6 Tips + 3 Myths to Keeping Christmas Tree Spectacular until New Years

IF YOU HAVEN’T PURCHASED A TREE YET, READ OUR QUICK GUIDE TO SELECTING A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE

Here is how you can extend that Christmas spirit well into New Years with these 6 easy to remember tips and 3 myths or things that you should not do with a real Christmas tree.
Let us know what you think below.

tips and myths to keeping your Christmas tree alive

A Guide to Selecting a Real Christmas Tree

We know selecting a fresh Christmas Tree can be a daunting task so we’ve created a real simple and easy to use guide to help you through this process. In this infographic, we talk about the 3 most common types of fresh Christmas Trees that you can purchase from your garden center or from your local tree farm.
Tell us what you think below.

From all of us at Toemar Garden Supplies and Firewood, thank you for your support and loyalty in 2014 and we look forward to serving you in 2015!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

guide-to-selecting-the-right-christmas-tree

Autumn Checklist

With the air getting cooler each day, the days growing shorter, and leaves displaying their golden and orange radiant colors, it’s a sure sign that Fall is definitely here and it also means that you start preparing your home for the winter.

To help you prioritize and simplify the process, we found this wonderful autumn checklist infographic from Allstate. It provides you 9 things you can do around the house to complete before you head off to enjoy all the Fall activities that Ontario has to offer.

autumn-checklist-allstate

Fall Mulching

It’s unfortunate that most of us think of mulching as an afterthought, a topping or icing on the cake after you’ve completed your landscaping. Although this may be the case on newly completed landscaped backyards, mulching is an integral part to maintaining the health of your backyard.

Every spring we see that people purposely use mulch to help beautify their gardens. What we DON’T see is people use mulch in the fall. We want to change that mindset because mulching in the fall is a potential cost-saving that pays it forward in the spring and summer. Here’s why:

Mulch as a Blanket

Using mulch to cover the ground in your garden is a barrier between the freezing cold and snow in the winter. This barrier acts like insulation to help moderate the temperature of the roots of the plants, trees and shrubs in your garden. It also prevents soil erosion and compaction from heavy rains. Hands down, it is one of the quickest, easiest and highly effective action that you can do to protect and maintain your garden. You simply pile it on around the base of plants, shrubs or trees or over larger areas throw on a nice thick layer (2 to 4 inches). Some examples of organic mulches that you spread out on top of the soil include straw, shredded leaves, aged manure and wood chips.

Keeping it Moist

By default, we all know that mulch is good at keeping the ground moist. It is probably one of better known attributes of mulch. Some research conducted by various universities show that moisture retention can be as high as 70% (dependent on a number of factors). This is because it prevents dew which is condensation of moisture found in the soil and not necessarily condensation of water from the air. Mulch is the one barrier to catch the condensation from the soil and prevents it from being drawn up the soil and evaporating and keeping the roots of your plants, trees and shrubs surrounded by moist soil.

Weed Be Gone (Almost!)

It is a fact that weeds are universally disliked, especially in beautified areas such as manicured parks, public gardens and your yard. If you take a closer look at public spaces you will see that mulch, whether it is red, brown or black or bark, is used to manage and control weeds. A study conducted by McGill university showed that mulching can significantly reduce weeds to the point where it is manageable, where 7.5 weeds showed up in 110 square foot area. This mean that the city can keep their public spaces nicer for a longer period of time, thus saving money. To get to this type of result yourself, you need to make sure the mulch itself is weed-free or you will end up growing more weeds in your garden. It is also recommended that you have enough mulch to prevent existing weed seeds from germinating.

Happy Fall Mulching!

Feel free to reach out to us should you have any more questions by commenting below or contacting us phone or email.

Image: http://protectorgroupinsurance.wordpress.com/

Permeable Pavers

Permeable pavers are interlocking pavers that have joints between them that are filled with small stones. Because of the space in the joints between the interlocking pavers, water enters this space and flows through to a base of crushed stone layers and then into the soil below. As a result the stones in the joints, this provides 100% surface permeability and reduces storm water and filters out pollutants.

The Future of Interlocking Pavers

Last year on July 8th, 2014, we all felt the after effects of one of the biggest rain storms to hit the Greater Toronto Area. With reports of major streets completely underwater and even a major rescue operation on the GO train, storm water has become an issue as a result of all the impervious surfaces that have been created to handle ever increasing volume of vehicular traffic. As a result, this has impacted stream bank erosion, flooding and polluting of streams, lakes and rivers which also affects our source of drinking water. It should come as no surprise that cities are now looking for cost effective storm water management solutions. Permeable pavements are what cities around the world are looking at now and beyond to help combat storm water runoff. It is also something that homeowners should be considering as well to help contribute to the reduction of harmful and potentially devastating effects of storm water on our environment.

It’s “Green” = More $$$?

