Backyarding. Yes, it’s a word. The pandemic thrust us into a new reality, and the backyard has a starring role. With limitations on where we can go, how we can gather, and who we can connect with, our yards and other managed landscapes became a safe haven. Backyarding became a way of life as lawns, gardens, patios and decks evolved into outdoor offices, classrooms, family gathering places, and the new ‘hot spots’ in our neighborhoods.
“Your own backyard is nearly limitless with possibilities. Homeowners got really creative as they expanded and enjoyed their yards over the last year,” said Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and the TurfMutt Foundation. “We predict, long after this pandemic passes, our yards will become an even greater part of our lives. The notion of ‘backyarding’ is here to stay.”
In 2020, home improvements – many of them in the backyard – skyrocketed. So did the demand for outdoor power equipment as homeowners invested in making their outdoor spaces fabulous, functional and flourishing. Overall, shipments of outdoor power equipment increased 16 percent in 2020.
“Expect people to continue to invest in their outdoor life this coming spring,” said Kiser. “Many homeowners who put time and effort into their landscapes last year will be rewarded when that yard comes back to life this spring. But, even if you did little last year, it’s never too late to start – just start.”
Here are some ways to bring more “backyarding” into your life:
- Invest in your yard. Design the lawn and garden of your dreams. Consider its purpose. Don’t design just for aesthetics. Do you have kids and pets who need a place to play? Will you be hosting safe gatherings? Do you need a place for rest and relaxation and/or games and recreation?
- Get the whole family involved. Create a game or a friendly competition with your family to help identify all the ways you can move your indoor life to the great outdoors – and right out your backdoor. Can you take office calls and video meetings to the patio or porch? Can your kids do their online learning outdoors? How often can you take dining outside? Keeping safety in mind, can you gather outdoors for family celebrations, birthdays, graduations and reunions?
- Plant something—as early as you can. (Or plant more). Adding trees, bushes, grass and flowering plants is a good yard investment, but they often take time to grow. Plant as early as recommended so you can enjoy the benefits faster. Just remember ”right plant, right place.” Location, maintenance, sunlight and watering needs should all be considered, as well as your climate zone.
- Stretch winter-weary muscles. Take workouts, yoga classes and meditation sessions outdoors. You also can let off some steam by mowing the grass, trimming the hedges, or edging the lawn. Working in the yard not only helps our living landscapes look better and stay healthy, it also gives us a sense of accomplishment and control in trying times.
- Plan a staycation. A make-shift “resort” or vacation spot could be just out your back door. Pitch a tent, build a campfire, hang a sheet between trees to make a movie screen, set up games – these are just a few ideas to make the backyard a vacation spot.
- “Level up” nature care. Add flowering plants, trees and shrubs to give wildlife and pollinators food and shelter. Your yard is part of the larger ecosystem, so check your climate zone for landscaping options that support your birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. Don’t forget to take time to just sit and drink it in, observing the wildlife and nature around you.
Research shows simply spending time in nature – which starts in your backyard – is good for reducing stress, boosting heart health, boosting Vitamin D levels, and enhancing memory. Thanks to your yard, the health and well-being benefits of being outside are just a few steps away.
verb: the act of using the family yard to safely engage in everyday activities, including but not limited to: social gatherings, celebrating milestones/holidays, working, studying, playing, exercising, relaxing.
Source: The TurfMutt Foundation
To learn more, go to TurfMutt.com.
Pets are an important part of the family and a big consideration for many seeking a new home, perhaps now more than ever before since a growing number of families have used their time at home to adopt and foster a family pet. Research shows that during the coronavirus pandemic, pets have provided companionship, consistency and joy to pet owners.
Just as the winter months can be tough on people, there are also some potential pet problems that guardians of pets should keep in mind. Follow these tips from the TurfMutt Foundation to keep your furry friends safe this winter.
Manage outdoor activities. The safest, most comfortable place for your pets is inside with you. When temperatures dip below freezing or during severe weather, it’s imperative you keep pets indoors with you and make trips outside shorter.
Offer a warm place for your pet to rest inside. A pet bed works perfectly, just make sure it stays clean and dry.
Don’t cut your dog’s fur in the wintertime. Your pet’s winter coat is a natural barrier from the harsh, cold elements.
Consider a canine coat. Dogs with lots of fur probably don’t need an extra layer to go on walks in the winter. But smaller dogs and those with shorter coats may be more comfortable in a dog sweater or jacket.
