Christmas Trees: Around the World

We hope that you enjoy this infographic on Christmas Trees around the world. It is fitting that we live in a multicultural society that we understand how people celebrate Christmas here and around the world. We had fun researching this and thought that you would enjoy this too!

May you and your family have a wonderful and safe Christmas and Happy New Year!

From all of us at Toemar Garden Supplies and Firewood, we want to thank you for your support in 2012 and we look forward to serving you in 2013!
christmas-trees-around-the-world

Christmas Trees: Ideas on Selecting and Caring

I love Christmas and Christmas trees. It is because it is one of the very few holidays where we get to focus on the family and the closest of friends through engaging conversation that brings a smile, a belly full of laughter, and even the occasional tears of joy. I also love real Christmas trees because it is the one activity where my entire family can gather together to decorate the Christmas tree while the natural scent of fresh pine needles gently reminds you of wonderful memories of Christmas past.

To keep the spirit of Christmas thriving through the holidays, we’ve come up with a few ideas that we think will help keep your real Christmas tree alive and house smelling fresh and wonderful this season.

Christmas Tree Ideas: Selecting

  • Measure the height and width of the space you have available in the room where the tree will be placed. There is nothing worse than bringing a tree indoors only to find it’s too tall or wide. Take a tape measure with you to measure your chosen tree and bring a cord to tie your tree to the car.
  • At the lot, give the tree you selected a shake and watch the type of needles that fall. Brown needles, which come from the center near the trunk, are fine, but fallen green needles means the tree has gotten dry.
  • Make sure the handle or base of the tree is straight and 6-8 inches long so it will fit easily into the stand.

Christmas Tree Ideas: Caring

    • Make another fresh cut across the trunk, approximately one inch from the original cut before you bring the tree into the house for decorating. This will allow the tree to absorb the water quickly and keep the pine needles fresh.
    • Get a tree stand that can hold at least four litres of water. The tree may drink up to four litres of water per day. Check the reservoir daily and supply fresh cold water as needed. Do not let the water level drop below the tree bottom, a seal will form and a new cut will be necessary.
    • Do not use additives or chemicals in the water as it may reduce water intake by the tree. Water moves into the trunk at the lower cut end, and eventually evaporates (transpires) from the foliage which prevents the needles from drying out and dropping off and the boughs from drooping. Water will also keep the tree fragrant.
    • Use only CSA approved lights and electrical cords and devices on trees. Check electrical cords and lights for damage prior to placement on the tree. Do not place damaged lighting on the tree or use outdoor lights. Discard the lights rather than repair.
    • Your tree should be placed away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, radiators, and televisions. Do not forget to turn off the tree lights when you leave your home and/or before you head off to sleep at night.
    • When you decide to dispose of tree, Peel Region will pick up the tree for recycling into mulch during the week of January 7th, 2013. For more details: http://www.peelregion.ca/pw/waste/garb-recy/christmas-tree.htm

For more information, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Image Source: Metro

Burn Safe: Fireplace and Chimney Important Checklist

Burn Safe: Fireplace and Chimney Checklist

Now that November is here and December is just around the corner, I’m getting ready to dust off the fireplace and chimney so I can enjoy that warm cozy fire and the crackling sound of the fire in the comfort of my home (and even possibly save on my heating bill). However, I’m also aware that home fires are a bit too common during the winter and it would be foolish of me to not take the necessary steps to protect my family and my home.

Basic Fire Statistics in Canada

Here is a recent excerpt from the COUNCIL OF CANADIAN FIRE MARSHALS AND FIRE COMMISSIONERS 2007 report on fire statistics in Canada.

“On average, home fires accounted for 30% of all fires and 73% of all fire deaths in the jurisdictions that contributed data. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, while smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths. One-third (33%) of all home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the living room; 20% resulted from fires originating in the bedroom; and 11% were caused by fires starting in the kitchen. Fire causes in Canadian homes were very similar to those reported for homes in the United States.”

