HOME: Spruce up your home for spring

Duane Bartlett, of True Value Hardware Store in Greenville, has the tools, like this power washer, that it takes to make outdoor spring cleanup a snap.

Spring is finally here, and with it comes all the outdoor chores necessary for getting your home’s exterior ready for  “patio season.”

Looking out over a winter-ravaged yard can be a depressing moment, when you realize just how much work it’s going to take to get things looking good again.

Fortunately, there are a few tools and easy fixes that will make the job — if not entirely enjoyable — at least tolerable.

One of the most dreaded of all spring clean-up jobs is probably the gutters, by now filled with detritus of fall and winter; twigs, dirt, mud and other miscellaneous debris. According to Duane Bartlett, of True Value Hardware Store in Greenville, a simple hose attachment — called the Power Wash Wand — can give your garden hose enough pressure to blast away the worst of the gutter sludge without causing any harm to your roof or gutters.

“I’ve seen some pretty bad gutters,” Bartlett said. “Some with trees growing out of them. I’ve seen it many times.”

The Power Wash Wand can clean through even this sort of blockage and allow your gutters to again perform the job they were designed for.

Another option is the gutter scoop; basically, just a plastic scoop that can be used to dig out debris faster than can be done by hand.

The Power Wash Wand also can be used for other outdoor spring cleaning chores, such as washing siding, windows and screens.

For larger cleaning jobs or those requiring additional scrubbing power, you may want to consider a power washer, which starts at about $100 and goes up from there. A power washer uses a compressor to generate the sort of pressure that can clean a car or blast caked-on mud from beneath a wheel well.

Care must be taken when using a power washer, however, as they can generate enough pressure to blow siding loose or even chip away at some masonry work or paint. Most are pressure-adjustable and it’s a good idea to take note of the manufacturer’s recommendations with regard to settings.

Power washers also are useful for washing debris from driveways, patios, decks and sidewalks.

Once you’ve got the “grunt work” done, it’s time to spruce up your outdoor living area with a dash of color. Most nurseries carry at least a couple frost-resistant flowering plants, such as chiller pansies. They may be set out in either pots or hanging baskets even when the nights are still very cold.

Another option for outdoor decor is bird houses and bird feeders. The size, style and colors of these are virtually limitless.

Bird houses made from “reclaimed” materials, such as automobile license plates and barn wood, have been especially popular in recent years. Likewise, feeders are available that fit in well with almost any outdoor decor, from modern to rustic.

For creative types, the Audubon Society offers a host of plans for homemade backyard bird feeders at web4.audubon.org.
Once your bird houses and feeders are in place, it’s only a matter of time before the birds pay you a visit, lending still more color and life to your “yardscape.”

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