Would a spring yard cleanup checklist motivate you to get busy after a long winter?
A bit of elbow grease and some time outdoors in the fresh air doing a spring yard cleanup will give your entire outdoor space a fresh start to the season.
We’ve created a simple plan to help make your spring cleaning efforts productive and efficient.
Don’t forget to grab your Spring Yard Cleanup Checklist – Printable Step-by-Step Guide to keep you on track with this project!
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Yard Maintenance: Create a Beautiful Outdoor Setting with a spring yard cleanup
Step 1: Put Away Winter Stuff
Equipment, toys, and tools mainly used during the winter season can now be cleaned up and stored away. This is also an excellent time of year to clean and organize (or re-organize!) the garage and shed. You’ll thank yourself all year long for tackling these beastly to-do’s.
Cold weather items to store can include:
- Snowblowing and shoveling equipment
- Ice melting supplies
- Winter toys, such as sleds and ice skates
- Anything else that won’t be used until autumn or winter
This is a good time to walk around the yard and note any little or big things that need to be done or ideas you’d like to consider. Maybe a hammock between those two trees or turning that old wooden screen door into a new garden entrance. Joe will be so excited about my new ideas! 😂
If you have an area of your yard dedicated to preparing or storing firewood, this is also an excellent time to clean up any mess created over the winter. If you won’t be using any of the firewood prepping equipment, go ahead and store it for the season.
But if any trees or limbs need to be cut, then you may need that equipment for cutting into firewood. That step is farther down the list!
Step 2: Prepare tools for yard & lawn maintenance
Early spring is the perfect time to haul out all the equipment and tools used for yard work and lawn maintenance.
Power tools must be serviced annually, including lawn mowers, trimmers, edgers, chainsaws, etc. Hand tools such as rakes, shovels, and pruning shears also need maintenance.
Check owner’s manuals for any tools for what and how to do proper maintenance. You can also search online for good videos of walking through the steps. Or find a local small-engine service shop.
It’s best to do this in early spring so all tools are ready for use when the best weather presents itself.
If you’re new to caring for a home and property, check out our list of DIY tools for beginners.
Step 3: Clean Up the Yard
This is the most important task in a detailed spring cleanup – clearing the yard of debris. I like to do this continuously and use it as an excuse to spend time outside on nice weather days during the winter season.
Start with picking up fallen branches and bigger twigs
The dead branches can be piled up for burning or as a bird and small wildlife habitat, taken to a municipal yard waste facility, or chipped for mulch and compost.
Jenny asked for a chipper/ shredder for Christmas to chip leaves for her garden beds. We got it in October during southern Missouri’s peak dry leaf season. After helping her get it set up and showing her how to use it, I handed her a pair of noise-canceling headphones (I know how much she hates loud noises!), and she was off and running. She’s spent many hours in the garden shredding dry leaves and twigs.
Also, pick up any trash that may have blown into the yard. This is much easier to pick up before it’s shredded with a mower.
Our yard seems mostly rocks so there are always rocks to pick up that we don’t want the mower to go over. They usually make their way to our gravel driveway.
Basically, pick up anything that shouldn’t be run over with a lawn mower.
Step 4: Gather the leaves, or rake, rake, rake!
We have a dozen trees in our backyard so lots of leaves pile up during the fall season. Fall is the best time to rake leaves, as staying on top of this big job helps them not pile up and pack down. The leaves need to be dry if they are being run through a chipper/ shredder so, again, it’s best to do as they come down.
But it seems there is never a shortage of leaves on the ground come springtime so raking is also a part of the annual spring yard cleanup job.
Don’t forget to clear these areas of leaves:
- Lawn areas
- Around trees
- Flower beds
- Around the foundation of the house and other buildings
- Walkways and paths
A simple tarp is one of the best tools for clearing the yard of leaves, twigs, and small branches. Spread out the tarp, rake yard waste onto the tarp, then pull the tarp to where you want to dump the waste.
A note about mowing over leaves…
You may be wondering can I just mow over leaves, and the short answer is yes, mow away!
