A Simple Guide to Decorating Your Christmas Tree

A decorated Christmas tree is a sure sign that Christmas celebrations with friends and family around this joyous season is near.

See our infographic below as we’ve looked at 3 styles of Christmas tree decorations through the years that will keep your home looking warm and inviting.

If you still need more inspiration check out Pinterest page where you can check out real trees and decorated Christmas trees.

From all of us at Toemar Garden Supplies and Firewood, thank you for your support and loyalty in 2015 and we look forward to serving you in 2016!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

fresh-christmas-tree-decoration-style

Fall Gardening Tips – 23 Things You Can Do Now

The fall season is one of the most vibrant and wonderful seasons that we have in Canada.  With nature coming alive with technicolor, we have the wonderful opportunity to celebrate thanksgiving, see the biggest pumpkins ever and drinking pumpkin spice lattes, pick apples and drink awesome hot cider.  It is a chance for us to do fall gardening to prepare for next spring.

Here is a list of 23 things that we’ve compiled that you can quickly (and probably should) do that will help your garden look its best ever next year.  We’ve broken down the list of things into five areas: lawn, trees, plants, tools, vegetables, and home.

Read on…

Lawn

fall-core-aeration1. Fertilizer – Hunkering Down for the Winter

With the cold Canadian Winters, applying fertilizer in the late fall is probably the most important application you’ll make all year.

Why: A high quality autumn fertilizer will help you build up the roots that will make your lawn a bit more hardy over the winter and allow it to bounce back more quickly in the spring.  It has a low nitrogen content and high level of potassium. The increased amount of potassium strengthens the grass and increases its resistance to frost.  Using traditional lawn fertilizers will make the lawn more susceptible to frost because of its high nitrogen content.

How: Get a fertilizer that is slow release.  Any fertilizer with low nitrogen and high potassium will work.

2. Give your grass a RAT Down

Rake and remove fallen leaves
Aerate with an aerator
Top dress the lawn

Why: Give your lawn the most ideal condition to prepare for the coming winter.  Removing the leaves on a regular basis and any yard waste (clippings etc.) combined with aerating will improve the flow of moisture and nutrients right where it is needed, the roots.  In addition, removing the leaves and yard waste also allows for light and hinders the formation of dry, brown patches and the growth of moss.  Adding some high quality topsoil combined with grass seeds gives the best chance for new grass to take hold in the new year, making for a denser and thicker lawn.

How: Instead of using a simple topsoil, try using an overseeding soil.  The overseeding soil minimizes the chance of weeds taking so because it is so light but just enough for the grass seeds to germinate and take hold.

3. One last trim

Cut your lawn before the first snow arrives, probably just before November.

Why: By cutting your lawn to approximately 2.5 to 3 inches in height, this allows your grass to stay upright.  This is important because grass that is too tall, tends to bend over, mat down and shade itself.  In turn, this creates an environment where your grass is more prone to disease, weeds, and moss, especially in a wet season like spring or late-season when there is heavy snow.  Like plants, lawns also need good airflow.

How: Lower your lawn mower to the appropriate height starting with the highest setting and move down until you get to close to approximately 3 inches.  Make sure that the lawn mower is turned off when you are lowering it.

Trees

protect-evergreen-using-burlap-sweeney-star-tribune

4. Protect the Young Fruit Trees

Why:  Protect the young bark of fruit trees from rodents. Fruit producing trees and young flowering trees are susceptible to damage from rabbit and mice during the winter.  Trees affected by this include crabapples, fruit bearing apples, pears, and plums.

How: You can use spiral protectors on the bottom of the tree trunk to get great results.  Place the plastic spiral protector on trees that are less than 10cm in diameter (measured 80cm from the trunk).  Another alternative non-toxic method is to use a product called Ropel.

5. Upright Evergreen Trees

Why:  Junipers and Cedar trees need to be protected from the drying effects of the wind and the potential burning effects of late winter sun as it reflects off of the snow.

How: You can simply protect these trees using burlap.  Preferably two layers of burlap should be used for the best results.  Secure the burlap with the use of garden twine.

6. Broad Leafed Evergreen Trees

Why:  Dessication is the drying out of the trees tender stems and foilage because of the winter wind.  Evergreen trees like rhododendrons, yews, boxwood, holly and other broad-leafed evergreen trees are susceptible.

How: You can use the burlap option (see above) or there is a product called Wilt-Pruf that does the job.  You can prevent dessication with a single application.

