Is your yard “pet-friendly”? Fall is a great time to review your lawn and landscaping and make plans for improvements. Who better to ask for advice than a dog? Lucky the TurfMutt is a rescue dog who is “pawing it forward” by teaching children about how to take care of green spaces. But even Lucky needs a backyard break for relaxation. Here are Lucky’s fall tips for having a pet-friendly yard.
- Think about what your dog needs. Many homeowners re-assess their yards in the fall and consider where things are planted and what features they want to enhance. Pets love living landscapes and love being in your yard. What does your dog need the most in a yard? A place to romp and exercise? A place to relax in the shade for an afternoon nap?
- If you are reseeding your yard this fall, pick “dog-proof” ground coverings. Grass is one of the best ground coverings around because it can handle the wear and tear that comes with pets and children. Bermuda and buffalo grass are especially hardy, and they are drought-resistant, too. Grass also delivers great health benefits for you and your family by producing oxygen, sequestering carbon, capturing water runoff, and cleaning and filtering rain water.
- Select appropriate plants. For areas near your garden paths, select plants that have soft foliage, but are still sturdy enough to withstand a little canine “ruff”-housing. If your dog is a “plant chewer” but sure to check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants for advice on what known toxic plants to avoid. Also, don’t forget to check the climate map so you can choose the right trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants for your climate zone.
- Use barriers to keep your dog out of flower or garden beds. Now is a great time to add barriers to beds that were a challenge for your dog to avoid over the spring and summer. A low fence, rocks and other obstacles can encourage your dog to stay out.
- Avoid plastic grass. Plastic grass, also known as artificial turf, gets too hot for humans and pets, especially in summer months. A 2002 Brigham Young University study revealed that synthetic-turf surface temperatures were 37 degrees higher than asphalt and 86 degrees hotter than natural turf [source]. A 2012 Penn State study found it wasn’t uncommon for temperatures on plastic grass to surpass 150 degrees and to go up to 200 degrees [source].
- Recycle grass clippings. Lawns sequester the largest amount of carbon when they recycle the nitrogen contained in grass clippings. Grass clippings are 90 percent water, and the remaining 10% is biodegradable [source]. So, take off your lawn mower’s mulching bag and leave your grass clippings on the ground while mowing. The clippings will break down and feed your grass naturally. This practice is known as grasscycling.
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.