Buying or selling a home?
Landscaping contributes to your home’s worth, as well as your family’s well-being. Your yard is the first impression of your home that potential buyers will see. Beautiful landscaping can increase home value by as much as 17 percent.
In a rush to save water, especially in drier areas, many damaging programs have been introduced encouraging people to “rip out” their lawns, replace living landscapes with rocks, mulch, cactus or artificial turf (“plastic grass”). Some homeowners have even been subjected to drought-shaming for maintaining their yards. While these efforts may be well-intentioned, they dramatically undermine one of our most fundamental and important ecological systems: the all-American yard.
If you want to get the highest possible selling price for your home, make sure your REALTOR® understands the benefits of your living landscapes so he or she can promote them with buyer’s agents who show your home.
How Your Living Landscape Benefits the Environment & Your Health
REDUCES ENERGY COSTS. Planting the right gtass, trees and plants makes your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
IMPROVES QUALITY OF LIFE. Without grass and other living plants, your outdoor dining area, barbecue, fire pit and other outdoor living areas will be hotter and less enjoyable. Plus, green space reduces stress and makes kids smarter. 0
PRODUCES OXYGEN. Just 50 square feet of turfgrass produces enough oxygen to meet the daily needs of a family of four.
REDUCES RUNOFF. Grassy areas mitigate storm water runoff, slowing and absorbing it, while also cleansing water of impurities and dust.
SEQUESTERS CARBON. Turfgrass is the biggest carbon sink in the country, and lawns sequester more carbon than it takes to maintain them.
PROTECTS TREES. If you stop watering your yard, your trees don’t get water either, leading them to dry out and become vulnerable to disease and pests. Losing mature trees not only hurts the urban ecosystem, it also can cause local temperatures to rise and home values to drop.
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Don’t believe your family yards needs attention in the fall? Autumn is no time to ignore your lawn and landscape.
“What you do now will determine the quality of your family yard next spring and summer,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), the international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.
“People know to plant flower bulbs in the fall, but this time of year is perfect for mowing, mulching, aerating, trimming and patching your yard,” said Kiser. “After all, your living landscape does a lot for you. It produces oxygen, reduces the urban heat island effect, filters and captures runoff, improves air quality, controls erosion, absorbs carbon dioxide, and supports biodiversity. You benefit when your yard is in top shape.”
OPEI offers the following tips to make sure your yard is ready for relaxing and fun outdoor activities next year.
- Keep mowing. Grass still needs regular care to stay healthy. Grass that is too high may attract lawn-damaging field mice. Shorter grass is more resistant to diseases and traps fewer falling leaves. Cutting the grass low allows more sun to reach the crown of the grass, so less leaf will turn brown in the winter. However, cutting off too much at one time can be damaging, so never trim more than a third of the grass blades off in a single cutting. Put mower blades on the lowest settings for the last two cuts of the season.
- Aerate your lawn. Compressed soil hurts grass health. Aerating punches holes into the soil and lets oxygen, water and nutrients into a lawn. Use a walk-behind aerator or get an attachment to pull behind a riding mower.
- Mulch your leaves. Many mowers can mulch leaves with an attachment. Since mulching with a mower can mix grass clippings with leaf particles, these nitrogen-rich grass particles and carbon-rich leaf particles will compost more quickly. Together, they return nutrients to the soil.
- Trim and shore up trees and bushes. Use trimmers, chainsaws or pole pruners to cut back trees, shrubs and plants. Make sure branches are safely trimmed back from overhead lines, and not in danger of falling on a structure in winter weather. You may need to tie or brace limbs of upright evergreens or plants to prevent them from breaking in high winds or snow. Call a professional arborist for big trees or hard to reach spots.
- Repair bald spots. Fall is a great time to patch bald or thin spots in a lawn. The easiest way to do this is with an all-in-one lawn repair mixture (found at most garden shops and home centers). Use a garden rake or de-thatcher to scratch loose the soil on the spot.
Kiser also said it is important to follow safety procedures whenever using outdoor power equipment.
“Read your owner’s manual,” he added. “It will describe the individual requirements for your particular machine, and will provide directions on which fuels may be appropriate for your product. You may begin to see fuels higher than 10% ethanol being offered soon, so, remember ‘look before you pump.’” Fuels containing more than 10% ethanol — such as E15 (15% ethanol) — should not be used in outdoor power equipment unless directed in the owner’s manual. Most gas-fueled outdoor power equipment is warranted and designed to run on E10 (10% ethanol) fuel or less.