7. Plant Shrubs and Evergreens

Why: Early fall planting gives new plants enough time to get their roots established before winter. The key is encouraging good root growth. Planting trees and shrubs in fall also enables the root systems to grow before the hot summer returns next season.  Consider the following tree species for planting in the fall: maple, buckeye, horse chestnut, alder, catalpa, hackberry, hawthorn, ash, honey locust, crabapple, amur corktree, spruce, pine, sycamore, linden and elm.

How: The perfect time to plan trees is from September to November because it is approximately 6 weeks before the first sign of hard frost and it gives the roots to become more established before the ground freezes and winter sets in.  The increase in rainfall and cooler temperatures, you will need to water less.

8. Cutting Hedges

Why: Pruning hedges to prevent decay, especially when there is a moisture accumulating.

How: Cut your deciduous hedges using some sharp shears. Go back as far as you can without creating any openings or holes as these areas will not grow back over the winter and make your hedge look quite bare. Also remove any tree leaves lying on the hedge to encourage fresh air and sun and to prevent rot.

Plants

storing-bulbs-for-winter

9. Hardening your Roses

Why: Prepare your roses for the winter so that it can withstand the temperatures and dessication.

How: Hardening off a rose is considered to be complete when the the plant stops growing and becomes fully dormant before the onset of the coldest weather.  You want to encourage dormancy by stopping fertilizing and watering 6 weeks before first frost.  You can also let the flowers go to seed which also slows down vegetative growth in this state.  Lastly, you can insulate from the freeze/thaw cycles by creating a 20-25cm high mound of topsoil around the base of each rosebush.

10. Planting Bulbs

Why: Allow your flowers to germinate from the soil at the precise time in spring without you worrying about it.

How: Plant the bulbs in the ground at a depth of 2-3 times their height.  It is important that the bulbs have access to moist soil in the spring to start off properly.  Make sure that the bulbs in the ground have their tip facing upwards and then cover them with soil from the planter and press down gently.

11. Amend the Soil

Why: Fostering the right growing conditions now will allow the flowers and plants to start off properly in the spring without the need for your intervention.

How: You can amend the soil by tilling it and adding compost or premium black garden soil.  If you have your own composter, mix four parts leaves with one part left over annual plants or grass clippings.  Throw some compost accelerator into the mix and you’ll be off to a great start.

12. Dividing and Planting Perennials

Why: By dividing and planting spring/summer perennials in the fall, you give the plants a good chance to establish a strong roost system before their bloom the following season.

How: Water the plants a few days before you dig and divide.  When you start to dig and divide, do it on a day that is cloudy with a little wind.  It will minimize the harsh drying conditions. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the root ball.  When you plant, add some low nitrogen fertilizer (0-10-10) to encourage root growth, and prevent excessive top growth.  Remember not all perennials like to be divided.  Make sure you do your research before starting.

13. Storing Summer Bulbs

Why: Some summer bulbs such as dahlias, cannas, caladiums, callas, and other tender buls are not able to withstand the harsh winters.

How: You can save these tender bulbs and use them next year by storing them in peat moss or sand in a cool (50 degrees F or 10 degrees C), in a frost-free spot or your cold room for the winter.  If you have hardy bulbs, just leave them in the ground.

Tools

lawnmower-preparation-for-winter-storage

14. Storing your Lawnmower Properly

Why: Minimize the probability of unexpected repairs in the New Year and start lawn cutting right away.

How: Start off by sharpening your lawnmower blade, clean out the cutting deck and then spray it with oil.  You should also change the oil, disconnect the spark plug and empty it of gas by run it out of gas.  Minimize rust by covering the lawn mower if it is stored outside without a cover (garage or tool shed).

15. Storing your Gas Power Tools Properly

Why: Minimize the probability of having the fuel lines gum up

How: The best thing to do is to run the gas powered tool until it runs out of gas.  For the other gas that is stored in a jerry can, make sure you winterize the fuel by adding fuel additive that you can purchase from your local hardware store.

16. Hand Tool Longevity

Why: If you invested in good tools, the last thing you want to see is rust in the new year.  Not only is it unsightly, but it weakens the tool.

How: You can scrape the hand tools free of caked on dirt, sharpen them with a bastard file and spray or wipe them down with oil before hanging them up for the winter. Come spring, they are good to go.

Vegetables

storing-vegetables-for-winter

17. Clean up the Vegetable Garden

Why: Cleaning up your vegetable garden will ensure that pests won’t make your garden their winter home and minimize the risk of diseased vegetable crops.

