When the first hint of spring trickles in—a surprisingly warm day, a light breeze, the first buds peeking up from the ground—do your thoughts shift to being outdoors? And are you ready to breathe new life into your yard, gardens, and landscape? Spring cleaning in your yard gives the wonderful reward of enjoying the fresh air after the months of winter, and refreshing the curb appeal for your home. When you’re ready to get going and growing, tackle the task in an orderly manner so you can stay on track. Step #1: Cleanup. Start with a clean surface by raking up the debris—dead grass, leaves, and perennial stalks; doggie droppings, litter, and fallen branches. Clean away the old mulch. Sweep up your patio, walkways, deck, and stairs. Pressure wash your hardscaped areas. Step #2: Prepare. Get your gardens ready for the new growth. Pull out the weeds and dead growth (like last year’s annuals). Trim back perennial stalks to about 4 to 5 inches high. Till the soil. Add compost or fertilizer. Remove any edging that looks tired. If you’re planning a new garden, prepare the soil. Build the raised bed. Lay down the landscape fabric. For those bare spots in your lawn, clean away the area, add compost, and spread the seeds when the temperature is warm enough for the seeds to germinate (March or April, in most northern climates). Step #3: Prune. The winter weather may have damaged some of your trees and shrubs. Prune off the dead branches, just below where the brown stem meets the green. If you have a flowering shrub, don’t trim off the greenery because the buds are already there. Step #4: Prevent. Protect your landscape from pests by applying pesticides and herbicides. Replace fences that are intended to keep animals out of your gardens. Apply crabgrass prevention when the temperatures warm up (early May in northern zones). Step #5: Repair. Refill the spaces between the stones in your outdoor flooring (walkways and patios). Replace cracked or missing edging or bricks. Repair damaged fencing, trellises, or lattices. Step #6: Plan. Once you’ve prepped your lawn and gardens for the season, you can decide how you want to change your landscape. Map out a landscape plan to show where you want to add plantings, and what types (annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, foliage, shrub, tree). Note where you have early sun, late sun, or mostly shade, so you can be prepared when you go to your local garden center to make your purchases. Decide on the color palette you want to follow. Cut out or print pictures of gardens that appeal to you, and bring them along with your plan when you’re ready to shop. Step #7: Plant. After all this preparation, plant your new flowers, shrubs, and trees. Be sure to follow the planting instructions from the grower.