A yard is something many new homeowners look forward to when they purchase a property. After all, it’s a place to make memories with family and friends, to let kids and the family dog play safely, and to customize to individual needs and desires. But there are some mistakes that are easy for new homeowners to make. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) shares the most common pitfalls and offers advice on how to avoid them.
- Not having the right equipment for the space.
Make sure the lawn mower is the right size for the new lawn. If the lot at the new property is more wooded, a chainsaw and/or hedge trimmer that the buyer doesn’t have yet may be required. Or perhaps a homeowner is moving from an apartment to a single-family home for the first time and needs all new equipment.
- Choosing the wrong plants.
Homeowners need to consider the micro-climate so their living landscapes thrive. Check the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map (https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/) to determine which plants will do best in the new location.
- Not considering lifestyle needs.
Homeowners also need to consider their lifestyle when selecting and placing their living landscapes. Those who travel frequently will want to choose low-maintenance plants, flowers and shrubs. Homeowners with a family and/or pets need a large area of sturdy turfgrass for running and playing. Pro tip: plants can be used strategically to designate “activity zones” in the yard – separating a children’s play area from the dining space, for example.
- Watering incorrectly.
Plants will grow stronger and work harder – creating deeper, healthier roots – if they have to seek out water. Watering deeply, but less frequently, allows moisture to reach the roots of the grass and trees. Also, watering early in the morning reduces excess evaporation. Those who want to take the guesswork out of watering should install soil moisture sensors and drip irrigation systems.
- Cutting the grass too short.
Proper mowing helps create a lower-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn. Preferred length varies by grass type, but the general rule of thumb is to cut only the top third of the grass blades off at any given time. Taller grass blades shade the soil and keep it cooler, helping control weeds. Taller grass is also softer to walk on – important for little feet and paws.
To learn more about how to care for living landscapes and to learn how they benefit our health and well-being, go to SaveLivingLandscapes.com.
Spring has arrived and Easter morning will be here before we know it. Families nationwide will be in their yards and seeking perfect Easter photo opportunity. Get your lawn in shape with a few tips from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), is an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.
“You want to spruce up your lawn before the kids are out there hunting for eggs,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI. “If you tidy up the lawn before Easter morning, they’ll have a great time and you’ll get better pictures,. And, a great lawn, starts with a great trim.”
Here are a few tips to help:
- Tidy the yard. Remove leaves, branches, and sticks. Make sure pathways are clear and ready for foot traffic and mowing. Clean up playsets and other items that spent the winter outside.
- Assess the lawn’s condition. Look for dog poop, holes in the ground, pests, or other hazards—and remove or repair them. Spring is the time to fix bare patches in the lawn by re-seeding or re-sodding. Remove thatch (decaying items like leaves, grassroots and stem accumulation) so nutrients and water can reach grass roots, and disease and pests are discouraged from nesting.
- Plan where the Easter egg hunt will be. Use rope, tape or ribbon to mark boundaries so children know where they can go. You’ll want to avoid having excited little feet trample any bare lawn patches you are re-seeding or repairing, so avoid these areas if you can. Most grass varieties are hardy and can withstand foot traffic, but keep more delicate plants, such as flower beds, from eager hands and feet.
- Cut your grass a few days in advance. Your lawn will benefit from the clippings being left behind on the grass, so it’s better to cut a couple of days before the egg hunt so clippings dry and don’t stick to the eggs. Use a freshly sharpened mower blade, for a clean cut, and always mow to the recommended height for the grass variety you have,, the season, and the growing conditions. Proper mowing, including choosing the correct height of grass, creates a low-maintenance, more drought-tolerant lawn.
- Keep by-standers indoors while mowing (and hiding eggs). Children and pets should be inside and supervised when any outdoor power equipment is being used. Plus it will be easier to keep the egg hunt a secret from your kids—and curious pets!
- Hide with safety in mind. Consider your child’s age when selecting hiding locations for the eggs. Young children will run around the lawn and find eggs. Older children might need more complexity such as hiding eggs in shrubbery.
For more outdoor power equipment tips, go to www.opei.org.
A growing body of scientific evidence proves getting outside (i.e. being an “outsider”) is good for our health and well-being. Exploring and appreciating nature – in our own backyards, community parks, and schoolyards – reduces stress, improves memory, boosts heart health, and offers a host of other benefits for our minds and bodies.
“Having a living landscape of grass, trees, shrubs, and flowering plants is good. Using this outdoor space to reap the health benefits it offers is even better,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), whose Foundation created TurfMutt an environmental education and stewardship program that teaches the value and benefits of the outdoors. “Getting outside, even for just 10 minutes, can do much to boost your mood, productivity, and quality of life.”
On its 10th Anniversary, TurfMutt shares 10 easy ways you can enjoy nature in under 10 minutes.
- Take a walk. Lace up your athletic shoes and head out for a walk around the block or to your neighborhood park. While you’re out, commit to turning off your cell phone and enjoying the natural setting around you (it’s just 10 minutes, after all!).
- Get your kids moving. A rousing game of tag or hide and seek in the family yard is a great way to counter computer and screen time.
- Play with your dog. A dog’s favorite “room” of the house is your family yard. Take inspiration from your pooch and spend a few minutes outside playing Frisbee or fetch.
- Clean up your outdoor living room. Make simple work of yard chores by breaking them up into smaller chunks. Ten minutes is enough time to put a serious dent in weeding a flower bed, sweeping off the back patio, or picking up debris from your lawn.
- Plant something. It is spring planting season, so take 10 minutes to dig a hole and introduce a new plant or get started on your vegetable garden or flower beds.
- Dine al fresco. Taking a meal outside is one of the easiest – and most nourishing – ways to enjoy the outdoor space around you. Have breakfast with the backyard birds. Lunch at a park near your office. Enjoy your coffee break under a shade tree.