The cost of installing permeable pavers is comparable to the installation of standard interlocking pavers. At Toemar, we have a product called Moderna and it can be configured in a specific pattern so that it is permeable while creating the high end look of regular square-cut flagstone. In addition, the base created for permeable pavers is essentially identical with the exception of using more pervious base such as ¾ clear stone and high performance bedding (HPB) which will allow a flow through of the water into the soil base.

Check out this video on Moderna’s permeable capabilities starting at 1:48.

How does it look?

Depending on what your needs are and your taste, you can setup your permeable pavers in many different configurations for your driveway and/or walkway. You can set it up so that it looks just like a standard interlocking paver driveway or you can “green it up” as part of the natural look. Check out some samples of what people have done:

permeable-paver-designs

Other Benefits of Permeable Pavers

In addition to diverting water from storm sewers which goes into stream, permeable pavers can also reduce something called “heat island effect”. This effect is caused by the buildup of heat in and around cities, towns, and structures. Asphalt and concrete absorb sunlight and convert it to heat and that is why when you walk on your driveway or a mall parking lot it feels that much warmer.
Lastly, by retaining water on your property you not only water the plants but also return water to the water table on your property.

Feel free to reach out to us should you have any more questions by commenting below or contacting us phone or email.

Flagstone – How to Buy for Patios, Walkways and Driveways

Buying flagstone may seem like a daunting task to the everyday homeowner, but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to understand some basics and you can have a good grasp of what your potential dream flagstone patio, walkways or driveway may cost you.

Here are some things you should know:

How is it sold?

Flagstone is typically sold by the weight, specifically either in lbs or tonnes. The reason it is sold by weight is because of how it is sold by the quarries and because of the irregular shape of each piece of flagstone.

How do I measure or figure out how much I need?

There is an industry standard that everyone goes by to determine the amount of flagstone one needs to purchase. For every 100 square feet of coverage, you will need approximately 1 tonne or 2000 pounds of flagstone that is between 1″ to 1.5″ thickness with spacing between each flagstone around 1/2″ to 1″ wide gap.

What varieties are available of flagstone?

Slate, limestone, and sandstone are just a few varieties of flagstone that are available in the market today. In Ontario, the most common type of flagstone available is called Wiarton since the quarries are located in Southern Ontario. Wiarton is a form of limestone that comes in various colors. However, the most common color range is from light grey to charcoal grey.

What thickness should I use?

Flagstone thickness ranges from 3/4″ up to 3″ and possibly even more. The most common thickness from 1″ to 1.5″ thickness. This flagstone thickness is good for paved concrete surfaces. The reason for a thinner flagstone is because of there little chance the flagstone would be affected by winter on a concrete pad. For surfaces where the base is gravel, you would want to purchase flagstone that is at least 2″ to 3″ thick. The reason for this thickness is that the weight and the thickness of the flagstone will to help counteract heaving during the freeze thaw cycle that happens each year and minimize any potential for cracking that may occur.

What are the jointing materials that I need to finish the flagstone project?

As it was mentioned earlier, there are different types of jointing materials that can be used. If your flagstone base is a concrete platform/pad, then you should use cement or other types of mortar. If you have a gravel base, then you should use sand (fine or coarse), pea gravel, or even polymeric sand (wide joint variety) as a mortar. The sand or pea gravel is a more forgiving and will not show cracks should the flagstone have movement after the freeze-thaw cycle of winter.

Mississauga Soil Types

In our last post on soil preparation, we spoke of Mississauga’s soil types. Approximately 60% of Mississauga has three types of soil. Here is a fast recap of soil summary in Mississagua:

  • Heavy clay soil – At 75% to 100% moisture, the clay soil is too wet, it is dark in color and feels slick when rubbed between thumb and forefinger. The soil will be completely pliable and you can draw with it. A ball will form moisture content is less than 50%.
  • Coarse clay soil – This soil is more of a sandy loam or silt loam. At 50% moisture, you can probably form a ball and will tend to crumble. At 75% to 100% moisture it will be similar to a heavy clay soil.
  • Coarse sandy soil – A ball will not form at less than 50% moisture. At 75% to 100% moisture, a weak ball can be form but shatter easily.

You can see a map of Mississauga soil types at the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development Mines website. This map is called the Quaternary geology of Toronto and surrounding area, Southern Ontario. Essentially this is a map of the most recent geological period of time in Earth’s history, spanning the last two million years and extending up to the present day.

You can go to here to see the maps in both the jpg format and PDF file format.

Soil Preparation for Planting

As our spring days become warmer and warmer, now is the time to think about soil preparation for your garden. So before you get out there and start shoveling or tilling the soil consider the following when you should start “working” the soil.

Too Early

Clumps. That is what happens when you start to work the soil too early. When the ground is still saturated with water from melting snow or spring rain, turning the soil over will give clumps that will be difficult to break down at a later time. Wet soil doesn’t break up into loose and fine particles of dirt that create miniscule air pockets perfect for plant roots to grow in.

Dried Yet?