It is not surprising that the 33% of ALL home fire deaths start in the living room which is typically where most fireplaces are located in a home. Maybe not all of these deaths are fireplace related, but even if it is fraction of this number, you can take steps to protect you and your family by taking the time to inspect your fireplace and chimney.

Your Fireplace and Chimney Basics

Before you even begin to light the firewood, it is always smart and wise to inspect your fireplace to make sure that it is safe to use. Check out this video as it gives you a rundown of the key components of your fireplace so that when you speak to professional chimney professional, you completely understand all the jargon that is being thrown at you.

Key Terms:
Spark arrestor or chimney cap – located on top of the chimney, prevents sparks from hitting roof
Flue – vertical column where the smoke leaves the home
Damper – allows access to the flue, open and close mechanism near the bottom of the flue
Firebox – where the fire takes place
Hearth – located just in front of the firebox
Facade – the front area above the firebox

Once you’ve mastered these terms, you can start the process of inspecting the chimney and fireplace. See the video below on some basic tips on checking your fireplace before using.

 

After all this, it is better to call in the professionals.

For more information, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Winter Preparation for your Lawn is like a Massage

As I write this article I realized that taking care of your lawn is an ongoing effort similar to the taking care of your skin. You would take care of your skin by applying moisturizers, exfoliation, and even going for a massage. For your lawn you would apply fertilizers, get core aeration or dethatching, mowing the lawn (at the right height) and raking up the leaves or debris. The result is a healthier lawn and increasing the curb appeal of your home. Similarly, people are attracted to people who look put in an effort to keep healthy and look good (moisturizers, facial massages, working out, etc.).
Now that summer is over, chances are that summer has taken a toll on your lawn because of drought, disease, insects or weeds or all of the above which can make your lawn look thin and patchy (translation: ugly).
patchy-lawn-needs-help
By preparing your lawn for the winter (aka massage), you are rejuvenating and protecting the grass roots for the winter. Unlike a massage, you don’t necessarily need an expert to help you prepare your lawn. With a little work and advice from us, this is something you can complete within a day.

Here are some simple tips for getting your lawn back into shape, preparing it for the winter survival and a quick green-up in the spring.

Lawn Tips for Winter

  • Help and heal damaged lawns by fertilizing – damaged areas in turf will recover more quickly with two applications of fertilizer in the fall. The first application should be made in early fall (early September) with a high nitrogen content and this will help the turf recover from damage during the growing season. The second application (mid to late October) should be in late fall with a high phosphorous content and this will help with root growth.
  • Repair extensive turf damage or loss by overseeding – distribute the desired seed mixture in a uniform manner in two directions and make sure the grass seed is in contact with the soil by core aerating before spreading the grass seed and roll the area after seeding. In addition, do not forget to water the seeded areas frequently to ensure good germination.
  • Controlling thatch (grass clippings/debris) – dethatch the lawn before you overseed and apply the first application of the fertilizer as thatch can harbor disease-causing organism and makes your lawn more prone to winter injury. You can dethatch by using core-aeration or dethatching (using a machine or a rake). The benefit of core aeration is that you break up the thatch and bring up soil containing microorganisms that help break down the thatch. In addition, the holes also help with soil-to-contact with both grass seeds and fertilizers.
  • Remove fallen tree leaves – by not removing the fallen leaves, your lawn will not get sunlight and will eventually die. The alternative to removing leaves is to pulverize the leaves with a mover and let them decompose on your lawn. Don’t forget to sharpen the blades of your lawnmower!
  • Last lawn cut at the right height – raise the mowing height slightly in the fall as grass root depth is proportional to mowing height – the longer the grass leaves, the deeper the roots. Longer grass blades also provide some insulation for the crown (growing point) of the grass plant. However, too long of length will encourage winter diseases.

However if you lawn is beyond repair, now is also a good time to re-sod your lawn. The cool Fall weather is a great time to re-sod your lawn because grass is sensitive to heat. This also creates the opportunity for the new sod to develop its root systems well so that when spring comes, the grass is well established and can grow vigorously.

