Mention the word spring too many people and the first thought that jumps into their heads is the concept of spring cleaning. There’s nothing like having a good tidy and clean up to kick start the new season and Feng Shui converts will testify to the benefits of clearing your clutter to encourage a feeling of well-being.
If you’ve successfully mastered the marathon task of vacuuming, cleaning, dusting and polishing to leave your house in pristine condition – it’s now time to focus your spring cleaning energies on the outdoor room – the garden – and at the same time, give your garden its annual health check.
Here’s a quick run down of some of the tasks that need taking in hand:
Clear away any debris that has been caused by the recent harsh weather conditions. Prepare the lawn for its first cut of the season using either a stiff broom or a plastic rake, to spread the worm casts and pick up any leaves and twigs. Once you can actually see the lawn again, now is the time to review the role it has to play in your outdoor room. If you lead a busy lifestyle, you might want to consider reducing the size of the lawn to make way for more low maintenance features such as a larger paved patio area or decking. In addition to the obvious minimal maintenance benefits, paved areas also increase the amount of time that can be spent in the garden, dispensing with the negatives associated with soggy grass and muddy footprints throughout the house! Plan ahead to make sure the patio area is going to be big enough to house a standard table and chairs (min 3 x 3 metres) and also consider installing a purpose built brick barbecue to dispense with the annual unveiling (and dusting off) of a free-standing barbecue unit.
Give the existing patio a thorough sweep with a strong brush to pick up any loose detritus (prolonged contact with wet leaves can result in staining of the paved area) and use a hot detergent solution (washing up liquid or non-bio washing powder) to give it a good clean, making sure you rinse thoroughly with clean water. Take care when buying cleaning agents as some products contain a concentration of acid which can adversely affect the appearance of concrete, clay and natural stone. Check the area for any cracked, uneven or broken pavers.
Once you’ve cleared away any leaves or twigs, cut back any growth of plants surrounding the edge of the pond so that they don’t hinder the view of your pond feature. Split the root balls of any plants which may be growing too large. Having removed the pump during the cold weather (the ideal place to store it is the airing cupboard!) now is the time to replace it and check the filters / bulb aren’t covered in algae. Kids are naturally drawn to water whether it is a brightly coloured paddling pool or a murky garden pond so if you have children, take stock of the safety measures in place for your pond or any other water feature. A secure fence should always be installed to ensure there is no way the children can access the water. If you have a swimming pool in the garden, again fence it off and / or use a child proof fitted cover. Remember, it is not always your kids that are at risk – RoSPA claims that 80% of pond drownings happen in the garden of a friend, relative or neighbour.
If you’re decking has already been treated with a stain or applied wood preservative, clean off the deck with a light pressure wash or stiff brush and then reapply a new coating. Decking timbers will have already been pressure treated before being cut which guarantees them for 25 years, so the application of a stain is purely for cosmetic reasons! To extend the amount of time you spend on the deck and to enhance the overall ambience of the garden, it might be worth considering installing LED lights as a new feature.
It always pays to apply a good timber preservative to maintain the condition of the wood. Traditional creosote or creosote based preservatives are no longer recommended and are now in fact illegal following years of concern over the dangers to health from the amount of carcinogen, benzo-a-pyrene (a constituent of creosote). It is also worth having a good look around the perimeter of the garden to check that all fencing is still safe and secure and that all gates are in good working order. Remember to consider the ability for growing children to hone their climbing skills and where necessary adapt the height of the fencing to ensure it still provides an appropriate barrier to prevent young ones from making a quick escape!
This should have been kept covered during the winter or housed in a garage to prevent it from potential damage by the elements, so give it a good dust off and light clean if necessary.
Tools and equipment: check the blades of the lawnmower prior to use for the first time – dull blades will result in ragged edges, uncut sections and damage to the lawn. Make sure the blade is sharpened correctly to maintain its balance and avoid vibrations. Clean away any old grass still clinging to the appliance with a simple hand brush. For petrol powered tools change the oil each year and check to see if the spark plugs need replacing.
The author has recently built an all new website for Outdoor-Creations.co.uk, a company specialising in garden design Kent and Surrey garden design. Visit their website to view an excellent garden gallery.