As I’m writing this today it’s cloudy and cool, even though it’s nearly May. But, don’t let this fool you. Summer is almost here, and you need to be ready. Just like you’ll be trading in the coats and boots for shorts and flip-flops, your home and yard wants to shed the gloom and show its stuff.

Here are 3 ideas to get your summer off to a fresh new start:

Get your outdoor furniture refreshed

Winter can be downright hostile to your patio furniture. The rain, freezing temperatures and winds may leave your outdoor area looking worse for wear. Take time to give your furniture the attention it needs so when you are ready to sit out there with a cool drink it’s ready for you.

Teak furniture can be cleaned with mild soap and water. For tough stains, use a scrub brush with a little bleach. If you haven’t sealed it, it will have turned a silver-grey color. If you like that look, great; if you want your teak to look like new again, use teak oil found at any hardware store.

Metal or aluminum furniture should hold up well over the winter. It’s best covered or put in storage, but if not, a good hosing will wash away dirt and grime. Most furniture made of metal or aluminum has a powder coating, which should not fade or discolor. If you have cushions, clean with a mild soap and scrub brush.

Wood or wicker furniture will be most damaged by the elements. Look for cracks or loose joints. Often these can be fixed with wood glue. More serious issues can be addressed by re-weaving or new dowels. Consider painting wood or wicker for a bright, fresh new look. White is always a safe bet, but wouldn’t it be fun to brighten up the space with sapphire blue or canary yellow?

Plant a container garden

Whether you have a large yard or a small balcony, plants and flowers in pots bring life and color to any space. Use odd shapes and sizes of containers for that unplanned, natural look. Pansies, vinca vine and geraniums are all inexpensive to buy, easy to plant and require low maintenance. Check with your local nursery for what works best in your situation. It’s even fun to plant vegetables and herbs. Tomatoes, beans, strawberries and basil all thrive well in pots.

Invest in new accessories

This is the time of year to find great plastic serving pieces at the stores. I’ve seen colorful plates, glasses, pitchers and platters everywhere from Tuesday Morning to Target to Pottery Barn. You can also use mismatched glasses for candles (remember Citronella keeps the bugs at bay), throw an assortment of colored pillows on the hammock and rolled up towels on the chaise lounges for that resort look.

Whatever you do, make it fun. Let your imagination wander. This is vacation time. There should be no rules, no schedules, and no stress. Grab that margarita, your sun screen, your baseball cap and get out there and enjoy.