How: Simply harvest all root crops and harvest unripened green tomatoes and ripen them indoors.  Till in manure or veggie soil to help replenish the nutrients now so that you are ready to go in Spring.  You can also use compost as well.

18. Storing Vegetables for the Winter

Why: Save money on your grocery bill and eat your home grown vegetables such as carrots, leeks, and potatoes.

How: Store the vegetables in bushel baskets ½ full of pure dry sand and store them in your basement or fruit cellar or cold storage.   For tomatoes, take the remaining tomato plants and hang them in a cellar or garage while the green fruit ripens.  No light is required.  Make sure the plants are free from bugs before bringing them into the cellar.

Home

interlocking-paver-sand-to-fill-cracks

19. Interlocking Paver Crack Filling

Why: Fill up the cracks between the interlocking pavers so that the spring thaw will run on the surface as opposed to weakening the base of your interlocking pavers

How: Clean up the interlocking pavers with water and remove any weeds manually (if possible with the roots) or use a weed killer beforehand to make it easier to remove the weeds. Purchase a fine grain paver sand (with an adhesive) and sweep it into the cracks.  Lightly remove any excess sand on the surface with a broom. Mist the surface of the pavers thoroughly so that water can activate the glue in the sand and harden.

20. Draining hoses and faucets

Why: Failure to drain hoses or outdoor faucets may cause the trapped water to expand when frozen and damage the hardware.

How: Shut off the water flow to the outside faucet inside the home.  Detach the garden hose and roll it up with not attachments.  This allows any excess water to flow out and whatever is left will evaporate.

21. Empty out the sprinkler systems

Why: Like garden hoses and outdoor faucets, water that is trapped in the sprinkler system can expand and severely damaging it.

How: Although there are a number of ways remove water from your sprinkler system such as the blow out method, it is recommended to hire a professional to ensure that your sprinkler system is properly winterized.

22. Outdoor Furniture and Equipment

Why: Cleaning the furniture and equipment such as the BBQ can help prolong the life and usage.  Food caught or left in the crevices may also invite rodents to nest in the winter.

How: Clean with water and a mild dishwashing liquid to prevent any discoloration or scratching of the surface.  The dishwashing liquid is perfect to remove any dust and stuck on food particles.  For BBQ, you can take the extra step to heat it up to maximum so that any food particles become charcoal and it will much easier to remove.

Polymeric Sand – 14 Things You Should Know Before You Buy

Polymeric Sand is as ubiquitous to interlocking pavers as garden soil to gardening.  You need good garden soil to grow your vegetables and plans.  You need good polymeric sand to maintain the look and appearance of your landscape.

Some naysayers will say that polymeric sand is a complete waste of money and that it isn’t worth a dime because the weeds keep on coming back or the insects are burrowing between the pavers.  This may be true, however, like everything else nothing is ever maintenance free.  Like your car, a little bit of maintenance can go a long way to protecting your investment and keeping your landscaping looking that much nicer longer.

So here is what you need to know about polymeric sand and why it is really that important to protect your interlocking paving investment and maintaining the curb appeal of your home.

What is Polymeric Sand made of?

Pretty every single manufacturer of polymeric sand in the marketplace has three main ingredients:

  1. Quartz silica

  2. Crystalline silica

  3. Proprietary polymer/organic

Out of these three main ingredients, the first two make up approximately 85-95% of the product by volume.  The rest of the ingredients are some type of filler and the proprietary glue.

What is the proprietary polymer?

Essentially this is a man-made chemical binder or organic biner that binds the sand together and to create a single surface between the joints of the interlocking pavers. This glue holds the sand in place so that when it rains or running water, the water will not wash away the sand.

Are all polymers the same?

No. Not all polymers are the same. Some are stronger and some are weaker.  The cost of the polymeric sand can indicated how good the glue is and its performance.

How is the polymer activated?

The polymer is activated by the use of water.  It can only be activated once and hardens to make the joint water repellant.  With that being said, there are now polymers that can be resoftened with the use of water so that minor cracks are automatically filled in.  However, there are limits in which the sand can be resoftened and it will eventually the glue will get washed away.

How important is the polymer to the maintaining the impermeability of your finished landscape?

It is important.  Theuse of polymeric sand increases the durability of the entire surface of the landscaped area.  This minimizes the opportunity for water to seep below the surface of the interlocking pavers and into the sand and/or crushed stone foundation below. Without water beneath the pavement, silt and fines have no ability to migrate from one area to another.  This means a drier foundation which translate to less deformation of the surface under traffic loads. It also means that your backyard patio, walkway or driveway will look perfect longer.

