12 Must-Do Home Maintenance Tips For Spring

Ah, spring! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the windows are finally open! Now is definitely the time to take a realistic look at your home’s exterior (and all that goes with it), and do the necessary cleaning, or make repairs or replacements. Winter can be harsh, but springtime is all about renewal!

1. Roof and Shingles

159098017ff901325b63329c05103295

Winter storms, snow, and wind can take a toll on your roof shingles, and the summer sun doesn’t do your roof any favors, either. If you can, get up on a ladder and really take a good look at the condition of your shingles. Are they loose? Do you see any cracks or wearing? If so, you may want to begin to budget for a replacement roof by next winter. While you’re up there, make sure you check any skylights, and clear away debris. Examine the flashing around your plumbing vents and chimney to see if they should be repaired or replaced (by a qualified roofer, of course).

2. Gutters

944a966dabb86a4345d5a49b874ea4b6

Make sure your gutters are intact, and there aren’t any loose, unconnected ends. Check for leaks, and again, getting up on a ladder, use a pair of rubber gloves to clean out leaves and debris. Perhaps invest in some gutter protectors to cut back on cleaning altogether. Also, make sure your downspouts are draining away from your foundation. Purchase downspout extensions if you need to.

3. Yard

05a4e527593ada8c2020eff71b998bd8

Check for low areas in your yard, and around your foundation. If you find areas that are lower than the rest of your yard, they can and should be leveled up with compacted soil to avoid having water pool in areas next to your foundation. When water pools, it’ll not only lead to damage, but it’s a perfect place for insects like mosquitos to breed, and no one needs more mosquitos in the summer.

4. Chimney

3d6fc069e762edf01006410240e33a59

While you’re up on that ladder, check your chimney exterior for any signs of over-winter damage. Now would be the time to hire a chimney sweep for a good cleaning and inspection, to avoid a chimney fire next autumn or winter.

5. Concrete

0fd60f8b74c28d56f5f0af319b5974da

Ice heaving during the winter can cause cracks and movement within your concrete sidewalks and walkways. Also, be sure to check garage floors and parking pads for signs of cracking. These can be easily filled with a concrete crack filler. If you know you’ll have a few nice sunny days in a row, power-wash the concrete, fill the cracks, and re-seal it.

6. Firewood

5b6f2082ef59186122f8dbf0b8b95006

Firewood can be a home for bugs and vermin during the warmer months, so if you have firewood near your home, move it to a different location in the spring when you’re done with it for the season. Try to store firewood at least a foot off the ground, and away from any structure by a couple of feet, to avoid it becoming a nice haven for squirrels, mice, and rats.

7. Outside Faucets

8693756879465f407fca224a8b70d97e

First, turn on the water, and cover the opening of the faucet with your finger or thumb. You shouldn’t be able to stop the flow of water, and if you can, you’ll need to check the interior pipes for leaks that could cause big damage. Now is also a great time to inspect your garden hose for spots of dry rot. Don’t wait until you’re ready to wash the car or water the garden to realize your hose needs replacing.

8. Air Conditioning

24c74604e7b22aa90a29ebca77abf6e8

Hire an HVAC professional to pay a visit. Have them clean and service your a/c unit. This will increase the energy efficiency of your unit, and will keep it working smoothly. Check interior filters, and purchase replacements if they are worn or dirty. Finally, make sure you test the unit well before you’ll need to use it, instead of waiting for that first hot day.

9. Lawn Equipment

3101ea6e96419e3b49e5548ef070ed30

Get your lawnmower out and make sure it starts up. Change the oil, replace the spark plug, and clean up the air filter, if necessary. Clean the blades and take them in for sharpening if necessary. This will enable the mower to do the most efficient cutting job on your lawn. Also check out your leaf-blower, edge trimmer, and any other lawn equipment you use to make sure everything is working properly, and purchase anything you’ll need – such as trimmer string or 2-stroke oil. Check batteries in cordless items to make sure those batteries are charged when you need to use them.

10. Trees

79140a4b90fcf64a998dd04d804de1a3

If trees near your home have branches that are broken from snow weight, trim those before they fall on your roof. Trim back any other branches from your siding or windows. You can do this yourself, if you’re comfortable with it, or hire a professional.

11. Snow Blower

ab834f79d9b658ddfd6eeedcd0d0e6dc

If you live in a seasonal “winter wonderland”, you might use a snow blower to help keep your place from turning into a fancy igloo. Now that Spring has come, you’ll be ready to give your snow blower a rest. Before storing your snow blower away for the season, drain the fuel and run it until the gas line is clear. Remove the spark plug and store it. Cover the snow blower up for the season.

12. Deck

5314ca4498faa6e3a7956dd60453993a

Check your deck for any boards that need to be replaced. Power wash it and reseal if necessary. After all, you have a long summer of use to look forward to!