The more detailed answer depends on how much leaf litter will be left on the ground and what kind of yard you want. The Horticulture Department of the University of Wisconsin Extension Office advises leaving the leaves if 20% or less of the yard is covered.
If the goal is a pristinely manicured grass lawn, you’ll probably want to rake, or only mow over the leaves occasionally.
But if your yard is like our lovely wooded backyard, then mowing the leaves is a-ok.
What to do with all the leaves and yard waste
Add to or create a new compost pile. This is a great time to start a new pile so the older compost can be used in the garden and flower beds.
Shred for use as mulch. I like my shredder/ chipper machine, so I make a lot of mulch out of those precious leaves (and twigs or branches up to 0.5” thick). This shredded gold goes into my garden beds and the compost bin.
I’m trying something new this year when cleaning up leaves during my spring yard cleanup – leaf mold. After shredding the leaves, I will use them as cover for the walkways around my raised garden beds and let them break down for use later in the beds. Broken down dead leaves turn into soil gold.
Send or take to the local yard waste facility. If you don’t want to or can’t keep yard waste on your property, check to see if your area has a location for dropping off yard waste, or even picking it up at your home.
Share with a neighbor. You may be surprised who needs more leaves in their life, so check with neighboring property owners just in case.
Burn with care. Be sure your area allows burning, and always use common sense and follow safety guidelines if you decide to burn yard waste.
Step 5: Let the mowing begin…and the trimming
After all the grassy areas are clear of obstacles and the equipment is ready, it’s time to do the first spring season mowing. I love mowing for the same reason I like sweeping and vacuuming – instant productive gratification. (Yeah, I know I’m weird!)
After a good mowing session, it’s time to use the string trimmer and edger to get around the trees, garden beds, and house and along walkways and fences.
Stock up on string for the trimmer and other tool-cutting attachments. Preparing ahead for the mowing season, early spring through fall, will save you some sanity and possibly even some money.
When to start mowing
So when should you first mow your lawn after winter? Early spring is the approximate time recommended by many lawn care specialists. Experts also say the outside temperature is between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
How much to cut
A good rule of thumb is to cut off ⅓ of the height. The Family Handyman shares more particular details on seasonal changes and how to adjust the cutting height on lawnmowers.
Encouraging new growth
If the state of the grass in your yard makes you sad, don’t fret – there is hope. Grass seed is affordable, easy to apply, and often germinates quickly.
There are so many choices of grass seed, so here is some information from This Old House experts for choosing a grass seed.
To get the best results no matter what grass seed you choose, prep the area and follow the grass seed distribution and watering guidelines. We don’t have a favorite seed to recommend, as we have tried a few different ones. We will be using this Scotts Sun & Shade Mix this spring, and, if it works well, we’ll apply it again in the fall.
Step 6: Springtime care of trees, shrubs, and perennial plants
Assess for damage
Early spring is an ideal time to assess for any winter damage to trees, shrubs, or perennial plants. Note any dead or dying trees, branches, bushes, or plants and make a plan for removing or replacing them.
Make a plan
Searching plant books or websites or asking an expert at a local garden center can help answer any questions you may have regarding the specific needs of the flora in your yard.
Decide what action needs to be taken for each tree or plant, such as pruning, cutting back, or removing.
Prune, trim, & cut
Using the right equipment or tools, start pruning and trimming.
We like to do this before the warmer weather sets in, both because it’s cooler and the tornado season setting in during the late spring in our geographical area of southern Missouri.
Removing any dead tree branches, or even the whole tree, will keep any weather-related damages minimal during storm season.
If you aren’t comfortable using a chainsaw to remove dead limbs or entire trees, start early and schedule professional service. There is often a waiting list, and you won’t want to wait until the needed removal is an emergency. Also, check local laws if you plan to take down a tree yourself, as some municipalities will require a licensed professional.
Step 7: Finishing touches for trees and plants in the yard and garden
Now is the time to put some finishing touches on the landscape to help create the beautiful lawn, yard, and garden you’ve been dreaming of all winter.
