‘Bone Up’ On Wise Winter Weather Practices  For Your Pet

‘Bone Up’ On Wise Winter Weather Practices For Your Pet

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.”

Planning to sell your home next spring? Fall is the time to spruce up your yard!

Planning to sell your home next spring? Fall is the time to spruce up your yard!

Fall may be when kids head back to school, but it’s a busy season for adults planning to sell their homes in the springtime. Many hopeful sellers focus on indoor projects – and ignore what prospective buyers will see curbside when they pull up – their yards!

Fall is the best time to lay the groundwork for a great springtime yard that will lure in buyers. Attractive landscaping can add as much as 17% to the sale price of a home. Here are five tips from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s Kris Kiser to help homeowners:

  • Nurture healthy turf. Fall is the time to aerate the soil by punching holes in it so oxygen, water and nutrients can reach hungry grass roots. You can rent an aerator, purchase one to use, or hire a landscape contractor to do this for you. Continue mowing your lawn as needed throughout the fall.
  • Trim it short. For the last two cuttings of the year, lower your mower blade to its lowest setting so your grass gets a tighter cut. This will enable more sun to reach the crown of the grass – and you’ll see fewer brown leaves in your lawn. Just be careful to leave one-third of the grass blade in place.
  • Rake or collect the leaves. It may be tempting to wait until all the leaves fall off the trees before clearing them up, but don’t delay. Leaves on the ground block the grass from sunlight (suffocating your grass) and can breed fungus. Get them up and remove them. Compost the leaves, dispose of them, or mulch them.
  • Load up on nutrients. Practice “grasscycling” by using a mulching mower to shred and return cut grass back to the lawn. You can also finely mulch your leaves and distribute them on your lawn. Shredded leaves can help control weeds and load your lawn with nutrients for a long winter.
  • Fix the bald spots. Fall is the time to repair those yucky bald spots in your lawn. Get a lawn repair mixture at your area garden shop and follow the directions.
Back to School Tips from TurfMutt Inspire Kids to Care for Living Landscapes, Get Outside

Back to School Tips from TurfMutt Inspire Kids to Care for Living Landscapes, Get Outside

You don’t have to be big to make a big difference when it comes to our green spaces. School is back in session, and Lucky the TurfMutt is offering tips to inspire elementary school students and their families to take care of their yards, school grounds, parks and other living landscapes – and get outside and enjoy them!

  • Get outside! Fall is a great time to explore nature all around you. After spending a long day of being inside at school, take some time afterward to enjoy your yard and nearby parks.
  • Notice the different kinds of plants in your yard. Walk around the outside of your home, take notes and sketch what you see. What makes your yard unique? Mark on your sketch the living (plants, trees, grass) and the non-living (patios, grills) parts of your landscape. What might impact living plants? Does your yard need plants that are tolerant of wind, full sun, shade, or occasional flooding?
  • Notice the areas needing improvements. Do plants need mulch around them to help them save water? Do you have plants that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies? Do you have a healthy mix of grass, shrubs, trees and flowering plants? Are some parts of your yard a little worn out?
  • Make a plan to take care of your yard. Talk with your parent or guardian about how you can care for your lawn and landscape, and the improvements you want to make. Students and their parents or guardians should create a plan to take care of the yard and make the improvements together.
  • Put the right plant in the right place. Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find out what plants are best for where you live. Use a mix of native and adaptive plants and place them where they will thrive.
  • Visit TurfMutt.com to play games and read digital storybooks for free to learn more. Join Lucky the TurfMutt and his friends, the Outdoor Powers on their adventures to save the planet one yard at a time. The website offers home-based activities, digital storybooks, lesson plans for teachers and more.
  • Keep an eye out for the “Be a Backyard Superhero” essay contest for grades K-5, which will be announced this fall. You can tell TurfMutt how you improved or cared for your yard, and battled the evil environmental villains.

About TurfMutt

TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Research and Education Foundation and has reached more than 68 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” TurfMutt is an official USGBC® Education Partner and education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat also is featured in the 2017 and the upcoming 2018 Wildlife Habitat Council calendars.

Living Landscapes Matter: Lawns And Gardens Are Ecosystems That Help Us All

Living Landscapes Matter: Lawns And Gardens Are Ecosystems That Help Us All

While in some parts of our country, people are replacing their lawns with rocks, mulch, cacti and plastic grass—deadening the landscape in order to conserve water—you may not have to.

“Having a lawn and being a good environmental steward are not mutually exclusive,” explains Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “Grass is a vital part of our living landscapes that contribute to our communities, our families and our health.”