Don’t delay and take advantage of good growing conditions to help your lawn recover from the summer. With this preparation your lawn will survive the winter better, green up earlier in the spring and have deep roots that will help it withstand next year’s summer drought.

For even more information on preparing your lawn for winter, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Sell your Home Faster: A Primer on Flagstone

Flagstone and Natural Stone Primer

Flagstone or Natural Stone can add character and charm to your landscaping that can be the envy of your neighbourhood. In fact, I’m 99.9% positive that you have at one time or another have seen or walked across a flagstone patio or walkway in Mississauga or any other place in Toronto.

In fact, some people may install flagstone for more selfish reasons. Re/max Agent Jennifer Lagtapon says that “if you want to sell your home faster, adding flagstone to your landscaping can only add to the curb appeal and make that first impression last”. She also told me that ‘curb appeal’ is something you need to focus in on, because buyers will form their strongest and most influential opinions before they even step out of the car.

Whether you want to sell your home or just make your house look great, here is a little primer on flagstone (aka natural stone).

Background on Flagstone or Natural Stone

Right now, the biggest trend in landscape design is the use of flagstone. It is a key component of nearly if not all luxury and/or upscale homes. In fact, increased competition and international trade has made flagstone an affordable product for all homeowners in the Greater Toronto Area. Flagstone in the GTA typically comes from Northern Ontario, but nowadays it could come as far away as India and China. Aside from new construction, using flagstone is also excellent way to face-lift any pre-existing concrete applications such as verandas, porches, walkways, entranceways, patios and steps.

Types

Although there are many types of flagstone in the marketplace, there typically two types that you will see in the Greater Toronto Area: Square Cut and Random Cut.

  • “Square Cut” flagstone is either composed of limestone, sandstone or granite. Sometimes, you will also find square cut flagstone imported from China and Turkey, but are still suitable to the Canadian climate. The stones are symmetrical in shape and produces a tile effect.
  • “Random Cut” flagstone has attributes that are associated with the area in which it was removed and as a result, the more specific or unique the stone is, the higher the cost of the flagstone. This is why most of “Random Cut” flagstone within the GTA is usually sourced out of Northern Ontario to help keep costs under control. The stones are asymmetrical shape and produces a natural and rustic look.
Square Cut Natural Stone
Random Cut Natural Stone

One other very important consideration is to look for the durability of the flagstone. Not all imported flagstone is meant to withstand the extremes of a Canadian weather and as a result, you may be disappointed by the time next season comes around.

Color

The various colors of flagstone is determined by the binding materials that are part of its natural formation and region. For example, if iron oxide is a dominant binding material, the flagstone will have a reddish tint. Some flagstone colors include black, white, brown, orange, red, gray and gold, and even lighter colors such as lavender and pink. To create a unique look, flagstone also gives you the option or choice to use uniformly colors or mix and match complementary colors.

Installation

Square Cut flagstone is meant to be installed onto an existing concrete structure such as a patio or stairs using mortar. The difficulty of the installation depends on a number of factors such as size of the flagstone, the pattern or design you want to create and even the number of stairs you need to build. It is similar to installing floor or wall tiles in your home. You will need spacers for joints, string lines and levels to create that perfect clean look. Square cut flagstone can also be installed on a gravel or limestone base in the same manner that you would install interlocking pavers. Unlike interlocking pavers, joint sizes can vary (1 cm, 2cm or 1/8 inch, ¼ inch, ½ inch) and will need to be filled in with a grout or mortar cement.
Random Cut flagstone with its ragged edges opens up the possibility of installing on nearly any surface such as pre-existing concrete, limestone or gravel base, and garden areas. Compared to square cut flagstone, installing random cut flagstone is a simpler task because absolute precision is not necessary. If you are installing on a gravel or limestone base, the base will need to be compacted just as if you were installing interlocking pavers. The space between the joints will be uneven and will have varying widths and these imperfections will give your space a rustic character. The joints for random cut flagstone can be not only be filled with mortar cement, but also with wide joint polymeric sand, soil, and decorative plants such as moss.

