The clocks have rolled back, the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping. For most of the country it’s time to put away the lawn equipment and get ready for winter. TurfMutt offers some tips to make sure your yard equipment is ready to be safely stored after the final lawn chores of the season are completed.
Read TurfMutt’s tips for safely storing lawn equipment.
- Empty the fuel out of your lawnmower.
- Remove the old spark plug and replace it with a new one.
- Clean the mower thoroughly, ensuring all of the yard debris is cleared off the blades, deck and air filter. Replace the air filter if necessary.
- Have the mower blades sharpened.
- For edgers/trimmers, clean the string head and install new line, if necessary. Also, check for missing or damaged guards and replace/repair as needed.
- Store all lawn equipment far away from chemicals that could accidentally spill on them over the winter.
Do you need more information on lawn equipment safety? Visit the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s safety page.
Halloween can be a lot of fun for the humans in your family, but for your pets it can be “scary” if you’re not careful. TurfMutt offers these tips to make sure your pets have more “treats” than “tricks” this Halloween.
TurfMutt’s Halloween safety tips for pets.
1. Keep pets away from the candy. Chocolate is toxic for cats and dogs. Additionally, candy wrappers, lollipop sticks and hard candies can be choking hazards.
2. Dress-up do’s & don’ts. If you choose to dress up your pet make sure the costume is loose enough to allow movement, especially in the tail, neck and leg openings. Also, remove any parts of the costume on which your pet could potentially choke.
3. Give your pet a safe room. The parade of costumed trick-or-treaters to your door can be overwhelming for your pet, no matter how happy-go-lucky they are. Notice when your pet has had enough, and put them in a quiet room away from the action with a special chew toy or blanket and plenty of water.
Is your dog or cat dressing up for Halloween this year? Post your photos on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.
It’s getting colder outside, which means migratory birds are beginning to make their annual trek south. Plan it right and your backyard could become the perfect pit-stop for these frolicking fowl.
Birds can actually help us care for green spaces. Birds boost tree growth by up to 30% by removing parasites and other damaging insects that stall growth. They are also natural gardeners, transporting seeds and pollen.
Photo courtesy of surfbirds.com
Preparing your yard for backyard bird watching is a fun family activity that can help get your children interested in the outdoors.
- Hang a bird feeder in your backyard to make it easy for migrating birds to fuel up on their trip. Place it in a spot that’s easy to see!
- Your family can watch the birds come and go, and can use books or the Internet to identify the species and migration patterns.
- Use not only your sense of sight, but also your sense of hearing to tune in to the different behaviors of the birds.
- Consider leaving – rather than cleaning up – the stems of your perennials. They offer perches, seeds and insect treats for all sorts of birds.
Have you created a bird sanctuary in your backyard? Share your story here, or post a photo of your creation on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.
Range maps info here: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/studying/migration/range_maps.
Link to Family Activities Guide p. 2
Beautiful fall leaves can be a blessing and a curse. The vibrant colors create a lovely canvas to look at, but once they fall onto the ground the hard work begins. Raking leaves is a great way to get the family outdoors and can even burn more than 200 calories per hour!
Rake leaves with the family.
Here are a few ideas for turning the chore of raking leaves into something fun for the whole family.
1. Make it a contest to see which member of your family can rake the biggest pile of leaves. The winner gets a special treat, such as an ice cream date with mom or dad.
2. Rake the leaves into a huge pile, then have everyone take turns jumping into it. (Make sure your pile is big enough to offer plenty of cushion!) You can even “rate” the jumps on a scale of one to five.
3. Find a vibrantly colored leaf and ask your kids (armed with a rake, of course!) to find one that best matches it in size and color. The winner gets to pick what’s for dinner that night.
4. Section out the yard and assign one section to each child. Let them be creative and create a picture or write their name by clearing the leaves in their section.
5. Host a “Leaf Party.” Sometimes just calling it something other than a “chore” makes yard work more appealing. Include a game or two and complete the party with fall-themed treats like caramel apples, pumpkin muffins and hot apple cider after the leaves are bagged.
Have you found a fun way to include the whole family in leaf raking? Share your ideas here or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.
Depending on your ecosystem and climate, now could be a great time to plant trees and shrubs, and even the bulbs you want to bloom in spring. Plantings aren’t just pretty to look at, they also help battle one of TurfMutt’s biggest enemies, HeatFreak.
You can help TurfMutt battle HeatFreak.
HeatFreak’s special power is the ability to raise the air temperature and increase air pollution with all of his hot air. HeatFreak thrives in heat islands – the bare spots like parking lots – which absorb the sun’s heat and give it off into the air. Heat islands can be 22 degrees hotter than the temperatures in planted, grassy areas.
