Spring chores are among the many sure things in life. They aren't as sure as death and taxes or as wondrous as tulips poking through the weather-beaten ground. But it's worthwhile to make a clean sweep in the home and garden and prepare for a season of new beginnings, indoors and out.

Now is the time to rouse the dust bunnies, flip the mattress and declutter every room.

The yard and garden may have to wait a few weeks before you can prepare them for growing. Still, there's plenty to do before planting time.

Before long, you'll be marveling at the sprouting perennials and flowering bushes and making a list of plants you'll need for your best garden ever.

Use this checklist as a guide as you spiff up your home and garden, but don't let the chores keep you from taking in all the joyous signs of spring.


If April showers bring May flowers, spring cleaning brings a sense of a fresh start. Apply some of that spring fever to your cleaning regimen.

It's best to clean one room at a time, cleaning experts agree. Break it up into small tasks spread over several days or weekends -- whatever fits your schedule and energy level.

  • Clear away clutter. Put magazines, mail, books, clothes and toys in their place.

  • When it feels like winter is gone, do the clothing exchange. Clean or wash winter scarves, coats, mittens and hats and pack them away. Get out spring/summer clothing.

  • Weather permitting, open all the windows and let the spring air deodorize the rooms.

  • Wash windows. Mix 2 tablespoons of household ammonia or white vinegar with 1 quart of warm water. Have a bucket of cleaning solution and one of clear water for rinsing. Wash with a cotton cloth and, starting at the top, work horizontally. Get dirt out of corners with a cotton swab or an old toothbrush. To prevent streaking, keep the windows you're cleaning out of direct sunlight. Squeegees make drying fast and neat, but paper towels and lintless rags also work. Don't use newspaper. The soy ink can smear.

  • White cotton cloth diapers are great for any cleaning job.

  • Use a natural bristle paintbrush to dust between the pleats of lampshades. Always dust from top to bottom.

  • Spot-clean walls and ceilings with a dry sponge or as little water as possible to prevent drips. Clean woodwork, including kitchen and bathroom cabinets, tops of doors and windows, baseboards and vents.

  • Use new vacuum cleaner bags and vacuum everything you can using an attachment -- blinds, drapes, curtains, lampshades, bookshelves, upholstery, door frames and cobwebbed corners. Also do the carpeting and floors.

  • Shake out rugs.

  • Deep-clean vinyl, tile or wood floors. Wax or polish if recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Clean ceiling and wall light fixtures, table and floor lamps.

  • Wait until fall for carpet cleaning.

  • Vacuum mattresses, flip them over and turn the head end toward the foot end. For a fresh scent, sprinkle a little carpet freshener on the mattress and box springs and let stand for a few minutes before vacuuming.

  • Check basements, bathrooms and other damp areas for mildew. Clean mildewed areas with a solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.

    Energize your interiors

    You have a new outdoor view courtesy of spring. It's time for a new indoor view, too.

  • Add lighter-weight throws and replace winter-weary accent pillows with those in thinner fabrics and spring-inspired colors. Cover heavy upholstered pieces with slipcovers. Replace a dark winter rug with a lighter-colored natural-fiber area rug or leave the floor bare. You may want to take down heavier curtains and add lace or sheers until fall.

  • Rearrange and reduce the accessories on your mantel, bookshelves and table tops.

  • Retire dried flower arrangements for the season. Clean with a blow dryer, wrap in plastic and pack them away. Replace with a vase of budding branches or flowers or a bowl of fresh lemons.

  • Rearrange the furniture, remove a piece from each room to give a light, airy feeling.


    In the garden

  • When the mulch has thawed (usually about April 15), remove it from roses, spring bulbs and perennials to allow the soil to dry. Keep mulch nearby to protect tender growth in case of a cold snap. Dig up buried roses.

  • Cut perennials down to the ground if you didn't last fall. Dispose of diseased foliage and compost the rest.

  • Test soil using a do-it-yourself kit from a garden center. The University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab does more extensive soil tests for a $10 fee. Call 612-624-4771 for a kit.

  • Till the soil and work in organic compost, peat moss and other nutrients.

  • If you're itching to garden, warm the soil by putting down black plastic. Plant cool-season flowers and vegetables such as pansies, violas, sweet peas, broccoli and cabbage that can tolerate frosty nights.

  • April often is a good time for digging up, dividing and replanting most perennials.

  • Add perennials to the garden at the end of April. If there is a chance of frost, cover them at night.

  • Wait until the average last frost date -- May 15 in the Twin Cities -- to plant tender annuals and vegetables.

  • Scrub out pots and containers and fill with fresh potting soil or a soilless mix to get ready for spring planting.

  • Start summer-flowering bulbs indoors.

  • Fertilize spring flowering bulbs when foliage begins to sprout.

  • After bulbs have flowered, cut back the stem, but allow the leaves to remain. After the foliage dies, cut that back as well.

    Lawn care

  • Stay off the grass if it is spongy and footprints are visible when you walk on it. When the ground is thawed and the lawn is dry and starting to green, gently rake up twigs and leaves.

  • Apply crab-grass preventative between April 15 and May 15. Application is based on soil temperature. (Between 50 and 55 degrees is optimal.) Hot spots along curbs, sidewalks and driveways will warm up earlier. Check different areas of the yard with a soil thermometer sold at garden centers.

  • Spot-treat the lawn with weed killer or pull perennial weeds before they go to seed, usually around the end of April.

  • Plant grass seed (Kentucky bluegrass, creeping red fescue or a mix of both) in bare spots as soon as the soil can be worked without sticking to your tools. Water regularly if there is no rain.

  • Don't fertilize the lawn until it's thawed and actively growing. If you fertilized in fall, don't do it until late spring or early summer.

    Shrubs and trees

  • Stop pruning oaks and elms by April 1.

  • Prune spring flowering shrubs such as lilacs and azalea and cherry and apple trees only after they are done blooming.

  • Summer flowering shrubs and hedges can be pruned.

  • Begin planting shrubs and small trees in late April and early May before they have leafed out.

    Around the house

  • Once the snow is gone and the threat of a hard frost has passed, turn on outside water spigots. Check hoses for cracks and leaks and hook them up.

  • If your house has storm windows, take them down and replace them with clean screens.

  • Fill in low areas around the foundation so water will drain away from the house.

  • Clean out window wells.

  • Clean gutters and downspouts. Check for leaks, loose areas, damage and disconnected downspouts. Make sure water flows freely and away from the house.

  • Call your power company if branches interfere with power lines.

  • Clean patio and yard furniture. Use pipe cleaners to get dirt out of interwoven wicker furniture.

  • Repair cracks in the foundation, sidewalks and driveway.

  • Inspect roof shingles and flashing and arrange for needed repairs.

  • Clean out the garage.

    Lynn Underwood canbe contacted at lunderwood@startribune.com