Top 2 Mississauga Plants That Are Dangerous And More

Some plans can cause real problems to pets and people. We joke about plants like poison ivy and poison oak, but the reality is that a brush with many of these plans can land you in hospital. 

Mississauga’s landscape contains many plants —wild and cultivated—that should make all gardeners and landscapers use caution.

Most Troublesome Plant Of All: Poison Ivy

If you’ve ever done business with a poison ivy plant, you won’t be surprised that this one tops our list of troublesome plants.

Did you know that the oil that it secretes—called urushiol—is so potent that it can take less than a pinhead worth to set off a full blown reaction?

And by reaction, we’re talking unspeakably itchy rashes with liquid filled blisters. Worse still, while it won’t affect your pets, if they walk through a patch, they can get the oil on their fur and transfer it to you.

Poison Ivy can be found throughout Southern Ontario, and it can grow in all sorts of conditions: deep woods, rocky or sandy areas, road sides, open clearings and so on. It is a climbing perennial characterized by three leaves with jagged nodes, with the middle leaf having a longer stalk.

If you have some growing in your yard, get rid of it immediately by removing it at the root, while wearing protective clothing, placing all the plant parts in a garbage bag and sealing them.

A warning: Don’t ever burn poison ivy. The smoke can carry the effects of the oil and can cause incredibly painful lung damage as the rash occurs internally.

Runner Up: Hemlock

While less common than poison ivy, there are two species of hemlock that can harm people and animals: spotted water hemlock and poison hemlock.

The roots of the former are very similar to parsnips and are often confused with the benign water parsnip. The difference is in what the roots contain, however. Spotted water hemlock contains Cicutoxin.

This poison is strong enough that one root can kill horses and livestock; at the very least, they would be plagued by vomiting, convulsions and severe cramping. In a large quantity, they can even cause central nervous system damage and even death.

Poison hemlock has the dubious distinction of having been used in ancient Greece, to do away with prisoners and even Socrates himself is said to have died from being poisoned with it. It is a weed that wasn’t native to Ontario but instead was brought here in the 1980s, along with some non-native alfalfa. The results of eating it are devastating, with a neurotoxin that will disrupt the central nervous system.

While it’s unlikely that anyone would plant either of these in their gardens, they can grow wild in larger acreages, so it’s something to watch for.

A Few More Troublesome Flowers And Plants

Here are a few more that are worth skipping, or at least being aware of, as you plan your garden:

  • Castor Beans — an ornamental shrub with seed pods that contain ricin, a chemical that is VERY toxic, even in small quantities.
  • Amaryllis — ingesting the bulbs that contain lycorine can be dangerous.
  • Mistletoe and Holly — while these are holiday favourites and you’d have to eat quite a few of the berries to be ill, it wouldn’t take a lot of these to make kids and pets quite ill.
  • Easter Lily — the leaves and bulbs are appealing to cats in particular, but will cause renal failure and almost certain death if ingested by your feline friends!
  • Canadian Nettle — while more of a wild growth, the stinging hairs on it can get under your skin and leave a nasty itchy rash that can last for weeks.

For a comprehensive list of poisonous plants, see the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System, for details on which plants are poisonous and what damage they can cause. If you’re interested in a good read on the subject, Amy Stewart’s Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocitiesis worth picking up. It’s an A to Z compendium of evil plants the world over.

“Betony has a long and storied history as a magical and medicinal plant dating back to Roman and ancient Egyptian times. In fact, it was often planted in graveyards to prevent the activities of ghosts and worn in an amulet as a charm against evil spirits.” (Source)

It’s important when you consider what you’re adding to your garden not to include plants that have serious toxicity within their leaves, stems, berries or bulbs, particularly if you have children and animals about.

Take care to keep troublesome plants at bay and plan a garden for next spring that is safe for everyone to enjoy!

Basic Principles Of Landscape Design

Planning a new garden next Spring? Keep these principles of design in mind!

When you think about your garden landscape, and changes you want to make, your first priority has to be the purpose.

Do you want to grow your own vegetables or are you more focused on creating a zen space for your yoga practice?

Do you need space for entertaining or do you need your garden to be a safe space for your kids?

You also want to consider the positioning of sun: will you want the patio to face the sunsets or sunrises? A spot that gets a lot of sun in the afternoon might seem great in February, but consider if that will work for dining al fresco in August!

Whatever your purpose is when designing the landscape of your garden, there are a few basic elements that you need to keep in mind.

Establish Form

What do we mean by ‘form’?

Think of your garden as if you were painting a landscape on a canvas. Would you put all tall trees with high reaching branches and nothing else? Probably not. The point here is to look at the style you want to create in the space.

Modern gardens with symmetrically designed pathways and retaining walls—a very formal looking design—might be your style. Or perhaps you care for something a little wilder and more haphazard. Whatever style you’re going for, it’s best to decide on it first as your choice will dictate what you add to your design.

Figure Out The Line

The line refers to how a person’s eye travels through the space and views it. How you lay out your garden will alter how a person sees it.

The eye is attracted to specific lines.

The best way to create functional lines in your garden is to use a focal point. Whether that’s an outdoor eating area or a fire pit, a focal point will draw the eye, and all lines should lead to it. For example, if you create a winding path through your garden with stones, the eye will follow it naturally. The plants you place around the path are therefore very important to the overall aesthetic.

If that line leads to a seating area with a fireplace, all the better!

What you’re looking for here is a natural flow, so that when you view the space, it feels like all the elements are well combined and nothing is placed in such a way that it is jarring to the eye.

