Warm temperatures in February and March, plus an almost snowless winter and seasonable temperatures in April, have combined to create perfect conditions for a spring spruce-up.

There’s no snow, so you can rake, clear brush, put down fertilizer and generally get your lawn ready for growing season. The soil is relatively warm, just about 50 degrees in most southern Maine spots, so you put down stone for patios and walkways. You can also put down mulch, and maybe even do some early planting.

“The soil right now is the temperature it usually is in early May,” said Jeff O’Donal of O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham. “The growing season is probably going to be two to three weeks ahead for everything. But it’ll be cold at night, so the only things you should be planting are cold crops: cabbages, lettuces, peas, broccoli.”

You can even plant grass seed now, though it might take a little longer to grow than if you planted it in May, O’Donal said.

Here are some things you might want to consider doing now to spruce up your home and yard, before the beautiful Maine summer gets here and you don’t want to do anything.

LAWN TIME COMING

The first thing you’ll want to do is pick up sticks, branches and other debris blown down by winter’s winds, says Andy Connors, who runs a landscaping and construction business in Falmouth called The Grounds Crew.

Rake up leaves that have fallen since fall. Oak leaves, for instance, often don’t fall until winter. Connors suggest picking up acorns and leaves from patios and decks to avoid staining.

Give the lawn a good vigorous raking to loosen up dead grass. And if you’re serious about your lawn, you should aerate it every year. This will probably require renting a walk-behind aerating machine for $50 or $75 from a rental shop or hardware store, Connors said. Or you can hire someone like him.

Then you can put down fertilizer and weed treatments, and even plant grass seed if you want.

GET IN THE GARDEN

Spring is the time to survey your yard and garden and start planning your gardening year, says O’Donal.

“You can look and see what areas were torn up by the plow, and put some loam down, or you can start thinking about where you want to plant things,” he said. “You can certainly turn over the soil and start adding organic material, even mulch.”

Now is a good time to look for seeds, especially for items that take a long time to grow, like cantaloupe. You may want to start those indoors.

However, don’t be fooled by the warm February and March, O’Donal warned. It doesn’t mean you can plant anything you want right now, like a new lilac tree. We’re still going to have some very cold nights for the next month or more, so plan your planting accordingly.

As a rule, O’Donal said, Mainers usually feel that if they plant around Memorial Day, they will have left the threat of frosts behind them. This year, it’s looking like maybe May 15 will be the new Memorial Day, but that could change. We could still hit a cold spell.

“We’ll have to wait and see on that one,” said O’Donal.

AROUND THE HOUSE

Because there’s no snow on the ground, it should be easy to romp around your house and look for exterior winter or wind damage. And it’s always a good idea to do that, says Jeff Gilpatric of Maine Handyman Service in Gray.

Survey your roof and look for missing, twisted or mangled shingles. Then go up in your attic and look for leaks. It’s less expensive to fix a small leak in the roof now than to wait until a deluge of water forces you to replace sheet rock or carpet, Gilpatric said.

Even if you cleaned your gutters in the fall, there is probably storm debris and more leaves in them now, which could cause some spillover onto your roof and trim. So clean them in the spring, too — though you might want to wait until May if you have pine trees, which lose a lot of needles in May.

Your wood deck and steps have probably taken a beating over the winter, especially if you shoveled them.

Unfortunately, Gilpatric, 63, says he has never found anything that truly weatherproofs and protects decks and wood steps.

If you don’t like to re-stain or re-paint wood every year or so, you might want to consider the new composite materials used for decks and steps. They won’t crack or peel, but they can fade in the sun over time, Gilpatric said.

FIND SOME HELP

For all the jobs you’d rather not do around the house this spring — from indoor spring cleaning and raking to repairing steps or trim — there is probably someone out there who will do it for you. For a price, yes, but not as much you might think.

The economy continues to affect small handyman businesses in a negative way, so there are people looking for any work they can find.

That’s one of the reasons Heather Peel of Fayette started a Web site, Local Chores (www.localchores.com) to help people find affordable handymen or women.

“It’s not really for big jobs, it’s for those chores you never get to but would like to have done,” Peel said.

On the Web site, you can post a chore you want done and the price you’d like to pay. People looking for work check out the chores and contact the potential customer. Posting is free.

“I’ve got more people responding to the chores than I do people posting chores,” said Peel. “So you’ll definitely find someone willing to do it.”

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]