Prepare your outdoor spaces for warmer weather with our spring clean guide so you can spend those endless summer days relaxing al fresco
Here’s how to spring clean your outdoors for alfresco entertaining
It seems so far away, when skies are grey and it rains continually, but the sunshine will arrive before you know it, heralding lazy days and relaxing barbecues on the lawn or balcony. But the outdoors is less enjoyable when the sun umbrella is covered in mould, the outdoor furniture is grubby and the lawn is full of weeds. If this sounds like your place, don’t worry. Just follow our spring-clean checklist and your outdoor areas will be in tip-top shape in time for summer.
Lawn and order
Lawns can look tired after a cold, wet winter. To get your grass growing strongly this spring, give lawns a good feed and dig out or spray competing weeds such as paspalum, dock and dandelion. Some lawn products will feed grass and kill broad-leaved weeds at the same time. Fill gaps with handfuls of grass seed mixed with topsoil or another suitable growing medium. Boggy lawns are another issue at this time of year. You can buy purpose-built aerators or make your own by attaching a sharp spike to a pole. Think about putting in a mowing strip to give lawns a crisp edge, or use a trimmer to keep them tidy.
Outdoor seating, tables and other furniture items have to withstand tougher conditions than those inside and therefore need regular maintenance. Are fixings loose or broken? Does timber need re-staining, oiling or painting? Do you need to take a wire brush and/or sandpaper to that metal table to remove rust? Remember to coat rust spots with a rust-inhibitor primer after cleaning them up, and then brush off all dirt thoroughly before painting with a top coat. Does your outdoor seating need updating? Perhaps some new cushions will do the trick.
While you’ve got the paintbrushes out, are there other areas that could do with a quick facelift, such as tired-looking fences, walls, sheds and pergolas? Re-staining decking timber after a thorough clean can have a huge impact on your outdoor living areas.
Hit the deck
Mould can build up over winter, making decks and terraces slimy and dangerous. Use a waterblaster to clean these and other hard surfaces around outdoor entertaining areas. Before you start, check the mortar isn’t cracked on brick, masonry or stone paving and walls. Make any repairs at least a week before washing. Follow up with a fungicidal wash, such as 30 Seconds, for very mouldy areas. Try to sweep decks and paving regularly in summer so dirt doesn’t build up in cracks and corners with mould and weeds sure to follow.
Made in the shade
Sun umbrellas, shade cloths and other outdoor fabrics should also be checked for mould and grime. Take them down and scrub with a weak solution of bleach, soap and water. Make sure to rinse them well.
Irrigation systems should be checked at least once a year, as spray nozzles get blocked and hose tubing can easily be damaged by spades and so forth. Unscrew spray attachments and use a sharp object to remove dirt from nozzles. Most hardware stores sell DIY fittings to repair leaking hoses. Now is a good time to assess whether you need to upgrade or rearrange your irrigation system
to cater for plant growth etc.
There’s nothing worse than having a barbecue break down while the steaks are cooking. To avoid such disasters, check gas tanks for damage or wear, and make sure valves are working properly – likewise, the connecting hose and ignition switch. Turn the barbecue on high for 10-15 minutes to burn off residual particles and grease, then follow up with a wire brush. Soak grill racks and wash the outside of the barbecue in warm, soapy water.
Weed it and reap
Weed-choked beds are not a good look for summer entertaining. Thoroughly weed all garden areas, particularly those around your outdoor living spaces. If you immediately cover up with a good 10-15cm layer of mulch, there’ll be a lot less weeding to do over the summer. Mulches also help to visually unify the garden, retain soil moisture during the hot months (thereby reducing your water bills) and improve the soil’s overall health.
Outdoor lighting also needs an annual maintenance WOF. Replace blown light bulbs, clear cobwebs off fittings and take a good look at outdoor lighting in crucial spots such as decks, terraces, steps and barbecue areas. LED lighting can be installed by anyone with basic DIY skills and is very cost-effective these days. Solar-powered lights are a good green option.
Don’t forget the kids when you’re on your spring-clean buzz. Even a quick weed and top-up of bark areas around trampolines and other play equipment will freshen up their play space. Safety is the key issue, so check there are no rusty fittings that could break, or dangerous cracks in plastic. Also, trim back shrubs and trees that have grown too close to play equipment.
Words by: Carol Bucknell.