having suitable lighting helps create a space that you can enjoy even once the sun goes down. There are many lighting options which are sure to add character and light to any outdoor space.
Candles are a great choice when it comes to night time entertaining. Choose to turn off your brighter lighting and opt for a more romantic, intimate setting with a bunch of candles. The beauty of candles are that they come in a variety of colours, shapes, sizes and fragrances so the choice is yours.
You can also create a modern, contemporary look by placing lanterns or firepots throughout your outdoor area. Similar to a candle a lantern or firepot is sure to provide your space with gorgeous light and a relaxed atmosphere, and won’t be so easily blown out by a gust of wind. Lanterns and firepots can be purchased in many bright colours with beautiful detailed trimmings. This is a perfect inclusion if you’re looking to turn your outdoor area into a tranquil space. Some firepots also come with citronella, which is handy for deterring mosquitoes.
The latest trend in outdoor lighting is LED lights. LEDs are energy efficient and can last up to 30 times longer than standard lighting technology, meaning they’re ideal for outside where lights are often left on for long periods of time. Solar LED lights require no wiring which can make them a great temporary/removable solution.
Another great outdoor lighting idea is path lighting. Having lights running along a path, maybe to a front entrance, creates a welcoming, inviting feel to a home. Flood lighting is also great for highlighting specific areas of your house or outdoor area. Enhance a particular area with a flood light for an instant, eye catching effect. Outdoor lighting is also a great tool when it comes to home security. Adequate lighting can discourage thieves and reduce accidents.
If entertaining outdoors is your style then check your lighting regularly. A light that doesn’t light is no light at all! A party is the dark isn’t anyone’s ideal situation. Do you really want your guests reaching out to pat Mittens the kitten, only to get scratched by a possum? Make sure your lighting is current and checked regularly.
Gutters are very important in draining water away from your home, however they can get clogged with leaves, debris, nests and insects over time. When there is too much debris in the gutter it traps the water causing the gutter to rust and break away. This is not good! To prevent this from happening, gutters should be cleaned out at least twice a year: at the beginning of autumn and the beginning of spring. Just like maintaining the inside of your home it’s important to maintain the exterior roofing and guttering to ensure your home continues to offer shelter and security to you and your family for many years to come.
Gates and Fences
While you’re out and about in the yard, be sure to run your eye over fences and gates and check that everything’s in good order. This is especially important if you have someone in your family with a wet nose and a waggy tail. Check along the fence line for any loose palings, rotted or split timber, or spots where a keen canine could tunnel under. Check that the gates are in good working order too: check the timber, the latches and the hinges and make a note of anything that needs maintenance or repair.
Spring cleaning your pool
The days are getting warmer and the kids are probably already asking “when can we go for a swim?”. Was your pool covered over winter? Are you now a little worried to look underneath the lid? Don’t panic! With these few quick tips, your pool will be back up and running in no time. Inspect all your pool equipment and chemicals and replace any pool accessories or expired chemicals. Remove any leaves, debris and water from your pool lid. Over winter a range of things would have built up on your lid. This is the time to clean it up. During winter it’s also common for the water level in your pool to drop. Simply refill using a garden hose to the required level, being careful to observe any water restrictions in effect in your area. Clean out the filters, jets and valves. Make sure you clean the filter before turning on the pump. Turn the pump on and check for any leaks. Using a net, skim the water surface for any leaves or debris which may have made their way in under the cover or even while you were refilling. Let the water sit for a few hours before adding any chemicals. Use a water analysis kit to check the pH level of the water. Add the appropriate chemicals to bring your pH levels to where they need to be and add chlorine to eliminate any bacteria that may have built up over the winter months. Then once your pool is clean and ready for swimming, jump in and enjoy the warm summer months in the water with family and friends.
Spring cleaning water features
Water features also require a bit of TLC once spring hits. Over the winter months we tend to care less for our ponds, fountains and other water features. This is common as we’re not going outside as much. However now that spring is here it’s important to check for any murky water or algae which may have built up over the cooler months. If there is sediment build up and leaves floating on the top, and the water is murky, cleaning will help keep fish healthier (if you have fish) and unwanted algae from growing. Clear out dead leaves. Remove pumps to give them a gentle clean and check that they’re in good working order.
Spring cleaning your outdoor furniture
Your outdoor furniture will need a little bit of care and attention to get your best use from it. Check everything over for bird poop, mould or mildew. Click here for our guide to maintaining your outdoor furniture.
