Moving into a home requires new homeowners to get acquainted with many new things – neighbors, schools, stores, creaks and noises the house makes, and the requirements for caring for your new lawn and landscape. TurfMutt, OPEI’s environmental stewardship program, shares these tips to help new homeowners become backyard ready and make the most of their outdoor living room.
Assess the Existing Living Landscapes
Take a look at what currently exists in the yard to determine what you love about it and what you’d like to change. Don’t be afraid to ask the previous owner about the plantings. They might be able to provide a list of landscape items to make the job easier. Ask your Realtor to help facilitate this, if needed. Your Realtor can also put you in touch with local experts who can help you create the outdoor living room of your dreams.
Plan for Outdoor Living
Determine what will work with the existing living landscape for your entire family, including kids and pets. Take into account your family needs and lifestyle. Then, research options for enhancing your family yard with hardy turfgrass, climate-appropriate plants and a mix of adaptive and native plants to foster biodiversity. Plant to preserve your corner of the ecosystem with a good mix of grass, trees, shrubs and flowering plants to support our pollinator friends: birds, bees and butterflies. Nature starts at your backdoor!
Plant with Your Pets in Mind
If you have a turfgrass lawn, you’ve got a playground for your kids and your pets. However, you should know there are many types of grasses – and some are better than others for pets, especially dogs. Also, if your yard has artificial or synthetic grass, you’ll want to replace it with real turf. Plastic grass is bad for the environment, hard to keep clean, and can get too hot for your pet’s paws and your children’s feet. And, remember, avoid toxic plants that can be harmful to pets (see the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants for tips).
Prep for Dog Fun
A new home gives you the chance to go above and beyond to make your family yard a place full of fun for your furry friend. Set up an area for your dog to dig, such as a digging box or digging bed. Add chew toys in the dirt (leave one poking out) to help our dog get the idea. A canine obstacle course can provide hours of fun if you have the space available to install one. You can also add a water feature for your pet to splash in on hot days. A water station is another good addition that enables your pet to stay hydrated year-round. A tree or bush can provide a shady spot for your pet to rest.
Remember: Right Plant, Right Place
When you’re ready to dig in and plant in your family yard, remember the “Golden Rule” of living landscapes: put the right plant in the right place. Select plants that will thrive in your climate zone. The microclimate in your new neighborhood may be very different from the one you just moved from – even if you didn’t relocate a great distance. Familiarize yourself with your plant hardiness zone on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine what types of turf, trees, shrubs and plants will thrive in your new location. Still unsure what to plant? Consult a local nursery or landscape professional for advice (ask your Realtor for recommendations if needed).
Learn About Restrictions and Rules
Some neighborhoods with home owners associations (HOAs) have restrictions about what you can and cannot plant in your yard. Other communities may have watering limitations during part of the year requiring a smart irrigation system. Become familiar with the rules so you can plan accordingly.
Conduct an Outdoor Power Equipment Inventory
The power equipment you needed at your previous home may not suffice at the new property, or perhaps it’s time to upgrade your equipment to better suit your needs. Take an inventory of your existing outdoor power equipment (lawnmower, leaf blower, etc.) and match it against the needs of your new family yard. At the very least, now’s also a good time to get your outdoor power equipment serviced for the upcoming season.
Brush Up on Lawn Equipment Safety
Get backyard ready for your new lawn by reviewing your owner’s manuals and brushing up on safety procedures. Follow all guidelines for outdoor power equipment and familiarize yourself with the controls. Misplaced manuals can be found online (and saved on your computer for future reference). Also, set expectations with your family and pets. When outdoor power equipment is in use, the safest place for kids and pets is inside your home and under the supervision of a responsible adult. Before your first yardwork day, talk with your family about safety and remind them to follow procedures.
Be Smart About Maintenance
When you move into a new home, it’s a good opportunity to revisit the basics of lawn and garden maintenance. Remember not to overwater your living landscapes. Plants and trees will grow stronger and work harder, creating deeper, vertical roots, if they need to seek water. Also, consider “grasscycling” instead of bagging your lawn clippings when you mow. Grasscycling is an easy (and organic!) way to give your lawn a nutritional boost. Cut grass blades left on the lawn will decompose quickly and return nutrients to the lawn. An added bonus? You save the cost of bagging and you avoid adding more waste to the landfills.