Is all quartz silica and crystalline silica the same for all polymeric sand?

No. Like glue, there are varying degrees of granuality or fineness of the sand.  The finer the sand (smaller the particles) the easier it is for the sand to fill every single nook and cranny and crack.  When the sand can reach these minor cracks, it lessens the chance for weed growth or insect burrows.  This plays a part in minimizing the maintenance that is required to keep your interlocking pavers looking good.

How come there is portland cement in the sand?

Portland cement is one of the key ingredients to help increase the hardness and strength of the sand.  Polymeric sands that solely rely on an adhesive are not as strong as those with BOTH the portland cement and the adhesive.

Can polymeric sand have different colors?

Absolutely.  Most polymeric sand manufacturers offer at least two colors that match 95% of the interlocking pavers on the marketplace today: tan and grey.  We currently carry sand that comes in 5 colors: brown, black, grey, red and buff.

How much does polymeric sand cost?

The price does vary from store to store and from region to region.  You can expect the price to vary between $20 – $40 per 55lb – 50lb bag.  The cost of this product outweighs the cost of having to relay the interlocking pavers every few years.

How to use polymeric sand for the first time?

Because polymeric sand will stick like glue to whatever wet surface it contacts, only apply the product when rain is not in the forecast. These are the steps for pretty much all polymeric sands in the marketplace:

  1. After laying your pavers, sweep the polymeric sand into all joints

  2. Compact or tamp the pavers and sand to make sure that the sand fills all cracks

  3. Sweep in another round of polymeric sand

  4. Compact again to fill in all the cracks

  5. Sweep in, but do not tamp. In this last round, get the polymeric sand as close to the tops of interlocking pavers as possible

  6. Ensure no sand is sitting on the pavers themselves.  You can sweep individual pieces or use a blower (at near parallel angle to the surface). Polymeric sand is hard to remove once wet

  7. Spray water mist over the entire paved or hardscaped area, from high point to low point

  8. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rewet with a light mist

  9. Allow a full 24 hours for complete curing

How to maintain the hardscaping with polymeric sand?

After a long hard winter, you may want to just spread some polymeric sand onto the pavers and sweep it into all the cracks to prevent any weeds and/or any burrows.  Once you’ve done that, remove any excess sand and then wet the surface to activate the polymeric sand.

What are the three things you should always look for in a quality polymeric sand?

  1. Granularity of the sand – the smaller the particle the better it is get into the cracks
  2. Polymer or adhesive – a strong glue is better withstand the environment.
  3. Portland cement – some portland cement increases the hardness and impermeability of the surface

Is there a difference in polymeric sands between what big box stores sell and what specialty retailers sell?

There is good chance that there is a difference.  You would never see a specialty retailer sell what is being sold in a big box.  The reason is that specialty retailers place a greater emphasis on quality as opposed to price. When manufacturers focus on price, there are going to be some sacrifices made to the quality of the ingredients used. This is reflected when you see movement, weeds, or insect burrows in interlocking pavers.

33 Awesome Tips for Planting, Growing and Harvesting Tomatoes

Tomato Fact #1: Did you know that Canadian farms produce close to a million metric tons of tomatoes in Canada every year?

Tomato Fact #2: All greenhouse-grown tomatoes are sold for fresh consumption.

Tomato Fact #3: Canadians consumer approximately 1.33 litres of tomatoes every year. (source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry)

Tomatoes are used practically almost everyday in everything from pastas to salads to soups and more…

Here are some tips that we use to grow our own awesome tomatoes and you can do too in your own backyard garden.

Read on and get growing!

Planting Tomatoes

1. Location, Location, Location

tomato-plant-location

Tomato plants need lots of strong direct sunlight.  In fact, they need anywhere from 8-10 hours of light each day in order for them to flourish and minimize the risk of disease.

Plant where there are no large trees or buildings nearby so that the sun is not blocked.

If you aren’t sure, mark off an area that you think has sufficient sunshine and check back every 2-3 hours in a day to see if the sun still reaches that spot.

2. More than Breathing Room

Overcrowded seedling plants result in poor in air circulation and can raise humidity levels which lead to disease.  Spacing plants too close together can also cause some plants to shade each other; without adequate sunlight plants can suffer from blossom drop and fail to flower and set fruit.

If you allow your plants to sprawl, measure off two shoe sizes (shoe size 10 ~ 11 inches) and a bit and you’ll get pretty close to the recommended 24 inches apart.

If you plan on staking or caging your tomatoes, measure off 1.5 shoe sizes and you’ll get pretty close to the recommended 15 inches apart.

