Spring Cleaning, Part Three

Click here to read part one and click here to read part two.

Although I prefer to leave my lawn at a height that will hide a 1957 Studebaker, you, your neighbors and the Public Safety Department may prefer your lawn be a bit more, shall we say, managed.  Here’re some tips.

It’s a waste of money, and bad for the environment, to dump fertilizer on your lawn that you don’t need.  You can buy an inexpensive soil testing kit at most nurseries. Use organic fertilizers if possible because they tend to be released more slowly but be careful about putting too much nitrogen down since it can make the grass more susceptible to disease and insects.

Excess fertilizer can also add to a thatch buildup that makes it harder for air and water to get to the grass roots.  Lime is not a fertilizer but something that helps balance the pH of the soil.  In this regard, it can help decrease, but not eliminate, the moss which is endemic in our Northwest yards.  I use a product with iron sulfate in it to kill the moss, but if the lawn is shady or poorly cared for, it is going to come back.  The dead moss also needs to be raked out of the yard for the same reason that thatch needs to be removed.

But the fertilizer (and other chemicals) won’t do you any good until it gets into the soil and you don’t want it running off into the storm drain…so mow first. Get that mower blade sharpened because a clean cut is better for the grass. You want to cut no more than 1/3rd of the grass at a time and if you leave the clippings on the lawn, you’ll be adding a natural fertilizer as the clippings decompose.  By leaving the grass a little longer, up to 4” inches, it helps to suffocate out the crabgrass.

The best protection of your lawn is good health.  If you weed properly, water correctly and mow right, you’ll cut down on the ongoing maintenance.  In this regard, it is sometimes worth the extra trouble to dethatch your lawn.  Even a ¼” of thatch can seriously prevent nutrients from reaching the soil.  You can use a special blade for your mower or a dethatching rake.  Bag it up and add it to your compost pile.

Another helpful technique is to spike the ground with a pitchfork or wear your golf shoes when you mow the lawn and these little holes will help let in light, water and nutrients.

So, how do you mow well?  Be sure the grass is dry since a mower will mostly crush wet grass.  If you’re leaving the clippings on the lawn, use a mulching mower so it chops the blades up finely.  Always mow across a slope rather than up and down.  Switch directions (back and forth vs. up and down) each time you mow. Although most mowers have an automatic shutoff, never leave the mower on while unattended or when you’re making adjustments to it. Don’t let the kids ride on the riding mower with you. Clear the dog toys and bones off the yard first.  You don’t want them flying out and breaking bones (or a window).

A nice edge can make the lawn look more attractive but be careful with the weed wacker.  Even the string trimmers can seriously damage the trunks of young trees or shrubs.

Or, of course, you can do what I do…find a neighbor kid who’ll do all the work for you.

Spring Cleaning, Part Two

Click here for part one and click here for part three.

I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is that here’s more stuff you can do while you’re Spring cleaning.  The good news is that while I’m writing this article, I don’t have to do it myself.

Outdoor Furniture

If it is painted steel, or more likely aluminum, all it needs is a little detergent and water to clean off the mold.  Unpainted aluminum doesn’t rust, of course, but it does oxidize which gives it that haze over the surface.  Although the oxidation actually protects the metal, you can clean it off and make it shiny again with a metal polishing paste.  A coat of car wax after you’re done will give a measure of protection.

The cushions can probably use a good cleaning too and a little dish soap and water should do the trick.  A little bleach added to the water will kill the mildew, although you have to be careful with colored fabrics.  Although sunlight can fade fabrics, giving them a day in the sun will also help kill any mildew.  There’s an old saying, probably said about politics, that sunshine is the best disinfectant.


The season will soon be upon us; it is time to get ready.  You can put the really nasty parts in a big plastic garbage bag and spray them with oven cleaner and close the bag up overnight.  Be careful not get the cleaner on you since it is caustic.  So caustic, in fact, that when you hose the stuff off the next day you don’t want to get it on the grass because it’ll kill the grass.  The grills will stay cleaner and last longer if you put a fine coat of oil (preferably something like peanut oil that can go to high temperatures without smoking) on a cloth that you wipe on the grill before you put the food on.

You can knock the goop off the lava rocks, but they don’t usually really need cleaning.  When you replace them, put them dirty side down so the gas will burn off the nasty bits.  You can run a pipe cleaner up inside the venturi tubes (what runs from the dial to the burner) to scare the spiders hiding inside.  The less debris inside means more heating power.

You should also check to be sure your grease collection can is still in place.  A coat of paint will make the exterior surface look like new and most hardware stores stock a special high temperature paint for the outside of grills.

You’re mostly ready now for that first barbecue. It doesn’t hurt to crank the grill up for awhile before you put the food on it for the first time.  The extra heat will help dry it and drive off a bit of the resilient chemicals.

Car Interior

Sadly, I treat my vehicle like a portable trash dump and Spring is a cue to clean it up.  You can use the following mixtures to clean the stains up:

Dish detergent & water (1:20)

Ammonia & water (1:5) or

White vinegar & water (1:1)

There are lots of air fresheners on the market, but the ones made for eliminating pet odors also have enzymes in them which break down the cause of the smell and these may be more effective.  Like your indoor carpets, you can sprinkle baking soda on the carpets and vacuum it up in a week or so to help eliminate odors.  For you smokers, put some baking soda in the ash tray to help eliminate the smell.

That should keep you busy for awhile.  Got something you want to know more about?  Send me an email at ken@olyfurnitureworks.com.