Keeping yards in pristine condition for outdoor living in all seasons

The backyard has become a new way of life for millions of people since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and these new outdoor lifestyles have taken hold for good. People are becoming more determined in their yards, designating areas for eating, working and playing.

Keeping yards in pristine condition has always been important, but with extra use they require extra care. The good yard work done each season will determine the quality of that after-dinner family football game, the backdrop for video conferencing, or the beautiful spring blooms next year.

The TurfMutt Foundation, an environmental education and stewardship program that encourages outdoor living and the maintenance of green spaces, offers the following tips to help those with even the smallest yard keep it in top shape for work, play and pleasure throughout the seasons.

Keep mowing. Grass needs regular care to stay healthy. If it is too high, it can attract field mice and other lawn-damaging pests. Shorter grass is more disease resistant and retains fewer falling leaves. Cutting it low allows more sun to reach the tops of the grass, so fewer leaves will turn brown in winter. However, cutting too much at once can be damaging, so never cut more than a third of the blades of grass in one cut. Set the mower blades to the lowest settings for the last two cuts of the fall season.

Aerate the grass. Compressed soil is detrimental to grass health. Aeration drills holes in the soil and lets oxygen, water and nutrients into the lawn. Use a walk-behind aerator or get an attachment to pull behind a riding mower.

Mulch the leaves. Many mowers can mulch leaves with an attachment. Since mulching with a mower can mix grass clippings with leaf particles, these nitrogen-rich grass particles and carbon-rich leaf particles will compost faster. Together they return nutrients to the soil.

Prune and support trees and bushes. Use trimmers, chainsaws or pruners to trim trees, shrubs and plants. Make sure branches are safely cut from overhead lines and not at risk of falling on a house or structure in the winter. The limbs of evergreens or upright plants may need to be tied down or braced to prevent them from breaking in high winds or snow. Call a professional arborist to take care of large trees and hard-to-reach places.

Repair bald spots. Fall is the perfect time to repair any bald or fine spots that have cropped up on a lawn due to wear and tear. The easiest way to do this is to use an all-in-one lawn repair mixture available at most garden stores and home improvement centers. Use a garden rake or a cultivator to scrape up the soil on site before application.

Plant fall bulbs and other plants. Fall is the planting season for spring blooms. Check the plant hardiness zone map before deciding what to plant.

For more advice, sign up for Mutt Mail, a monthly email newsletter with backyard ideas and all the news from the TurfMutt Foundation, at tinyurl.com/yck5c8b8. To find out more, visit TurfMutt.com.