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Backyards have taken on greater importance in home lives since the COVID-19 pandemic. Yards, parks, and other green spaces are safe places for socializing, playtime, and recreation. Just about anything you can do indoors – working, cooking, reading, exercising – can be done outside.

Improvements to outdoor spaces can 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.

Spring planting season is in full swing, and the TurfMutt Foundation shares a few important tips for putting the right plant in the right p

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 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to learn which plants, grasses, shrubs, and trees are most likely to succeed where you live. Understanding your environment will help you select climate-appropriate plants that will thrive.

Plant for pets. 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 by downloading the ASPCA’s list of poisonous plants.

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.