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Gentle Reminders

Martha Stewart Living, March 2005

March
Outdoor Seating
Bring your garden furniture out of storage and prepare it for a long season of dining and lounging alfresco. Make sure every piece is clean, and repair or replace any cushions that are showing signs of wear. Recoat scratched paint on metal furniture, if necessary (use an exterior metal paint or, if the items are powder coated, a touch-up paint from the manufacturer).

In Season
Rhubarb
These tart, red celerylike stalks start appearing on farm stands in late winter. Technically a vegetable, rhubarb is eaten more like a fruit; its tang is offset by sugar in jams, sauces, and pies. When you buy rhubarb, look for bright, firm stalks; keep refrigerated and use within three days.

Pineapple
This juicy, tangy-sweet tropical fruit, available year-round, is at its peak from March to July. Two common varieties are the yellow-hued cayenne and the deep-orange-colored red Spanish. Pineapples ripen before they are picked; look for one that is slightly soft and well colored. Refrigerate, in plastic, up to three days.

Get in the Habit
Make veterinary appointments for your pets. Early spring brings dogs and cats potential health hazards, including heartworm, fleas, and ticks. If your pet is not on year-round heartworm prevention, you will likely want to begin seasonal treatment soon. There are many products available that combat fleas and ticks, including topical applications, pills, collars, powders, and sprays. Talk with your veterinarian about which approach is right to keep your animals healthy.

Have You Done It Lately?
Give your car a good cleaning. After months of being driven on salty, muddy roads, your car might be wearing a heavy coat of grime. Aside from the standard wash and wax, the car's trim, rubber, and upholstery should be carefully cleaned to remove residue that can lead to deterioration. Take on the project yourself, or have it done professionally -- and schedule a tune-up at the same time.

Indoors
Planning a spring holiday celebration? Start preparing now. Iron table linens, plan centerpieces, and polish silver, if necessary. Remember to always start with the most gentle polishing products, and move on to stronger ones only if needed.

Restock homekeeping supplies. Spring cleaning time is right around the corner. You'll need all-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner, specific products for problem spots such as mildew in tile grout, as well as natural cleansers such as baking soda and vinegar. Stock up on sponges, rags, scrub brushes, and rubber gloves, too.

Deep-clean carpets and rugs. For synthetic carpeting, rent or buy a shampooer/extractor -- a machine that cleans the fibers and removes traces of soap using hot water. Open windows and let air flow to help carpets dry. If you have wool carpets or rugs, or any that are valuable or delicate, contact a professional for cleaning.

Vacuum and steam-clean curtains or have them dry-cleaned. If you'll be replacing heavy curtains with lighter ones as the weather gets warmer, it is especially important to remove dust and dirt before putting the curtains away for storage.

Outdoors
Rake the lawn and clear away any fallen branches or other debris left behind from winter storms.

Order composed manure for garden beds. Working generous amounts of manure into the soil will prepare it for planting. Now is also a good time to have soil tested for nutrients and pH levels, and to make necessary amendments. Contact your local extension service for information about having a soil test and analysis done.

Take down storm windows and replace them with screens. Wash the windows, including their frames. Mark each window in an inconspicuous spot (indicating which frame it belongs to), and store the windows for the season.

If you have a warm-season turfgrass, now is the time to renovate the lawn, as new growth begins. Reseed any bare patches, aerate, and fertilize according to package directions.