Starting the seasonal weeding process early in spring will enable you to stay on top of it through the rest of the growing season. Cleaning out weeds now will prevent them from multiplying and give the plants you want in your garden a chance to flourish.
Pull out weeds in all flower beds, garden areas, and anywhere you don’t want vegetation growing.
Clear out leaves and extra mulch
If needed, also clear leftover leaves or extra mulch from around plants.
Divide and transplant
If there are perennials or ornamental grasses you’d like to move or divide, now is a good time to do so. Spring is also a great time to watch for local plant sales, like gardening clubs. This is a frugal and fun way to find plants for your garden, and you can learn a lot by visiting with the other gardeners.
Add new mulch
This may be a step for late spring, as the ground should warm up, and bulbs should begin to sprout before adding mulch. Mulch will help keep the plant’s roots moist and help keep weeds to a minimum.
Step 8: Pay attention to decks and porches
If wooden decks and porches are splintering, warping, fading, or worse, take steps now to repair and update them so they last longer and look better.
Power wash decks and porches
Ah, the power of a good wash! For decks and porches, nothing beats a thorough power wash to bring back that like-new appearance. It’s a simple but transformative act that strips away the year’s buildup of dirt and grime, revealing the beautiful, ready-to-enjoy outdoor space beneath.
I have been using Mold Armor E-Z House Wash for a couple of years, and I highly recommend it. It works quickly and efficiently, removing mold, mildew, and heavy grime. I’ve used it on our pressure-treated wood porches, concrete, metal siding, and plastic outdoor furniture.
Repair as needed
If wood on decks or porches is splintering where hands or feed make contact, sanding will fix this problem. Note that if you sand anywhere on wood, it must be restained, resealed, or repainted in those areas.
Paint, stain, or seal
If painted, check for peeling paint and repaint as needed.
The stain can be reapplied when the coloring has faded, or you’d like a different color.
Sealant is required for extending the life of outdoor wood spaces. If wooden porches or decks are exposed to the sun, a sealant with a high UV rating is recommended. This will help protect the wood.
The sealant’s container will give recommendations for how often it will need to be resealed. Some stains will have the sealant included, so it will be a quicker process.
Moving furniture and plant pots to a different location on decks, porches, or patios at least annually is a good idea. This will help keep from damaging one particular spot.
Step 9: Clean patios and pathways
Power wash patios and sidewalks
A simple power wash of concrete or stone patios and sidewalks will restore the beauty of the stone. Go ahead and wash any other stone structures, such as home foundations, retaining walls, and garden beds.
After power washing wooden, stone, or concrete in preparation for resealing, plan the project during a dry week when rain isn’t forecast. The area must dry for 24-48 hours before applying paint, stain, or sealant. The process will need the number of coats recommended by the brand purchased, so it will likely take several days to finish the job, from power washing to the last coat of sealant.
Fix cracks if needed
Watch for cracks in concrete, especially if you live somewhere with super cold winters. If moisture gets into the crack and freezes and thaws, it will lift and possibly break up the concrete. Cracks in concrete can be fixed with a filler like this one by Quikrete.
Re-seal previously sealed areas
Once concrete or stone has been sealed, it should be resealed on a regular basis, as dictated by the brand of the original sealant product.
As with wood, these areas must dry fully after pressure washing before applying the sealant.
Celebrate Spring and your hard work
The best way to tackle spring yard cleanup is to make a plan and start early. All of the time and effort invested in spring yard work will get you ready for the warm days ahead and will boost your DIY confidence (not to mention save you money by doing it yourself).
The end result will be a warm season-ready property that you can enjoy into summer and through the fall.
How long should you wait to rake leaves in spring?
Leaves can be raked anytime it is dry enough to do so. Start in early spring, as soon as the leaves are dry and before the soil starts to warm up and grass starts growing for the season.
What happens to grass if you don’t rake leaves?
Leaves left on grass will naturally decompose and will kill the grass over time.
Can I just mow over leaves?
Yes, leaves can be mown over instead of raked. However, too much leaf litter left on grass can inhibit new growth. If the goal is a manicured grass lawn, then raking is best.