Managing Your Mulch and Making the Right Choice for Your Garden

You may still be in the clutches of Old Man Winter, but for many areas of the United States, spring is just around the corner! Who knows a seed catalog or two may have already made their way to your mailbox. Either way, it’s never too early to begin planning your flower and vegetable gardens.

We’re going to explore some more common types of mulch, and some rather uncommon types, too! We’ll also cover where each type will work best in your own garden, and go over some tips for their use.

First, here are a few selections for mulch to use around trees, and in landscaping flowerbeds:

Lava Rock

ecca6e680044113780ed5ee9127b239b

Lava rock is inexpensive, and a smart choice for many landscape needs. It’s lightweight, adds color to your yard, and will last forever. And that’s one reason to be careful when choosing it – it’s very hard to remove once laid. The edges of lava rock are sharp, so it’s not a good choice for areas where little feet or paws will be exploring barefoot. But if you’re looking for a low-maintenance, colorful addition to your landscaping, lava rock fits the bill.

Stone

589031e7c8cdbbbcba1b5c17f56321fc

Garden stone comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Different types and colors of stone in different sections of a garden looks absolutely lovely, and stone is another very long-lasting mulch. Price depends largely on the variety you choose. One benefit of stone is that it absorbs sun during the day and is a great insulator, allowing you to grow somewhat less hardy plants, or even jump-start your garden sooner in the spring.

Cocoa Shell Mulch

38158f8d68cbb5234f67881977319b77

The shell of the cocoa bean, when chopped up, creates a lovely dark color and a buttery chocolate smell that lasts a few weeks after the mulch has been laid. It’s a great choice if you have a sitting area, or a fire pit – anywhere people will be hanging out. It’s a bit expensive, but you don’t need to have inches of depth when placing cocoa bean shells. An inch will do the trick.

Pet owners beware: Cocoa mulch contains the same ingredients that are harmful to dogs as are in chocolate…just nine ounces will cause death in a 50-pound dog. So if you have furry friends around, this might not be the best choice.

Autumn Leaves

449cbcb498528bccb92409374d94ce67

Surprisingly, fallen leaves provide an excellent cover for placing on empty planting areas in the fall after your crops have all been harvested. Use your lawn mower to chop the leaves up before placing them, or you’ll likely end up with a lot of mold. The best part about using autumn leaves? It’s absolutely free!

Hardwood Mulch

e9784571131d53d7dc2c3bec8e289eb0

The biggest benefit of hardwood mulch is its widespread availability. It will impart a very natural, subdued look to your flowerbeds and elsewhere in your landscaping. The colors will always be neutral, and this kind of mulch works very well on slopes, lasting up to three years. Hardwood mulches create quaint garden paths, too!

Grass Clippings

8d70e2612539afe3abc8a0b948c7bc0d

If you’re like most people who don’t expect an immaculate lawn, you probably mulch your grass as you mow and just let it lie on your lawn. If you do bag your clippings, though, they can be used as a light mulch that is quick to decompose (takes only a few weeks!) Use clippings in your vegetable garden, and under shrubbery as top mulch. (Never re-use clippings that have been chemically treated, though.)

Straw

bb403f393755a2430228a290d470effa

Straw has been used by many generations of gardeners needing an inexpensive solution to insulate their vegetable beds. Make sure you get weed-free straw from your local nursery, and you’ll be able to till it under in the fall after you’ve harvested your gardens. You can spread it up to six inches thick without having to worry about mold forming.

Pine Straw (or Duff)

bff55adac6b2a0139144cfb1912ab7c7

If you live in an area of boreal forest, you might be able to utilize the pine needles that have fallen over the years as effective mulch. It has a distinctive burnt-orange color that can add interest to landscapes, and it is known for reducing issues with slugs in gardens and flowerbeds. As mulch, it is rather short-lived at only two years.

Fresh Wood Chips

3290b5cefb480a38ae2218ee4dfb05ce

Freshly chipped or shredded wood will be very long-lasting mulch that won’t blow away and doesn’t contain weed seeds. It’s easy to care for, looks great in a wide array of environments and landscape designs, and will last up to four years. Check your local nursery for readily available varieties.

Seaweed

6108b9227bc9995c698137a8aff5ca78

If you’re lucky enough to live on the coast, gathering seaweed to use as compost is a free option that’ll last several months. It is absolutely filled with nutrients that will enhance your soil as it decomposes. If you don’t live near a coastal area, or near lakes, you can buy prepared seaweed-based mulch at superstores and garden centers.

Weed Fabric

7316c50e33cb7c46283799a070d6fb10

Typically utilized under another type of mulch, this weed barrier will provide long-term coverage that’ll help you stop the weeds before they start. Stay on top of weeding, because if weeds grow through the fabric, your weeding job will be a lot harder!

