Spring into action at cleaning time

A baseball game on the radio can be a boon to what's becoming America's second-favorite pastime — sprucing up our homes.

With the help of a pleasant springtime distraction, chores can feel more like therapy. Here are a few tasks that are easy to complete with one ear on the ball:

Despite your best intentions, your garage or basement might be filled with a rummage sale's worth of stuff and a maze of cobwebs. Time to play ball.

Work from the top down. Dusty walls and ceilings, dingy light fixtures and door and window trim should be tackled before other elements in the space. Windows, closets and furniture are next. Window and floor coverings should be last. This might include floor stripping, carpet cleaning and polishing.

Start at your home's perimeter so you don't track over already cleaned central spaces. And don't forget to dust the top ledge of all doors.

Nothing beats listening to your favorite baseball team inch its way to the Series stretched out on a lounge chair on your beautiful deck. But right about now, your patio might look pretty grungy from winter leaf and debris stains, mildew and aging.

Give it a good cleaning with a solution of 1/3 cup of powdered laundry detergent to one gallon of hot water. Scrub vigorously with a stiff nylon brush or bristle broom and thoroughly rinse with fresh water. Add one quart of liquid chlorine bleach to the solution if mildew is present. If your deck or patio still looks dingy, consider using a deck cleaning or brightening product to restore the appearance of the natural wood. Use a concrete cleaner to remove oxidation on concrete and restore the appearance of your patio. Remember eye protection and rubber gloves.

Finish the job by making repairs to damaged decking, secure fasteners and apply a fresh coat of deck finish. Although not necessary, a concrete sealer can breathe new life into the appearance of your patio and protect it from freeze and thaw damage if you live in a cold climate.

Winter's gone and your lawn's a mess? Start by taking a soil sample. See if your local county extension office will do an inexpensive analysis that tells you exactly what fertilizer you need, and if it changed since last year.

Then consult your garden center before you reseed to be sure you have the best and latest variety. New stronger drought-resistant and heat-tolerant types constantly are being introduced.

When things start to grow, don't mow too low. Cutting grass too short, especially the first time, can harm the lawn and lead to root damage — making it more susceptible to plant diseases, insects and the heat of scorching sun. As a rule of thumb, never trim off more than a third.

Finally, an inch of water once a week is enough. To avoid over-watering, set out a rain gauge to be sure you're not over-doing it.

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