The turn of the new year is a great time to plan and dream about what you’d like to do in your yard or garden next year. Your living landscape is a significant asset that increases property value, promotes outdoor living, contributes to family and community health, supports wildlife, and provides recreation and a home playground for you, your family and your pets.
But perhaps your yard no longer supports your needs. Or you wish to encourage more outdoor time for kids and pets. Or maybe you want to do more for the environment such as putting in new flowerbed to support pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and TurfMutt, an environmental stewardship and education program, have tips to make 2019 greener and healthier for families – starting in their own backyards.
Embrace being an outsider. Have a family meeting to discuss ways everyone in the household – from adults to kids and pets – can embrace and improve their time outdoors and make better use of family yards and green space. Being outside, exploring and appreciating nature, even right outside your backdoor, provides proven health benefits. From stress reduction to promoting exercise, getting outside is key to a healthy life. And, need some help getting kids outdoors? TurfMutt has games and home-based activities to get kids outside and exploring the natural world. Go to www.scholastic.com/turfmutt/parents.
Sketch your current yard and green spaces available to you. Start by sketching out your current yard, marking existing trees, bushes, structures, and flower and gardening beds so you can identify what needs to change and what is currently working for you, your family and your pets.
Visualize you and your family in the space. What are the activities you want to engage more in that involve being outdoors? Is the plan to eat more family dinners outside? Or to entertain in warmer weather? Or to add a yoga zone or hammock for quiet reflection after work? Or would you like to have a pet or child play zone so they get more time outside?
Develop your improvement and maintenance goals. List the play and work areas that will make your dreams a reality. What would enhance this space for your family? What do you need in the yard to provide a safe and welcoming place for families to gather and for kids and pets to play? Enhanced landscaping, play structures, and areas for specific activities, such as patios, decks, outdoor kitchens and fire pits, need to be identified.
Determine which plants are best for your climate. Selecting the right plants, trees and shrubs for your climate zone is important for keeping maintenance to a minimum and maximizing benefits to the environment, our pollinator friends, migrating birds and other wildlife.
TurfMutt always says “right plant, right place,” so check out the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map to determine which plants are most suitable for your area.
Conduct a nature inventory. TurfMutt also encourages you to consider wildlife when planning a space. What migrating birds fly overhead? What butterflies and other wildlife stop by in your neighborhood and yard? These important members of our ecosystem need places to rest and recharge and find food. Identify plants, trees and shrubs that will attract and provide habitat for wildlife.
Map out a timeline and plan for your yard. Mark the areas where improvements and maintenance are needed, and where you might need more landscaping.
Develop a timeline, based on your needs, the climate zone and weather for your community to identify when certain tasks should be completed. There are better times to plant than others, depending on where you live and your goals.
Take stock of your lawn and landscape tools. Does your outdoor power equipment need to be serviced before the spring season? Or maybe you have recently moved to a home with a yard and need to purchase a lawnmower, trimmer, edger, leaf blower or other equipment for your home. Now’s a good time to take stock of the equipment and tools you’ll need so you’ll be ready for seasonal changes.
Decide if you need professional assistance. You might be able to take on your outdoor living room improvement project on your own.
But if you think you might need professional assistance, now is the time to line up consultants and obtain bids. This will put you a step ahead of the spring rush.
Like TurfMutt, be a superhero – adopt an outdoor life for the health of you, your family and your community. Encourage outdoor exploration, enjoyment and play in the new year.