March 20 marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. To celebrate the start of a new season and prepare for fresh growth, I plan to spend time outdoors performing early spring maintenance. At the end of winter, it’s common to find dead or damaged branches, piles of fallen leaves, and mud-caked walks and pathways. With a little time and elbow grease, you can clean your yard and optimize spring regrowth.

Remove Debris

Start your spring cleanup by removing debris that has built up over the long winter. If you have trees or shrubs in your yard, collect fallen branches and sticks. Deliver them to a drop-off location or put them through a wood chipper to use for mulch. Thoroughly rake the yard and garden beds to remove fallen leaves. Bag the leaves or add them to a compost pile.

Prune and Trim

At the end of winter, you may notice that your greenery appears worn, weathered, or overgrown. Begin by pruning back hedges, bushes, and any perennials that need attention. Flowering perennials should be pruned to a height of 4 to 5 inches. Prune ornamental grasses to a height of 2 to 3 inches. Trim small, manageable tree branches yourself, and hire a professional to remove larger ones.

Make Repairs

Moisture during the winter season can cause damage to items outside of your home, like fencing. Take the time to make any necessary repairs during your spring cleanup session, such as replacing rotted wooden boards, removing mold or mildew growth, or giving your fence a fresh coat of paint. You’ll also want to make any repairs or tuneups to your outdoor equipment, such as lawn mowers or weed trimmers.

Control Crabgrass

With warmer temperatures comes the risk of crabgrass. If crabgrass is not dealt with quickly, it will spread and its seeds will germinate year after year. The best defense against stubborn crabgrass is a healthy lawn. Keep your grass at a consistent length and mow at frequent intervals, never removing more than one-third of the grass height at one time. Also remember to fertilize your grass at least once a year.

Spread Fresh Mulch

Over the course of the winter, it’s normal for mulch to wash away from garden beds. At the start of spring, spread a fresh layer of mulch over garden beds to replenish lost mulch. The goal is to maintain an optimal 2-to-3-inch layer. If you use plastic mulch, note that it usually only survives one year before it tears or becomes ragged. Before planting, be sure to replace any plastic mulch in your garden beds.

Keep Weeds at Bay

Weeds are a common nuisance, but attacking them early in the spring can help you better control them the rest of the season. Begin by identifying the weeds. For example, broadleaf weeds include any weeds with leaves, such as clovers and dandelions. Treatment will depend on the type of weed you’re dealing with. Broadleaf weeds can usually be controlled with an herbicide distributed with a small pressure sprayer. Spot-treat the weeds as they pop up. If the entire yard has been taken over by weeds, use a dial sprayer attached to a garden hose.