It’s Finally Spring! (What Now?)

It’s finally warm enough to enjoy being outside again! But winter has taken its toll — it always does — so before you can relax and enjoy your outside spaces again, here are a few outdoor spring cleaning tasks you might want to take care of first. 

De-Winterize Your Grill

If you’re a grill aficionado, you’ve been itching to fire up the old girl all winter. (Who doesn’t love grilling? Food tastes great, cooks up fast, and there are fewer dishes!) However, even if the grill has been carefully protected from the elements, it likely needs some spring cleaning before you cook your first steaks of the season. 

Spring cleaning for your grill:

  • Steam: If you have a porcelain grill, fill a metal tin with water and allow it to boil on the grill with the lid closed for about 15 minutes. Remove the tin and then brush the grill grates; all that baked-on grime should come right off. (Don’t have a grill brush? Ball up some aluminum foil and run it over the grates with a set of tongs.) Allow it to thoroughly cool, and then wipe everything down with a microfiber cloth.
  • Onion: Yup, we said “onion.” Cut an onion in half. Heat the grill to burn off the crud. Stab the onion with a grill fork so the cut side is facing away from the handle, then run it all over the grates. For extra-tough gunk, squeeze some lemon juice onto it. Cool, and wipe down. 
  • Coffee: If you have stainless steel grates, remove them from the grill and place them in a disposable baking tin (or some other large, flat container). Pour hot coffee over them and allow them to soak for a few hours. Then, simply rinse and wipe down with a cloth.
  • Baking soda: For charcoal BBQs, start with a cold grill and remove all the ash from the bowl. Create a paste with a cup of baking soda, a bit of water, and a few drops of Dawn detergent. Dip a ball of aluminum foil into the paste, and scrub the grates with it. Then, pull off the grates and use a bit of Dawn and water to wipe out the inside. Rinse, then wipe down. (And since you used Dawn, it’s a good idea to end by conditioning the clean grates with a bit of oil.)

Fix Uneven Stepping Stones

If it’s still a tad too early to plant anything yet, you can still get your hands in the dirt by fixing any uneven stepping stones in your yard. Most of the time they become unstable due to heaving — alternating periods of freezing and thawing — and the fix is relatively simple: Lift the stones and either remove or add soil, gravel or sand underneath until they are level with the ground. 

Clean Birdhouses and Feeders

Now is the time to inspect any birdhouses you have to make sure they’re firmly mounted and ready for new tenants. The National Wildlife Federation recommends cleaning bird feeders by soaking them in a 20 percent solution of white vinegar and hot water. And if any undesirables (like rodents or bugs) have claimed squatters’ rights, now is the time to give them eviction orders. Then, give them a good scrubbing, and refill them when totally dry. 

To keep your birdbath fresh, just rinse and scrub it with nine parts water, one part vinegar. Skip the synthetic soaps and cleansers; they can strip the essential oils off of bird feathers. Keeping your birdbath close to, but not directly under, woody brush and feeders to prevent debris and seeds from mucking up the water quickly. Adding a fountain or stream will make the birds happy and will keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Spring Cleaning for Outdoor Furnishings

It’s hard to sit and relax in the sun on furniture covered with pollen, mildew and spiderwebs. Sweep away any winter debris or cobwebs from your patio and furniture. Rinse off walkways or decking with a garden hose set to “jet,” or even better, power wash ’em. (If you haven’t experienced the pure, instant gratification of power washing you really should give it a try.) Wash whatever outdoor furnishings you have to remove dust and dirt, and for furnishings that can’t go in the washer, use a solution of three parts water to one part white vinegar to remove light mold or mildew stains.

Do Some Light Gardening

If you followed our advice for how to best prepare your garden for winter, you’re off to a great start this spring. Nonetheless, winter can leave your garden beds looking a bit unruly. Early spring is the perfect time to spread mulch (you want to have at least 2 inches, on average). It’s also a good time to cut back perennials that are a bit overgrown, particularly any ornamental grasses you might have. If your spring bulbs are up, make a sketch of where they are in the garden so you can avoid them when planting later in the season.

Top image by FotoHelin from FotoHelin Images, via

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