Be sure to pick a cloudy spring day for this job. If it’s too sunny the cleaning solution will dry too fast and leave streaks on the glass. It’s also good to use two cloths: one to wipe on your cleaner of choice and the other to wipe off. Avoid using a white vinegar solution as this creates a negative electric charge that attracts dust. Instead use a commercial window cleaning solution or a solution of ammonia in water, and some micro-fibre cloths. Avoid using newspaper to clean your windows. If you clean with newspaper it then can’t be recycled, and once a newspaper becomes wet the ink is prone to run and get everywhere. Your cleaning job may then double in size!
Patios, porches, deck areas
As summer beckons, spending time on the patio or deck is going to start looking more and more appealing. Decaying leaves and other debris are unsightly and can stain, so clear them away as soon as possible. Move furniture away so that you don’t miss anything, then give the area a sweep. Wooden decks need to be cleaned every spring with bleach solution to kill mould and mildew. Use an oxygenated bleach cleaner designed especially for decks. Don’t use regular household chlorine bleach as this will damage the wood fibres nearly as well as it kills bacteria.
Clear the path of debris such as twigs or fallen leaves. If your path is made of concrete pavers or bricks, remove any grass that’s growing in between them. If you have a gravel path, check for any weeds growing through the gravel and remove. Then level the path by raking. Gravel paths tend to lose a bit of gravel over time and may need the gravel refreshed every three years or so. Dirt paths should be sprayed with a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent any weeds from growing.
Spring is also a great time of year to tackle any big projects you’ve been contemplating, such as building a deck or doing a full backyard makeover. If you’re looking to do something like this: great! Try though to have it completed or at least somewhat tidy before summer comes around. You don’t want your backyard to be a construction zone all the way into the new year.. it’s better that it’s ready for guests and good times and maybe a few christmas drinks without any full wheelbarrows, wet concrete or exposed nails lying around. Don’t fall into the trap of having an outdoor area that’s always “under construction” and never fit to be enjoyed!
Okay, you’re nearly done
Congratulations on making it this far through your spring cleaning. It’s utterly crucial at this point to select a liquid refreshment of your choice and place it in the fridge. This is a simple but critical task in your spring cleaning checklist. Be very careful not to skip it.
Clean or replace welcome mat
Is your welcome mat looking a little worse for wear after the winter months? Have insects made a little home amongst the bristles in the mat or is it just beyond cleaning? If the answer’s yes then it’s time to replace! Liven’ the entrance of your home will a brand new mat which will set the mood for everyone that comes through your door. Otherwise, give your old mat a vacuum and then spray it with a solution of one part water to one part white vinegar to kill mould, bacteria and germs. A colourful, clean door mat will freshen the entrance of your home and make everyone feel happy and welcomed, and is your first line of defence in keeping dirt and mud from your carpets . Don’t forget the back door mat too.
Clean the rubbish bins
Pick a sunny day for this task, but not a stinking hot one. Ever wondered why those stinking hot days are so darn stinking? It might be because the wheelie bins went too long without a clean! So get in and give ’em a wash before the humid heat starts turning your gorgeous green garden into a sweaty summer stench sauna. Lay the bins on their side and hose inside each one to remove any rubbish which may have missed the cut! If you hose the bins down on your front lawn any excess water will simply run onto your grass and hopefully help with growth. Then give the insides a once over with a mop and soapy water and then let them dry. There you go, well done. The insides of your bins are now clean enough to eat off! Wait.. hang on a second, please don’t do that. It’s a terrible suggestion. I’m sorry I came up with it. Use a plate, and be happy that your bins aren’t going to smell up your lovely garden on even the hottest summer day.
Wipe away cobwebs
Spiders are nifty critters. Most common house spiders pose no danger to people and occupy a useful spot in the local ecosystem. They’re great for keeping down local populations of nuisances like ants, flies and mosquitoes. Don’t get too down on your eight legged friends, they make our lives so much better.
That said, an outdoor area with cobwebs everywhere is not a lot of fun. There’s nothing like walking right into one to suddenly realise that you too can leap about erratically like an extra in a bad kung fu film. So take a broom and clear the cobwebs away from awnings, umbrellas and arches. In those little spaces where a broom won’t fit, a thin paintbrush is probably just the ticket. If spiders have a habit of building webs overnight in the centre of your garden arch then you may wish to put some lemon juice on a brush and then wipe it on the arch. Most spiders hate citrus, so this will direct their web building efforts to places where they can catch themselves a fly for dinner without catching you.
Enjoy the fruit of your labours
If you’ve made it this far down the list then give yourself a pat on the back. It’s now time to get that beverage you very carefully placed in the fridge earlier. Enjoy a lie down on a hammock or a lounge-about on an outdoor sofa in a warm but well shaded corner of your freshly finished yard. As you relax with your cool, quenching drink, you can have a think about what a great job you’ve done and then have another think about how you’re going to enjoy this space with loved ones, family and friends in all the sunny months ahead.