Check for frostbite. After bathroom breaks and walks, check your pet’s ears, paws and tail for any sign of frostbite or ice and snow build up in the paw pads.
Wipe down after walks. Keep a dry, clean towel handy to wipe down your pet’s legs, belly and paws after each outdoor excursion. Ice-melt chemicals can irritate their skin and cause serious illness if ingested.
Be careful with chemicals. Antifreeze smells and tastes sweet to pets, but it’s toxic to them. Quickly clean up any spills, and consider using a brand made from non-toxic propylene glycol instead.
Keep your pet hydrated. Ensure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean water to drink. Winter air is dry!
Clear a path. Use a snow thrower to make quick work of snow removal and create a path to your pet’s bathroom area. Always keep kids and pets away from the equipment.
Don’t leave your pet in a cold car. It’s just as dangerous to leave a pet in a cold car during winter months as it is to leave them in a hot car in the summertime.
To learn more about the benefits of spending time outside for pets and people during all seasons, go to TurfMutt.com.
Winter can be tough on people in the best of times, but it is particularly challenging during a global pandemic. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, the outdoors – including our yards, parks, and sports fields – were critical for buoying our mental well-being, physical health and enabling us to safely connect with others.
For a decade the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program has advocated the importance of managed landscapes and other green space as critical to human health and happiness. Mutt Mulligan (a.k.a. Mo-Mo), as the spokesdog for the TurfMutt Foundation, knows that nature escapes are just as important in the wintertime as they are when the weather is warmer.
“No one enjoys being outside as much as the family dog, though we all gained a new appreciation for our yards and community parks over the last year as we used the outdoors to get away from our screens and connect with one another and nature,” says Kris Kiser, President of the TurfMutt Foundation and The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “Getting outside in the winter takes a little more preparation and planning, but there is no reason to abandon it. In fact, there are many reasons why it is a good idea to continue going outside throughout the winter.”
As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices. Here are seven reasons why Mo-Mo encourages you to bundle up in moisture-wicking layers and don your coat, hat, gloves and snow boots to get outside for your health and well-being.
Outdoor time elevates moods. Exposure to natural light – even in the shorter days of winter – raises levels of serotonin, the body’s “happy chemical.” Sunlight is also a good way to get a natural dose of vitamin D, which is good for your bones and immune system.
Memories Improve. Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study that revealed walking in a natural setting versus an urban one improved recall ability by nearly 20 percent.
Reconnecting and recharging outdoor is safe. Unplugging from your computer, smartphone and television is important even when it’s cold out and can be accomplished by simply going outside. Epidemiologists agree outside is still the safest place to gather (socially distanced, of course). Add a patio heater or fire pit to your backyard to make it even cozier.
Activity boosts immunity. According to MedlinePlus, exercise helps decrease your risk for heart disease, maintains bone health and can help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways.
More calories are burned in the cold. Being outside in the wintertime requires your body to work harder to keep you warm. Consequently, you burn more calories. Engage in a friendly snowball fight with your kids or take a walk with Fido to the park to rev up your metabolism and have a little fun along the way.
It doesn’t take long to reap nature’s benefits. Here’s a bit of good news for cold days. A study from the University of Michigan concluded that spending just 20 minutes in a natural setting reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Taking care of your yard in the wintertime is a good way to log some time outside and it helps prepare it for spring. Just remember if you’re using a snow thrower, chainsaw or other outdoor power equipment to do some of the heavy lifting this year, read the owner’s manual first and abide by all safety precautions.
In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, many buyers are looking for bigger homes with larger yards. A recent study released by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) indicated that outdoor space was one of the top features that have gained importance during the pandemic.
It’s not surprising. After all, the family yard continues to be a safe place for people to get outside, breathe in fresh air, de-stress, and reconnect with family, friends, and nature. As this information from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) illustrates, there are many benefits of the family yard during the pandemic…and beyond.
Connect to people & pets. The family yard is a safe place to connect with friends and family, including the furry, four-legged ones. More than ever, our personal green space has become a canvas for memory-making as people mark milestones, celebrate holidays, and gather with friends and family (from a safe social distance), all from the comfort and safety of the yard.