For even more information on flagstone, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Protecting your Interlocking Pavers – Tips on using a sealer

protecting-interlocking-pavers-using-a-sealer

If your neighbor is able to keep his driveway or patio looking brand new and vibrant, chances are he has used a Paving Stone Sealer. Paving Stone Sealers minimize or eliminate the porosity of most stone. If the stone is left unsealed, it will be most certainly be prone to certain types of damage such as
oil, salt, rust, harsh pool chemicals, colour fading from UV rays, dirt, and even autocare products.

Although applying the paving stone sealer isn’t difficult, having the right equipment to do it makes it simpler and easier to manage. Here is a list of the most essential and necessary equipment:

  • Paint Roller (thick nap) or Pump Sprayer
  • Rubber Gloves (throw away)
  • Goggles (you really don’t want this stuff in your eyes)
  • Work Pants (don’t care if you get sealer on it)
  • Work Boots (if you get this stuff on your sneakers, they will be ruined)
  • Pressure washer or hose with nozzle

In addition to having the right equipment for the job, here are some professional tips before applying, applying and using the paving stone sealer to keep that fresh and new look for your interlocking stones:

1. Remove all oil, grease, dirt

You can use the proper cleaners or use a power washer/hose with nozzle and allow the surface to dry for 24 hours before applying the sealer. If you are using a power washer, keep the angle at a shallow angle to minimize the loss of joint sand.

2. Removing efflorescence

Allow 30 to 60 days for the efflorescence (whitish salt) to escape from the stone. If the efflorescence is still visible, use efflorescence cleaner to remove it and let it dry 24-48 hours and then sweep the paving stones with a stiff bristled brush.

3. Keep water away

If you get water on the surface or on the roller while applying, a cloudy spot will form on the paving stone surface. If you sweat a lot, consider wearing a hat or headband to keep the sweat from dripping onto the sealer.

4. Watch the weather

Keep your eye on the weather as you do not want to apply the sealer below 10 degrees, or when there is a chance of rain (surface must be dry for at least 24 hours).

5. Increase durability

You can increase the durability of the surface when you apply the sealer in two thin coats than one thick coat. This will also reduce the possibility of the paving stone surface turning white.

6. Prevent streaking

For surfaces being sealed for the first time, apply a second coat by rolling in a cross direction than the first coat to prevent streaking. Allow first coat to dry prior to second coat application (drying time dependent on sealer brand). Allow sealed surfaces to dry for 24 hours before using. This will be more apparent on large flat surfaces such as flagstone.

6. Cleaning your tools

You must clean the tools immediately after the application. If you use a solvent-based sealer, use a lacquer thinner to clean the nozzle, canister and hose of your pump sprayer.

Polymeric Paver Sand – A Weed-Free and Insect-Free Solution

Now that you have your own backyard escape area using Interlocking Pavers, you wonder how your friends backyard patio looks so clean and sharp for many years. The secret of countless happy homeowners is the use of Polymeric Sand.

Polymeric Sand is the key to stabilizing your Interlocking Pavers and getting that weed-free, insect-free finished look. In fact, it should always be used once you’ve completed your landscaping project and not be thought as an option. With the use of Polymeric Sand, erosion has been virtually eliminated – no more re-filling sand year in and year out.

Although applying the Polymeric Sand is fairly straightforward, here are some tips that will help you get that clean finished look you were after:

1. Check for rain-free weather

Make sure that have at least 2-4 days of sunny weather with NO chance of rain or precipitation. You want to make sure that the glue in the sand has a chance to activate properly and harden without getting washed out.

2. Use a proper broom

Using a wide broom will help you distribute the sand across all the joints more evenly. Avoid corn brooms as they can potentially leave bits and pieces of broom in the crevices and potentially weakening the joint.