3. Turning Up the HEAT On Soil

It’s a fact, Tomatoes LOVE heat.

Extra degrees of soil warmth will translate into earlier tomatoes.  Who doesn’t want early tomatoes?

Use plastic (black or clear) to cover the planting area before you intent to plant.  Some say that clear plastic works better because it allow the sun’s energy through while trapping the heat energy.

When you add the plastic covering, it will cause the weed seeds to germinate faster and then kill them so they won’t come back.

4. Soil Power Up

Like anything you create, grow or build, starting out with the right foundation is critical to future success.

Get a high quality soil base to make sure that you have enough nutrients for the plant to draw from.  Later on, you can continue to add to this soil with other nutrients as they become depleted.

5. To Determinate or Indeterminate

Selecting the right type of tomato plant is dependent on what you plan to do with them.  If you want a large quantity of tomatoes quickly, then select a determinate variety.  If you want to eat fresh tomatoes on an ongoing basis (at least for a while) go for the indeterminate variety.

Determinate – Grow to a certain height (approximately 3 feet tall), stop growing, and then set and ripen their fruit all at one time.

Indeterminate – The plants like to grow tall before it starts to set fruits and the fruit will ripen at different times.

If you are looking to make your own tomato sauce, go for the determinate variety so that you can harvest a large quantity to use.

6. Meet Hairy Vetch – An Organic Friend

hairy-vetch

To keep your tomatoes healthy and strong, many organic gardeners often plant hairy vetch in the garden bed as opposed to rotating crops in small growing spaces.  Hairy vetch is known to fix nitrogen in the soil and provide almost all the needs of the subsequent crop.   In addition, it also supports several beneficial insects and can host several species of nematodes.

Plant hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) in the fall and let it grow.  When it is time to plant tomatoes in the spring, cut the hairy vetch right down to the ground and plant the seedlings through matted residue.  Doing it this way not only provides nitrogen, but the hairy vetch also acts like a mulch that preserves the moisture and prevents weeds from sprouting.

7. Young and Green – Buying Seedlings

The simplest way to identify which seedlings to purchase is when it looks healthy.  This means that the foliage is clean, has a dark green color and is sturdy.

If there are flowers showing or the leaves at the bottom are turning yellow or brown, then you have a plant that has been stressed.

Take a closer look at the leaves, top and underneath, to make sure that there are no chew marks or insects like aphids.  If there are, don’t buy it.

Getting the most productive plant means choosing the healthiest, pest-free plants that you can find.

8. More Roots = More Fruits

tomato-planting-more-roots

It’s all what we want when we plant a tomato plant, lots of tomatoes to use in our salad, to make sauce and to just eat them with a dash of salt.  There are a couple of ways you can encourage more roots from your plant.

Dig a deeper hole – plant your tomato plants deeper than the pot they come right up to top few leaves.

Dig a shallow trench – lay your tomato plant sideways and within a few days, the plant will straighten itself out and grow toward the sun.

The stems will be able to develop roots all along it which makes for a stronger plant, better foundation, and greater ability to absorb nutrients and water.  As an added bonus, a larger root system near the soil surface will mean more heat is available to the plant, producing earlier tomatoes.

9. Tomatoes like Eggs too!

tomato-crushed-eggshell

When you plant your seedling in the deep hole, use a handful of crushed egg shells because it provides the tomato plants thrive on calcium.

The calcium from the from egg shells is absorbed into the roots and into the stems of the plant.  If you have yellowing tomato plants, it is a sign that you have a calcium deficiency.

As an added bonus, when you boil your eggs, don’t throw away the water as it is full of calcium from the egg shells.  Let the water cool off and water your tomato plants with it.

10. Break the Disease Cycle

To get rid of disease-causing organisms and stop the cycle, place your tomatoes on a 3-year rotation schedule with unrelated crops.  Unrelated crops such as corn, beans, or lettuce will break the disease cycle.

Make sure you don’t plant members of the tomato family which includes peppers, eggplants and potatoes.

In addition, get rid of diseased plants instead of composting them.  Either throw them away or burn the diseased plants and any other garden debris like mulch or weeds that were in contact with the diseased plants.

Growing Tomatoes

11. “A Little Vinegar With My Soil Please”

Tomato plants like soil that has a pH between 5.5 – 6.8 so they are considered to be acid loving plants.

Acidic soils have iron in a soluble form which allow plants to take in the iron contained in the soil. Tomatoes have a high iron requirement to help it flourish and grow. Alkaline soils also have iron, but not in soluble form and can’t be absorbed by the tomato plant.

