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!

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.

Ideas for Your Tiny Mississauga Garden

Gardens in Mississauga subdivisions aren’t necessarily tiny but for the most part, they’re not great expanses of green space either.

That said, there is so much you can do to turn even a smaller space in the front or the back of your home into an oasis.

While some people might lament the reality of a small garden, just remember that on the plus side, less garden means less maintenance, so getting the most out of the available space is easier than you might think.

Yes the backyard of a new-build (or new-ish) home often feels like a fishbowl, but no reason it can’t be a beautiful fishbowl that all the other fish will want to visit! 😉

Go Vertical

With limited growing space, creating vertical gardens for your edibles, herbs and some perennials is a great way to use available space wisely.

You can attach a structure to your garden fence, or have a freestanding structure, set in the corner of your space. You can even create a vertical greenhouse, if you have a spot that gets full sunshine, and start your seedlings early.

Another option is to add hanging planter boxes on the edge of your deck, or under a window. Imagine the scent of basil and lavender wafting in through your open window in the summer!

A trellis tied to your garden fence is perfect for climbing ivy and roses, creating visual appeal on what is otherwise a blank canvas of boring fencing.

Retaining Walls That Serve Double Duty

If you want to build retaining walls to contain your perennials and bushes but also want to have some seating, build the walls high enough so that, in a pinch with extra guests, all you need is some outdoor cushions. You’ll have extra seating in an instant, set against the backdrop of fragrant blooms. What could be more elegant?

A word of caution: Employ a landscape architect before randomly building a garden wall of any kind. Your lovely spring garden just may become your neighbours not-so-lovely spring flood.

Pot Gardens Add Pizzazz

Whether for herbs or other edibles, small foliage bushes or waving ornamental grasses, planting them into pots can really spruce up a small space without taking up too much real estate.

Pots have the added advantage that they can be moved, if you decide you want to switch things up a little!

Use big and small pots, interspersed together, to create visual appeal and different heights. A dwarf tree can thrive in a large pot and that will add some height, while smaller pots filled with plants and blooms will add texture and dimension.

Corner spaces can be awkward, but add in a large terra cotta pot or two and plant your favourite perennials, or even small topiary style trees, to fill in an otherwise difficult to use space.

Or what about placing a bird bath in a corner, filling it with soil, and adding some smaller plants and succulents? It would look elegant and be easy to manage, all season long.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Colour

While bold colours can be overwhelming in small rooms, in the garden, they add so much life to a smaller space. With an amazing range of perennial and annual blooms to choose from, at different heights and growing periods, you can make sure there is always a splash of bright and invigorating colour in your tiny oasis.

You’re not limited to plants either! Brightly coloured garden furniture or accents can make a great statement: image a large red umbrella, throwing comforting shade over your favourite chair for reading. The key is to stay within a maximum of two or three colour palettes, so that the colours don’t clash and overwhelm the eye.

Pathways Create Style

Stone or brick pathways make a lovely addition, particularly to front yards. They add definition to your entryway, creating a welcoming path to your front door. Flagstones or patio stones in the back can help you create a seating area when a deck isn’t in the offing, which is easy to maintain.

If you create a curved pathway, rather than a straight line, it gives the sense of space as walking on it feels more like if you turn the corner, there will be a lot more garden than there actually is. It’s a bit of a visual trick of the eye that will add a wonderful dimension.

Choose Easy To Store Furniture

While it’s important to be able to enjoy the space with patio furniture, too much can become overwhelming. Having some extra lawn chairs is a great idea for when you have a few guests over, but make sure they can be stacked or folded as being able to put them out of the way, in the shed for example, will free up space when it’s just you and your family.

Hide The Trash

If you aren’t storing your garbage and recycling receptacles in the garage, find a way to camouflage them, whether they’re at the side of your house, or in the back. Nothing ruins a small space more than having to look at the trash cans!

Don’t Ignore The Grass

Even if your green space isn’t particularly large, the ability to sink your toes into luscious, tender grass is a pleasure beyond compare. You can make sure that your grass doesn’t affect your flower beds by creating small walls or garden beds that will create a physical separation between the two growing areas.

If you want to vary what you have on the ground, don’t do more than three textures. Anything more, in a small space, will become visually overwhelming. For example, you can lay sod, have some flagstones for a small pathway and perhaps a gravel or patio stone area for your furniture. This combination would look elegant and be easy to maintain.

TIP: if you’re going to go with gravel, make sure you lay down landscaping fabric first, to ensure that you don’t end up with endless weeds popping up, all summer long.

A small Mississauga garden doesn’t have to be without charm and style. It just takes a little planning and effort, but you can create a wonderful elegant space to enjoy throughout the warmer days of Spring, Summer and early Fall.

How to Artfully Stack Your Firewood

Keeping a cord of firewood handy in case of a storm, or just to get your hygge on through the long winter months makes sense. In addition to getting the right wood, and setting up an appropriate space to store it in, you can take your game one step beyond and stack your wood in such a way that it becomes a part of your landscaping decor!

Here’s another thought: if you have someone on your Christmas shopping list who is IMPOSSIBLE to shop for and has a wood burning stove, consider buying them firewood and then stack it for them. Once it’s been delivered, you want to get it off the ground and stacked nicely, so that’s a gift and a half that even Santa would love.

3 Steps To Start You Out Right

Step 1: Set up the perfect dry spot to store your firewood, near enough to the house to be retrievable even in the worst storm but far enough so that any mice that decide to take up residence are not right next to your house. Ideally, that will be a spot that has a way to keep the wood off the ground, with a partial roof, large overhang and / or a tarp, to keep it dry. If you burn a lot of wood every winter, a woodshed with a raised floor is a great idea. You can always store a week’s worth at a time, closer to the house, on a porch for example.

Step 2: Get a perfectly seasoned, dry face cord of firewood delivered to your home (If you’re in the Mississauga area? We can help you with that!) Properly dried wood has been stacked for at least six months to two years. Most firewood delivered by reputable companies will arrive in 12” pieces but cut down any that you feel are too long or too wide in circumference before you stack. Always stack with the cut ends facing out (west winds) and bark facing up (which acts as additional protection against moisture), with airflow around and between the pieces.

Step 3: Bring the wood in you’re going to need for any given day, 24-48 hours before you burn it. Room temperature works best for a fine merlot and excellent firewood.

What You Need To Know About Firewood

Freshly cut wood contains 50%+ moisture, which is too green to burn effectively or safely. Burning wood that is too green contributes to creosote build up in chimneys, which can result in a chimney fire. Wood that has been stacked and seasoned for at least two years is your best bet. Avoid buying your firewood from a place that just has it in a pile, instead of properly stacked. Odds are, it will be wet. Well seasoned firewood will have darker ends, with visible cracks or splits.

How Do You Know If Your Wood Is Too Wet To Burn?

If you see steam, bubbles and / or can hear a hissing sound as the firewood heats up, it’s too wet to burn. Make sure you pull your firewood from the most seasoned part of your stack, even if it means that your artful design will be a little off kilter! Better that than wet wood in your stove.

What’s The Best Type Firewood To Have?

You want wood that burns hot and long, rather than woods that burn hot and fast. Smoldering fires aren’t safe either.

Maple, beech, cherry and oak are all varieties that give long duration burns, instead of a short burst of high heat and then embers.

On To The Artful Outdoor Stacking

A standard stack of wood is utilitarian but not necessarily very attractive. Now that you know the basic details you need about firewood, here are five examples of artfully stacked wood that would make your neighbours stop and take notice!

stacking-firewood-toemar-garys-owls

Gary’s Owls — Gary Tallman from Montana has taken artful stacking to a new level, sorting by colour in the spring so he can create mosaic art!

stacking-firewood-toemar-meta-tree

Alastair Heseltine, an artist from BC, called this one ‘Meta Tree’.

stacking-firewood-toemar-tiny-houses

A new take on tiny houses!

stacking-firewood-toemar-olle-hagman

By Olle Hagman of Sweden

And finally, the most impressive of all, if not a little impractical, created by Michael Buck:

stacking-firewood-toemar-michael-buck

Thank you to CottageLife.com for the artful inspiration!

And Indoors?

To stack some wood inside, and let it warm up to room temperature for a day or two, you need a good, safe place to put it. While some will use a rack or a large bucket, these designs from Decoist.com might inspire you to be more ambitious with your indoor wood storage.

Left: Old crates in the corner add elegance to the setting.

Right: A shelving unit keeps things tidy.

However you stack it, follow our few rules and you’re investment in dry, seasoned firewood will carry you through the winter in style and comfort.

Which Is Better: A Real Or Fake Christmas Tree?

We have to admit, we’re a little biased on this point, but we’ll make a case for real trees that even the grinchiest grinch of them all can’t argue with!

A Real Christmas Tree Smells Wonderful

The first and best reason to get a real Christmas tree is the smell. The gorgeous scent of an evergreen forest wafting around your house will always put you in a holiday mood. Add some decorations, eggnog, a few presents and some holiday tunes and you’ve got the makings of a great deal of merry!

Smell triggers our strongest sense memories and if you grew up having a real tree at home every year, you’ll find that bringing one into your home now will bring back some of those magical moments of your childhood Christmas past.

A Real Christmas Tree Is Excellent For The Local Economy

Christmas tree farms in Canada numbered 1,872 in 2016 and did $77.6 million dollars worth of business in the same year! That’s a lot of happy farmers in the local economy. That figure doesn’t take into account the number of trees grown and exported worldwide from Canada, which numbers almost 2 million trees, to the tune of $43.1 million dollars (again, in 2016). (Source)

These economic benefits are in contrast to the $59.5 million dollars worth of fake trees that were imported into Canada from China in 2016.