3. Use a compactor

After you pushed all the sand into the joints with a broom, use a power compactor with a rubber sleeve or base to help you get the sand into every single crevice and crack. This is almost like an insurance policy to help prevent weeds from growing and insects making those spaces their home.

4. Use a leaf blower

After you’ve swept in the sand or used the compactor into all the joints, blow the sand away at an angle nearly parallel to the surface of the patio. The key is to remove all the sand on the surface of the patio pavers. You don’t want the glue and sand to sit on the surface of the stone once it has been activated, especially if it is smooth patio stones.

5. Use water misting only

By using water misting to activate the glue in the sand, you do not wash away the sand between the patio stones before it has a chance to harden.

How to Install Interlocking Patio Pavers Tips – Part 2

If you missed part 1, of how to install interlocking patio pavers tips, you can click here.

Now that you’ve done your research, visualized your project, received free advice, determined your timeline and budget and possibly hired local help, its time to dig in and watch your dream landscape come to life.

Here are some additional tips that we think will help you to keep your project moving forward:

1. Keep your sketch or drawing close by

You’ve spent all that effort to visualizing your dream landscape, make sure you have it handy so that everything goes to plan. Better yet, make photocopies or scan your plan just in case it gets lost, waterlogged, ripped, eaten by the dog, or even buried (yeah, it has happened before!).

2. Getting the proper tools

You want to keep your significant other happy, get the rights tools so you can get the job done faster and better. Forget the snow shovel and go out and buy the right tool(s) or just rent them.

3. Stake it right

Make sure that when you stake out the dimensions of the project, it is important to keep your measurements consistent to your drawings to avoid shortage or overage of materials.

4. Keeping the edge straight

During installation you will need to use string between the stakes as a guide to help keep your interlocking pavers straight. If you want your pavers to stay straight for many years to come, think of installing landscape edging.

5. Tamping the sand

After you have applied the polymeric sand with a broom, use a tamper with a rubber pad to ensure that the sand fills in all the cracks properly. Once the polymeric sand activates, you are going to get a strong cohesive surface that will resist weeds and keep your landscape looking pristine.

6. More free landscaping advice

Just because you’ve started work, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still ask for advice. This is especially true if you encountered something unexpected like a large tree root. It won’t cost you anything and it may save you heartache and frustration down the road.

7. Don’t stop unnecessarily

Place your sand, gravel and stone in piles along the project perimeter so you don’t need to stop when you run out. This will help you keep focus on getting the project done. Don’t forget to cover the piles overnight to protect the sand from the rain.

8. Using a stone cutter

If you want smooth cut curve for your interlocking stone, rent a stone cutter or take it to your local garden centre to get cut it for you.

9. Keeping the help happy

If you’ve decided that you want to hire labour, save time and money by providing food and snacks so your help can stay onsite and help you finish your project faster.

How to Install Interlocking Patio Pavers Tips – Part 1

Interlocking pavers is probably one of the most cost effective and aesthetically pleasing products on the marketplace to add value to your property. The myriad of colors, shapes, sizes from a multitude of manufacturers will allow you to create the spectacular patio, walkway, terrace, or driveway that you dreamed of while adding value to your home.

As with any DIY project, installing interlocking pavers requires a bit of patience, time and elbow grease to come up with the finished look that you want. Here are some guidelines on how to prepare for the installation of interlocking pavers.

1. Research Interlocking Pavers and Materials

This is probably one of the most important parts of installing interlocking pavers. Good solid research will make your project a relatively smooth one. Here are some key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • What do you want to do or accomplish or build and where do you want to build it? (e.g. pathway, terrace, patio, driveway, etc.)
  • Ask for product catalogs and pricing sheets
  • Visit the interlocking paver manufacturer’s website or visit our showroom or check out their picture gallery for ideas on things can be done.
  • Ask questions to help understand the myriad of options and choices available such as mixing and matching stones from different manufacturers to create that unique look.