You can gauge whether your soil is acidic or alkaline by using two simple household items: vinegar and baking soda.

Put a couple spoonfuls of soil into two separate containers. In one container, add some vinegar.  If it fizzles, it means that your soil is alkaline and you are done.  If it doesn’t fizzle, add water to other container with soil so it becomes wet and muddy.  Add some backing soda to it and if it fizzles, it means your soil is acidic.  If neither sample fizzles, then your soil probably has a neutral pH of 7.

For other ways to determine soil pH, check out these tests.

12. Stake Them High

tomato-staking

Keeping disease away from tomato plants is always an ongoing issue, but manageable.  One way is to use 6-foot stakes (what is showing above ground) or a trellis system for indeterminate tomatoes.

By keeping the ripe fruit off the ground, it is less susceptible to disease and it is easier to harvest.

A basic trellis structure is 8-foot steel stakes pounded approximately 18 inches into the ground at 4-foot intervals.  Attach horizontal wires to the stakes with 1-foot vertical intervals to provide the tomato vines support as they grow.

13. A Balanced Approach: 5-5-5

Maybe Hairy Vetch isn’t your thing, consider adding a small amount of balanced organic fertilizer like 5-5-5 and work it into the soil just before you decide to plant the tomato seedlings.

Fertilizing too much before the plant is well established and in full flower means you get lots of foliage and very little fruit.

Putting down a small amount of 5-5-5 balanced fertilizer gets the plants off to a good and healthy start.

14. Tie them up – White Glove Handling

tomato-tying-up

When you want to support your plants, avoid the use of wire or string.  Try using strips of soft cloth or green growing tape so that it will not girdle the stem.

15. Watering the “Right” Way

Knowing how much to water and when is important to helping to developing healthy tomato plants and fruits.  Always try to water directly on the soil and not on the leaves to minimize the chance of disease.

When the plants are developing: water the plants deeply and regularly.  Get at least 1 inch of water per week.

When at the height of summer: soak your tomato bed once a week or every five days.

When the fruit begins to ripen: ease up on the watering to help coax the plant into concentrating its sugars for better flavor.  If you hold back too much water, the plants will wilt and become stressed.

16. Getting Water to Where It’s Really Needed

tomato-irrigation-deep-watering

Tomatoes have two sets of roots, some are at the surface and the lower ones drink in the water.

Sink a pipe vertically, be careful not to hurt the stem, into the ground when you plant out.  The pipe allows you to get water down to where it counts quickly and efficiently.

17. A Rock and Some Water

If you are in a period of drought, considering using some flat rocks and place one next to each plant.  The flat rocks will pull up water from under the ground and keep it from evaporating into the atmosphere.

18. Prune or not to Prune

Indeterminate tomato varieties require (or benefit from) pruning because they continue to grow unlike determinate varieties, which stop growing.

Pruned plants will yield fewer and larger fruit (great for sauces), while unpruned plants will yield greater numbers of smaller fruit.

19. Prune it Right

tomato-pruning

Prune off non-fruiting branches.  These are shoots that develop between the stem and the main branches.  By doing so, you will direct the tomato plant’s energy into growing bigger and better fruit.

However, you will need to go easy on pruning the rest of the plant because it is the leaves that are photosynthesizing and creating sugars that give flavor to your tomatoes.

When your tomato plant grows to a height of 65 to 90 centimeters, remove the lower leaves from the bottom 25 centimeters to prevent the development of fungus.

You may also want to prune off the leaves (that have yet to change color) around the full size tomatoes to get more sunlight for the fruit, increase air flow and minimize disease.

20. Remove those Suckers (fruit bearing branches)

Why would you want to remove fruit bearing branches?  It depends on what you want the plant to do.

Sometimes you prune out the suckers so that the plant doesn’t get top heavy.  Another reason is that the plant can produce more fruit than it can mature in time for the fall season.

If you aren’t sure, prune one plant and not another and see what happens.  You’ll know better next time around.

21. Adding Just Enough Compost/Mulch

When the first fruit is ripening, add some compost around the stem and trim some of the upper leaves to encourage new growth and continued fruit.

Make sure that it is also warm enough outside and the ground has had a chance to warm up before adding mulch. While mulching does conserve water and prevents the soil and soil-borne diseases from splashing up on the plants, putting it down too early it will also shade and therefore cool the soil.

