Avoid digging too early. Soil should be damp but not sticky. Grab a handful. Is it moist enough to clump together, but dry enough to crumble apart as you open your hand? If so, then your soil is ready.
In planting beds, remove perennial stems that were left through winter to protect plant crowns and offer forage for birds. Don’t pull stems; instead, clip them at ground level. Allow bulb foliage to ripen and die naturally. Gently remove winter mulch and leaves that have accumulated on planting beds. Remove winter mulch on a cloudy day so that the spring sun doesn’t burn plants that have already emerged.
Before a rain, sprinkle slow-release organic fertilizer around bulbs, perennials and roses, scratching it lightly into the soil. Add a fresh 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of organic mulch, such as compost or composted manure.
Germinate flower and vegetable seeds indoors, making sure seedlings receive 16 hours of light per day. Dig and divide summer- and fall-flowering perennials. Plant cool-season vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, onions, greens and lettuces as soon as you can work the ground.
In early spring before forsythia finishes blooming, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to turf to control crabgrass. Tackle dandelions and other broadleaf weeds by digging or spraying.
Overseed bare spots in cool-season lawns; however, wait until late spring or early summer to patch warm-season turf. Do not use pre-emergent herbicides if you plan to overseed.
Start mowing cool-season grasses when they show green. Raise the mower blade after the first spring cut, and never remove more than one-third of the grass-blade length.
Outdoor Living Areas
Remove dirt and mildew stains from your deck using a specially formulated deck-cleaning solution. If the deck is new construction, be sure to purchase a new wood treatment instead of a deck cleaner. Follow this step with a power wash. Choose a nozzle with a vertical slit to avoid scarring the wood. Don’t use bleach, which eats away at the wood. Follow with a high-quality deck stain.
Double-check the gas connection on your grill. Mix a solution of warm water with a small amount of dish soap, brush some on the connection, turn on the gas and watch. Bubbles signal a leak, which means you should replace your connector.
Use a wire brush and degreaser on the grill to remove baked-on grease on the cooking grate and grill pan. Heating them first can make grease easier to remove. Use a piece of wire to ensure burners and holes are clear.
This article is excerpted from Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine. For more information, visit http://www.lowes.com