Nature oasis. Connecting to nature doesn’t need to entail a road trip to a national park. Nature starts right outside your backdoor. Take a break from Zoom meetings, screen time and feeling cooped up by bundling up and spending some time in your yard. Listen to the birds. Take a few refreshing deep breaths. Look up at the sky. You can even use your outdoor time as meditation time.
Health & well-being boost. Science has proven that simply spending time outside is good for human health and well-being – important as we seek creative ways to stay well while staying closer to home. A Stanford University study found that walking in nature resulted in decreased anxiety and stress while at the same time increasing working memory performance.
Environmental superhero. Backyards help the planet since grass, trees, shrubs and flowers are part of the living landscape, which is an environmental superhero. Yards capture and filter rainwater, produce oxygen, absorb carbon, capture dust and particulate matter, reduce soil erosion and mitigate the heat island effect.
Connected ecosystem. Birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and other creatures are critical to our food supply and a healthy environment. Yards are an important part of the connected ecosystem providing much-needed food and shelter for backyard wildlife, year-round. By becoming a steward of your yard, you are helping preserving your own corner of the overall ecosystem.
For more information about the benefits of the living landscape, go to TurfMutt.com.
With the pandemic keeping people sheltering at home, more people are extending their outdoor time in the winter by adding fire pits, outdoor heaters and other features. Even in the wintertime, it’s important to take care of your yard. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, portable generator, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, offers tips to keep your yard in top shape for winter use.
Stop trimming your lawn once it freezes. Trim your grass to the height recommended for your lawn variety before it freezes. Cutting your grass too short can leave it dry and exposes it to the elements, not to mention insects and disease.
Add a thin layer of mulch to your lawn before it’s too cold. A thin layer of mulch can protect your grass roots from snow and frost. It can even prevent deeper layers of soil from freezing, making it easier for your lawn to bounce back in the spring.
Check your trees for dead or damaged limbs. Removing dead or damaged limbs before inclement weather arrives, is one way to protect your shrubs and yard from damage (not to mention people and pets!).Snow and ice can weigh heavily on dead branches and make them snap and fall. Remove any dead branches carefully with clippers, a chainsaw or pole pruner, following safety precautions. Consult an arborist for problematic trees.
Mark pathways to clear and beds to avoid. Mark the areas that you will need to clear of snow and ice, as well as areas you want to avoid, like flower beds. Stakes or sticks can help. When it’s time to run your snow thrower, you won’t accidentally cut a path through the lawn and can stick to your walkways. Always follow manufacturer’s safety procedures and never put your hand inside the snow thrower. Always use a clean out tool or stick to clear a clog. Be sure that children and pets are safely inside and not near outdoor power equipment while it’s being operated.
Keep new (and old) plantings well-hydrated. Many people have added trees and shrubs to their yards during the pandemic, and caring for them in the winter is still important. Plants and trees that are well-hydrated are more likely to survive a hard freeze so water well before the cold snap sticks. Newly planted trees can only survive about two weeks in the winter without water, so be sure to water any new trees you’ve added to your landscape if they aren’t getting water naturally from rain or snow. If your outside hose is already shut off for the winter, then use a bucket and add 5 gallons to the area around the tree.
Continue watering plants and trees even after the leaves drop. Older plants and trees should enter winter well-hydrated, so continue watering even after the leaves have dropped. Even in the wintertime, hardy evergreen plants continue to lose moisture through their needles and if it’s a dry winter they need supplemental water too.
Don’t shake heavy snow and ice off branches. It may be tempting for children (or adults) to wiggle those branches and watch the snow come off, but snow or ice can damage a branch. Shaking them can cause the branches to snap. It’s better to wait until the snow melts to assess the damage.
Remove damaged branches as soon as the weather allows you to do it safely. If snow or ice have snapped a limb, look at the cut and assess the damage. Try to get a clean cut on an already broken branch or limb, as this will make it more difficult for insects or disease to enter the stressed area on your tree or shrub. Follow all manufacturer’s safety precautions if using a chainsaw or pole pruner.
Be careful about salt. Salt can melt snow and ice, but it can also damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots. Keep salt applications away from your trees and shrubs. Salt should also be cleaned off pet paws following a romp outside in the snow.
Remember to get outside, even when it’s chilly. It’s good for our mental and physical well-being to spend time in our family yards and breathe in the fresh air – and it also helps us connect to each other and with nature.
To learn more, go to TurfMutt.com.