The best way to defeat HeatFreak is by planting trees, plants and grass in bare areas. Grass blades act like coolers, producing moisture and absorbing heat. Do you have experience battling HeatFreak? Share your story here or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.
You may think that fall means yard work is behind you. But, not so fast! Here’s a checklist of chores you and your family can do now to make your yard healthier and more beautiful next spring.
1. Plant trees and shrubs, as well as any bulbs you want to bloom in spring. Be sure to plant native species so they will thrive in your climate. Consult TurfMutt’s Ecosystems Map for information.
2. Keep up with the raking. Grass needs to “breathe” but falling leaves can smother it and leave it susceptible to ice damage. Remove leaves and other debris regularly to keep the lawn healthy. There are many ways to accomplish this chore. Rake it the old fashioned way, and consider making a game of it with your entire family! A leaf blower is another option. Even the lawnmower, which can shred then collect the leaves in its bag, is a good choice for quick clean-up.
3. Prepare your vegetable and plant gardens for their winter’s nap. Remove the dead plant debris from the beds. (Tip: you can compost it if the plants aren’t diseased.) Then pull any weeds (this will make weeding easier in the spring). Next work the soil with a rototiller. Finally, add any mulch you are using (fallen leaves that have been run through the lawn mower are a good option!).
Do you have any fall yard chore tips you want to share? Comment below, or post on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.
To celebrate a spirit of exploration this Columbus Day, why not take your family on a discovery trip outside? Creating a nature scavenger hunt with several things that your kids have to find is a fun way to get them interested in exploring the natural world around them.
Photo courtesy of Home Science Tools.
Be clear about the rules upfront. Should the children collect or simply observe the items? (Tip: make it a “photography hunt” to ensure the items are “captured” without disturbing anything.) Is there a parameter within which you want them to stay? How about a time limit?
Here are a few ideas of what to include in your nature scavenger hunt.
- Pine cone
- Spider web
- Bird (make it more difficult by requiring them to find a specific species!)
- Animal tracks
- Rock or stone
- Seashell (if you live near water)
The options are endless, and can be customized depending on your location. Please share your suggestions in the comments section. We’d love to hear tales or see photos of your exploration trip on TurfMutt’s Facebook page! For more fun ideas on how to get your kids outdoors check out TurfMutt’s Family Activities Guide.
Today is World Mental Health Day, a good reason to revisit a few of the mental health benefits of nature – even the nature in your own backyard!
It’s World Mental Health Day – here are a few ways nature impacts mental health.
1. Researchers have found that exercising – and for the greatest benefit doing it outside – is comparable to anti-depressants in people with mild to moderate depression.
2. There are a number of studies linking access to green space to stress reduction. In one study researchers found that trees and green space are a major predictor of longevity.
3. Healing gardens have been found to have a positive impact on veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
4. Mowing the grass can actually improve your mood. Research shows a chemical released by a freshly mowed lawn makes people feel happy.
How have you experienced nature’s benefits to your mental and physical wellbeing? Share with us here, or on the TurfMutt Facebook page.
TurfMutt – the most famous adopted dog in these parts – wants to remind everyone that October is Adopt-a-Dog Month and Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month.
TurfMutt reminds people to consider adopting during Adopt-a-Dog Month.
TurfMutt (a.k.a. Lucky) knows exactly what it’s like to be an unwanted pup. Before he became TurfMutt he was a stray wandering down a busy street in Indiana. Luckily for TurfMutt he was rescued and adopted by a loving family. And now he gets to help teach kids the importance of green space!
Read TurfMutt’s story, and watch his pet adoption video for more on how you can help a dog just like him!
There is a mounting body of evidence to support the theory that getting outside is good for your health – whether you are eight or 80. A recent post on the National Wildlife Federation blog examines the link between regular contact with the natural world and longevity.
Start cultivating the good health habit to spend more time outdoors.
The article cites a number of researchers, doctors and studies, including one conducted in Japan back in 2002 that examined why some people live longer than others. Researchers analyzed more than 3,000 residents between the ages of 74 and 89. They found that the people who were still alive five years later had two things in common. 1. They lived near parks and green spaces where they could walk. 2. They spent more time in the sunlight than those who were no longer living. The take-away was that seniors would be healthier if they had access to walkable green space.
So if spending time outdoors is good habit that leads to good health, wouldn’t it be great if that habit started forming early in life? That’s what Lucky thinks – that kids and their families should start spending more time outdoors to cultivate good habits and good health for life.
Need some motivation to get off the couch and into nature? Check out TurfMutt’s Family Activity Guide for fun ideas.