Spring is here, so it’s time to get outside and start cleaning up

Here I am raking up all the leaves I left behind in the fall. As you can see, the dog was not at all concerned with offering any help.  AIMEE BODELL / For the Insider
Here I am raking up all the leaves I left behind in the fall. As you can see, the dog was not at all concerned with offering any help. AIMEE BODELL / For the Insider
At the Bodell house, anything that's too big for the leaf bag goes right into the fire pit.  AIMEE BODELL / For the Insider
At the Bodell house, anything that's too big for the leaf bag goes right into the fire pit. AIMEE BODELL / For the Insider

We’re into late April now, and the snow and frost are hopefully gone for good – or at least until about October or so. That means there are no excuses left to avoid doing that essential spring yard work.

While it might still be a little mucky out there in some spots, the spring thaw has been underway for some time now, and you’re probably already seeing some buds peek up through the soil. And, if you’re like me, you probably still have some leaves kicking around from last fall, when your back was so sore after raking for days on end that you looked at the remaining piles and said, “I’ll deal with that later.”

Well, it’s later now.

There’s never a better time to start tackling all your outdoor projects than mid-late April. It should be warm enough to comfortably spend hours outside doing all the chores – raking, weed-whacking, sanding, staining, painting and anything else that needs attention – and there’s plenty of daylight to help keep you going into the evening.

This is also the perfect time for this issue to come out because of the city’s spring leaf collection schedule. Leaf collection begins Monday, April 22, so you should use all of this week to get everything picked up.

Before you start going crazy with raking, make sure you’re aware of the guidelines for spring leaf pickup. The most important rule is that leaves must be bagged or put into rigid containers – do not just rake all the loose leaves to the curb like you would in the fall. Doing this now will only create a big mess on the sidewalk and road. If you opt for rigid containers rather than biodegradable leaf bags, make sure to label the containers “leaves.” Once everything is in an approved container, drag it to the curb with your trash on your regular trash day.

You also need to make sure you watch what you put into those bags or containers. This is supposed to be leaf collection only, so no tree stumps, trash, plastic of any kind, big sticks, rocks, mud, animal waste or anything else that isn’t leaves.

Collection will begin Monday and continue through June 1. If you don’t want to go with the curbside collection method, you can also bring your leaves to Gelinas Excavation & Earth Materials Recycling Center on Intervale Road. Drop-off is free with proof of residency if the load is smaller than a non-commercial pickup truck. Residents will be required to empty contents at the facility to confirm that loads are completely free of any unacceptable materials – you don’t want to be that guy who has to stand up in front of everyone and take those scoops of dog poop back home with you. The hours are weather dependent, so make sure you call 545-4835 first and check on drop-off times. For more information about the city’s spring leaf collection program, go to  concordnh.gov/545/Leaf-Collection.

In the meantime, you might need some new equipment. Studies have shown that new gear usually encourages people to use that new gear, whether it’s a new Fitbit or a new pair of boots or a new rake. So if nothing more, buying some new stuff might be just what it takes to really get you motivated.

Luckily, Concord is not at all short on places where you can get some new tools. There are, of course, several superstores where you can probably get everything you need – Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Ocean State Job Lot, Sears, etc. But for most household yard jobs, you can find all the essentials – rakes, hoes, leaf bags, gloves, shovels, branch trimmers, weed-whackers, tarps, paintbrushes, sandpaper – at some smaller places like Aubuchon Hardware (where I got my leaf bags and a pair of rubber-coated gloves), Rocky’s Ace Hardware. Osborne’s Agway is a good resource, too – they sell a lot more than dog food and perennials there.

For more specific, specialized gardening tools, Cole Gardens has a big selection of high-end tools you won’t find anywhere else. Sneeboer makes hand-forged Dutch garden tools – something they’ve been doing since 1913. These are quite a bit more expensive than the “garden variety” tools you can find at pharmacies in the spring, but for good reason. You won’t see cheap plastic handles attached to flimsy, painted aluminum spades in the Sneeboer lineup, and because of the quality and the price, these are made more for serious gardeners who know they’re going to spend many hours toiling away at their plots over the next several months.

As for working on the actual house, a lot of this depends on your own personal abilities. It’s important to be honest with yourself at times like these. Do you really know how to replace the siding on the front of your house? How comfortable are you replacing a few shingles on your roof? When was the last time you installed an electric-powered garage door? Sometimes, it’s better to leave the bigger jobs to the pros.

But there are plenty of things anyone can tackle. Spring is a great time to work on sanding and painting those spots you didn’t notice were in need of attention when they were covered in snow. If you have wooden siding of any kind, you can sand this down by hand or with a power sander and start putting some new paint on it. You probably have a bucket or two of paint in the basement from the last time you painted the house, but there’s a good chance it’s not good anymore if it’s been sitting down there for years. Find a way to bring a little sample into any paint store and they’ll be able to duplicate it for you.

Don’t go crazy with the sandpaper, though – once you sand it out, you can never put it back. If you’re sanding by hand, make sure you’re not sanding finger-shaped grooves into the surface. Also, make sure the surface you’re sanding is actually wood – a lot of composite (plastic, fiberglass, concrete) products are on the market now, and most are designed to look so much like wood that it can be hard to tell the difference. The last thing you want to do is take a belt sander to your plastic siding, so if you’re not sure what the material is, try scratching on it with your fingernail and use your judgment to figure out whether that’s wood, plastic, concrete or something else.

The important thing is to just do something. Don’t waste this perfect time of the year doing nothing – you’ll regret it come summer.

Author: Jon Bodell

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