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Get Backyard Ready for Spring: A Checklist from TurfMutt

Work in your yard, and it will work for you. Spring is the perfect time to implement this credo of the TurfMutt Foundation, which advocates for the care and use of our green spaces. The backyard is more than just a place that looks pretty — it is also purposeful. Backyards and community green spaces provide a safe place to play, gather and connect with one another and nature — backyarding, as the TurfMutt Foundation calls it. Our living landscapes also support a healthy environment. Plants, shrubs, trees and grass are “environmental superheroes” that capture and filter rainwater, produce oxygen and absorb carbon.

The TurfMutt Foundation offers this checklist for getting your yard backyard ready for spring:

1. “Yard” your way. You can create a backyard that is the hub of activity for your family and friends. It just takes a little creativity to create activity zones in your backyard. Usea large patch of turfgrass to create a practice soccer pitch. A patio or deck makes a great setting for family game nights. Looking to save some money on eating out? Create an al fresco dining area that rivals the best restaurants in town. Involve your family in the planning to ensure you create something for everyone. Shrubs and hedges are a great way to distinguish the different activity zones you create in your yard.

2. Clean Up. Walk around your yard and inspect the area for any debris that has collected over the winter. Clean out your flower beds and remove debris so you can build other elements from there. Remember, a leaf blower makes quick work of sprucing up dingy flower beds.

3. Improve Your Turfgrass. A carpet of turfgrass is a welcome invitation for kids and pets to play and sets the scene for your outdoor living room. Improve your existing grass by aerating and overseeding bare patches to fill in the lawn.

4. Plant for Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife. Plan to support pollinators by researching the native plants that are best suited for your microclimate. These plants are better for the ecosystem and require less input from you — a win-win! Selecting native perennials over annuals means only having to plant once to enjoy their beauty for years to come. Plus, pollinators and other backyard wildlife will thank you as these types of plants provide a natural habitat and food for them.

5. Right Plant, Right Place. Putting the right plant in the right place is the key to successful backyarding. More than just considering sun vs. shade exposure, this means selecting plants that will thrive in your climate zone, choosing a variety of greenery that will bloom year-round to support local pollinators and serve the connected ecosystem and creating a backyard canvas that supports your family’s lifestyle. Sturdy, yet soft foliage should go near pathways, for example, while delicate plants should be placed in patio pots or elevated planters.

6. Freshen Up Mulch. Mulch creates a polished look around flower beds, shrubs and trees. It also provides a buffer from hot temps and keeps water where it’s needed — at the roots of your plants.

7. Create a Dog Dream Yard. Plan for pet fun and pampering by planting trees for shade, adding a splash pool and maybe even a sandbox for digging. You can plant bushes to separate your pet’s “business” area from the rest of the yard. Just remember that toxic plants should be avoided.

8. Take Stock of Lawn Equipment. Getting the right equipment for your lawn size and type customizes the experience of caring for your yard. Robotic mowers that act like a Roomba for the lawn and battery-powered leaf blowers that are lightweight, powerful and portable are good choices. For larger lawns, zero-turn mowers and even a UTV might be helpful. At the very least, you should plan to get your lawn mower serviced and its blade sharpened so it’s ready for the first mow of the season.

A few final points to note when using outdoor power equipment: Be aware of others. Keep bystanders, children and animals out of your work area. Do not allow other people near outdoor power equipment when starting the equipment or using it. Listen to your body. Do not operate power equipment when you are tired, drink plenty of water and take regular breaks.

For more information on this and other topics, sign up for Mutt Mail, a monthly e-newsletter with backyarding tips and all the news from the TurfMutt Foundation. To learn more about creating a dream yard, visit Look for Mulligan the TurfMutt on the CBS “Lucky Dog” television show.

Kris Kiser
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute
TurfMutt Foundation
Equip Expo
1605 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314