Spring is here, and now’s the perfect time to start brainstorming ways to get your yard spruced up for your first outdoor gathering. Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started:

Lawn care

A great time to seed or care for your yard is right after the ground thaws. It’s also the opportune time to plant certain flowers and shrubs. But unless you’re an old pro, don’t do anything without researching tips that are specific to your region. Your local Home Depot or gardening store should have books, or you can try the handy gardening info on Almanac.com. Search by ZIP code, and you’ll have access to information catered to your region.

Every gardener needs tools. The Trademark Tools 7-in-1 Plant Care Garden Tool Set ($16.99 at Sears, www.sears.com or amazon.com) is good for newbies, as it contains all the essentials, including a trimmer, pruner, spray bottle and trowel.

You’ll want good gardening gloves to protect your hands when dealing with dirt, thorns or heavy wheelbarrows. A good choice: the suede Gardening Gloves ($17.99 on sale at RedEnvelope, www.redenvelope.com). Bonus: These durable gloves can even be monogrammed.

Protect your face and eyes with a sun hat you don’t mind getting dirty. The Timothy Unisex Khaki Bucket Hat ($55 at Mott 50, www.mott50.com) is water-resistant and boasts UPF 50 (UPF is the sun protection designation for fabric). This hat is great for gardening and will also keep you shaded while biking, fishing or golfing. And it’s stylish.

If your soil is less than ideal don’t let that keep you from enjoying the healthy spoils and happy visuals a garden can provide. Wal-Mart has a great selection of items for those with poor soil. Two options are the EarthBox Garden Kit ($57.87 at Wal-Mart, www.walmart.com or visit earthbox.com), which is a portable planter that can sit on your patio or lawn, and the Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato and Herb Planter ($18.68 at Walmart), a hanging planter that lets you grow tomatoes and herbs on your patio or balcony.

Tip: Mark your calendar to be on the lookout for great deals on plants and shrubs after mid-June and during September. Garden centers will be trying to unload summer flowers, trees and shrubs to make way for fall and holiday plants.

Patio prep

If your patio furniture is functional but worn-looking, a fresh coat of paint or new cushions will make a world of difference. Make sure the paint is labeled “outdoor” and that the cushions are all-weather. A reliable source for budget-friendly and stylish cushions is Kohl’s. The store carries chic, affordable cushions in all shapes and sizes. Take the Floral Outdoor Chair Cushion ($37.49 at Kohl’s, www.kohls.com), for example.

But if a quick fix won’t cut it, it might be time to invest in new furniture. Look for sets instead of buying pieces individually. This not only allows for a uniform look for your patio, but it’s also a way to score a better deal. You can find several modular set options at Hayneedle (www.hayneedle.com). If you prefer bistro-style or have limited space, try the RST Outdoor All-Weather Woven Wicker Bistro Set ($199.99 at Hayneedle.com). Another resource for outdoor furniture is Sears.

Pull it all together — or hide a worn patio floor — with an outdoor rug. The Couristan Five Seasons Montecito Polypropylene Indoor/Outdoor Rug is mold-, mildew- and fade-resistant. Plus, the cream and sky-blue carpet is easy to clean with a broom, vacuum or hose ($99-$199 at Wal-Mart, or check www.overstock.com). Another great place to try is World Market (www.worldmarket.com), which has more than 50 outdoor rugs to choose from.

Buggy out there? Arm yourself with the Terminix AllClear Lantern ($59.99; $23.97 for a three-pack of refills at http://allclearmister.com). This battery-powered, refillable mister automatically sets its all-natural mist for light, medium or heavy mosquito activity. The lantern is also water-resistant and attractive enough to be mounted on an exterior wall near the patio.