Your family yard is an outdoor living room, providing a respite from stress, offering an outside entertainment area, expanding your living space, and giving kids and pets a safe place to play. In addition to enhancing your lifestyle and providing a center of health and relaxation, the family yard is also beneficial to the environment. The living plants in your family yard capture and filter rainwater, produce oxygen and absorb carbon. Your yard also provides valuable wildlife habitat and supports pollinators. Finally, the outdoor living room at your home boosts curb appeal, improves your property value and reduces crime. For more about the benefits of the family yard and getting backyard ready talk to TurfMutt. Visit TurfMutt’s blog.
How to be “Backyard Ready” for Dog Fun When Spring Hits.
Winter is nearly over, and it’s time for your dog to get outside to bask in the sunshine and roll in the grass. Here are some tips to help you get your yard ready for springtime fun from Lucky the TurfMutt, a rescue dog who pays it forward by helping children and families take care of green spaces.
Tune up your turfgrass. A sturdy grass lawn can take the pounding and activity of an active pooch. After a winter in dormancy, your lawn will be moving back into a growth phase as the weather heats up. Begin mowing as soon as your lawn needs it.
Create a dog-friendly backyard. Map out your yard with your dog in mind. Soft foliage, sturdy turfgrass, smooth stones, and dog toys can help your pet feel at home. Add a water station so your pet can hydrate after some time playing. A fun water feature can help your pooch cool off when it’s hot.
Plan for fun. Set up an area for your dog to dig, such as a digging box or digging bed. Add chew toys in the dirt (leave one poking out) to help your dog get the idea. A canine obstacle course can provide hours of fun if you have the space available to install one.
Use plants to give your dog a sense of boundaries. Place plants close together in areas you want to designate as off-limits and train your dog to avoid them. Leave open areas for your dog to run and play in (and accept that that is what your dog will do).
Avoid toxic plants that can be harmful to your pet. Dogs do not naturally avoid plants that are toxic to them and many will eat plants that are not safe for consumption. A few common toxic plants for dogs are: carnations, chrysanthemums, daffodils, hostas, ivy, lilies, morning glories, tomatoes, and tulips. For a complete list, visit ASPCA’s list of nontoxic and toxic plants for dogs.
Look for hazards and eliminate them. Some paved or sandy surfaces may get too hot for your pet to walk on comfortably. Tiny pebbles, thorns, or gravel can get caught in paws. Ensure your pet’s main play area includes grass.
Check your fence. A fence is an important safety feature for your pet. Make sure your fence is solid and do any needed repairs. Pay attention to your gate and be sure locks are working properly. Many dogs will patrol the edges of the yard and make paths near the fence line. Plan for these predictable paths in your yard and if you find them unsightly, you can add a gentle stone or mulch path. If you use an invisible fence, make sure it is properly working and that your pet knows the boundaries.
Set up for shade (and naps). Your dog will need a place to relax after a busy day of play. A tree or bush can provide shade for your pet. A dog house is of course – always appreciated by your four-footed friend for an afternoon snooze.
When winter hits, especially like the winter so much of the United States in experiencing, it can seem like spring will never come. But, there is no time like the present for homeowners to start planning lawn and landscape projects and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) offers these suggestions to help get a jumpstart on these projects.
Map out a plan for improving your outdoor living room
The family yard is an extension of the home, providing a safe place for families to gather and for kids and pets to play. What would enhance this space for your family? An outdoor kitchen, firepit, pergola, and patio are bigger ticket items that you should start planning and saving for now. Enhanced landscaping is another alternative.
Determine which plants are best for your climate
Selecting the right plants, trees and shrubs for your climate zone is important for keeping maintenance to a minimum and maximizing benefits to the environment and ecosystem. Check out the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map to determine which plants are most suitable for your area now to make shopping at your local nursery more productive this spring.
Take stock of your lawn and landscape tools
Does your outdoor power equipment need to be serviced before the spring season? Or maybe you have been living in an apartment and now need to purchase a lawnmower, edger or leaf blower for your home. Now’s a good time to take care of these tasks so you will be ready to roll come spring.
Decide now if you need professional assistance
You might be able to take on your outdoor living room improvement project on your own. But if you think you might need professional assistance, now is the time to line up consultants and obtain bids. This will put you a step ahead of the spring rush!
- Do cold winter days have you dreaming of spring? Start planning your family yard projects for the spring now! #LivingLandscapes
- Is your outdoor power equipment ready for spring? Winter is the time to prepare! #LivingLandscapes
- Your family yard is an extension of your home. What would enhance this space for your family? Use cold winter days to plan for spring! #LivingLandscapes
This article is available in Spanish
Use Los Fríos Días De Invierno Para Planificar Proyectos De Jardinería En La Primavera
Cuando el invierno llega, especialmente como el invierno que está viviendo gran parte de Estados Unidos, puede parecer que la primavera nunca va a llegar. Pero, no hay momento como el presente para que los propietarios comiencen a planificar proyectos de césped y jardín y el Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) ofrece estas sugerencias para ayudarle a impulsar a estos proyectos.