22. Dry Leaves = No Infection

Tomatoes can become infected when airborne spores land on wet plants, as a result never use an overhead sprinkler or water from above. If it rains you can’t do anything about it, but try not to unnecessarily get the plants wet.

When watering, always keep the water towards the base of the plant, and try and keep the leaves dry.

Using drip or soaker hose irrigation is the best way to do this.

23. Mid-summers Refill is Nitrogen

It’s mid-summer and you’ve watched your tomatoes grow and grow.  If you have low organic matter in your soil, you might run out of nitrogen for your tomatoes by mid to late summer.  You’ll know by the yellowing of the lower leaves. With low nitrogen levels in the plant, the plant can get early blight disease which spreads like wildfire.

Control early blight by keeping up nitrogen levels up from mid to late summer and significantly improve the number of fruit.

Also consider using water soluble fertilizers and use according to label directions. These are good summer fertilizer supplements.

24. Cutting out the Cutworm

protecting-from-cutworm

Cutworms are one of the many pests that can affect your tomatoes.  Cutworms chew through the stem of the plant, effectively killing it.  You can stop this from happening by placing a “collar” around the stem of the plant where it goes into the soil.

Take an old cardboard toilet paper roll holder or a strip of newspaper and create collar around the stem.  Make sure the collar is at least 1 inch below and 1 inch above the soil surface.

Once the stems toughen up in 3-4 weeks, cutworm damage is no longer an issue and the paper collar will have rotted away.

25. Some side dressing with the tomatoes please

Side dressing is the application of fertilizers in a shallow furrow or band along the side of vegetable row crops or in a circle around individual plants along the drip line.

Side dressing gives extra nutrients to the plants so that they can produce to their full potential.

Apply the side dressing 2-3 weeks after transplanting, at blossom time, before first picking and 2 weeks after the first picking.

26. Solarize your soil

Harness the sun’s energy to help you control nematodes and weeds.   During the hottest part of the summer, moisten the area and cover it with a sturdy plastic tarp.  Leave the tarp in place for at least 3-4 weeks and it will kill the weeds and nematodes.   It is also an effective treatment for other pests and disease pathogens.

Harvesting Tomatoes

27. Harvesting the Fruit

You can see when the fruit is ready to be harvested when it is a solid color (red, yellow, etc.) from top to bottom, but still firm.

By keeping an eye on how the fruit is developing, you may need to harvest daily or every other day.

The best-tasting tomatoes have a balanced ratio of sugar to acid.  As the sugars increase so does the color of the fruit. So during the longer days of summer, tomatoes that ripen in this time have more sugar than those who mature during shorter days of summer.

Once you pick them, store tomatoes on your kitchen counter, where the temperatures are above 50° F (10° C), instead of in your refrigerator’s crisper. The cold temperature can spoil the tomato flavor and texture.

28. Pick it Right

Grasp a ripened tomato gently and firmly. Twist it until it snaps off the vine.  You may also want to use clipper or knife to harvest tomatoes. Cut the stem close to the fruit.

29. Looks Count!

Tomatoes will always ripen from the inside out. If a tomato looks ripe on the outside, it will be ripe on the inside.

30. Watch the Temperature

Tomatoes stop ripening are above 30C / 86F. If you have a long string of hot days, or if you live in an area that has consistently hot summer temperatures, then tomatoes may ripen to a yellow/orange color and stop. Harvest them before they turn completely red.

Even if the days are overcast or cloudy and warm, the fruit will continue to ripe because tomatoes need warmth and not light to continue the process.

31. Save Your Own Seeds

saving-tomato-seeds

Instead of buying seedlings, consider saving your own seeds from your own crop.

Select the best looking fully ripe tomato, squeeze the seed mass into a jar, fill it with water and shake well.  In a day or so, rinse the seeds through a strainer and dry them on a plate for a couple of weeks or until fully dry.  Store in a cool dry spot and you are ready for next year’s growing season.

32. Ripening Tomatoes – Go the distance

tomato-ripening

When the fall months arrive and you still have several green or partially ripe tomatoes on your vines,  don’t let those tomatoes go.  Here are two ways to ripen them properly even when you don’t have the warmth or sun to mature the fruits.

Ripening Indoors – Pick the tomatoes and cover them with a single sheet of newspaper in a warm and dark spot.  The tomatoes will continue their ripening process.  Check on them once a while to make sure they don’t over ripen.  Remember to never ever put them on a windowsill.  It may turn red, but it won’t be ripe.

Ripening Outdoors – Cut a semicircle around the plant that is 2 inches from the stem and 9 inches deep.  By cutting some of the roots, you’ll shock the plant into forcing all its strength into ripening its fruit.  Make sure you only do this near the end of season.

