DEBBI MAYSTER, On Behalf of OPEI
Our backyards have taken on a greater importance in our lives since the COVID-19 pandemic. Yards, parks and other green spaces are the safe places for socializing, playtime and recreation. Just about anything you can do indoors, working, cooking, reading, exercising, can be done outside. And that’s why so many people are “backyarding” today and enhancing and expanding their personal bit of green.
Why add more plants, shrubs and trees to your backyard? Improvements to outdoor spaces can h
Help people live more fully outside by adding plants for visual interest, creating borders and privacy, and designating “fields” for play. Research shows that living landscapes also have a calming effect on people seeking a break from stress.
Be purposeful. Determine how you want to use your yard, and then plant accordingly. Do you need a shade tree to sit under? Do kids and pets need a grassy area to play on? Will you add a patio or grill or picnic table for outdoor eating and socializing? Break your yard up into zones, and then use plants and other features to indicate where activities will happen. Once preliminary planning is done, conduct a plant inventory to determine what’s currently thriving in your backyard.
Know your climate zone. Check out the Plant Hardiness Zone Map to learn which plants, grasses, shrubs and trees are most likely to succeed where you live. Do you have long, hot summers? Are you in an arid region or a wet one? Understanding your environment will help you select climate-appropriate plants that will thrive.
Plant for pets. You’ll want to keep pet needs in mind when mapping out planting plans. Consider planting a hardy turfgrass that is more likely to withstand pet traffic. Keep resilient plants and flowers in heavily trafficked areas of your yard, and save the delicate varieties for raised planters on porches or patios. Finally, know which plants are dangerous to pets.
Plant for pollinators and wildlife. Your living landscape in your backyard isn’t just for your enjoyment. Yards are also a vital home habitat for pollinators (bees, butterflies and birds) and backyard wildlife who rely on your backyard ecosystem for food and shelter.
Planting nectar and pollen-rich flowers that are appropriate for your climate will nourish pollinators. Allowing a pile of grass clippings to decompose on your lawn (rather than bagging it for the trash) will shelter insects, worms and other backyard critters. Dead tree branches can create nooks for butterflies, bees, birds and other wildlife.
Choose the right plants for your climate and lifestyle, and you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and purposeful green space your entire family will enjoy.