Where you position your plants in your yard can have a big impact on your wallet – and the environment. Here are a few tips to help you plant proactively for water conservation.
Choose native plants to help the environment.
- Get to know your space so you can select the right plants for the different zones in your yard. Take a look at your yard during different times of day to see which areas get the most sun and which remain shaded. Then, choose plants that will thrive in the various micro-environments.
- Take advantage of soggy spots. If you have a place in your yard where water pools, you can plant a rain garden there to help prevent runoff. Learn how to plant a rain garden by reading TurfMutt’s tips.
- Choose native plants. Selecting plants that are native to your area is a low-maintenance choice that is also good for the environment. In addition, selecting native plants provides a natural habitat for many animals, birds and insects. You can learn more about your climate and how to choose plants wisely by checking out TurfMutt’s Ecosystems Map.
- Compost and mulch. Composting will help improve the quality of the soil, enabling it to hold moisture better. In addition, mulching can help shade and cool your plants, while at the same time preventing runoff. For tips on successful mulching read TurfMutt’s story.
For some areas of the country hot, dry days are already here, and for others it’s just a matter of time. So how do you help your lawn cope with summer heat and drought?
TurfMutt shares tips for keeping lawns healthy during summer heat.
- Mow high. Keeping your grass longer (about 3″ high) lets the roots get longer, too. This enables them to get to deep-down moisture even on the hottest of days. Keeping the grass longer also keeps the roots shaded and more protected from scorching sun.
- Keep mower blades sharp. You want to make sure your mower is actually cutting, rather than tearing, the blades, which can cause undo stress to the grass.
- Let clippings lie. Leaving your grass clippings on the lawn helps save you time, and it helps fortify the lawn by returning vital nutrients to the grass.
- Hydration how-to. The rule of thumb is to water deeply, but infrequently. Grass needs about an inch of water a week. Watering early in the morning will help ensure the water actually gets onto your grass, rather than just evaporating.
As we gear up for summer lawn care season, here is a look at some of the most common lawn care mistakes, and how to avoid them.
Avoid these common lawn care mistakes.
1. Choosing the wrong grass. As with any plant you choose, you need to make sure you select the right variety for the amount of shade/sun the area gets. Grass needs a lot of sunlight to thrive, so consider pruning your trees to increase the amount of sun your grass gets.
2. Cutting the grass too short. Mowing at a low level causes undo stress on the lawn, making it susceptible to weeds. The rule of thumb is to never cut more than a 1/3 of the grass blade during any given cutting.
3. Watering improperly. Overwatering drowns the roots of your grass, starving the plant of oxygen, which is vital to plant growth. It’s also bad for the environment, wasting a precious natural resource. Established lawns don’t dry out in drought; they simply go dormant. It’s best to water your yard thoroughly, but infrequently.
TurfMutt is now a member of The Outdoors Alliance for Kids, or OAK.
TurfMutt’s new partner is OAK.
OAK is a national strategic partnership of organizations from diverse sectors with a common interest in expanding the number and quality of opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.
The pillars of OAK include outdoor education, community health and wellness, and environmental stewardship. It sounds a lot like TurfMutt’s mission, huh?
Click here to see all of the fabulous other organizations with which TurfMutt partners.
Many folks will spend at least part of the long Memorial Day weekend sprucing up their yards. Mulching around trees and plants is not only a good way to keep your yard looking neat and tidy, it also:
- Reduces runoff
- Keeps the soil and roots moist
- Helps keep weeds away
- Creates a protective barrier to reduce lawn mower damage
- Insulates roots from heat and cold
Mulching has many benefits. Photo courtesy of PLANET/Philippe Nobile Photography
Here are a few tips for mulching successfully.
- Weed before you mulch.
- You can lay landscape fabric under mulch to help prevent weeds from reappearing. But be wary of plastic coverings, which can keep water and air from reaching the roots.
- Apply a layer of mulch about three inches thick, using a rake to spread it out.
- Leave about six inches around the base of your trees and plants to keep them from rotting.
- Reapply, as needed, when the mulch thins out.
