Spring cleaning is one of my favorite chores. OK, so I’m being a little sarcastic. While I may not particularly care for the chore of cleaning out closets and ridding the house of the staleness of winter, I love it when it is all done. The air smells a little fresher, and all I need to do after that is remember to close the windows at the end of the day.

Spring cleaning, for me, entails cleaning my garden closet as well. This is the area where I store all my garden tools, pots and yard art that need to come in during the colder months. It is also the time that I take inventory of what I will need for the upcoming growing season. All the usual suspects are on the list — soil, mulch, a new pair of hand clippers and spark plugs.

Spark plugs?

One of the most overlooked gardening tasks is lawn mower maintenance. Keeping a well-maintained mower is crucial, not only for the health of the mower, but for the health of the lawn.

Wear and tear on a mower can lead to larger maintenance issues, which can affect the performance of the mower on the lawn. A few simple tune-up procedures can keep your mower running at peak proficiency and your lawn looking great all season long.

Always refer to the user manual, remove the spark plug connection, and wear proper safety gear before beginning any maintenance on your mower.

Oil change

With frequent use, oil changes should be performed every three months. The oil should be changed to help avoid corrosion of the engine parts and repeated halfway through the season.

It is the single most important maintenance procedure for your mower, as it directly affects the largest component, the engine. To replace the oil, remove the drain plug and allow oil to empty into a catch tray.

You may need to tilt the mower slightly to get all the oil out. Once empty, replace the drain plug and refill with fresh oil up to the proper mark on the dipstick.

Replace the air filter

Dirt and debris clog air filters, making your mower burn more gasoline. A clean air filter helps maintain the proper air-to-fuel ratio. To replace the air filter, simply loosen the screw and remove the air filter cover. Remove the old filter, pop the new one in and replace the cover.

The air filter should be replaced at the beginning of the season and checked again mid-season and replaced, if needed.

Sharpen the blade

A sharp blade provides a clean cut to the grass, reducing the risk of disease and damage. The easiest way to have the blade sharpened is to have someone else do it. That entails either getting the entire mower to the shop or removing the blade and taking it to be sharpened. If you are going to go through the trouble of removing the blade, you might as well sharpen it yourself.

Before removing the mower’s blade, you will need to empty the gas from the mower. The mower can then be placed on blocks high enough for you to get under it or turned on its side. When turning the mower on its side, make sure the carburetor and air filter are facing up.

Use the mower’s blade removal tool to secure the blade in place and remove the fasteners. Again, refer to your user’s manual to see the best way to remove the blade from your mower. Before removing the blade, make a small chalk mark on the bottom of the blade so you know which side is down when you reattach it to the mower.

To sharpen the blade, secure the blade and run a metal file along its edge. Sharpening the blade should be done once a season at a minimum, but sharpening both at the start and middle of the season is recommended.

Replace the spark plug

Replacing the spark plug is recommended once a year as it is designed to be used for 100 hours of mowing. Spark plugs help your mower start and run properly.

Remove the spark plug wire and remove the spark plug, using either a spark plug wrench or deep-pocket wrench. Insert the new plug and hand-turn it until the threads catch.

Use the wrench to fasten the plug down until it stops on its own. Once the plug has stopped, give it one more quarter turn. Make sure not to overtighten, as that will make it difficult to remove or could damage the plug.

Cleaning the deck

During the mowing season, grass clippings build up on the underside of the mower’s deck. The clippings hold moisture that can lead to rust.

Scrape the caked-on layers from the deck, and use a towel to dry and remove residual clippings. A thin coat of WD-40 will help prevent rust.

Keep your mower properly maintained, and your lawn and wallet will thank you. Until next week, happy gardening.

— Irland, a member of the Limestone County Master Gardeners, can be reached at kippirland@hotmail.com. Visit https://mg.aces.edu/limestone for more information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners.

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