Getting a Handle on Your Pruning Schedule

When it comes to pruning, when is the right time? Spring? Fall? Anytime? And that’s the problem…there are so many options for so many different types of plants, bushes, and shrubs that it can be hard to keep it all organized. In this quick guide, we’ll look at the most optimal times to prune the most common parts of your landscaping.

First, look for the Three D’s – dead, diseased, and damaged. Anytime you see stems that have any of the Three D’s, you can prune them, no matter what the season. Dead stems left alone will just invite insects and disease, so get rid of them as soon as you notice them.

Anytime is also a good time to remove shoots that are growing upright from the trunk or side branches, or near/below ground. These new shoots will zap the energy from the rest of the tree, and trimming them will allow that energy to go into the main parts of the tree where it’s needed.

Trees/Shrubs – Spring Flowering

093d79a0752baec92ec538c63dce385e

Early-spring bloomers will bear their flowers on the wood formed during the previous year, so pruning in late spring is the best. Wait until they finish blooming, then immediately prune. Remember that plants are all about energy, so if you remove the oldest shoots right down to the ground, the younger stems will use that energy to grow and bloom heartily!

Trees/Shrubs – Summer Flowering

b18a0fe39f9fab054624c925174e9b4a

Summer bloomers don’t have to wait a year to bloom on last year’s growth; they produce their flowers on the current season’s growth. The best time to prune these plants is during the winter when the plant is dormant, or in the early spring before they’ve started their new growth cycle. You can even cut them completely down in the late winter, and you’ll still see plenty of blooms that summer.

Trimmed Hedges

db7abdfb34a04cd6f46c02e0703b20b9

To obtain, and keep, a solid wall of green, shear new growth frequently during the early part of the season, keeping the top narrower than the base to prevent overshadowing. Stop trimming around six weeks prior to your location’s typical first frost. If you’re going for a privacy hedge look, select shrubbery that will only grow as tall and as wide as you need it, to prevent having to shear so often.

Rose Bushes

2839b984c7639b3762b94f88afc81839

For once-a-year bloomers, always wait until after blooming has finished to perform any pruning. Repeat-bloomers, on the other hand, should be cut back in the early spring to prevent them from becoming overgrown, and to remove winter-damaged canes.

Deciduous Shade Trees

796b5aeaedf274b00032b4be586c5f84

Hardwood shade trees such as oak and ash should be pruned during the winter when they are dormant. Avoid spreading diseases by pruning during the winter instead of summer. For deciduous trees that produce sap, you can wait until the leaves have expanded in the summer to prune, but if you want to prune during the winter, the running sap will not hurt the tree at all.

Deciduous Fruit Trees

d8a3f943d17aea86cf3f00a2986098f8

Most deciduous fruit trees should be pruned during the mid-winter when they’re dormant. This will “open up” the tree to allow more light in, and will result in a stronger, sweeter fruit crop. Avoid summer pruning as much as possible to prevent the spread of bacterial disease via the pruning wounds.

Needle-Leaf Evergreens

59ba57f1c729b213d931a4921ae69c8b

Trees and shrubs with needle- or scale-like foliage should be pruned early in the growing season. And don’t worry about mid-winter pruning to collect holiday greenery – it won’t hurt the tree at all, so long as you don’t over-cut. Avoid cutting into wood that has no green needles, as it will likely not sprout new growth if you do so.

Pine Trees and Shrubs

8b511a167d8e900d7143d8d2af59c2f3

True pines form buds only at branch tips before the stem gets woody, so prune before the new shoots turn woody and the needles have expanded. You can prune up to half of the expanding “candle” of new growth, but no more than that.

Perennial Flowers

6737a25297b569964c2543c7cd66da52

Remove faded flowers at any time, and your perennials will simply look better. When you do this, many perennials will push out new blooms, so it pays to keep up with this small chore. If your flowers become too tall, shear them back to 6-12 inches above the ground. This will cause them to branch and become fuller. Most perennial flowers look best if you remove faded flowers. This is called deadheading. As a bonus, many perennials will push out another cycle of blooms after deadheading.

Annual Flowers

20c3349563881ed7732ef89a74dc8324

As with perennials, remove old blooms as needed. This will keep your annuals from going to seed and will allow more energy to be put into blooming. If you start seeing bare stems, trim back to allow for more compact growth and fuller blooms.

Berries

9ede65c3108d63bc2dee12847b5fae2f

For caned berries, prune old, dead canes anytime. After two-year-old canes finish bearing fruit, they can be pruned back as they will not fruit again, and can result in disease if left alone. For new canes, prune back the tips when they reach 2-3 feet tall so that they will branch out. For bush berries, prune out about a third of the oldest stems each winter. Doing so will allow for more productive plants in the summer.