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Now’s the time to start planning your fall garden

You may think that “late summer” and “gardening” don’t exactly go together. But now is actually the perfect time to plant a number of fall vegetables (think kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and more!) and spring-flowering bulbs to enjoy in the months to come. Gardening is a great family activity since it helps teach your kids about where their food comes from, gives them a hands-on science lesson and encourages quality family time in your own backyard.

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Gardening can be a great family activity, even in fall!

There’s a formula to help you determine what to plant when in the late summer months.

  • Determine the date of the first expected killing frost (check with your local extension service if you’re not sure when this will happen in your area).
  • Add to this date the length of the average harvest period for the plant you are considering.
  • Now, add in a “fall factor” of about 14 days to account for shorter days that mean plants will grow more slowly.

You can determine the optimal planning date by starting at the date of the first killing frost and counting back the total number of days from your calculations above.

To learn more read this article from kidsgardening.org.

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Study shows kids who spend time outdoors after school are more physically fit. Share your tips!

 

Believe it or not, in some areas of the country back-to-school season is just around the corner. According to a new study, parents should schedule more outdoor time for their children after school this year to help them to be more physically fit.

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Spending more time outdoors after school leads to more physically fit children, study shows

Researchers followed 306 Canadian children between the ages of nine and 17. They found that kids who spent most of their after-school time outside were three times more likely to meet the daily physical activity guidelines and were in better overall shape than those children who spent all of their time indoors after school.

During the study period, participants wore pedometers to track the number of steps they took in a week. They also reported the amount of time they spent in organized and free play activities outdoors. The children who reported being outside the most after school got 20 more minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each day than those who spent more time indoors.

Read more about the study here.

So it may seem obvious that getting kids to be active outdoors will help them be healthier. But the big question is how do you accomplish this with the omnipresent distractions of computers, video games, smartphones and more?

We want to hear from you! Share how you’ve managed to get your kids to spend more time outdoors in our comments section or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lawn mower safety tips

It’s typical at around this time for summer lawn care chores to get a little monotonous. But don’t let that mean that your focus on safety slips! Remember these tips to keep yourself – and your family – safe this summer.

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Safety tips for mowing

  • Dress properly for the job, wearing substantial shoes, long pants and close-fitting clothes.
  • Clean up and clear out the area before you start mowing.
  • Always fill up the gas when the engine is cold and always start the engine outdoors.
  • Stop mowing and turn off the engine if children or pets are near.
  • Mow in sufficient daylight, looking 3-4 feet ahead for debris.
  • Never pull a mower toward you – always push it in a forward direction.
  • Do not give children a ride on a riding mower, even with the blades turned off.

For more safety tips for lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment visit OPEI’s safety page.

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Consumers want “green” outdoor spaces, survey shows

If sustainability impacts your landscaping investment decisions, you are not alone. According to the 2014 Residential Landscape Architects Trends Survey, conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects, consumers want gardens, landscaping and outdoor living spaces that are sustainable and environmentally conscious.

Rain gardens help prevent water runoff

Photo courtesy of www.cuyahogaswcd.org.

The survey, which polled landscape architects specializing in residential design, also showed that outdoor spaces with low-maintenance landscapes and the use of native plants topped the list of “wants” for consumers. About three quarters of respondents also said that food and vegetable gardens are important to them. Drip or water efficient irrigation and using recycled materials for outdoor items like furniture were other ways survey respondents indicated they will be eco-friendly this year.

We want to hear from you! What are your backyard must-haves? Share them in the comments section, or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.

 

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Lawn care tips for wet weather

Many areas of the country are experiencing wet weather, making lawn care difficult. When there’s too much water, oxygen is forced out of the soil and the roots die. Here are some wet weather lawn care tips from TurfMutt.

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Lawn care tips for saturated soils

  • Allow the soil to dry. Walking on wet soils can compact it, leading to a bumpy lawn and promoting weed growth. Wait until the wet soil dries out before walking on it or mowing it.
  • Mow when you can. Repeated rainfall means your weeds and grass will grow like crazy. It’s best to mow two times a week when the grass is growing fast, if possible. Parents, remember that it’s never safe to allow your children on or near a mower in operation! (Learn more here.)
  • Clean up clippings. Typically, it’s best to leave shorter clippings on the grass to offer nutrients to the roots, but very tall grass will bunch up and leave piles of grass clippings on the lawn. This not only looks bad, it might also suffocate the roots. Keep this from happening by bagging the clippings or raking them up after you mow.
  • Don’t water. It may seem obvious, but don’t water your plants and grass until the soil dries out again. Excessive rainfall can cause your grass to turn yellow and make the roots die. This will result in wilting plants or yellow grass. The tendency is to water a wilted plant, but if it’s wilted because its roots have died due to excess moisture, over-watering can kill it.
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July 4th Pet Safety Tips

The July Fourth holiday is a great opportunity to spend time in your backyard with your entire family – including Fido. But TurfMutt encourages you to keep these pet safety tips in mind for your Independence Day celebration.