Lawns provide a safe place for families to gather and for children and pets to play. But grass is also brilliant at combating many environmental challenges. For example, a good lawn:

  • Filters and Captures Runoff. When it rains, water “sheets off” hard surfaces, such as hardscapes, parking lots, driveways and roads, turning rainwater into fast-moving, storm water runoff. Grass, however, slows down and absorbs runoff, while also cleansing water of impurities and dust. The grass filtration system is so effective that rainwater filtered through a healthy lawn is often as much as 10 times less acidic than water running off a hard surface.
  • Reduces Heat. Lawns can be outdoor air conditioners. Turfgrass dissipates the heat island effect caused from asphalt, concrete and other hardscapes. Remarkably, studies have shown that lawns can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil. That means lower energy bills for you and a nicer environment for everyone.
  • Improves Air Quality. Grass also plays a vital role in capturing dust, smoke particles and other pollutants. Without grass, these pollutants will remain in the air, resulting in more “code red” air quality days.
  • Absorbs Carbon Dioxide. The lawn is the largest carbon sink in the United States. Carbon sinks are natural systems that suck up and store greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The dense canopy and fibrous root system in a lawn sequesters carbon so well that it outweighs the carbon used for maintaining the lawn by as much as sevenfold.
  • Generates Oxygen. Lawns are incredible oxygen producers. A turf area 50’ x 50’ produces enough oxygen to meet the daily needs of a family of four.
  • Supports Biodiversity. Grass, trees, shrubs and other plants provide food and habitat for birds and small mammals. Insects, spiders and worms live among the grass blades and below the surface of the turf, so your lawn can support biodiversity and wildlife.
  • Controls Soil Erosion. Turfgrass controls erosion through its natural, dense and fibrous root system. Without grass, soil erodes into streams and lakes, muddying the waters and limiting how sunlight penetrates the water. The nutrients and chemicals carried with soil can cause algae blooms, which steal oxygen from the water and kill fish.

Lawn or No Lawn Is Not the Question

So how to maintain a living landscape—even under tough conditions like a drought?
First, choose the right turfgrass for the climate zone and lifestyle. Hundreds of varieties of turfgrass exist, and some of them—such as buffalo and Bermudagrass—are excellent for drought conditions. When established, these grasses require very little water and are hardy enough to survive foot traffic, children’s play and pets.

Secondly, know that too much water is actually bad for grass. Overwatering causes the grass roots to grow horizontally, rather than vertically. With less water, the grass has to work harder and will grow its roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture. This helps it do a better job of trapping carbon and releasing oxygen.

People also need to change the perception that lawns must remain green. It’s okay to let your grass go brown. Grass will grow in cycles, “turning on and off,” based on the resources it gets. As water becomes less available in an area, grass will slow down, go dormant and turn brown. Turfgrass is resilient. It will green up again when the rains return.

Lastly, incorporate native plants with adaptive plants and grasses suitable for the climate. Add pollinator plants that provide food and habitat for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other animals and insects.

Having a Pet-Friendly Yard with Tips from Lucky the TurfMutt

Having a Pet-Friendly Yard with Tips from Lucky the TurfMutt

Is your yard “pet-friendly”? Fall is a great time to review your lawn and landscaping and make plans for improvements. Who better to ask for advice than a dog? Lucky the TurfMutt is a rescue dog who is “pawing it forward” by teaching children about how to take care of green spaces. But even Lucky needs a backyard break for relaxation. Here are Lucky’s fall tips for having a pet-friendly yard.

  • Think about what your dog needs. Many homeowners re-assess their yards in the fall and consider where things are planted and what features they want to enhance. Pets love living landscapes and love being in your yard. What does your dog need the most in a yard? A place to romp and exercise? A place to relax in the shade for an afternoon nap?
  • If you are reseeding your yard this fall, pick “dog-proof” ground coverings. Grass is one of the best ground coverings around because it can handle the wear and tear that comes with pets and children. Bermuda and buffalo grass are especially hardy, and they are drought-resistant, too. Grass also delivers great health benefits for you and your family by producing oxygen, sequestering carbon, capturing water runoff, and cleaning and filtering rain water.
  • Select appropriate plants. For areas near your garden paths, select plants that have soft foliage, but are still sturdy enough to withstand a little canine “ruff”-housing. If your dog is a “plant chewer” but sure to check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants for advice on what known toxic plants to avoid. Also, don’t forget to check the climate map so you can choose the right trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants for your climate zone.
  • Use barriers to keep your dog out of flower or garden beds. Now is a great time to add barriers to beds that were a challenge for your dog to avoid over the spring and summer. A low fence, rocks and other obstacles can encourage your dog to stay out.
  • Avoid plastic grass. Plastic grass, also known as artificial turf, gets too hot for humans and pets, especially in summer months. A 2002 Brigham Young University study revealed that synthetic-turf surface temperatures were 37 degrees higher than asphalt and 86 degrees hotter than natural turf [source]. A 2012 Penn State study found it wasn’t uncommon for temperatures on plastic grass to surpass 150 degrees and to go up to 200 degrees [source].
  • Recycle grass clippings. Lawns sequester the largest amount of carbon when they recycle the nitrogen contained in grass clippings. Grass clippings are 90 percent water, and the remaining 10% is biodegradable [source]. So, take off your lawn mower’s mulching bag and leave your grass clippings on the ground while mowing. The clippings will break down and feed your grass naturally. This practice is known as grasscycling.

About TurfMutt

TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Research and Education Foundation and has reached more than 68 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” TurfMutt is an official USGBC® Education Partner and education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. TurfMutt’s personal, home habitat also is featured in the 2017 and the upcoming 2018 Wildlife Habitat Council calendars.