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seed_lawn(MCT)—Mother Nature might still be in denial in some parts of the country, but spring is officially here — and that means it’s time for homeowners to take stock of the outside of their property to ensure it’s safe, well-cared-for and ready for the warmer summer months ahead.

At the top of the list for many homeowners is lawn care. With many parts of the country experiencing severe drought conditions the past few summers, how homeowners care for their lawns this spring is integral to how they’ll handle the months ahead.

“We’re seeing lawns that are needing to be reseeded due to the past summers’ droughts,” said Dyer Barker of Home Rangers Landscaping and Lawn Care in Lexington, Ky.

Barker recommends seeding the lawn now, adding a starter fertilizer and allowing the grass to grow long enough — about 3 inches — to cut it twice before applying weed and crabgrass control. Homeowners don’t want to mow more than 1/3 of the grass’s length at one time, though, Barker cautioned.

“It can dry the grass out and stress the grass when you cut off more than a third of it,” Barker said.

Though many lawn care companies try to sign customers up on a long-term contract, Barker said it’s not necessary unless it’s a big job.

“(Contracts) are difficult to get out of, if you don’t like the company that was working for you,” Barker said. “We’re a company that works on a cut-by-cut basis. We’ll work for you as long as you’re happy with us doing the work. A contract is not necessary to have your lawn mowed.”

Now is also a good time to mulch flowerbeds with 3 inches of mulch, Barker said.

“It will help the ground retain the moisture,” Barker said. “As springtime comes in, the plants that need to come up will actually come out up through the mulch. Then, you’re not having to mulch around that or have bare spots in the mulch when the plants die or it comes fall time and they get cut back. You’ll already have mulch in those areas. During those drier times, the plants are still getting moisture as opposed to drying out very quickly.”

Pest control is another spring task homeowners need to consider. Hiring a pest control company now to address outdoor insects can prevent them from coming into the house later. Be sure the pest control company you hire is licensed and insured. Many pest control companies also offer eco-friendly treatment options, if that’s a concern. Ask the representative about their methods if green treatment is important to you.

Another springtime project homeowners should have done is an inspection and cleaning of their gutters. Spring is a great time of year to ensure gutters are free of fall leaves and debris that might have collected over the winter. Gutters that fill with debris can quickly overflow with water, which could lead to expensive external and internal water damage.

“You don’t want to run into your gutters overflowing to where it might cause a rotten (fascia or soffit) board,” said Greg Hardy of Greg’s Gutter Service, located in the Triad of North Carolina. “If you let it go too long, you can really get into some problems with water damage. It can mess up a lot of stuff.”

Hardy recommends homeowners — primarily those with a lot of trees on their property — talk to their gutter professional about installing a leaf protection system.

“If you don’t put something like that on there to really keep the gutters clean, especially in the fall, you about have to clean them out once a week to really let the gutters flow the way they should. Most cleanouts run between $85 and $100. If you put some leaf protection on there, it will pay for itself in no time. You want to go with something that’s cost-effective, though. You can get some leaf guards that cost $3,000 to put on. Between $15 and $25 a foot is not cost effective. I charge around $5 a foot for it, depending on the size of the gutter.”

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to healthcare.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services