Sure, it might seem daunting, but taking your backyard to-do list one item at a time lets you accomplish more than you think over the course of a weekend. Get your backyard in tip-top shape by tackling a combination of these tasks (depending on your setup) and before you know it, your outdoor space will be ready for barbecues and plenty of entertaining.
Revive wood furniture. Don’t get intimidated! Most of the time needed for this project is letting the pieces dry completely between steps. Using a kit like Furniture Clinic’s Garden Furniture Restoration Kit gives you everything you need to clean, brighten, and condition your wood furniture, as quickly and easily as possible.
Refinish metal furniture. Over time, metal furniture can develop chips in the finish and rust, and a little regular maintenance can help stop it in its tracks. “Check the forecast for a warm, dry day [and] work in a shady, protected area if possible,” says Rachel Rothman, chief technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute. First, use a small wire brush to wipe away the rust spot, clean with soap and water and let it dry completely. Use a spray paint that’s formulated for metal and outdoor use to reseal the raw metal areas. Let the paint dry completely before exposing it to the elements.
Get garden beds under control. Carolyn Forte, the cleaning lab director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, says taking time to pull weeds by hand actually gets the job done quicker than you might think. “Make sure the soil around your annuals is nicely aerated and get rid of any and all debris,” she explains. “Putting down mulch helps prevent new weeds from popping up during the season and makes beds look neater.”
Pro tip: Use a flat-edged shovel to straighten out any uneven edging around the beds.
Power wash outdoor surfaces. Banish mold, mildew and dirt from your patio and siding with the help of an easy-to-use power washer. There’s no need to get a commercial grade machine for a job like this; a small model works well. “First wash down surfaces and remove loose debris, and use the lowest possible pressure that is effective,” says Rothman. As a general rule, Rothman advises using the broadest and lowest pressure nozzle you can, and to test an inconspicuous area first. Stand at least six inches away as you work your way in a sweeping motion and maintain a consistency distance from the siding. Hold the tip of the nozzle at an angle above the surface you are cleaning. Watch out, the instant squeaky-clean results can be a little addicting!
Add the right accents. Bring a little bit of your indoor style outside, with rugs and pillows that are weather resistant. There are so many options these days! You want to get accessories that are easy to keep clean and hose off when needed—look for outdoor rugs made with polypropylene. It’s durable and easy to clean, and the texture feels surprisingly close to what you’d find in an indoor rug. “If you’re not buying new, you can treat your existing outdoor cushions and pillows with a UV fabric spray to prevent fading and stains,” Rothman says.
Two Hours-or-Less Upgrades
Fill hanging planters and pots. One of the to-dos many people miss is replacing dirt in their pots and hanging planters, Forte explains. After any summer season, nutrients in the soil will be depleted. Replacing or mixing in some new soil or compost will give your new plants what they need to grow all summer long. “If you’re filling a larger pot and don’t want it to get too heavy, you can use leftover Styrofoam on the bottom instead of filling it completely with dirt,” she says.
Mow the lawn, but not as short as you think. It turns out less is more when it comes to your lawn. Keep your mower blades sharp and make sure you’re only cutting a third of the grass length, as cutting it too short will weaken it. “You should raise your mower deck so you are removing less with each cut,” says Rothman. “Keeping most cool-season grass in the 2.5 to 4-inch range will keep your lawn healthier.”
Pro tip: If you plan to water your grass, do it in the morning or early evening; water will evaporate at midday.
Add some lighting. Don’t underestimate the magic of bistro-style lights in your outdoor space. Vertical lines over an outdoor seating area always look nice—or simply drape them along your fence line. As a time saver, use lighting clips to make the whole job a cinch. They attach to whatever surface is available and the light cords clip right in. Worried about outdoor power? Try solar lights.
Freshen up the fire pit. If you’ve invested in a beautiful fire pit, you’ll want to keep it looking pristine for as long as possible. The secret to longevity is cleaning out completely cooled ash after a fire. Simply brush it out of the bottom of your fire pit between uses. If you don’t want to worry, invest in a water tight cover to go over your fire pit between uses.
Pro tip: Avoid letting water mix with ash in your fire pit; over time it turns into lye, which eats away at metal.
Clean the grill. The biggest mistake people make when cleaning a grill is trying to scrape off stuck-on gunk while the grates are cold. Instead, work with a warm grill and a high quality, metal-bristled grill brush that’s in good condition to clean. Then, lubricate the grates with a high heat oil. “Once the grill cools down, remove and clean the drip tray—you never want to store it with grease in it because it attracts animals,” says Forte. “Line it with aluminum foil to make clean up easier next time.”
Taking time where you have it to complete these little outdoor projects can make a big impact on the look and feel of your yard! Get started today and you’ll be blown away by how much more welcoming your outdoor space looks.
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