2. Draw and Sketch Your Landscape Vision

You don’t have to be a graphic artist to help you visualize your dream landscape. Roughly drawing your landscape layout will help you gather your thoughts and guide you through to the end of your project. By having your vision articulated on paper, you can always easily fine-tune your project with an eraser and pencil. You can start now by downloading this graph paper and sketch away.

3. Taking Measurements

Measure the perimeter (sides) of the project. There are two approaches to measuring out the project.

  • First method – use your garden hose to mark the area where the interlocking stone will be laid down. It is not the most accurate, but it does give you a good idea of how much square footage is being used.
  • Second method – use wooden stakes and string and precisely mark out the area and then measure with a measuring tape.

With the second method, you eliminate the need to stake out the area again when you start digging, thus saving you some time and effort later on.

4. Smart Budgeting

Understanding how much want to spend and sticking with it will give you great satisfaction when you finish. There are typically 3 types of expenses you need budget or account for:

  • Variable Expenses – These expenses are typically related specifically with the quantity, type, size, and color of the interlocking paver.
  • Fixed Expenses – The expenses are the sand and gravel that you require to build a solid foundation. Regardless of what type of interlocking stone you decide to go with, you will typically have the same amount of sand and gravel.
  • Miscellaneous Expenses – These expenses are extraneous items that will help you complete the project such as renting equipment, bins for waste disposal, and accessories.

5. Free Landscaping Advice

It doesn’t hurt that once you’ve got your plans put together to get some free expert advice. Call us and we will help you fine tune your landscape project and provide a quotation on all the required materials.

6. Timing it Right

Once you have finalize your plans, make sure you block out enough time in your schedule (eg. 1 day for 4 weekends, 2 days for 2 weekends) to complete the job in a timely manner. Don’t schedule a project a few weeks before an event because time pressure may cause you to make costly mistakes. Always give yourself extra time to compensate for any unforeseen delays such as rainy days. Lastly, the key to timing is to estimate the pace that you want to work at.

7. Pre-ordering for Less Headaches

Placing your pre-order for materials is also important to making sure that you are off to a smooth start. Landscape materials such as interlocking stone typically require a 24 hour notice for delivery while bulk materials have a turnaround of 4-6 hours. Other items such as bin rentals or tool rentals require 4-6 hours’ notice to ensure that the items are available.

8. Hiring your Friends/Family

Getting your friends and/or family to help you with a part of the job or the entire job will allow you to complete the job faster and make it far more enjoyable.

9. Hiring Local Labour

If none of your friends and/or family can help you out, you can always find local help through your local classified ads (Kijiji or Craigslist). For example, you may need someone to help you dig out the dirt and remove it or move the sand and gravel for you from the driveway to the project area. Make sure that you do your due diligence on the individual(s) and provide right tools to get the job done correctly.

10. Giving Yourself a Break

If you are doing this yourself, remember to give yourself a break every few hours or so that you can last through the day and for the entire project. Have plenty of fluids like water and snacks close by so you grab them when you need them.

To start reading about Part 2 of installing interlocking pavers, go here

Garden Landscaping Trends for 2012

Garden landscaping trends for 2012 are exciting and unique. We have selected three trends that we think are impactful and timeless. Read on below:

1. Interlocking Paver (Brick) borders and the usage of contrast:

 

Borders are a great way to liven up any Interlocking Paver (Brick) project – driveways, walkways or patios. Ultra Black is a popular colour as a border and can be found in our following lines: Adora, Strada, and Bellagio. The vivid tone of black provides a remarkable contrast against all colours.

 

2. Textured Pavers:

 

In recent years, Textured Pavers have become increasingly popular in providing a reasonable alternative to natural stone and impressed concrete. Moderna is an excellent example of a flagstone alternative due to its chiseled surface and irregular shape.

 

3. Incorporating Natural Stone with Concrete:

 

Natural Stone Tread Copings provide an excellent alternative to traditional concrete copings/caps for steps and retaining walls. Tread Copings come in 6ft lengths, which provides a complete look to most steps and retaining walls.