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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!


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.



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.




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



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.




TurfMutt’s Family Activities Guide Helps Kids Learn During Summer Break

Summertime can be a nice break from the regular routine for kids. But all children experience learning loss when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer. In fact, numerous studies show that kids typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation then they do at the beginning of the summer break.

TurfMutt has lots of ideas for keep your kids engaged in learning through the summer, while at the same time connecting to the green space around them! Check out TurfMutt.com for lots of resources, including TurfMutt’s Family Activities Guide.

TurfMutt's Family Activities Guide

TurfMutt’s Family Activities Guide helps kids continue to learn throughout the summer.

The guide has nearly a dozen hands-on ways to teach your kids why green spaces – including backyards, parks and community grounds – are important. Check it out for activities that include: creating an outdoor composting area; connecting with your neighbors through nature; and going on a carbon footprint scavenger hunt – just to name a few!

What are your favorite outdoor learning activities to do with your children during the summer? Share your ideas in the comments section below, or on TurfMutt’s Facebook page.




Benefits of Trees & Grass

Trees and grass aren’t just fun to play under and run in, they also provide a multitude of services.

TurfMutt shares some of the benefits of trees & grass.

Trees and grass offer many benefits.

Grass helps prevent soil erosion, stabilize dust and help cool the environment. Trees provide shade, habitat and protection from wind and rain. They also help regulate the gases in our atmosphere.

Here’s an idea as summer break approaches. Have your child draw a picture of some grass and trees and label it with the benefits that trees and grass provide. Visit your local library or nursery – or go online – to research other benefits of our trees and grasses to add to the picture.

For more great ideas on how to use the green spaces around us to help your family learn this summer, check out TurfMutt’s Family Activities Guide.



Tips for positioning plants to conserve water

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.

Strategic planting tips from TurfMutt

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.

How to pretect your lawn against summer heat

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?

Tips for healthy lawns in summer.

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.



Top Lawn Care Pitfalls To Avoid This Summer

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.

Mowing the lawn

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.