33. Long term storage of tomatoes

If you are looking to store your tomatoes for a longer period, you can freeze them.  Remove the core of fresh unblemished tomatoes, place them entirely into freezer bags or containers and seal.  Label them along with the date you froze them.  When you defrost the tomatoes, the skin will slip right off making it perfect for creating sauces.

New Products for 2015

We are pleased to announce that this year we have added a number of new products to Toemar’s extensive line of landscaping and garden supply products.

Interlocking Pavers

1. Kensington (Navascape) – This interlocking paver from Navascape has four unique natural stone textures to create an elegant cut stone appearance.  It is available in a rectangular size and its 80mm thickness is suitable for both commercial and residential applications.

2. Trevista 50 (Best Way) – Identical to its brother Trevista 80, Trevista 50 is only 50mm thick instead of 80mm.  This paver is perfect for light to medium weight traffic and it is easier to install (not as heavy).

We are also carrying Techo-Bloc products, a premium interlocking paver manufacturer based out of Quebec.  Come and visit our showroom and checkout our offering.

Retaining Walls

We are now carrying two new retaining and garden wall products called Garden Lock and Palladio Antico.  These products have replaced our Allan Block line.

1. Garden Lock (Best Way) – This garden wall product is versatile in its design and modern in its appearance.  It is easy to install and comes with all the necessary components to create a beautiful looking wall.

2. Palladio Antico (Best Way) – This modern engineered retaining wall system is both and strong and reliable.  It is able to provide any landscape with the most natural division.

Tools

Although not necessarily new for 2015, the Muck Truck was available in late 2014 just after the landscaping season ended.  This product has been making waves with contractors because of its ability to move large amounts of material with ease, making landscaping work faster and easier.  You can now rent this same product at our location.

Check out this funny video of the product being used in Germany.  It is pretty clear after round 20 who the winner is!

Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

Surprisingly or not, the task of shoveling snow can be a safety concern for both adults and children. A recent 17 year student published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine shows that this seemingly simple task sends, on average 11,000 adults and children to the hospital each year. That’s a lot of people!

Even if you use a snowblower, the amount of exertion required to clear a large amount of snow can be taxing to your body, especially if you do not regularly exercise.

We looked to the experts in occupational health to get some expert advice on how to safely shovel snow.

Safe Snow Removal Tips

  • Clear snow early and often – Shovel through a snowfall so that it is lighter and easier to move.
  • Pace yourself – Give yourself lots of time. Start slow and maintain a steady pace to reduce physical stress. Lift smaller amounts and give yourself a break every 15 minutes.
  • Breathe while lifting – Breathe in while lifting and blow out while throwing.
  • Steady footing – Keep your feet hip width apart for balance and don’t over extend yourself.
  • Push rather than lift – One of the best techniques is to push the snow from the center of the driveway to the sides and lift from there.
  • Use your legs – Fill no more than half of your shovel when lifting snow. Bend your knees, keep your back straight and lift with your legs.
  • Avoid twisting – Always face the snow that you are shoveling to avoid throwing out your back.

If you are one of the fortunate ones to have a snow blower, then you should also consider the following tips:

  • Maintain control – operate it at a speed that allows you to have a good body position behind it as you walk..
  • Posture – make sure that you are standing upright with a neutral back posture and let the snow blower do the work.
  • Setting the pace – Let the machine set the pace and do the hard work of throwing the snow. Don’t force it as it is way heavier than a shovel.

Once you are finished clearing the snow, consider throwing down some salt to melt the last remnants of snow and to prevent high traffic areas from turning into sheets of black ice.

Click here to download the guide on a clearing snow safely at home.

Be safe!

Image: http://www.activehealthinstitute.com/

Firewood Guide – An Infographic

We have been in the business of supplying firewood to the Greater Toronto Area for more than 35 years to all homes small and large. In these 30 plus years, many things have changed such as home construction and fireplace regulations. What hasn’t changed is our meticulous methodology in preparing our firewood to make sure that it burns properly, providing the great wonderful heat with as little smoke as possible. All of the firewood that we sell goes through a 2 year aging process and manually stacked compared to some lots that sell their product after 6-8 months and/or dump the firewood into a large pile (which means the wood doesn’t dry out properly and may get moldy) with little to no airflow.

firewood-stack-vs-pile

We recently found a simple, yet excellent infographic on firewood and what to look for when you head the firewood lot or the questions you need to ask.

firewood-infographic
Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR