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Saving the planet- one yard at a time!

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How to care for plants during a cold snap

Temperatures are plunging across many parts of the country, with snow in some areas. That means you need to take some extra precautions with your plants and landscaping, if you haven’t already. Here are a few tips.

Cold weather tips-TurfMutt

  • Cluster container plants together, or bring them inside (especially potted succulents).
  • Water landscaping plants before a freeze to help the soil absorb more solar radiation and re-radiate heat during the night.
  • Cover plants with cloth sheets or frost protection fabric. You will need to remove covers during the day to allow for ventilation and enable plants to receive the benefits of the sunlight.
  • For trees, adding a layer of mulch around the base of the trees can help them moderate temperature fluctuation and moisture loss.
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Prep your lawn mower for winter storage

Giving your lawn mower a little TLC before you store it until the grass is green again can ensure that it’s ready to roll next spring. Here are some ‘to-do’ items to complete before putting your mower away for the season. Before you start make sure your owner’s manual is handy, and remove the spark plug before doing any maintenance.

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  • Clean it up. Brush or hose off any dirt, clippings and other debris that has collected on the machine and in the under body.
  • Sharpen the blades. Now is a great time to replace or sharpen the blades, as needed, so the unit is ready to go next season. You might even consider a tune-up now so you can avoid the rush at the shop next spring.
  • Add stabilizer. Most manufacturers recommend adding a fuel stabilizer or draining the fuel system before storing it. If your mower has one, turn the fuel valve to the “off” position.
  • Change the oil and filter. Replace with the engine manufacturer’s recommended oil and filter type.
  • Store. Your mower needs a cool, dry place away from anything with a pilot light for winter storage.
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TurfMutt’s Halloween safety tips for your four-legged friends

For many families, Halloween is a favorite time of year. But there’s one member of your family who may not have the same affinity for the holiday – your pet! TurfMutt has these tips to keep you four-legged family members safe this Halloween.

TurfMutt-outdoor-education-kids-greenspace1. Be careful with candy. Trick-or-treat candies are not safe for pets. In fact, all forms of chocolate can be dangerous – even lethal – for dogs and cats.

2. Be considerate with costumes. Many pets don’t like to wear costumes, so be considerate of your furry friend’s feelings. If you do dress up your pet make sure they can easily see and hear and that the outfit doesn’t constrict their breathing or movement in any way. Make sure your pet’s ID tags are part of any costume you choose – just in case they get loose.

3. No trick-or-treating for Trixy. It might be tempting, but don’t take your dog along for trick-or-treating. Even the best-trained pet can become spooked or aggressive in the noise and confusion of Halloween!

4. Safely place pumpkins. Put your pumpkins – especially jack-o-lanterns with candles inside – out of reach of pets so they don’t knock them over.

5. Party poopers allowed. Sometimes, the safest place for your pet is in a quiet room or kennel away from the festivities.

 

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Check out the new TurfMutt website and meet our new partner, Scholastic Education

Have you noticed that TurfMutt.com has a new look? It’s part of TurfMutt’s just-announced partnership with Scholastic Education. Scholastic is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and a leader in education technology and children’s media.

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With Scholastic’s help we’re going to grow TurfMutt to reach even more students, teachers and families. The new TurfMutt program with Scholastic features a full lineup of  illustrated environmental superhero characters, such as The Oxygenator, Water Warrior, Professor Botony and Green Ranger.

This team of superheroes, called the Outdoor Powers, and TurfMutt are on a mission to “Save the Planet One Yard at a Time” by showing families that green spaces should be appreciated, understood and cared for in a sustainable way.

The TurfMutt.com website offers videos, resources and activities to teach kids (grades K-5) and families backyard science, including how to take better care of the green spaces around them.

 

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3 ways to use pumpkins to engage kids with the outdoors

Autumn and pumpkins go hand-in-hand. But did you know there are some creative uses for these giant gourds that can help your kids engage with the outdoors? Here are three interesting things to do with pumpkins this fall.

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Learn creative ways to use pumpkins to get kids outdoors (photo credit wikipedia.org)

  • Make a bird feeder. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and flesh, and then fill it with bird feed. You can drill holes into the side to attach rope, or you can simply cradle the pumpkin inside rope to hang it from a tree. You can even enlist the kids to help decorate the feeder with natural elements like sticks and pine cones.
  • Play pumpkin bowling. Find a space in your backyard to serve as the “alley.” Stack your pumpkins (smaller ones work best for this) and then take turns using a medium-sized ball to knock over the pumpkins.
  • Have a pumpkin hunt. This is like an egg hunt, but with baby pumpkins! Hide them around your yard, give each kid a bag and send them off. The one to collect the most pumpkins the fastest wins.
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outdoor family activity ideas for fall

Fall’s mild temperatures offer a fantastic backdrop for outdoor activities that can lure your family away from the TV, computer and video games and tune them in to the great outdoors. Here are a few ideas.