You can get a moisture reader which is expensive, but the surefire way is a much simpler and you’ll know whether or not the soil has dried out enough to be worked on. Grab a handful of soil (the size of a baseball) and squeeze the soil together until it forms a ball. If the dirt can be crumbled by pressing your fingers together or dropping it from table height, then you’ve got soil that is dry enough to start digging. If the ball of dirt maintains it shape or breaks into solid sections rather than loose soil, there is still too much water in the dirt.

Mississauga Soil

Approximately 60% of Mississauga’s soil being clay, here are some pointers that will help you understand the soil in your yard:

  • Heavy clay soil – At 75% to 100% moisture, the clay soil is too wet, it is dark in color and feels slick when rubbed between thumb and forefinger. The soil will be completely pliable and you can draw with it. A ball will form moisture content is less than 50%.
  • Coarse clay soil – This soil is more of a sandy loam or silt loam. At 50% moisture, you can probably form a ball and will tend to crumble. At 75% to 100% moisture it will be similar to a heavy clay soil.
  • Coarse sandy soil – A ball will not form at less than 50% moisture. At 75% to 100% moisture, a weak ball can be form but shatter easily.

The “RIGHT” soil

Having the right soil can greatly affect the quality of your plants. Soil composition should be balanced, well-drained, fertile and with a pH (acidity level) between 6 and 7.  If the soil is too acidic, add some lime. If you have sandy soil where there is not enough organic matter OR if you have clay soil which is too heavy and compact, you need to add decomposed manure or compost to help improve soil structure and composition while providing the nutrients required by the plants.

Image sources:https://www.flickr.com/photos/scrap_pile/

2014 Backyard Design – 5 Simple Ideas

Backyard design, specifically susatinable designs are not as difficult as you think. In fact, here are 5 simple tips and ideas that we think will help you to plan your backyard landscape with years of enjoyment to come:

#1. Sustainability going mainstream:

Sustainable landscaping encompasses a variety of practices and used in every phase of the process including design, construction, implementation and maintenance. Low-maintenance gardens, drought-tolerant plants and less grass have become the norm. This not only makes sense for the environment but also for economical reasons.

backyard-design-sustainable-landscape

Sustainable design going mainstream

#2. Edible landscapes:

Transform your backyard into a sensory experience that combines both sight and taste. Gardens that incorporate both edibles and ornamental plants will give you a taste of all natural produce while creating an eye-pleasing landscape that will be a hit with both your neighbours and food cost savings.

edible-backyard-landscape

Edible landscape

#3. Quality is key:

Times are still tough and spending your money wisely is key. Invest in quality and natural materials that will withstand the elements of nature and your use and enjoyment of the space. Not only do you save money in the long run, but you will save yourself a great deal of stress and aggravation from poorly constructed materials.

build-quality-landscape-backyard

Quality is key

#4. Water Features:

It was popular in 2013 and continues to be trend in 2014. Whether it is for the front yard or backyard, water features add another sensory experience to relaxing in your backyard. You can get relatively inexpensive self-contained systems in an urn or portable fountain to a high-end water wall are popular across all budgets.

water-features-backyard

Water features creates a relaxing atmosphere

#5. Indoor living outside:

Extend your home from the inside to the outdoors to create permanent living spaces that will not only add value to your home but also the level of enjoyment of your home. Make sure to take advantage of and use weather resistant fabrics and natural materials such as stone that both fade-resistant and waterproof.

indoor-living-outside-backyard

Indoor living outside

Image sources:
Sustainable Landscape http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccready | Edible landscape http://www.flickr.com/photos/aon/ | Water Features Source: Mcmonagle Stone | Build Quality Source: Turfdesigners | Indoor Living Outside Source: Nordby Design Studio

Practical Tips to Burning Firewood

Did you know that one cord of wood burned as firewood provides the heat equivalent to that produced by burning 200 to 250 gallons of heating oil, depending on the type of hardwood you are using?

If you are burning firewood or thinking about burning firewood here are some great tips that you can apply to your own experience:

  • Freshly cut wood contains up to 50 percent moisture and must be seasoned (approximately 2 years) to 20 to 25 percent moisture content before burning. Wood containing more than 25 percent moisture is wet, or green, and should never be burned in a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Wood must be split into pieces and stacked out of the rain for at least six months to season properly. If you see a place where firewood is just thrown into pile, you are not getting what you pay for.
  • If steam bubbles and hisses out of the end grain as the firewood heats up on the fire, the wood is wet, or green, and needs to be seasoned longer before burning. Do not burn!
  • Well-seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with visible cracks or splits. It is relatively lightweight and makes a sharp, distinctive “clink” when two pieces strike each other.
  • To maintain proper airflow, regularly remove ashes from your wood-burning appliance into a metal container with a cover and store outdoors.
  • Build hot fires. A smoldering fire is not a safe or efficient fire.
  • Start fires only with newspaper, dry kindling and all natural or organic fire starters. Never start a fire with gasoline, kerosene, or charcoal starter.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Contact us if you have any questions on how to burn your firewood efficiently and effectively. Be safe and stay warm!

Source: Farmer’s Alamanac, US EPA