Test the lines and views from every vantage point: indoors looking out, from the sides of your gardens and from the back, looking towards the house. These different perspectives will help you to see what is working and what isn’t, in a design.

Consider Scale

You will want to consider the size of elements that you put into your garden, relative to the size of your space and your home. Enormous boulders and a pond will be overwhelming in a small space next to a tiny bungalow.

Similarly, a large garden and expansive building with tiny garden beds here and there will also look ‘out of place’.

In addition to the overall scale of the elements relative to the space, you need to consider the scale of elements relative to each other.

In other words, you want to build up your design with some sequence: from the smallest elements, like a small flower bed or pots of flowers, to the largest, such as trees or large shrubbery. If you place a small pot garden next to a grouping of large trees, they will be lost in the shuffle!

Add Texture To Your Garden

Contrary to scale, texture is where you can add a little disruption to your design.

If every element you add to your design has more or less the same texture, there is nothing to draw the eye or add visual appeal. All leafy green trees, plants and shrubs will be, not to put too fine a point on it, boring!

Repetition of elements is important for a cohesive look, but you need to interrupt that with different elements every once in a while. Otherwise, your design will tend towards the monotonous instead of magnificent!

By repeating textures and colours, with the occasional addition of a different texture and/or colour, you can create a pulled together look that blends well into the overall design.

Look to different plants mixed together to add texture and appeal. Tall grasses, for example, are a great way to add texture and movement at the end of a retaining wall, along a pathway or mixed in with other elements in a bed.

Mixing rocks with soft leaves and flowering shrubs is another way to add texture that creates a beautiful visual.

Always Look At Colour For Your Garden

Consider when your plants and flowers will bloom and what colours they will include or you could end up with a wall of green and brown and not much else for large chunks of time. There’s little appeal in that!

If you’re new to designing your landscape, you might want to start small and take it slow. Pick a corner that you want to change up and work on it until you feel it’s done. Then you can expand your plans logically and organically, creating a cohesive design that flows and is appealing.

How Many Tomatoes Does It Take To Can A Jar Of Tomatoes?

No, this is not the start of a good joke!

There is nothing like the warm, bursting flavour of a home grown tomato. With the warm weather we’ve had this summer, you might have a bumper crop that even you can’t enjoy before they’re destined to go bad. Your best solution? Canning.

Canning may sound like something out of pioneer days to many people, but it’s actually a fairly simple process that will allow you to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of your labour (oh yes, we went there…) for months to come.

Canning Vegetables 101

Contrary to the name, you’re probably not going to be putting your gorgeous crop into metal cans. Indeed, the term ‘canning’ comes from an 1810 patent of the tin can as a method of preserving food safely. It’s still used to refer to the process of preserving despite the fact that many people who put up pickles or other vegetables at home are using glass jars patented by John L. Mason, with the threaded screw lid.

After that little bit of history, let’s look at the process of canning:

Depending on what you are canning, there are two methods: pressure canning and water-bath canning. There is a simple rule as to when to use which: if you are canning vegetables that are being placed in a brine or have high acidity, such as pickles, you can use the water-bath method. Anything low acid? Use the the pressure canning method.

Tomatoes are the wonderful exception! With tomatoes, you can use either method. While tomatoes don’t have a consistently high acid level, they are relatively high in natural acids. You need only add a little extra in the process to ensure that botulism spores don’t develop, no matter which method you choose. Like what? Citric acid powder is one option, as is used in commercial developments, but a readily available option is bottled lemon juice. Just 2 tablespoons of bottled juice per litre of tomatoes should do the trick!

How much time required to process your tomatoes depends on how you’re going to can them: crushed, whole or half tomatoes in water, in tomato juice or with no liquid. Your best bet is to look up a recipe that

Other steps?

  1. Wash the tomatoes thoroughly;
  2. Peel them;
  3. Core and seed them.

Some recipes call for you to jar your tomatoes raw (called cold packing); others say to blanch / heat them first (hot packing). The consensus seems to be that hot packing is best with tomatoes, as they will lose some of their liquid in the process and be less likely to separate in the jar.

Bernardin, the well known makers of jars and other canning accessories, has a variety of recipes on their site worth perusing, including Canning Whole or Halved Tomatoes.

Don’t Like Canning?

If canning whole / half tomatoes isn’t something you want to try your hand at, there are a lot of other great ways to make use of your crop!

Tomato sauce — what’s spaghetti night without a great sauce? No need to buy jars of sauce at the store that don’t even really have great flavour. Plus tomato sauce are a great base for chili, stews and a variety of soup recipes. The beauty of making your own sauce is you can flavour it however you want: spicy, lots of herbs or simple salt and pepper. You’ll need about 5 lbs of tomatoes for a litre of sauce, if you like it thin, 6.5 lbs for a thicker sauce.

Alternatives? How about barbecue sauce, seafood cocktail sauce, pizza sauce. You can have homemade pizza night anytime with your very own base.

Tomato paste — with a few extra ingredients, you can create small jars of thick, luscious tomato paste that is a great addition to stews and soups.

Fresh salsa or pico de gallo — whether with tortilla chips or as your base on delicious bruschetta, you will enjoy the flavours brought from your garden to the table.

Gazpacho — chilled tomato soup is going to be the reminder of summer that you can enjoy for a while longer!

Frozen tomatoes — invest in a vacuum sealer if you want to do this, to ensure a minimum of air that will cause the tomatoes to fall apart. Obviously, they won’t have the same texture as fresh, when thawed, but this is a great way to keep them handy for making your mom’s favourite sauce recipe. Some people call for blanching them first, but that’s not necessary. Wash, dry, core the tomatoes, cut them up and freeze them flat and make them easier to store. You can store them for up to 9 months… or until your fresh batch is ready to pick off the vine!

Roasted tomatoes — slow roasting your tomatoes intensifies the flavours, like sun dried. You can preserve them in oil or you can freeze them to add to your cooking as you need, for months to come! It takes 3 or 4 hours but the flavour is so worth it!

If you want to get ready to grow more tomatoes next year, to enjoy some of these recipes or canning your harvest “Fact: The natural soil types found in the Mississauga area aren’t necessarily conducive to that perfect vegetable garden. Most of the area is comprised of three soil compositions, two of which are heavy in clay: heavy clay and coarse clay. These can be difficult to plant in, being too heavy or too compact.” (Source) All you need to fix that is some high quality vegetable soil.

Whether you choose a vertical garden, a raised bed or starting in a greenhouse, we’ve got 33 Awesome Tips for Planting, Growing and Harvesting Tomatoes. Get started this winter indoors and get a jump on the season next year!

The Real Cost Of Using Artificial Turf For Your Lawn

Tempting as low maintenance artificial turf might seem, there are issues to consider beyond aesthetics.

A few days ago, a Toronto homeowner received a notice from the City of Toronto to remove the astroturf that she’d had professionally installed in the front, and back, of her home or face a $1400 fine.

Operating on a complaint to 311, by-law officers informed the owner, Sangeeta Gounder, that 75% of a front lawn has to be comprised of ‘soft landscaping’. So that means no paving over the front lawn, but also, no artificial turf (aka synthetic grass).

What’s The Problem With Artificial Turf?

The city cited that the issue with the synthetic grass is drainage. Ms. Gounder’s artificial grass was professionally installed, with two feet of drainage installed below the turf, but nonetheless, there is the possibility of creating flooding or drainage damage.

Artificial grass, unlike natural turf, does not absorb water as quickly, so in a large or sudden downpour or during the spring melt, the water might just run off, causing problems for neighbours and other infrastructure around the area.

According to the city itself: “Soft landscaping excludes hard-surfaced areas such as decorative stonework, retaining walls, walkways, or other hard-surfaced landscape-architectural elements. Artificial turf is not acceptable or considered to be soft landscaping and is, therefore, not permitted.” (Source)

Ms. Gounder and her husband had the synthetic turf installed three years ago because: “It was getting very difficult to keep a green, weed-free lawn.” The irony of their story is that the City of Toronto gave them a “Beautiful Front Garden” Award last year.

If Artificial Turf Isn’t Allowed, What Is?

Ms. Gounder’s wish to have a nice yard that isn’t made up of grass in the front makes a certain amount of sense to us: a beautiful, green lawn requires a fair level of maintenance and if that’s not your thing, you could end up with a lawn full of weeds, crabgrass, infestations and more.

So what are some other options that would be permitted under the idea of ‘soft landscaping’?

  • Dry gardens — by creating a space with a combination of stones, gravel, ornamental grasses and succulents, even with a weed barrier, you are creating a permeable solution so that rainwater and runoff can get through and drain properly. It also creates a yard that requires far less maintenance than a standard lawn. Keeping to the rule of 75% soft landscaping, you can also include garden beds with a colourful mulch to add pop and style, with some low shrubs mixed in with tall, waving grasses that will give the space a nice look year round.
  • Wildflower garden — have you ever walked by a house with what looks like a meadow of wildflowers instead of a manicured lawn? A lot of people create these floral yards with intention, even though it looks wild and natural. The choices they make of different perennial flowers and tall, ornamental grasses means that the yard isn’t a usable space for playing but it also means that you’re not contending with the neighbour’s dog using your lawn as a lavatory!
  • Ground covering plants — with either of the two above suggestions, or just on its own around your hardscape walkway to your front door, you can also consider perennial ground covering plants. These are plants that grow low to the ground and spread, often overpowering weeds, to create a virtually maintenance free garden, once firmly installed. Like what?
    • Several varieties of creeping thyme will work well in this capacity.
    • Mazus will grow with stems that take root as the creep and spread along.
    • Golden carpet sedum also grows no higher than 4” but spreads as it takes root.
    • Dutch clover is another option, creating a soft layer of green, with flowers, that is clearly not in need of mowing!
    • If you’ve got a lot of shade because of trees, consider moss. It looks great, doesn’t need to be mowed and helps absorb water nicely.
  • A dry creek bed — building a dry creek bed with rocks and small stones, and surrounding it with ground cover plants, mulch, and other hardy perennials, you can make it look like your front lawn once had a river running through it, without the bother of a hardscaped water feature.
  • Sod — if you must have a green lawn in the front, for at least part of your yard, it’s worth considering professional landscaping and lawn maintenance. The enhancement to your curb appeal from the application of fresh sod every season makes it a worthwhile investment, and with the combined use of one of the garden alternatives we described above, you can minimize your costs by only sodding a part of the front lawn area.

As you can see, if a green grass front yard isn’t for you, there are lots of options that require some elbow grease at the outset, but are low maintenance, well draining and will look beautiful for years to come. Consider one or combine several for a look that leaves your visitors wowed and your weekends free from mowing.

All About Walkways And Paths

Whether at the front or in your backyard, walkways and paths add a lot to your landscape.

When you stand on the curb of a typical Mississauga home, the houses with more appeal are always one where a walkway or path leads you to the front door in style.

Beauty is only one function of a walkway or path in your garden. They also serve to draw the eye, and the people, from one part of the landscape to another. Whether formal with interlocking brick, or more casual with slate stone pieces, a walkway or path has a visual effect on your landscape that adds not only aesthetic value, but can add actual value when you look to sell your home.

Practical Aspects To Walkways And Paths

Aside from the enhanced appearance of your landscaping, there are some practical aspects to walkways and paths:

  • They help protect your lawn from heavy foot traffic, in areas where it occurs naturally. For example, if you place a walkway at the front of your home, leading to your porch, people are less likely to cut across your lawn or garden beds to get to the front door.
  • They create a ‘clean’ space to walk, when the weather is poor. A big rainstorm can turn any lawn into a wet mess and people walking across it won’t improve matters. A walkway or path in the most travelled areas will save your lawn and your guests’ shoes.
  • They can be lit to create a safe passageway from point A to B. For example, a front walkway lit with solar powered lights makes it obvious for your everyone from your mother in law to your food delivery driver which is the best way to your front door. Creating well defined edges to your walkway makes it safer for your guests to maneuver, for your lawn and gives you a chance to highlight and show off the parts of your garden that you’re most proud of!
  • They are easier to shovel in the winter if you want to maintain a pathway to the back of the property, the garage or a path for your pets to travel in the snow to do their backyard business!
  • They are useful for creating a path from the pool area to the back deck, so that happy swimmers are walking on something solid and those who just want to lounge poolside can place their chairs in the best possible sun space.

Other Qualities Of A Path

Beyond the practical, a well designed path creates an appealing visual, leading someone who is walking on it either on a straight line to their destination in the yard, or on a winding discovery.

With the latter, you can line a path with beautiful garden beds, shrubbery and fragrant and blooming perennials, to make it that much more enchanting. As a bonus, a winding path can actually make a typically small Mississauga garden look much larger. It’s like a piece of “trompe l’oeil” art that fools the eye into thinking there is more garden than there might actually be!

Types of Walkways Or Paths And The Materials That Suit Them

The type of path your choose, and the materials you elect to create them with, will depend largely on what impact you want the path to have, both visual and practical.

Formal — interlocking brick creates symmetrical lines and a repeating pattern that is best suited for a formal pathway that is meant to lead people from A to B. This is a durable set up that, when properly installed, will last for a long time. Because this kind of pathway can impact water drainage and flow if badly situated, as well as needing to be perfectly level and weed free, it’s best to consider a professional installation. With a formal path, you can easily keep it cleared in the winter and have an appropriate way to maneuver around the yard when the weather is less than perfect.

  • Interlocking pavers are a great option for a formal walkway: they’re relatively easy to install and don’t require mortar to keep them in place. They’re made from concrete so water does wash off them easily, which is why you want to consider water runoff carefully when you’re installing them. They’re easy to maintain and durable, so they’ll look new for a long time. You can also use polymeric sand between them to keep the weeds at bay, prevent your pavers from shifting and keep insect erosion to a minimum.
  • Adding retaining (or garden) walls to either side of the walkway make it very well defined and creates a border that prevent people from accidentally stepping into your garden beds. An elevated wall on one side of a walkway can also create impromptu additional seating, when extra guests show up. Just have a few cushions at the ready.
  • Patio stones, for a larger pathway, or a path which ends in a shady seating area is a nice option when you don’t have a formal deck area. Flagstone is also a great option because they come in a variety of natural shades, which can be matched to your existing outdoor design.

Informal — picture flagstones or slate, limestone or other local stones that can be used to form a path but one that is more meant for a meander around the garden, like stepping stones in a pond, rather than a clear link between two points in the landscape. Set among the grass, gravel, pebbles or even a path made from cedar mulch, you can make a visually appealing walkway that draws the eye to your favourite garden beds!

Homes in Mississauga lend themselves beautifully to the look of walkways and paths, both at the front of the house and at the back. They will enhance your outdoor space, and the value of your home, with a minimum of effort.

Whether you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future, or want to improve the look of your home for your own satisfaction, there are plenty of easy ways to bump up your curb appeal.

First Up: Keep It Simple

Creating overly elaborate landscaping to your front garden that will require a team of professionals to maintain isn’t going to be a great investment for you, over the long term. And if you are thinking of selling, potential buyers might be put off by a design that looks hard to maintain.

Trends in gardening change and you don’t want to be the one person in the neighbourhood with topiaries or a waterfall in the front yard when everyone else is going low key. Opt instead for a classic design that will appeal generally, and you won’t go wrong.

Look At Your Home From The Curb

Take some time to look at your house as other people see it: from the curb. Is it inviting? Does it project a welcoming feel? You also want to look at what kind of shape it’s in:

  • Are the bushes and plants in good condition?
  • Are the garden beds neat and tidy?
  • Are the garden or retaining walls falling or degrading?
  • Are the pathways weed free and level?

Safety Is First Priority

Improvements to your front garden should be, first and foremost, safe.

For example, if your paving stones or interlocking bricks on the pathway leading to your front door weren’t expertly installed, you might find that they have moved in the freeze / thaw / freeze cycle of winter. That could cause a tripping hazard.

Garden beds could be leaking out earth or stones, such that they present a hazard too. Take a look at the space with an eye to a toddler walking up to your front door.

Tidy Is The Next Priority

A messy front yard, complete with dead annuals, leaves and debris, as well as weeds, will tell visitors—and future potential buyers—that this might just be the beginning of a messy house.

  • Do a thorough clean up of your yard to make sure that all the weeds, debris and any garbage have been removed. If you’ve got a part of your lawn that isn’t bouncing back after winter, make sure you dethatch it, aerate and either seed it with new grass seed or add fresh sod (yes, we sell sod!)
  • Deadhead your perennial plants and remove any annuals.
  • Add some Toemar mulch to your garden beds and rake stones neatly, if that’s what you have, so that any that have been disturbed by snow or animals are back in place.
  • Fix any out of place or degrading flag stones, retaining / garden walls or other placement of stones or rocks.

Upgrades That Make A Difference

If you want to go beyond tidying up to actually upgrading your curb appeal, consider these options:

Minimize your lawn with beds—if mowing isn’t your favourite activity or you struggle to maintain a healthy lawn, you can minimize your effort by adding garden beds. This is a relatively simple project that you can do yourself, although if you’re going to build out garden walls with interlocking bricks or rocks you will want to consult a landscaper.

The key is designing a bed that is eye catching but requires minimal upkeep. One option is to turn the entire bed into a rock garden, including tall grasses, which add texture, and a selection of perennial plants that suit your zone—in Mississauga, that’s 6b. If you prefer a standard garden bed, that’s great too: don’t forget the mulch!

Flagstone or natural stone creates an impressive walkway—this is an investment that will pay dividends when you eventually sell your home; it creates a beautiful finished look to the front of your home that you’ll love (you may even decide to stay put for a few years more!). Well installed flagstone won’t shift or become weedy, but it does add a lot of wow factor.

Add a lot of colour—if you’re going with garden beds and bushes, that’s great, but make sure that you add a lot of colour, with plants that bloom at different times throughout the spring, summer and fall. If you include some evergreens, your front yard will never look completely flat. Instead, your garden will be the talk of the neighbourhood!

Consider Non-Garden Related Upgrades Too

Aside from the garden itself, you can do a lot to improve appeal by doing simple projects:

  • Re-paint the front door or change the hardware;
  • Update the lighting on the porch, or include solar powered units along the walkway, lighting visitors’ path to your front door;
  • Add planters on each side of the door, for a symmetrical design that is pleasing to the eye.

When someone looks at your home from the curb, it should say to them that you care about your space. Whether you’re in the market to sell or just want to enjoy your garden without burdening yourself with too much maintenance, choose accents that make even you do a double take as you drive up!

Low Maintenance Ways To Up Your Curb Appeal

Whether you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future, or want to improve the look of your home for your own satisfaction, there are plenty of easy ways to bump up your curb appeal.

First Up: Keep It Simple

Creating overly elaborate landscaping to your front garden that will require a team of professionals to maintain isn’t going to be a great investment for you, over the long term. And if you are thinking of selling, potential buyers might be put off by a design that looks hard to maintain.

Trends in gardening change and you don’t want to be the one person in the neighbourhood with topiaries or a waterfall in the front yard when everyone else is going low key. Opt instead for a classic design that will appeal generally, and you won’t go wrong.

Look At Your Home From The Curb

Take some time to look at your house as other people see it: from the curb. Is it inviting? Does it project a welcoming feel? You also want to look at what kind of shape it’s in:

  • Are the bushes and plants in good condition?
  • Are the garden beds neat and tidy?
  • Are the garden or retaining walls falling or degrading?
  • Are the pathways weed free and level?

Safety Is First Priority

Improvements to your front garden should be, first and foremost, safe.

For example, if your paving stones or interlocking bricks on the pathway leading to your front door weren’t expertly installed, you might find that they have moved in the freeze / thaw / freeze cycle of winter. That could cause a tripping hazard.

Garden beds could be leaking out earth or stones, such that they present a hazard too. Take a look at the space with an eye to a toddler walking up to your front door.

Tidy Is The Next Priority

A messy front yard, complete with dead annuals, leaves and debris, as well as weeds, will tell visitors—and future potential buyers—that this might just be the beginning of a messy house.

  • Do a thorough clean up of your yard to make sure that all the weeds, debris and any garbage have been removed. If you’ve got a part of your lawn that isn’t bouncing back after winter, make sure you dethatch it, aerate and either seed it with new grass seed or add fresh sod (yes, we sell sod!)
  • Deadhead your perennial plants and remove any annuals.
  • Add some Toemar mulch to your garden beds and rake stones neatly, if that’s what you have, so that any that have been disturbed by snow or animals are back in place.
  • Fix any out of place or degrading flag stones, retaining / garden walls or other placement of stones or rocks.

Upgrades That Make A Difference

If you want to go beyond tidying up to actually upgrading your curb appeal, consider these options:

Minimize your lawn with beds—if mowing isn’t your favourite activity or you struggle to maintain a healthy lawn, you can minimize your effort by adding garden beds. This is a relatively simple project that you can do yourself, although if you’re going to build out garden walls with interlocking bricks or rocks you will want to consult a landscaper.

The key is designing a bed that is eye catching but requires minimal upkeep. One option is to turn the entire bed into a rock garden, including tall grasses, which add texture, and a selection of perennial plants that suit your zone—in Mississauga, that’s 6b. If you prefer a standard garden bed, that’s great too: don’t forget the mulch!

Flagstone or natural stone creates an impressive walkway—this is an investment that will pay dividends when you eventually sell your home; it creates a beautiful finished look to the front of your home that you’ll love (you may even decide to stay put for a few years more!). Well installed flagstone won’t shift or become weedy, but it does add a lot of wow factor.

Add a lot of colour—if you’re going with garden beds and bushes, that’s great, but make sure that you add a lot of colour, with plants that bloom at different times throughout the spring, summer and fall. If you include some evergreens, your front yard will never look completely flat. Instead, your garden will be the talk of the neighbourhood!

Consider Non-Garden Related Upgrades Too

Aside from the garden itself, you can do a lot to improve appeal by doing simple projects:

  • Re-paint the front door or change the hardware;
  • Update the lighting on the porch, or include solar powered units along the walkway, lighting visitors’ path to your front door;
  • Add planters on each side of the door, for a symmetrical design that is pleasing to the eye.

When someone looks at your home from the curb, it should say to them that you care about your space. Whether you’re in the market to sell or just want to enjoy your garden without burdening yourself with too much maintenance, choose accents that make even you do a double take as you drive up!

Is Mississauga Becoming A Wildlife Kingdom?

With critters ranging from racoons and skunks to rabbit, deer, fox and coyote, there’s more wildlife than ever to contend with in your backyard.

Remember when the biggest menace going was squirrels digging up spring bulbs? Now there are all manner of wild animals roaming the area and that can spell trouble for you and for your yard.

Don’t Encourage Them

The first and best thing you can do is make sure that your home and yard aren’t interesting to animals, as a source of food. In the City of Mississauga, it’s illegal to intentionally feed wildlife but you could be inviting them to your yard and not even realize it.

Whether directly, by leaving garbage in unsecured containers, or indirectly by not limiting access to plants that interest them, once they’ve arrived, they’re hard to get rid of. If your garden is a ready source of food for wild animals, they’ll get into the habit of visiting and lose some of their natural ability to forage.

Eliminating odours that attract them is a good start. Spray wash your garbage cans and recycling bins every once in a while, to get rid of too many lingering odours. Make sure your compost container is well secured as well, with a solid lid, as the odours from these may attract some animals like raccoon.

A few other tips?

  • Clean BBQ grills after use.
  • Keep wood piles away from your house, as they are perfect homes for small rodents.
  • Don’t use bird feeders that spill.
  • Don’t feed your dogs or cats outside: their food will attract other animals too.

If you’ve got a grub problem in your garden, deal with it using a non-toxic, environmentally friendly pesticide as well as regular mulching of your garden—grubs tend to prefer compact earth, so aerating properly will also help reduce the grub population. Racoons and skunks LOVE grubs and will dig up half your garden to get to them!

Make Sure Your Structures Don’t Create Homes For Them

A deck with open gaps make excellent hiding spots for animals like rabbits and skunks to take up residence and procreate. Not only will you have wildlife living in your yard, but their numbers will grow! Same goes with front porches or outbuildings like sheds, that aren’t in good repair. If there is a way for an animal to find a way in to crawl spaces under your deck, they can build themselves a tidy little nest, safe from other predators.

TIP: Make sure there aren’t already animals inside before you block off all exits. You don’t want to block them IN.

Fence Off Food Sources

If you’ve got a veggie patch in your garden, make sure you fence it off. If deer aren’t common where you are, a few feet of fencing will keep out most bunnies and groundhogs, though some may burrow UNDER the fence, so make sure it goes down half a foot too. They can get through chicken wire fencing, so use something more sturdy. You can, however, cover young plants with chicken wire to keep them safe. For fruit bearing bushes, netting can work to keep the birds off before you get a chance to harvest.

Container gardening is one way to help keep nibblers away. You might still need some other form of protection for your plants—like chicken wire—particularly when they are young and at their most nutritious for animals to feast on.

If you want to keep deer out of your garden and you don’t have a fence, thorny bushes and a well placed wind chime can help, as they don’t care for those and are skittish.

No fence will stop raccoons, unfortunately, so before you go to a lot of effort building one, make sure you have tracked down what animals are infiltrating your garden. The one thing that does repel raccoons is ammonia. If you soak rags in ammonia, put them in containers with holes in the top) and leave these where the raccoons are hanging out, they’ll go find a better smelling area to play in!

Mulch Between Plants

Adding a good amount of mulch around your plants is good for moisture retention and temperature regulation but it also helps to discourage digging, particularly by cats or rodents of all types. River rocks and other stones can also help in this regard.

Pick Plants That Aren’t Tasty

You can minimize your garden being used as an open air grocery if you choose at least some plants that animals are less interested in. Like what?

  • Ornamental grasses
  • Holly bushes
  • Lily of the valley
  • Ferns
  • Bee balm
  • Daffodils — if squirrels like your tulip bulbs, try daffodils. Squirrels avoid them so you can protect an area of plants by surrounding these with a row of daffodils.
  • Rabbits and deer don’t care for strong smelling herbs like rosemary and sage, so planting those with your other flowers and vegetables can help repel the notorious nibblers.
  • Rabbits and chipmunks also don’t like the strong smell of onion or garlic, so planting some of these will also help.
  • Smaller rodents avoid things like lavender and mint, as well as marigold flowers.

Soak Them!

No creature likes to be doused with water while feeding, so a motion activated sprinkler system might be just the ticket to make your garden unpalatable. If they get sprayed a couple of times, they might find your neighbour’s dry yard far more interesting.

However you protect your garden from the wee beasts out there, just remember to be humane in your choices and, if all else fails, get some help from animal / pest control professionals.

Growing A Dog Friendly Garden

For those of us who love our four-legged friends, it can be hard to reconcile their rambunctious, digging ways with maintaining a beautifully landscaped garden. But it’s not impossible! At the same time, it’s very important to avoid plants and flowers that can be dangerous, even deadly, to our fur friends.

The key to growing a dog friendly garden is to train your dog and do a little homework. Since we can’t help you with the first part of that statement, we’ll give you what you need for the second part!

Potty Train With Purpose

If you’re lucky enough to be starting with a puppy or younger dog, you can leverage a true fact about dogs: they don’t like to mess where they live. That’s the foundation behind crate training, and it can be extended to the garden too. Designate a certain patch of grass as the ‘potty zone’. As you are training your dog, always, always, always take them to that spot. Consistency with training is everything and there are a couple of advantages to taking the time to get this done right:

  1. You will avoid yellow spots of dead grass due to dog urine ALL over your lawn.
  2. You will know exactly where to go to pick up to pick up the little bombs that doggo has left behind, before the yard can be enjoyed by everyone.
  3. Your dog will learn quickly, if you are consistent, that this is the place to go.

If you’ve already got burnt grass from pet urine damage, check out this earlier post on how to manage the damage!

Supervise All Yard Play

Particularly while your dog is still learning where they can play, and where they can’t, make sure they aren’t left alone in the yard. You can’t train them to not dig holes in the middle of your recently sodded green space or in the raised garden beds if you aren’t there to see them attempt it! Like sneaky toddlers, they’ll test the limits of what they can and can’t do, so consistency is important here too.

Part of a dog’s natural personality is to get into trouble when they’re bored, so ensuring that they get plenty of exercise through walks and play makes it less likely that they’ll try and burn off extra energy by digging holes!

Protect The Parts You Particularly Care For

If there are parts of your garden that you really want to keep safe from digging paws, consider putting up a decorative fence, at least for the early days, while your dog is learning. It doesn’t have to be taller than them: even a low fence will stop most dogs and it makes a visual reminder as you train the dog, that they can’t pass that fence!

You can also use plants on your garden borders that are fairly sturdy and give the appearance, at least from doggo’s point of view, of being a fence. Other options? Consider larger rocks or pieces of elegant driftwood to block the way. Container gardens are also a good way to keep your favourite blooms safe from digging paws.

Beyond protecting some features, it’s also important for your dog to be safe. Water features could be problematic with a small puppy, if they were to fall in. Consider all the elements of your garden from their height and age.

Have Some Toys Ready

Just like kids have indoor and outdoor toys, it’s a good idea to have a few outdoor ones handy for the furkids. They might get bored watching you pull weeds, so some toys or a ball you can throw between pulling clumps is a good idea!

Garden Elements To Avoid

If you’re using mulch, avoid any brand based from cocoa bean hulls. These contain the same chemical as chocolate—theobromine—which is deadly if your dog eats it. As to plants and shrubs, here’s a list of some of the more common ones that are found in local Mississauga gardens but which are toxic to dogs, if ingested.

Common yet dangerous plants for dogs:

If you love these, consider planting them at the front of your house, where your dog doesn’t necessarily roam free.

  1. Iris
  2. Ivy
  3. Autumn Crocus
  4. Hydrangea
  5. Azalea
  6. Daffodil
  7. Tulips
  8. Amaryllis
  9. Clematis
  10. Cyclamen
  11. Lily of the Valley

This list isn’t exhaustive but covers some of the more common plants you might be considering for your garden. If you want to see a full list, the ASPCA maintains one here, including the common and scientific names. As you’re making your list for your spring planting, if you’ve got a dog, cross reference it to make sure you’re keeping your fur friend safe!

The garden should be an oasis for the whole family, so don’t forget to provide your dog with fresh, clean water when they’re outside for a while—garden hose water can contain several toxins that aren’t good for humans or dogs—and make sure there’s a shady spot, so they can get out from under the sun. Most of all, enjoy your garden this season, with your WHOLE family.

March Break In Mississauga

Did you forget to book the kids into camp for March Break? Do you prefer to let them have real time off? Either way, you don’t want them staring at screens for seven days, so we’ve come up with a list of super fun things to do in Mississauga and the surrounding areas during the break!

Get Some Syrup

Terra Cotta Conservation Area is hosting its annual Maple Syrup Festival, with demonstrations on how delicious, sticky and sweet maple syrup is made, taffy on snow (a must have!) and pancakes! Each day features live entertainment, including the Four Paws Flying Dog Show and The Country Saw chainsaw carving! Get more details on their site and buy your tickets too.

The Bradley Museum is also featuring Maple Magic 2019, where visitors can learn all about traditional methods of syrup production, taught to early settlers by the Anishinaabe people. Take a tour with a guide, try some taffy and even pet some furry creatures at the petting zoo. Open from 12 – 4 p.m. every day of March Break, visit their site for more information and directions.

Downtime With Storytime

The libraries in Mississauga are offering some great free (some with very low fees) March Break activities for children, including:

  • Storytime with songs, rhymes and literacy activities.
  • A Peppa Pig party storytime.
  • Crafting events, including card making, 3D model painting, origami and more (some require pre-registration. See the link below!)
  • Board games and playoffs.
  • Performances of live magic, music, mad science, and even superhero training!
  • A family gardening workshop (we’re all for that one!)
  • Special activities for tweens (ages 9-12), including crafts, t-shirt stencilling and more.
  • And for older kids (11+): Photography class, video game challenges and more!

Check out the full list here!

Play All Day At Playdium

Can’t get away for the break? Playdium will make your kids feel like you’ve gone away to the most fun place on earth, if only for a day. With games, simulators and virtual reality, the 40,000 sq. foot complex is the indoor playground that your kids will thank you for taking them to for months to come! Special hours during March Break, opening at 10 a.m. every day, check out their site for details.