Be creative in getting your family outside to enjoy fall.

Photo courtesy of Granby Ranch.

  • Go on a photo scavenger hunt. Mother Nature (and your neighbors!) put on a colorful show in fall. Make a list of things you’re scouting for before you leave the house, then grab your camera/mobile phones and head out the door to capture images of the goodies you’re hunting. Some ideas include: leaves (red, yellow, green), an acorn, a stick, a pumpkin, a mum, a feather and a scarecrow. See which member of your family can photograph everything on the list first!
  • Sketch the scene. Set up a table in your backyard and stock it with paper, crayons and markers. Have your kids select their favorite fall scene or object and ask them recreate it on paper. You can turn their artwork into a card to a grandparent, aunt/uncle or friend. Big pictures can even be used as one-of-a-kind wrapping paper for a fall birthday gift.
  • Take a hike. Grab Fido and the kids and head outside on the power of your own two feet! Walk through your neighborhood or pick some trails in a nearby park to explore. Be sure to take in all the fall sights and sounds along the way.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy fall with your family? Share your ideas on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.

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Fall tip: use leaves to mulch your yard organically

Fall leaf clean-up may seem like a hassle, but it’s actually an opportunity to deliver free organic matter to your lawn and garden.

Simply make a few passes with your lawnmower to reduce a big volume of leaves into a manageable mound of organic matter. Leaf mulch is high in nutrients and can give your lawn, as well as flower or vegetable beds, a boost before winter hits. Spread the leaf mulch into your beds and rake it until it’s even.

Tips for mulching in fall

Leaf mulching has many benefits.

Shredded wood mulch is the perfect carbon counterpart to the nitrogen-rich leaf mulch. It also retrains moisture, promoting composting and insulating the ground to reduce freezing. So cover the leaves with shredded wood mulch, then let nature take its course!

Best of all? By following this leaf/wood mulch procedure this fall your spring gardens will get a nice dose of nutrients!

To learn more read this article on leaf mulching.

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Fall lawn tips

It’s the first week of autumn, and that means it’s time to show your lawn some fall love. Here are some lawn care tips to keep in mind as the seasons shift.

Fall lawncare tips TurfMutt

  • Adjust the height of your mower. You probably raised the mower height in the summer to protect the grass from sun/heat damage. Now it’s time to lower the mower deck back to its normal height (about two inches).
  • Continue watering, as needed. If your area is still dry or in drought, water your lawn once or twice a week to soak the soil several inches deep.
  • Take care of weeds. Fall is the best time to tackle weeds – your spring yard will thank you!
  • Deal with dead spots. Consider overseeding the entire lawn to make it lush next spring – or just spot seed particularly bare areas.
  • Stay on top of leaf removal. As the leaves drop from your trees you’ll want to remove them regularly so the lawn doesn’t suffocate. You can mow the debris to mulch it or rake and bag it.
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Less structured activities = better goal setting in kids, study says

Parents naturally want their children to be good at setting and attaining their goals. According to a new study, conducted by University of Colorado researchers, less-structured activities – such as playing outdoors – can help your kids be better at this than structured activities, like piano lessons.

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Unstructured activities like playing outdoors can help your children be better at setting and achieving goals.

The study specifically examined the “executive functioning” of 6-7 year-old kids. Executive functioning connects past experience with present action (e.g. putting on a coat before going outside if it’s cold, without having to be told to do so). Ultimately, executive functioning enables people to better plan, organize and manage their time. Childhood executive functioning can be an indicator of health, wealth and can even whether a person will be incarcerated during his or her lifetime.

During the study period parents reported information about their children’s schedules and categorized their activities as “structured” or “less-structured.” The children’s executive functioning was assessed using, according to the study summary, “a well-established verbal fluency task, in which children generate members of a category and can decide on their own when to switch from one subcategory to another.”

The researchers discovered that the more time children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. Structured activities, on the other hand, had the opposite effect.

 

 

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Want your daughter to be successful? Send her outside!

According to a recent study, girls with monthly exposure to the outdoors are better environmental stewards, better problem-solvers and seek out more challenges than their counterparts. The Girl Scout Research Institute conducted the study.

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Photo courtesy of Home Science Tools.

TurfMutt thinks getting outdoors is good for all kids, and the great news is it doesn’t have to cost a thing or take a lot of planning to get create quality outdoor time. Simply take a walk around your neighborhood. Plant some flowers with your family. Make yard work a family affair. Or, go on an outdoor scavenger hunt to find unique leaves, animal tracks and other goodies from Mother Nature.

What are your favorite ways to get outdoors with your kids? Post comments below, or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.

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