Your outdoor spring-cleaning checklist
A little care and attention goes a long way towards giving your outdoor zone a new look to match the new season.
Bunnings magazine, September 2020
A good spring clean is often top of the to-do list at this time of year, but don’t forget to extend your scrubbing to the outdoors! It’s just as important to give your garden a once-over as it is your interior zones.
The hard yards
From fountains to furniture, your backyard is full of hard surfaces that could do with rejuvenation for the new season. Try these:
For timber furniture, ensure the joinery is in shape and all rails and stretchers fit snugly. If they’re loose, strengthen and repair. “Timber furniture might benefit from a light sand and re-oil if it’s looking particularly weathered,” says Chloe Thomson of @beantheredugthat, host of Bunnings podcast Staying Grounded.
Give all furniture a hose down with water and scrub with a soft brush and detergent. If you decide on a deeper clean, check that the products you use are suitable for various materials such as fabric, plastic, wood and metal. Check seat cushions and deal with any marks according to the care instructions on the label. Putting soft furnishings away when not in use will help them last longer; invest in an outdoor storage box to keep them accessible.
Fountains and garden water features have their time to shine. “Now’s a great time to clean out your feature’s filter if it has one,” says Chloe. “And as the weather warms, remember to keep bird and bee water baths topped up so your local wildlife can enjoy a cooling drink.”
Utilise moss and mould treatments to get rid of growth over the colder months, and don’t forget to check on paths and pavers too. “This will stop them from becoming slip hazards,” says Chloe. Using a paving sealer can help protect against the elements, stopping mould and weeds that can sneak in between cracks. Pressure cleaners are great for tackling dirt on paved areas, fountains and water features, but make sure the surface can handle the water pressure before spraying.
Check garden structures (trellises, arbours and pergolas) to make sure joints and timber are in place properly and repair as required. Early spring is also a great time to give them a coat of paint or stain before plants have had a chance to grow.
Scrub the decks
Any timber deck that’s endured the winter, particularly if it’s not under cover, needs to be surveyed for rot, broken boards, cracks or protruding nails, and repaired as necessary. Tackle mildew, moss and stains with a decent wash down. Brenna Mathews, senior brand manager at Cabot’s, says removing dirt and debris with a timber maintenance wash will help keep mould, and even rot, at bay. But to truly prepare your deck space for spring, it is best to not just clean, but also coat it.
“Over time, your deck can become weathered from exposure to UV light and water. This can cause your deck to crack, turn grey, lose its original shape, or generally look tired and worn out,” explains Brenna. “Applying a quality decking oil or stain helps protect your deck against rain, sun, dirt and grime. This keeps timber looking good and can help extend its lifespan, so you can enjoy your deck for longer.”
Regular sweeping is a must, as organic debris can damage timber decks if it decomposes and becomes acidic. Concrete and composite decks should also be given a thorough sweep, then a wash down with sugar soap and a degreaser for under the barbecue. Likewise for fibre cement decks like HardieDeck, but keep an eye on the boards; if water is soaking in after it rains, you’ll need to reseal them.
The green scene
Take your garden from a barren and untidy winter wasteland to a lush, well-maintained celebration of spring.
Fallen leaves, spent perennials, dead ornamental grasses and branches are all casualties of winter and can be popped in the compost. “The smaller you chop them up, the faster they will compost, so use a mulcher if you have one, or run a mower over mounds of leaves to break them up,” says Chloe.
Pruning helps maintain the structure and size of plants, promotes flowering and fruiting, and removes dead or diseased wood. It’s a perfect chore for winter or early in the new season. But before you sharpen your secateurs and loppers, ensure you identify each plant before you chop – some plants should not be pruned in spring.
Feed to flourish
Spring’s the time to prepare your soil for planting. Give it some air by turning it with a spade or pitchfork, weed it, then add compost or manure a few weeks before planting to help nourish plants.
Gorgeous blooms arrive in spring and, to promote more, keep flowering plants well fed during September, says Angie Thomas, horticultural consultant to Yates. “Fertilisers that are specially designed for flowering plants are ideal, as they’re boosted with additional flower-promoting potassium,” says Angie. Nipping off spent flowers – known as deadheading – will also help encourage more blooms. Spring will also see the first flush of roses arrive, and these beauties need to be kept healthy to look their best, says Chloe. “With the soft new growth comes aphid attacks, so have on hand an organic pest oil to get on top of them,” she says. “And keep an eye out for powdery mildew, which is a fungal disease that’s more likely to occur if the weather’s warm and wet.” Roses thrive on the extra nutrients and moisture retention provided by mulches such as mushroom compost. In late spring, rake mulch over garden beds to help keep the weeds at bay and retain moisture in the hotter months.
Scout your location
Now is the ideal time to plant fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and flowers, but make a spring planting plan first, says Chloe Thomson. What you choose to grow will depend on soil conditions and climate.
Chloe suggests observing the space to plant out. Does it receive full sun (six to eight hours a day) or dappled shade? Have a look and feel of the soil. Is it sandy or boggy? “Armed with these two pieces of information, you can visit your local garden centre and ask for advice,” says Chloe. “It’s so much better to say, ‘I’m looking for a flowering shrub to suit a full sun spot with heavy, clay soil’ rather than ‘I’m looking for a plant for my garden!’” When planning and planting out pots, check plant labels to make sure your light conditions are suitable and you’re using the best type of potting mix for your chosen plants.
Love your lawn
Lawns have a real growth spurt in spring. To ensure yours looks its luscious best, feed with lawn fertiliser to support its growth and fix bare spots, which are a “magnet for weeds”, says Angie Thomas. “It’s important to control weeds before they have a chance to flower and set seed, which creates future generations,” she says. Gently cultivate the bare patch and remove any dead grass. Sow with lawn seed and keep the area moist while the seeds germinate and establish. You can catch the odd weed with a hand tool, but if they’ve spread out over the lawn, weed spray is your best option. Lawns need water to stay green. If you’re planting in drier climates, look for drought-tolerant lawn varieties.
There’s nothing like a freshly mown lawn, but don’t give it a clip when it’s wet. This can cause ruts in your grass and bare patches, with grass more likely to be torn out by the mower. Watch you don’t cut the grass too low as this too can lead to bare patches and weed invasion. A general rule is to never cut more than one-third of the length.
Contain your mulch with garden edging
Need a hand with installation? Watch our step-by-step video.
Photo Credit: Richard Weinstein, Cath Muscat, Brigid Arnott and Getty Images