- Study or read a book. Take the “work” out of homework by moving study or reading sessions to your backyard or community green space.
- Swap a (short) commute for walking or biking. Do you typically use your car to run down to the mailbox, to a nearby convenience store, or to run other nearby daily errands? If it’s not too far, take a short walk or ride your bike instead.
- Meet outside. Fresh air can be a catalyst for fresh ideas, so take your next brainstorming session for work outdoors. Need to have a heart-to-heart with your child? Scientists have discovered that communication between parents and children is more connected when conducted outside.
- Sit back and relax. Sometimes the best thing to do is absolutely nothing at all. Spend some time in a hammock, spread a blanket out on the grass, or take a meditation break outside to soak up the nature around you.
Autumn may be here, but your lawn still requires care. The drought in the West has taken a serious toll on lawns throughout the region and they are showing signs of stress. Here are a few tips to help you keep your yard in top form and delivering these health benefits for you and your community:
Tip #1: Let your grass go brown. Grass grows in cycles, “turning on and off,” based on the resources it gets. As water becomes less available, grass will slow down, go dormant and turn brown.
Tip #2: Don’t Over Water. It may be tempting to give your thirsty lawn a heavy duty drink, but stick with what the experts recommend. Make your grass work hard for its water. Grass gets lazy if you water it too much and sends its roots horizontally. With little water, grass will send its roots deeper, vertically, seeking water. Having to work harder, makes grass do a better job of sequestering carbon and releasing oxygen.
Tip #3: Plant the Right Grass. Fall can be a good time of year to transition to a more drought-friendly grass variety in your yard. Hundreds of varieties of turfgrass exist, and some of them are perfect for drought conditions. When established, these grasses require very little water and also will survive foot traffic, children’s play and pets.
Tip #4: Add Pollinators. Your lawn is an ecosystem, and pollinators are a key part of its life cycle. Even in the desert, a host of plants flower. Add pollinator plants for bees, butterflies, and humming birds if you haven’t already.
Tip #5: Mix Native Plants and Drought-Resistant Adaptive Species in Your Lawn. We no live longer in a native environment. We live in cities and suburbs where we must incorporate both native plants and drought-resistant adaptive plants to offset the concrete, asphalt, people and traffic.
Tip #6: Educate yourself on the benefits of your landscape. Living landscapes provide you and your community with a host of benefits. Turfgrasses, like those found in your lawn, dissipate radiant heat through a process called evapotranspiration, helping to cool urban “heat islands.”
Grass also improves air quality and sequesters carbon, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that contributes to the greenhouse gas effect. Your lawn also produces oxygen. A turf area 50′ x 50′ will produce enough oxygen to meet the daily needs of a family of four. Grass also captures and filters water run-off and rainfall too, removing harmful pollutants.
With a little care, your yard can continue providing these benefits for you and your community. While many people feel pressured to rip out their lawns and deaden their landscapes with mulch, gravel and plastic grass, the reality is that a living lawn offers a host of benefits. Even in a drought you can have grass and other living plants; you just have to choose the right kind of lawn and care for it properly.
Studies show that green space and landscaping contribute to health, happiness, and intellect.
It’s natural to long for spring when our yards, parks and other natural spaces bloom. Did you know, there’s a good reason you may pine for green? Living landscapes are an important part of the outdoor lifestyle that Americans enjoy, but the benefits go beyond the barbeque and backyard baseball. Green spaces are necessary for your health.
“The advantages of grass and landscaping surpass the usual physical benefits that result from outdoor activity,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “Numerous studies have found that people who spend more time outside or are exposed to living landscapes are happier, healthier and smarter.”
Researchers have studied the impact of nature on human well-being for years, but recent studies have found a more direct correlation between human health, particularly related to stress, and the importance of people’s access to nature and managed landscapes.
Getting dirty is actually good for you. Soil is the new Prozac, according to Dr. Christopher Lowry, a neuroscientist at the University of Bristol in England. Mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors the effect on neurons that Prozac provides. The bacterium stimulates serotonin production, which explains why people who spend time gardening and have direct contact with soil feel more relaxed and happier.
Living near living landscapes can improve your mental health. Researchers in England found that people moving to greener areas experienced an immediate improvement in mental health that was sustained for at least three years after they moved. The study also showed that people relocating to a more developed area suffered a drop in mental health.
Green spaces can make you healthier too. People who live within a half mile of green space (such parks, public gardens, and greenways) were found to have a lower incidence of fifteen diseases by Dutch researchers — including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and migraines. A 2015 study found that people living on streets with more trees had a boost in heart and metabolic health.
Living landscapes make you smarter. Children gain attention and working memory benefits when they are exposed to greenery, says a study led by Payam Dadvand of the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, In addition, exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in children.
This applies to adults as well. Research has also shown that being around plants helps you concentrate better at home and at work. Charlie Hall, Ellison Chair in International Floriculture believes that spending time in gardens can improve attention span and memory performance by as much as 20 percent.
A National Institute of Health study found that adults demonstrate significant cognitive gains after going on a nature walk. In addition, a Stanford University study found that walking in nature, rather than a concrete-oriented, urban environment, resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and produced cognitive benefits, such as increased working memory performance.
Living landscapes help you heal faster. Multiple studies have discovered that plants in hospital recovery rooms or views of aesthetically-pleasing gardens help patients heal up to one day faster than those who are in more sterile or austere environments.
All of these benefits reinforce the importance of maintaining our yards, parks and other community green spaces. Trees, shrubs, grass, and flowering plants are integral to human health. Not only do they provide a place for kids and pets to play, they directly contribute to our mental and physical well-being.