TurfMutt July Fourth Pet Safety

Pet safety tips for July Fourth.

  • Do not apply sunscreen or insect repellent to a pet that is not specifically intended for animals. Ingesting theses products can make them sick.
  • Keep pets on their normal diet. This means keeping “human food,” including alcoholic beverages, away from your dogs and cats. Older animals, especially, have delicate digestive systems, and even a slight change in diet can wreak havoc. Remember, foods like onions, chocolate, coffee, avocado, grapes, raisins, salt and yeast dough are potentially toxic for animals.
  • Never use fireworks around pets. Not only is the loud noise traumatic for your dog, exposure to fireworks can also result in severe burns. Also, resist the urge to take your pet to the local fireworks display. Instead, keep your pet safe indoors in a secure, escape-proof area of your home.

Have a happy – and safe – July Fourth!

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Birdwatch with your kids this summer

When most kids hear “tweet” they think of the social media platform Twitter. But backyard birds can be a good lure for getting your children away from their mobile devices, television sets and computers this summer and into nature!

TurfMutt's backyard birding ideas.

Photo courtesy of surfbirds.com

Birds are not only beautiful to look at, they also help boost tree growth by removing parasites and other damaging insects that stall growth. They are also natural gardeners, transporting seeds that they gather in their feet and aiding in pollination by visiting plants and dispersing the pollen.

Plan a bird watching excursion with your family this summer. Grab a pair of binoculars to see how many different types of birds you can find in your own backyard or neighborhood. Take some time to notice the colors, size and behavior of the birds. Listen to the sounds they make and watch how birds fly. Make a few notes, and then later identify the birds online or in books you can get at the library.

You can even make a plan to help attract more birds to your yard by installing a bird feeder or birdbath. It’s a great way to include the family in an activity that will bring lots of enjoyment for years to come.

For even more ideas on how to get your kids to connect with the green space around them this summer download TurfMutt’s Family Activities Guide.

 

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Article: “Proof Going Outside Makes You Healthier”

TurfMutt has shared a lot of good information and scientific evidence over the years that getting outdoors – even into your own backyard – is good for your health. (For an example read this story). Recently, the Huffington Post published a story examining the top health benefits of getting outdoors this summer that backs up what TurfMutt has said all along.

Huffington Post article touts benefits of nature.

Photo courtesy of Home Science Tools.

The article says that being in nature:

  • Makes exercise easier. According to research by the University of Essex, the color green – found in nature in trees, plants and grass – makes exercise feel easier.
  • Increases brain function. Research shows that being outdoors can improve concentration and can even decrease symptoms of ADHD in children.
  • Improves vitamin D intake. The majority of our vitamin D intake – about 80-90 percent – comes from the sun. Just getting outdoors to soak up some rays for 10-15 minutes a day can help you get much-needed vitamin D for bone and cell growth, inflammation reduction and improved immune function.
  • Boosts mood. Trees and other natural elements can help lift our moods, increasing our overall happiness and sense of well being.

What are the benefits of nature that you’ve seen in your own family? Share your thoughts in our comments section, or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.

 

 

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Deadheading 101

Deadheading is a necessary summer chore that means removing flowers that are fading or have finished blooming. With many plants you can encourage another round of bloom, or simply make the plant look good and compact, by removing the dead parts. But exactly how to deadhead can sometimes confound folks.

Tips for deadheading

Deadheading 101

Here are three dead-on deadheading techniques. The rule of thumb is to remove the stem to the nearest bud or leaf below the dead bloom.

  • Pinch – you can use your thumb and forefinger to remove the wilting portions of many mutli-flowered plants, such as petunias and marigolds.
  • Snap – you can also use your hands to break off old blooms of day lilies, rhododendrons and iris.
  • Snip – use hand pruners or garden shears for tougher stems on plants such as roses, lavender, asters, geranium and many other perennial

 

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Got vacation plans? Don’t forget your plants!

You’ve booked the hotel and made all the necessary travel arrangements for your summer vacation. But before you leave town, don’t forget to make provisions for your plants and landscaping. After all, you spent all that time sprucing up your yard – you want to make sure it’s still lovely when you return from your trip!

Plant & landscaping tips during vacation

Make provisions for your plants before you go on vacation.

  • Mow before you go. Just before you leave for your trip, mow the yard.
  • Water well. Give the lawn, shrubs, plants and flowers a good soaking the day before you leave. Then, plan to water again right when you return.
  • Recruit a friend. The best bet is to recruit a trusted neighbor to water and prune your potted plants and garden while you’re on vacation. (They can also bring in your mail and newspaper while they’re at it!)
  • Create a week-long waterer. For potted plants, you can try this trick for watering while you’re away. Fill a plastic wading pool with an inch or two of water. Remove the saucers from your planters. Then, place the pots inside the pool.

 

 

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