With much of the country under stay-at-home orders and the real estate industry on hold in many areas, the family yard continues to be a safe place for people to get outside, reconnect with nature and destress. We all want our yards to look beautiful and inviting, but they also have purpose.
Studies show that spending time in the garden can improve memory performance and attention span by 20%. A Stanford University study found that walking in nature resulted in decreased anxiety, rumination and negative affect, while producing cognitive benefits, such as increasing working memory.
Being a steward of your living landscapes reaps exponential benefits. Not only do you earn extra steps when you’re mowing the lawn, clearing out weeds from your flower beds and planting in your yard or garden, you’re also ensuring that your lawn, trees and other plants can do their job for the environment. They capture and filter rainwater, produce oxygen and absorb carbon. Our backyards also link up with community green spaces to create a connected ecosystem that supports local wildlife and pollinators.
Grab your long pants, closed-toed shoes and protective eyewear, and let’s do some yard work. Here are some tried-and-true tips to make your outdoor living space the most purposeful it can be this summer.
Before you use your mower and any other outdoor power equipment, refresh yourself on handling and safety procedures. Follow all guidelines and familiarize yourself with the controls. If you have lost your manual, look it up online (and save a copy on your computer for easy reference next time).
Check the air filter, oil level and gasoline tank. Also check for loose belts and missing or damaged parts and replace as needed. Protect your power by using only E10 or less fuel in gasoline-powered equipment. Any fuel containing more than 10% ethanol can damage — and is illegal to use in — small engine equipment not designed for it. For battery-powered equipment, recharge only with the charger specified by the manufacturer, and follow all charging instructions. After use of all equipment, remove any dirt, oil or grass and store it in a dry place. Remember, clean equipment will run better and last longer!
Mow at the Right Height
In general (though it depends on your species, season and conditions), your grass should be trimmed to about 2 to 3 inches to protect it from weeds, heat and drought damage. Adjust your mower height throughout the growing season. Leaving the grass longer during the summer shades the soil, preventing weeds, slowing water evaporation and encouraging deeper root growth, which helps the lawn withstand drought. For the last mow of the season, cut the grass short.
Instead of bagging your clippings, leave them on the lawn to decompose. This is called “grasscycling,” and it’s an easy way to give your lawn a nutritional boost. The cut grass blades left on the lawn will decompose quickly and return nutrients to the grass. You save costs for bagging and lawn removal and avoid adding more waste to landfills. Grasscycling will only be beneficial if you are removing small clippings at a time, so proper mowing and equipment are essential.
Grass, trees and other plants will grow deeper, vertical roots if they need to seek out water. Don’t overwater your landscape. Water deeply when needed, allowing the moisture to reach the grass roots and provide water for your trees. Watering early in the morning is best to avoid losing moisture to evaporation during the the day. Install soil moisture sensors and/or drip irrigation systems to take the guesswork out of watering.
Right Plant, Right Place
Select plants and grasses for your yard that are native to your climate. It’s the right choice for the environment and the critters that count on your landscape for food and habitat. Native plants adapted to thrive in your area require less maintenance.