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Spring cleaning: How to organize the backyard

Spring has nearly sprung, and after a long winter, the backyard might be well due for a little (or a lot of) TLC.

As the days get longer and warmer, check out these savvy tips for sprucing things up from Home Depot expert Lucy Mercer. Because many hands lighten the load, the horticulturalist even revealed some tricks for getting the whole family involved – and for making the yard look better than ever this spring.

A veteran gardener with 30 years of experience, Mercer advises more than 2 million subscribers as editor for the Home Depot’s Garden Club, an online community of lawn and garden enthusiasts.

hat should be on the checklist for spring cleaning the backyard?
LUCY MERCER: Get ready for a season outside with these tips:

  1. Pick up any yard debris – like tree limbs, any stems from dead perennials, dead vegetation, leaves and dead grass. Most of this can be composted, but if it looks diseased, bag and dispose in the trash.
  2. Check what survived winter. Rake back mulch to peek at perennials and bulbs to ensure they’re healthy. Replace and refresh the mulch, if needed.
  3. Lightly rake the lawn to remove leaves. If there are brown patches, put re-seeding on your to-do list.
  4. Get a handle on weeds. If your winter has been warm and wet like ours in Atlanta, you may already see weeds sprouting.
  5. Bring your vision to life. Early spring is the time to start vegetable and flower seeds, adding new hardscape elements like retaining walls and paver paths, and pruning trees and shrubs.
  6. Clean last year’s containers for a new season. Get your container gardens ready, from patio pots to window boxes.

When should people tackle backyard spring cleaning?
Mercer: I’d say when it feels comfortable to work outside. The days may start out cool, but when you’re working outside, you’ll warm up. In most areas of the country, this is between now and the first of May.

hat’s one outdoor spring cleaning chore you should never forget?
Mercer: Pull up weeds before the plants set seeds. You can do this by hand or with a cultivating tool. Dispose of weeds in garbage bags or compost them. In flower and vegetable beds, follow up with a blanket of mulch to suppress weeds and hold in moisture.

ow can people get the whole family involved?
Mercer: Kids are easy, spouses can be hard. I think anytime your helpers can be part of the process, they’re more committed to the project.

Little ones are happy with a bag of potting soil and some digging tools. Put out some small buckets so they can move the soil from bag to bucket to garden, or pick up kid-size digging tools and gardening gloves.

With older kids, embrace their technological prowess and let them research the best plants for your garden in the Home Depot app. Play to your team’s strengths and interests: If your teens love to cook, let them select herbs and vegetables to grow and empower them to care for the growing plants.

Kids of all ages love to plant containers. For years, my school-age daughters’ Mother’s Day gift to their grandmother was planting out her spring containers. We’d visit the Garden Center and pick out the flowers, show up at Grandma’s house with bags of potting mix and our tools and start planting. They did all the hard work and cleaned up afterward. You don’t have to wait for Mother’s Day — Easter is April 12.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Mercer: As you look around your gardening space in early spring, think of one new thing you’d like to try this year, big or small. Maybe it’s planting for pollinators or adding drip irrigation. It could be [adding] a garden path or a rose bush. Try one new thing every season, and soon, you’ll have the garden and landscape of your dreams.