Sometimes we forget to water our plants and they wilt. But you may have noticed that you can typically water a wilted plant, and it will perk back up pretty quickly. So why do plants need water, anyway?
Why do plants need water?
Water helps plants germinate by softening the seeds, allowing the plant to break through. Water is also a critical component (along with light and carbon dioxide) to photosynthesis – the process plants use to make energy to grow. Transpiration is another plant process that requires water. This is when plant loses water from its roots through its leaves via the stem. When there’s not enough water, the plant’s cells lose firmness and start to wilt. Finally, water helps plants absorb nutrients from the soil.
For some tips that will help you water wisely this summer watch TurfMutt’s video.
Just because you have a small backyard or live in a highrise doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the beauty and benefits of gardening. You can grow herbs, vegetables, flowers and even citrus fruits in containers on balconies and porches.
Container gardening for small spaces, photo courtesy of National Gardening Association.
Here are some tips for successful container gardening.
- Don’t be afraid to be bold in your container choices! You can plant in anything from ceramic pots to wooden planters. Just make sure the container has a drainage hole in the bottom. Hanging baskets can be a great choice to fill a small space with color.
- Select plants carefully. Those with a long blooming period are a good, low-maintenance choice. Annuals that are short are easier to maintain in pots, since taller plants often need to be staked to grow properly.
- Containers can dry out quickly in hot weather, so be prepared to water frequently.
- The roots of perennial plants can fill the entire pot and cause the plants to become stunted. From time to time you may need to move these plants into larger pots.
Do you have a container gardening success story? Share it below or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.
Warmer, longer days bring lots of opportunities to be outdoors with your family and friends. But unwanted guests – mosquitoes and other bugs – often tag along, too.
5 plants that repel insects
When you’re selecting the plantings for your yard this summer, consider these five options that repel insects, naturally.
- Marigolds: This bright, hardy annual flowering plant is not only pretty, it’s also good at pest control. Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, an ingredient found in many insect repellents.
- Citronella: You may have heard of citronella candles, but did you know that citronella is actually a plant? The beautiful clumping grass emits a strong odor that bugs don’t like.
- Lavender: Lavender is a pretty purple plant that has a soothing effect on humans, but mosquitoes are not a fan.
- Basil: This tasty herb pulls double-duty as cook’s best friend and an insects worst enemy. Try the lemon or cinnamon varieties for best pest preventative.
- Geranium: This flowering beauty is not only a great choice for pots and hanging baskets, it also keeps bugs at bay.
To see which plants will thrive best in your climate, check out TurfMutt’s interactive Ecosystems Map.
Warmer weather means more people are firing up their barbecue grills – just in time for May’s National BBQ Month.
May is National BBQ Month.
Outdoor entertaining is one of the best things about milder temperatures. Take some time this month to spruce up your yard to get it ready for the warm weather months. Spring yard chores can be fun for the whole family – especially because it’s easy and gratifying to see the progress you’ve made!
Clean up debris left over from fall and winter, plant some colorful flowers and shrubs, and freshen up the mulch around your plantings to conserve moisture. Then, invite your neighbors over for a barbecue party in the great outdoors!
What is your favorite thing to barbecue on the backyard grill? Share your ideas below, or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.
Did you know that we’re in the midst of “Screen-Free Week?” It’s a time dedicated to turning off TV, video, mobile games and other screens used for entertainment and turning to other activities instead.
Ideas for getting outside during Screen Free Week.
Getting outside is a great alternative to screen time. TurfMutt’s Family Activities Guide has lots of ideas to help families connect with one another and to the green spaces around them. Here are a few of the highlights.
- Plant something new in your yard. Now is the perfect time to plant a patch of grass, a tree, some flowers or even a vegetable garden. Check out TurfMutt’s interactive Ecosystems Map to determine which plants will thrive best in your climate.
- Create a compost pile where you can recycle food scraps, yard trimmings, leaves and grass clippings. Using compost can help plants increase water retention, decrease soil erosion and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Take a walk with your dog. This is one of TurfMutt’s favorite activities! Whether you walk around your neighborhood park or just around the block, there is no better way to become one with nature than on your own two feet (and four paws!).