Easy Spring Cleaning

Now that the weather is warming up, many homeowners are ready to get outside and work in their yards and gardens. It can be hard work, but there are many ways to make the tasks easier and with less wear and tear on you. Danny Lipford, the host of "Today's Homeowner," offers tips.

He has broken outside work into three basic areas:

  • Clean-up
  • Planting & Flower Beds
  • Lawn & Shrub care

Clean Up (Blower/Vac)

To start off, instead of sweeping up to get things cleaned up - make things easier by using a blower that also doubles as a vacuum. The "Vac Attack" a 3-in-1 blower, mower and vacuum is a multi purpose unit that can blow leaves and debris into a corner, vacuum it up and then mulch it. The volume of leaves that you have to discard can go from 12 bags into one bag in minutes.

"The blowers have been around a while, but you still have to pick the leaves", Lipford says. "This will not only vacuum up those leaves, but it also mulches and grinds the leaves and then it has a bag that it goes straight into."

Lipford recommends having mulch in the garden. "You can use the mulch to mix in with your garden and your flower bed," he says. "The best kind of dirt is dirt that's really loose and has the ability for water to drain through it. If you don't have something that opens it up or keeps the soil aerated, it doesn't let the water go through," he notes.

Product: "Vac Attack" by Homelite - Widely available.

Once you have removed dirt and debris you will want to wash down the deck, yard, walkways etc. Everyone has struggled with a cumbersome tangled hose, which just makes the job tougher. Now there is a new coiled-garden hose that keeps its shape while in use so that it is easier to handle and of course you never have to wind it up when you're finished using it.

Product: "Coil Garden Hose" $30 Available through the Web site or stores.

Of course the fastest way to get things clean is with a pressure washer. They are terrific for cleaning your deck, patio, patio furniture, walkways, etc. In the past in order to have a pressure washer that would be strong enough, it needed to be gasoline engine powered. Now new electric models are available to homeowners that can do the job. These models are very easy to use, lightweight and can save you lots of time on your cleaning.

"Almost everybody, both males and females, are intimidated by gasoline engines and most pressure washers are powered by a gasoline engine," Lipford says.

Product: "Model# PW138000AV" by Campbell Hausfeld $230 - Widely available.

Planting/Watering

Getting the soil ready for digging and planting can be made much easier with a new lightweight tiller that will loosen up the soil in your garden making hole digging a snap. Is ideal for small or hard to reach areas. "A way to make any yard look better is to plant more plants," Lipford says. "Instead of getting down and using a small hand spade to till the soil, an electric tiller will make it easier to cultivate the soil and it's better for the plants."

Product: "Lightweight Electric Mini Cultivator" by BCS America, $179, Available on the Web site or call the retailer at 1-800-777-5621.

Once you get your soil ready, it's time to get down to planting and if you have ever crawled around on your knees - you know this can be miserable. Now there are rolling seats on the market that allow you to sit, roll, plant, and have many of your gardening tools close by with the storage area located under the seat.

Product: "Garden Scoot" by Gardeners Supply Company, $60 - Available on the web site or at stores

Mowing

Once you have a great looking flowerbed, it's time to turn your attention to your lawn. (Lawn mower tune-up kit) Having a great looking lawn is made much easier when you start the summer with a mower in tip-top condition. So when you get your lawn mower out, Lipford says make sure you change the spark plug, clean or replace the air filter, change the oil and sharpen the blade.

He says, "You can sharpen your mower with a file or an attachment at the end of a drill, but it may be worthwhile to buy a relatively inexpensive other blade that comes out relatively easily. Then take the old blade to the lawn mower shop and let them sharpen it. Go to a small engine repair shop."

Product: "Tune-up Kit" by Briggs & Stratton, $8-$10, Widely available.

Lawn & Shrub care

For finishing touches - trimming lawn edges and cutting back bushes is now easier and more affordable. Lipford notes there is a multitude of combo kits available with enough power in the engines that won't have to come from your back!

He says, "Once you cut your lawn it will look nice but to get a nice finished edge, you can use a trimmer." A trimmer with a straight shaft is what he recommends to reach under your deck. Most trimmers have a curve shaft. One of the things to consider is one that has a straight shaft, so that it will allow you to reach under your deck or anything that you need to get under. Most that you will see have a curve shaft.

The Trimmer/Edger from Toro that will take care of edges of the lawn as well as weeds in unwanted areas has a shoulder strap for less fatigue, Lipford notes.

Product: 18" Straight Shaft Gas String Trimmer by Toro, $169 -Widely available.

Also consider having a cordless kit from Homelite that offers a pole pruner for reaching high branches (5 feet long), a hedge trimmer to trim and shape shrubs and the first lightweight battery operated chainsaw great for various uses around the yard.

Product: Cordless Trim N'Shape by Homelite, $179 - Widely available.

"It has a saw at the end so that you can reach out or up and it's one of the first one's to be on the market with a chain saw," Lipford says. "From a safety aspect, it keeps you from having to get on a ladder. Getting on a ladder with something sharp is never a good idea."

Lipford notes it's important to trim parts of a trees or shrubs that rub against the house. "It's never a good idea for trees or shrubs to get against the eaves of the house. When you have that, mostly wind will make it rub against your overhang, the eaves of your house or rub the shingles off. In colder climates, it can cause 'ice damming' because it prevents the snow from going off of the roof. What happens then is that the snow will have an ice dam along there that can damage your roof and shingles.