Do it now
Rake the lawn if it feels firm underfoot. If it's still wet and spongy, put the rake away. You can damage the grass crowns and compact the soil if you rake too early.
Seed bare or thin spots in the lawn once the soil is firm. Seeding encourages thicker growth and discourages weeds.
Aerate your lawn if you haven't done so in a few years. It will help the grass absorb water and nutrients.
Tune your mower. Check the blade and sharpen it if needed. Does the spark plug need replacing? Most hardware stores carry tuning kits, with everything from spark plugs to filters to oil.
Wait until later
Wait to fertilize until the grass is actively growing and has been mowed at least once. If you fertilized in the fall, skip it this spring.
Consider a greener fertilizer with natural ingredients such as corn gluten meal, soybean meal, blood meal or feather meal.
Or top-dress your lawn with completed compost or composted cow manure instead of fertilizing.
When you mow, keep grass longer (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches) to encourage deeper roots, which help grass plants survive hot, dry weather.
Don't bag your grass. Leave clippings on the lawn. They break down and add nutrients to the soil.
IN THE GARDEN
Do it now
Have your pruning sheers sharpened.
Clean out the garden. Cut perennials down to the ground, if you didn't do so last fall. Once the soil is firm, use a lightweight rake to remove winter mulch, debris and dead plant material from garden beds.
Improve the soil. When it is dry enough to work, add organic material (compost, peat moss, aged manure) to garden and vegetable beds. Be careful not to damage the tender crowns of emerging plants.
Prune summer-flowering shrubs that bloom on new wood (i.e. hydrangeas, spireas and shrub roses).
Sow cool-season vegetables such as garden peas, leaf lettuce, onions and radishes.
Clean out window boxes and planters. Get rid of those dried-out greens, dump old soil and refill with fresh potting soil. (Don't use garden dirt.) Pot some frost-hardy pansies now. In mid-May, fill your containers with your favorite annuals.
Start composting. Build or buy a composter and turn your garden and kitchen scraps into a natural soil amender. (For general information on composting, go to www.extension. umn.edu and search on composting.)
Buy or build a rain barrel to capture runoff from your gutters.
Install a rain garden, which captures the water that runs off from your house.
Make your plant list. Get out your garden plans, pore over catalogs and make a plant list. Don't go shopping without one.
Wait until later
Don't prune spring-blooming shrubs such as lilacs, azaleas and forsythia until they finish blooming. If you prune now, you'll remove this year's flowers.
Water and fertilize ornamental trees and shrubs in early May.
Plant small trees and shrubs anytime in May.
Divide and transplant perennials such as hostas and daylilies, but wait until the soil has dried out and warmed up, usually in mid-May.
Wait to plant tender annuals, perennials and warm season crops (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and corn) in mid- to late May.
If your spring bulbs have lost their flowers, leave spent foliage alone until it's yellowed and withered. Leaving foliage in place helps feed the bulb for next year.
Wait until mid-June to spread summer mulch. Gardens need to be exposed to the sun to help prevent mildew and fungus.
AROUND THE HOUSE
Do it now
Inspect gutters. Check to see that water drains away from the house. Consider adding a slab to direct the water flow. If you want to go green, direct water from your gutters to a rain barrel or rain garden.
Wash the windows. Ammonia in warm water and a stack of old newspapers for wiping.
Clean and seal the deck. Watch the forecast for a few rain-free days. Use a third cup of powdered laundry detergent per gallon of hot water, or purchase a special deck cleaner. Check bolts for tightness.
Clean your patio furniture. There are a lot of approaches, depending if your set is wicker, iron or aluminum. For directions, go to www. startribune.com/ homeandgarden.
Paint the plastic. A can of plastic spray-on paint makes those moldering old plastic chairs in the back yard look like new. Be sure to wash and dry them thoroughly first. The paint comes in many fashionable colors.
Spruce it up
Replace that grotty doormat. From coir to rubber, painted or natural, this is one of the best $10 fixes you can make.
Spray a fresh coat of paint on your mailbox or replace it with a looky copper or matte aluminum model.
Replace your house numbers. An inexpensive update, it takes years off your home's appearance.
Place a sturdy wicker basket inside the back door. Makes an instant catch-all for everything from sandals to sunscreen. If you place it, they will come.
Connie Nelson • 612-673-7087 | Kim Yeager • 612-673-4899