A Spectator Sport For All

If you and your family like hockey, March Break is a perfect time to catch the Mississauga Steelheads, playing at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre, in Mississauga. Games are currently scheduled for March 8, 12, 15 and 17. Click here for times and tickets and see you at centre ice!

If you’d rather actually be skating, the Skate on the Square will be open for March Break, daily from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., weather permitting, with rentals and skate sharpening available.

Indoor Dinos?

Looking for a little indoor activity, combined with some shopping and a nibble at the food court? Erin Mills Town Centre is hosting Dino Days, from 12-4 p.m. daily March 11 – 15. Kids can experience today’s dinos with Reptilia Mobile Zoo, create a dino craft and take in some amazing displays.

Events On Specific Dates

March 12 — Splash ‘N Bubbles — Take a quick drive up to Brampton to the Rose Theatre and check out this hilarious duo from Treehouse TV. Sing, dance and jump to your heart’s content. If this one isn’t your cup of tea, there are a lot of other great events, all week at the Rose Theatre, including:

  • A Royal Tea Party with Anna, Elsa and Belle on March 13.
  • Live reading followed by the movie “Horton Hears a Who” on March 11.
  • LEGO workshop with Brick Labs on March 14.

March 13 — Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre, at the Living Arts Centre — with shows at 1 and 4 p.m., the whole family can be blown away by this fun show, featuring a cast that includes house cats, dogs, parrots and even geese! Get your tickets online and even meet some of the characters after the show!

March 13 — Youth Art Battle, at the Living Arts Centre — Artists 12 – 17 will battle to create the best art they can in 15 minutes! The viewing of the competition is an all ages event that is sure to inspire. To apply to be a part of the battle, click here.

As the winter weather eases, now is the perfect time to start planning your garden for spring, summer and fall, a family activity that everyone can get involved in. Encourage kids by offering them a section to plant what they’d like, however they’d like. It’s a great way to expose kids to the healthful benefits of getting outside and getting dirty!

Fresh Ideas For Your Mississauga Garden

Spring is on its way, so now is a great time to plan your garden for maximum enjoyment, all season long.

The key with any space is to make it look natural without being wild. The perfectly groomed French gardens at Versailles aren’t the look most of us are going for! They’re too strict and stiff.

Instead, a beautiful garden that you can enjoy will incorporate natural elements that draw the eye and create an environment that help de-stress and decompress.

Natural Stone

To add elements of nature that are eye catching and elegant, consider natural stone. Whether you place groupings of rocks or small boulders in a part of your garden build a wall from rock pieces, rather than bricks, you can use natural elements to add texture and design to your garden.

A rock garden can be a particularly elegant feature at the front of a home, with some very practical aspects as well:

  • With less lawn to maintain, you can set up your garden and simply enjoy it more, rather than toiling at mowing quite as much.
  • You will have less issues with animal damage, including urine spots, with even a portion of your garden set up with rocks. Racoons in particular enjoy grubs that they find in lawns, digging up your green space and in general making a mess. They don’t care for rock gardens. Racoon droppings are also very unsanitary, for humans and pets, so avoiding that problem is best for all.
  • Using stone to create a path to lead up to to your front stairs is a natural and elegant way to draw the eye to your door, creating curb appeal that will last a long time.

The only caveat with building a rock garden or even a stone pathway is that you must plan it to include appropriate water drainage. You don’t want to create a spot that holds a lot of water, but rather one that has appropriate grading for drainage that impacts neither you nor your nearest neighbours!

Create A Path Through Your Backyard

Whether a path with interlocking brick or with natural stone, a garden path in your backyard has a couple of benefits:

  • It creates a visual feature that actually fools the eye into thinking that even the smallest yard is actually larger. To achieve this, make sure that your path isn’t straight but winds a little.
  • Adding garden walls (otherwise known as retaining walls) on one side of the path, is also a good feature. The border it creates along the path will help distinguish between garden beds and your pathway. In addition, you can use a sufficiently elevated garden wall as extra seating when the need arises! A few extra guests at your garden party are no problem: simply place colourful outdoor cushions on the wall and you’ve got a quickly established seating area, where your guests can enjoy your blooms and plants.

Add A Water Feature

There is nothing more calming than a well-designed water feature. If you design one or plan for several, water features can add a natural focal point to your garden that will wow your friends and family.

Consider your available space when you are deciding what sort of water feature might suit your garden best. A large pond in a relatively small garden will be overwhelming, but a small fountain might be just the ticket! Whether modern in design, or a more traditional stone fountain, a water feature provides a touch of class in your garden space.

Be sure to choose a style of water feature that is in line with the rest of your home and garden. A focal point that sticks out from its natural surroundings isn’t ideal. Instead, place your fountain in an area of the garden where it can be surrounded by blooms, bushes and foliage. It will look like it was meant to be part of the landscape, a natural addition to your garden.

Living Walls

A living wall is an extraordinary way to garden that is particularly suited to smaller spaces. The vertical garden has several advantages:

  • It’s easy to manage. You can plant a range of perennials and edibles that will flower and bloom throughout the season. But if you enjoy gardening, this will fit the bill for you.
  • It can act as a privacy wall, if you want to create a space that is comfortable and shaded.
  • It is the ideal decoration for the otherwise blank but expansive fencing that is ubiquitous in most any suburban neighbourhood.
  • A vertical wall is perfect for a small garden, where extensive garden beds aren’t an option or if you want to avoid using up precious patio space for potted plants and flowers.

However you look forward to spending time in your garden this spring and summer, planning it now will allow you to look at all the options available to you, investigate the right flowers and plants for your space and create a wonderful garden that you can enjoy throughout the season.