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.
Curb appeal is about more than just the first impression a property makes. Since we’ve all been spending more time at home and in the safe space of our backyards, people intimately understand the value of the yard as a place for children and pets to play, an extension of the home’s living space, and a natural setting in which to de-stress. This trend of“backyarding” makes the family yard more important than ever before.
Here are six ways sellers can improve curb appeal this spring to help buyers visualize the “backyarding” potential at their home.
Spring Clean: It’s likely your yard needs a good clean-up after the winter. A leaf blower will make quick work of clearing debris from flowerbeds, yards, and mulched areas under your trees. You should also fix bare patches in the grass and add a fresh layer of mulch to create a neat-looking outdoor space.
Keep Safety in Mind: Before you use your mower and any other outdoor power equipment, refresh yourself on handling and safety procedures. Follow all guidelines, and familiarize yourself with the controls. If you have lost your manual, look it up online (and save a copy on your computer for easy reference next time).
Mow Your Lawn: A carpet of grass is inviting for potential buyers and creates a crisp backdrop for the rest of your living landscape choices. Proper mowing helps create a more beautiful, lower-maintenance, and 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 families with little feet and paws to consider.
Trim Bushes & Trees: Use a trimmer, chainsaw or pole pruner to cut back any shrubs, bushes, or trees that have gotten overgrown during the winter. Create a polished look by using an edger to form a clean boundary between the lawn and walkways.
Remember: Right Plant, Right Place: Plant colorful spring flowers in flowerbeds, along fence lines, and in patio containers, especially near the front door. Remember the “Golden Rule” of living landscapes, and put the right plants in the right place. Selecting plants that are native to your climate zone (refer to the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map) ensures you select species that are adapted to thrive in your location. Native plants require less water and less upkeep.
Plant for Pollinators & Wildlife: Selecting native plants of different varieties that will bloom throughout the year will also attract local pollinators and wildlife to the yard and will add an extra-special touch to showings when they start back up. Our yards are an important part of the connected ecosystem providing much-needed food and shelter for pollinators, such as birds, bees, butterflies, bats, and other creatures. The Audubon Society’s database can help determine which birds will be attracted to which plants in your region so you can make good choices about what to plant.
To learn more, go to TurfMutt.com.
No one knows and appreciates spending time in the family yard (a.k.a. “backyarding”) like the family dog. During the pandemic, pet ownership has increased, and pets have provided companionship, consistency and joy to families over the last year especially.
According to science, pet ownership is good for us. Dog owners are also more likely to engage in moderate to physical activity, walking an average of 300 minutes per week compared to 168 minutes per week for those without a dog. Also, a review of studies by the American Heart Association found that dog ownership was associated with a 24 percent risk reduction for all-cause mortality as compared to non-ownership.
A Realtor.com survey indicates that three-fourths of home buyers would pass up on their dream home if it wasn’t right for their pet. Furthermore, pet owners say a large yard (45 percent) and outdoor space (36 percent) were the most important home features.
So how can Realtors® get buyers thinking about a backyard that does more for their family pet? The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) offers these suggestions.
Focus on grass. Grass is one of the best ground coverings around because it can handle the wear and tear that comes with pets. Bermuda and buffalo grass are especially hardy varieties, though your buyer should install a variety that is right for their climate zone. This is the environmentally friendly choice, and it saves on water usage.
Sell the shade. Dogs need a place to relax away from the sun after a day of play. A tree or bush can provide the perfect respite.
Address activity areas. It’s a good idea for pet parents to train their dogs to do their business in a certain area of the yard. Sturdy, yet soft foliage can create a natural barricade between that space and the rest of the lawn. Shrubs make a pretty – and effective – barrier for vegetable gardens and flower beds.
Point out pet potential. Not every yard is set up to pamper a pet, but point out the potential to create a pet paradise. Is there room to build a pergola for additional shade? Could a fence easily be installed? Maybe there’s a perfect spot for a shallow water feature that could help hot pets cool off. A canine obstacle course can provide hours of fun if the space is available to install one.
Look for hazards. Pets don’t know the difference between plants that are okay for them and those that are not. 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 non-toxic and toxic plants.
To learn more go to TurfMutt.com.
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.