Wondering what you need to do to your home now that the winter rains are ending in Marin County and spring has arrived? I decided to compile this spring home maintenance to-do list for Marin County. While I have begun to tackle some of the eleven items on this list, I must confess that the busy real estate season has delayed me a bit. Spring is one of the most beautiful seasons in Marin and I hope you are enjoying it!
NUMBER ONE: Trim Weeds on Hillsides Around Your Home — After years of living here in Marin County, I have formulated an approach to clearing weeds on the hillsides around my home. I used to wait until the rains had stopped and trim weeds then, once they began turning brown, but I found that by then the weeds are so tall the task is much more difficult. Now my approach is to trim them twice – once in April and then again in June. It’s much easier, and my hillsides look more presentable for more of the year. Special note: Dandelions and Milkthistle provide early season nectar and food for bees and birds — so I always instruct my lawn crew to try to trim around those two important plants.
NUMBER TWO: Clean Solar Panels — You might think that your solar panels are squeaky clean after the winter’s rains, and you might be right. However, imagine leaving your car out all winter and not washing it. Is the windshield clean? Or covered with debris and mold? The same rule applies to your glass solar panels. It’s easy to determine whether your system’s panels need cleaning — look at your system’s monitor to gauge the peak production at mid-day and compare to last year and to your system’s capacity. If you see a drop of 10% or more, you may need to have your panels cleaned.
Companies such as Marin’s SolarCraft perform this service for a nominal fee, usually less than $500 depending on the size of your system. As we approach peak solar production season, it’s wise to have clean panels that are producing as efficiently as possible. Also look to see if any trees are partially blocking your solar panels. Spring growth may result in partial blockage which will also impact production.
NUMBER THREE: Tackle Invasive Plants Before They Bloom and Re-Seed — Did you know that Broom plants (Scotch Broom, Spanish Broom, French Broom, etc.) each produce up to 20,000 seeds and those seeds can last up to 50 years? Spring is the time to tackle these invasive plants — those beautiful yellow blooms will soon turn to seed pods and you’ll have an even bigger problem next year. Depending on the size of your yard, pulling Broom plants is the most effective and they are easier to pull in the spring when the soil is still moist. If you have a large landscape adjoining open space, as many do in Marin County, it may be more practical to use a string trimmer (a.k.a. a “weed whacker”) to tackle the smaller plants before the blooms go to seed. I have seen some Broom plants grow as high as 15 feet tall. Why trim them? They choke out native species and they do pose a fire danger as the summer progresses.
Similarly, now is the time of year to tackle another invasive pest, Poison Oak (pictured above). To identify poison oak, look for the waxy leaves of three (“leaves of three, leave them be.”) Springtime in Marin is when the leaves begin popping out from the stems and when the plants are most vulnerable to herbicides. I make an exception to my organic philosophy when it comes to Poison Oak because the plant is so dangerous. Severe allergic reactions occur in some people which may require hospitalization. I use a herbicide like Ortho Max on a calm day so it doesn’t blow on other plants, and I always wear eye and hand protection while I spray just the leaves of the poison oak. Note that once dead the branches still retain the allergy-causing resin for years so take care in disposal, and never, ever burn Poison Oak.
I have searched and searched for ways to eradicate Poison Oak without herbicides. If you have found one that works for you, please leave a suggestion in the comments section below.
NUMBER FOUR: Bring on the Ladybugs! — I have successfully eliminated the use of pesticides in my garden with the use of a number of organic gardening practices, including the introduction of ladybugs. Spring is prime feeding season for ladybugs as they feast on the aphids which attack tender leaves and blooms in the spring. A single ladybug can consume up to 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. You can buy ladybugs at your favorite garden center, order them online, or read this article about attracting them to your garden.
NUMBER FIVE: Clean Your Windows — Window cleaning is a specialized skill-set and I long ago decided to always hire professionals to clean the inside and outside of my windows in the springtime. The timing of this activity is always tricky — I always want to have my windows cleaned in early March, but usually wait until early June to wash them when the rains have ended. I also have learned to time window washing after seasonal weed trimming (number one above) as the dust from weed trimming often dirties windows.
NUMBER SIX: Preventative Maintenance on Air Conditioning Units — If you own a home in central or northern Marin County, you may have air conditioning, or wish you did. As our summers get warmer, we are seeing more days where temperatures exceed 90 degrees. Central air conditioning systems must have routine maintenance so that they are energy efficient and work when you need them most. We have ours serviced each spring, and have a contract with a company that calls to remind us “it’s time” and provides a detailed checklist of everything they have taken care of on our units. They also provide the vital task of cleaning the filters which improves indoor air quality and energy efficiency. We use Ongaro and Sons for this task in Marin County, but there are a number of reputable firms that do a great job.
NUMBER SEVEN: Paint Home Exteriors — Springtime in Marin County often features weeks at a time with no rainfall and those are a great time to get the exterior of your home painted. Painters are most busy during the summer and may have more availability in the spring, especially if you call them while it’s still raining. I would not, however, recommend staining decks until the heat and extended dry period of the summer. We have had too many deck stain jobs get ruined by unexpected rains, and it takes most deck stains much longer to fully dry and cure than exterior paint.
NUMBER EIGHT: Get Soil Ready for Planting — If you are lucky to have some sunny land on your property in Marin County where you can plant a vegetable or tomato garden, early spring is the time to begin amending the soil and pulling winter’s weeds to get ready for planting. Read my tips for growing tomatoes in Marin County here. I amend my soil with organic fertilizer such as Paydirt from West End Nursery or Loam Builder from Sloat Nursery.
NUMBER NINE: Prune to Encourage Spring and Summer Growth — While I usually prune my roses in mid-January, I wait until March to prune most of my other plants. Pruning them too early removes protective covering for late-winter freezes, and pruning too late means you’re cutting off new growth. Springtime is a great time to clean up your garden from winter’s fury– and my rule is, it’s always better to cut too much than too little. Like a haircut, it always grows back.
NUMBER TEN: Service Your Automatic Garage Doors — After all the moisture of winter, springtime in Marin County is a great time to have your automatic garage door serviced. Servicing usually runs around $130 and includes lubricating the rollers, hinges, and inspection of the large springs over the door. Those springs help the opener lift the door, and over time those springs need adjustment and eventual replacement. It is much better to perform preventative maintenance on your garage door than to return home late one evening and find that the door will not open. There are a number of great local companies who perform this service. We used Door Pros in San Rafael and were very pleased with the results.
NUMBER ELEVEN: Check Your Irrigation System — Your irrigation system has not run for almost half a year. Before you switch the timer to the “on” position, run through each station or valve group to see if any leaks have sprouted over that period. In some cases pipes may have frozen and cracked, yard maintenance people may have knocked off drip emitters, or other problems may have occurred which could result in wasting water — and receiving an expensive water bill. The Marin Municipal Water District has lengthened the time between “leak claims” to 24 months, so extra vigilance is needed to avoid an unpleasant surprise to your monthly budget.
If you don’t have one of the newer-style internet-enabled controllers that vary run time automatically based on weather and other factors, you may want to consult the Weekly Watering Schedule page on their website for guidance. Remember, your landscape does not need the same amount of water in May as it does in September.
I hope you have found my Marin County Spring Home To-Do List helpful. What did I miss? Please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section below. As always, I am happy to help you attain your own real estate goals or answer any questions you might have. Please call or text me at +1.415.847.5584 or complete the contact form below and I will be in touch right away.
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