“And, drain fuel tanks before storing equipment for the winter,” he said. “Fuel more than 30 days old isn’t good for machines. Also service and winterize your lawn mower, string trimmer, leaf blower, and other outdoor power equipment before storing so it’s ready to get jobs done.”
It isn’t always obvious to buyers how the spaces in a home are intended to be utilized. Solid staging can help, but there’s good reason to take the extra steps to stage the outdoor “living room,” as well.
Outdoor spaces are quickly becoming one of the most coveted home features for buyers. They expand living space without expensive renovations, offer a relaxing respite from everyday stress, provide a safe place for kids and pets to play, and create an oasis for entertaining guests.
5 ways to stage the outdoor living room
- Declutter & Clean
Just as with indoor staging, the first step to sprucing up the outdoor living room is to clear dirt and clutter from the space. Store lawn equipment, children’s toys, and pet play things in a shed or garage. Have clients stash lawn ornaments and yard art, especially anything that is personalized. (After all, the goal is to get buyers to envision themselves in the space.) Thin out furniture and patio accessories to make the space look larger. Finally, give the entire area a good scrub down, sweeping away dust and debris to create a fresh, clean canvas.
- Invite the Outdoors In
Blending interior and outdoor living spaces helps the exterior area feel like an extension of the home, not an afterthought. Ensure blinds and curtains are open to the family yard, highlighting the outdoor oasis before the potential buyer even steps through the backdoor. If the weather is nice during a showing, leave sliding patio or French doors open to illustrate just the space’s seamlessness. Finally, ensure the indoor and outdoor décor complement one another by working with your client to utilize similar colors, materials and styles both inside and out.
- Create Cozy Sitting Areas
Help your clients arrange their outdoor furniture in a way that invites buyers to sit down and envision themselves enjoying the seller’s backyard. Leave a cold pitcher of iced tea or fresh-squeezed lemonade on the outdoor dining table for this very purpose. Create easy traffic flow throughout the outdoor living room, while offering a number of places for people to sit – at a table, around a fire pit, or in a cozy chair configuration. Also, offer some shade by using umbrellas or outdoor curtains to minimize sun glare and maximize visions of enjoyment in the outdoor living room.
- Soften the Outdoor Space
Introducing a few soft design features into the outdoor area to create an inviting atmosphere. Rugs, throw pillows and upholstered patio furniture are a few ways to accomplish a “cozy” feel. Ensure these items are looking fresh and clean and not worn and dated. It’s relatively inexpensive to swap out new pillows and rugs. Create outdoor ambiance by hanging string lighting, introducing a fire pit in the center of a patio, setting up a zen-like water feature, or adding candles, small plants and freshly-cut flowers to tabletops.
- Utilize Living Landscapes
Nothing says “welcome home” quite like a beautiful living landscape, complete with flowering shrubs, trees, flowers, and other vegetation. Encourage clients to freshen up their family yard by weeding, mulching and planting flower beds and pots with colorful flowers and verdant plants. Vases of flowers can also help bring life – and a pop of color – to outdoor tablescapes.
For more tips, go to http://www.livinglandscapesmatter.com/landscapes-home-investment/.
It’s no secret that curb appeal has a big impact on a buyer’s impression of a home. But summer heat and dry conditions can take a toll on the family yard – and the chances of catching a buyer’s eye. Here are some tips to help sellers keep their lawns looking good throughout the summer.
- Save water for more delicate plantings. Flowering plants may require a little more water during drier conditions. That’s okay since these plants are vital to our birds, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators.
- Avoid over-watering. Too much water is actually bad for grass, in particular. 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.
- Know when to water. Most lawns require about an inch of water per week to stay healthy. Water deeply early in the day. Moisture can be more efficiently absorbed by the lawn’s root system during the cooler part of the day.
- Keep grass and shrubs growing. Trim back shrubs when the temperatures aren’t sky high. Set the mower to trim turfgrass a little bit higher. Longer blades give more shade and grass roots extend deeper into the soil. This helps limit weeds and the lawn retains moisture better. Dense turf requires less water, too.
- Sharpen mower blades. Dull blades can cause grass to fray, and frayed grass is far more likely to brown. A sharp blade is always important, but it’s critical to lawn care during hot summer months.
- Practice grasscycling. Instead of bagging grass clippings, encourage sellers to use a mulching mower and return grass clippings back to the lawn. This will help trap moisture, keeping the lawn cooler and better hydrated. It also saves some time and energy for busy sellers!
For more tips, go to http://www.livinglandscapesmatter.com/landscapes-home-investment/.
