Gardeners approach spring with an excited air of hopeful optimism—and they often approach fall with an exhausted determination to just get it done already. For that reason, we tend to approach big projects like power washing in spring rather than the fall; but I’ve got a couple of reasons why that’s a bad idea, and why fall is the perfect time to get the power-washing done.
The cold weather may help kill any viruses spread by power washing
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Most people have a lot of cleanup to do in spring, but it’s also when things are starting to bloom. There are buds everywhere, and plants that are just emerging with new growth are susceptible to all kinds of viruses, from peach curl to mosaic. Some are viruses and some are funguses, which can all live in the soil.
When you power wash, you are sending zillions of microparticles of water spraying everywhere, including all your plants. There’s a reason that overhead watering isn’t advised for your plants, and that’s because it causes the dirt to splash up against the plants, and for water to splash from plant to plant. This is an easy vector for viruses and funguses to move from one plant to another, or from the dirt up to your plants.
In fall, some of those risks still exist, but most plants are going to sleep for the winter, and your annuals are at the end of their lives. The winter cold doesn’t have the ability to kill all viruses and fungi, but it does kill a lot. The fall is just a safer time to power spray the area around your garden.
Walkways and walls are likely to be clearest after fall cleanup
Fall cleanup is also when your walkways and buildings are likely to be the clearest. If you’ve done your job pruning, cutting back, and mulching, everything that needs to be protected should be, your walkways are open, and your trellises are nice and tidy. It makes the most sense to power wash now.
If you’re looking for a softer experience than power-washing, without the noise and water usage, keep in mind you can use a gentle cleaner (like Dawn or another dish soap) and a soft outdoor broom to scrub the driveway and walkways and then rinse off. You can also consider using my favorite indoor scrubber, the Ryobi Telescoping Power Scrub, outfitted with a brush you’ll just use outside.