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
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.
Spring is here. Finally. After the 2018 winter season that hit parts of the United States, new homeowners may be itching to get outside and spend time in the family yard. Having the right outdoor power equipment, like lawn mowers, chain saws, generators, edgers and trimmer and more ensure you have the tools to get “backyard ready.”
“The right outdoor power equipment can be your best friend when you start to work in your family yard—not to mention the best friend of the neighborhood,” says Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “If you have a yard, you have a playground, but only if it’s ready for that outdoor living and recreation.”
How outdoor power equipment powers good
- Plain and simple, outdoor power equipment makes the yard. The right equipment makes it easier than ever to create and take care of a great living landscape. You might not even break a sweat with the right equipment. Make mowing, trimming, and pruning a little easier with some of today’s ergonomic, super-charged mowers, trimmers, edgers, and chainsaws.
- Outdoor power equipment saves you time. Doing things outside is fun, and using some of the latest equipment will make sure grass is mowed, trees and shrubs are pruned, and borders are edged efficiently and quickly. After all, you have games and barbeques to attend and friends and family to meet (or invite over!). The right equipment can help you quickly take care of outdoor tasks, so you can have more time to enjoy your outdoor family room and relax.
- The latest and greatest outdoor equipment innovation can make you the envy of neighbors and family. Today’s outdoor power equipment is powered in a variety of ways from solar to battery and electric, from propane to gasoline. Your neighbors may be jealous if they see you lounging on the front porch with a cold drink watching your robotic mower trim the grass – but don’t let it bother you. Enjoy the time outside and encourage them to check it out.
- The right equipment at the right time can also win you the Most Popular Neighbor award. Be the person who can whip out a chainsaw when the tree falls across the road, or fire up a snow thrower to help clear driveways and cul-de-sacs with ease (just be sure to use safety precautions, too). Your house will be the most popular one in the neighborhood during a power outage if you have a generator and let your neighbors charge their phones and borrow space in your refrigerator.
- Storms may wreak havoc, but outdoor power equipment makes sure your life and work aren’t interrupted. Engine-powered water pumps can help dry out homes after a flood or powerful rainstorm. When the lights go out, generators go to work and keep the house humming with light and power.
Outdoor power equipment not only helps you handle your personal green space, but it also supports our first responders. You can rest easy they have the tools to get jobs done. Generators, chainsaws, Jaws of Life, utility terrain vehicles and more help those who are injured and hurt every day. The efforts of our firefighters, utility contractors and those who work for nonprofit organizations like Team Rubicon, AmeriCorps Disaster Response Teams, are all amplified with the help of outdoor power equipment.
Follow hashtag #PoweringGood to learn more about people making a difference with their outdoor power equipment. Go to www.opei.org for safety tips and more information on outdoor power equipment.
Suggested Social Media Posts
- Did you know you have a hidden hero in your garage that can help you make friends at your new home? Learn more from @OPEInstitute. https://bit.ly/2Iu5pdH #PoweringGood #LivingLandscapes #BeyondBeautiful #BackyardReady
- Moving into a new community? The right equipment at the right time can win you the “Most Popular Neighbor” award. Find out how from @OPEInstitute. https://bit.ly/2Iu5pdH #PoweringGood #LivingLandscapes #BeyondBeautiful #BackyardReady
- Storms may wreak havoc at your new home, but outdoor power equipment makes sure your life and work aren’t interrupted. Find out how from @OPEInstitute. https://bit.ly/2Iu5pdH #PoweringGood #LivingLandscapes #BackyardReady #CurbAppeal #BeyondBeautiful
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.