Trace un plan para mejorar su sala de estar exterior
El patio familiar es una extensión del hogar que brinda un lugar seguro para que las familias se reúnan y para que los niños y las mascotas jueguen. ¿Qué mejoraría este espacio para su familia? Una cocina al aire libre, una hoguera, una pérgola y un patio son elementos grandes para los que debe comenzar a planificar y ahorrar desde ahora. Otra alternativa es mejorar el aspecto del jardín.
Determine qué plantas son las mejores para su clima
La selección de las plantas, árboles y arbustos adecuados para su zona climática es importante para mantener los cuidados al mínimo y maximizar los beneficios para el medio ambiente y el ecosistema. Consulte el mapa de zona de rusticidad de plantas de la USDA para determinar ahora las plantas que son más adecuadas para su área y hacer sus compras en el vivero local más productivas esta primavera.
Determine qué plantas son las mejores para su clima
¿Sus equipos eléctricos de jardinería necesitan reparaciones antes de la primavera? O tal vez ha estado viviendo en un departamento y ahora necesita comprar una cortadora de césped, una orilladora o un soplador de hojas para su hogar. Este es un buen momento para encargarse de estas tareas para que esté listo para trabajar cuando llegue la primavera.
Decida ahora si necesita asistencia profesional
Es posible que pueda asumir su proyecto de mejora de la sala exterior por su cuenta. Pero si cree que podría necesitar asistencia profesional, este es el momento de contratar consultores y obtener cotizaciones. ¡Esto lo pondrá un paso por delante del ajetreo de primavera!
- ¿Los fríos días de invierno le hacen soñar con la primavera? ¡Comience a planificar ahora sus proyectos de patio familiar para la primavera! #LivingLandscapes
- ¿Tiene listo equipos eléctricos de jardinería para la primavera? ¡El invierno es la época de prepararse! #LivingLandscapes
- Su patio familiar es una extensión de su hogar. ¿Qué haría que este espacio familiar sea mejor? ¡Use los fríos días de invierno para planificar la primavera! #LivingLandscapes
This article is available in English
Use Cold Winter Days to Plan for Spring Landscape Projects
Notwithstanding their fur coats, pets can feel the cold just as humans do. So it’s up to you to ensure that your furry friends stay safe and warm during the colder months.
To help, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), the international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, offers these tips:
- Know your pet. Different pets have different levels of tolerance for cold. When going out for walks, a short-coated, elderly or frail dog may need a jacket to weather the elements.
- Forgo haircuts. Let your dog’s winter coat protect him against the chill. Save shearing for warmer months.
- Check ears, paws, and tails regularly. You’re looking for signs of frostbite or raw spots from ice and snow. Remove any clumps of frozen debris from between the paw pads each time your dog goes outside.
- Wipe down your pet’s belly, legs, and paws. Have a clean towel ready each time your dog comes inside to remove ice-melting chemicals, which can irritate and cause serious illness if licked or swallowed.
- Clean up antifreeze spills. Due to the sweet smell and taste, pets will lick or drink antifreeze if they find it puddled on sidewalks or garage floors — but antifreeze is toxic to cats and dogs. Clean up spills and consider using a brand made from propylene glycol, which is less toxic.
- Keep the water flowing. Dry winter weather can be dehydrating, as well as freezing. Keep a fresh supply of water inside for your pet and break up any ice accumulation on her outdoor water bowl.
- Provide a warm place to rest. Winter days can be drafty and cold, so ensure your pet has plenty of elevated places inside to warm up. A cozy pet bed works beautifully.
- Leave Fido at home. You’ve probably heard a lot about the dangers of leaving a pet in a hot car during the summertime, but the practice can be just as hazardous in the winter. It’s always best to leave your dog at home when you’re running errands.
- Keep them leashed. More pets get lost during the winter than any other time of the year. Snow covers familiar scents, making it harder for your dog to find his way home. Keep your dog on a leash when you’re out and about and make sure his tag and microchip information is up-to-date in case he escapes.
“Our TurfMutt environmental education stewardship program encourages people and pets to get outside, and my dog Lucky loves to romp in fresh snow as much as the next dog,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “But during the wintertime, we have to be careful about when and how we expose our pets to the elements. Even though pets must go outdoors periodically to do their ‘business’ and get some exercise, no pet should be left outdoors during the winter months—if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.”