Suggested Social Media Posts
- DYK? Too much water is bad for grass. Watering less makes the grass work harder, growing its roots deeper into the soil, which improves its ability to trap carbon and release oxygen. #LivingLandscapes #BeyondBeautiful #BackyardReady
- #CurbAppeal tip! Most lawns require about an inch of water per week to stay healthy. Water deeply, early in the day for a yard that will catch buyers’ attention. #LivingLandscapes #BeyondBeautiful #BackyardReady
- #CurbAppeal tip! You should trim shrubs when the temps aren’t sky high. #LivingLandscapes #BackyardReady #CurbAppeal #BeyondBeautiful
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!
Tip #1: 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.
Tip #2. 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?
Tip #3: 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?
Tip #4: 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.
Tip #5: 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.
Tip #6: 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.
Tip #7. 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.
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.
No matter where you live, storm preparedness is important. Hurricanes, floods and summer storms can damage property, endanger lives, and slow down the sales cycle for sellers. The preparations sellers make ahead of volatile weather can help them stay safer, recover faster, and get their property ready for market more quickly after a natural disaster.
Ten questions to ask to be better prepared
- What equipment will you need during and after a storm? Survey your property. Consider the damage a storm might cause and make a list of what tools might be needed to weather the storm or make repairs afterwards. You might need a chainsaw, pole pruner, generator, or UTV. Take time to think through a strategy for clean-up efforts.
- What outdoor power equipment do you already have and what condition is it in? Make sure equipment is in good working order. If needed, take your equipment to an authorized service center for maintenance or repair.
- Where is your safety gear for operating the equipment? Avoid the scramble for sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing, flashlights with working batteries and work gloves. Round them up now and store them in an accessible area with your equipment.
- Did you review the owner’s manuals for your equipment? Know your machine. The key is to read and understand the owner’s manual. The same kind of machine will vary by manufacturer. Read product manuals to ensure you know how to operate your equipment safely. If you don’t have the printed manuals on hand, you can look them up online. Save an electronic version to your computer for reference.
- Do you have the right fuel on hand for your outdoor power equipment? Fuel stations may be closed after a storm, so it’s important to have the proper fuel for your equipment. Store your fuel in an approved container. Use the type of fuel recommended by your equipment manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10% ethanol in outdoor power equipment (for more information on proper fueling for outdoor power equipment visit www.LookBeforeYouPump.com).
- Do you know basic safety precautions? There are some fundamental safety tips everyone should follow year-round. For instance, observe the safety zone, which means keeping bystanders and power lines (those above you and any that might have fallen down) at least 50 feet away from your work area. Also, if using a chainsaw, understand kickback, which may happen when the moving chain at the tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. Always stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you are angled away from the blade. Hold the chainsaw with both hands. Never over-reach or cut anything above your shoulder height. Always have a planned retreat path if something falls. Read more about chainsaw safety.
- If using a portable generator, do you know to use it safely and have a place outside for it to run? Generators should never be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home or garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. It should have plenty of ventilation. Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rainy or wet conditions. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.
- If you have a UTV do all operators in your home know how to drive it with caution? It’s important that anyone operating the vehicle know how to follow safety procedures. Keep the vehicle stable and drive slowly. Do not turn the vehicle mid-slope or while on a hill.
- Do you know how to safely use a pump to remove water after a flood? Never operate a centrifugal pump without water in the pump casing. A self-priming pump creates a partial vacuum by purging air from the intake hose and pump casing. All self-priming pumps require water to be added to the pump casing to start the priming process.
- Is everyone in your home or business aware of safety procedures when outdoor power equipment is in use? Keep bystanders, children and animals out of your work area. Do not allow other people near outdoor power equipment when starting the equipment or using it.
For more safety tips for outdoor power equipment visit http://opei.org/safety-tips/
Suggested Social Media Posts
- Are you prepared to weather the next storm, hurricane, or flood? Check out this @OPEInstitute infographic for tips. https://bit.ly/2zFz7MZ #LivingLandscapes #BeyondBeautiful #BackyardReady
- How can sellers be safe before and after a storm, hurricane, or flood? Check out the new infographic from @OPEInstitute for tips. https://bit.ly/2zFz7MZ #LivingLandscapes #BeyondBeautiful #BackyardReady
- When it comes to natural disasters, preparation is key. Check out this @OPEInstitute infographic for tips. https://bit.ly/2zFz7MZ #LivingLandscapes #BackyardReady #CurbAppeal #BeyondBeautiful