When you look at the amount of money generated by local purchases and consider the contribution to the local labour market, as well as the value of the exports, you can see the tremendous benefit to the Canadian rural economy, an area of the country that needs to leverage these renewable resources.

A Real Christmas Tree Is Better For The Environment

There’s a caveat here: a fake tree is only not too bad for the environment if you plan to keep it and reuse it for years—ideally, over 10 years. If you are going to use it and dump it after only a holiday or two, a plastic tree is just adding to already overflowing garbage landfills.

That’s not the worst part though: the production of fake trees is ecologically unsound. The almost $60 million dollars worth of fake PVC plastic trees imported from China in 2016 (see above!) travelled over 10,000 kms to get here. Real trees need dirt, water, a little fungicide, some gas to harvest and move them, and the human labour too (local labour!)

Every acre given over to growing real Christmas trees—and there’s about 70,000 acres in Canada designated for Christmas trees—creates enough oxygen for 18 people. Furthermore, real trees can be chipped, and turned into mulch, burned, or landfilled (where they will gradually breakdown) at the end of the season. Fake trees will never break down. Ever. Some areas might even incinerate fake trees; the plastic will release dangerous toxins and carcinogens into the air.

And finally, if your fake tree has attached lights but not the newer LED lights, you’re using a lot of energy to light it up every holiday season!

A Real Christmas Tree Is A Wonderful Tradition

Whether you go to a farm in the country and make a day of it, or if you go to a wonderful and festive local garden centre to pick out your perfect specimen for the year, the annual tradition is a great one to start anytime.

If you have kids, you can get them involved, picking out the tree, bringing it home and decorating it. It makes for some great screen-free family together time the memory of which you’ll cherish for the rest of the year.

Which Real Christmas Tree Is Best?

Typically, spruce, fir and pine are the best available options in Ontario. Here’s a quick pro / con list, to help you decide which would be best for your holiday:

Spruce trees —

Pro: Good symmetrical shape, dense branches, lovely dark green colour.

Con: Prickly needles.

Fir trees (our favourites!) —

Pro: Amazing smell and gorgeous dark green needles, excellent needle retention, not very prickly.

Con: A 6 week lifespan, indoors, which ranks it the shortest of all the trees.

Pine trees —

Pro: Different colour options, from green to blue, gorgeous scent, excellent needle retention, strong branches to sustain heavier decorations.

Con: Longer needles make decorations harder to see.

How To Make Sure Your Real Christmas Tree Is Recycled?

In Peel region, Christmas trees under three feet tall can be put out by the curb, along with regularly recycling, on designated days in January. The same goes for wreaths made of natural materials. If your tree is taller than three feet, you can bring it to the Peel Community Recycling Centre.

Prepare your tree for collection by making sure you’ve removed everything, particularly the following:

  • Tinsel;
  • Plastic bags;
  • Ornament strings;
  • Nails and wires (if you were using those to hold it steady and prevent it from falling over!)
  • Nailed on tree stands.

Fake or real, it’s entirely up to you but when you consider the economic impact to local areas, as well as the environmental one, to say nothing of the enhancement to your home this holiday season, we think the decision is clear.

Visit Toemar from the end of November till Christmas Eve to pick up your real tree!

Outdoor Holiday Gifts For Everyone!

Do you have a homeowner on your gift list this holiday season?

There are so many great options that combine the practical with the just plain awesome and everything on this list is available at Toemar.

Some of these may not fit under the tree, but they will certainly get a great, big smile!

The Landscaper

Being a professional landscaper is hard work. A gift that could make some of the hauling and dumping of rocks, dirt, gravel, and sand a whole lot easier? That’s an easy one! Get your favourite landscaper a Muck Truck!

These power wheelbarrows are so much more than the traditional, manual version.

While they may look like an adult version of a Tonka truck (!), Muck Trucks sport a 5.5hp Honda engine, four wheel drive transmission and big knotted wheels to go over any terrain, even stairs! They can carry up to 800 lbs in one load, which is the about the equivalent of 2.5 standard wheelbarrows.

There’s no question that the landscaper in your life, or even the serious gardener, could get a lot more done with a lot less wear and tear on their back, with the Muck Truck. And that fact they look cool and are super-fun goes without saying…

The Gardener

If the gardener on your list isn’t in the market for a Muck Truck, consider getting them set up for spring with deliveries of all the goodies they’re going to need to get their garden into the best shape it’s ever been. Like what?

How about booking a delivery of a Garden Bag? You can get topsoil, overseeding soil, mulch, gravel, screening or sand for any gardening project, delivered right to them. Do they need river rocks, potato stones, or red brick to finish off the look of their yard? You can get those too!

Toemar offers free delivery on all Garden Bag products within Mississauga’s city limits.

Another idea is to add some landscape fabric, to help them put together a new weed free space and perhaps a few Blue Mountain Rock boulders to enhance their plans for a leveled garden?

They’ll be knee deep in making their design plans all winter long and will thank you again in the spring!

The Chef

If your favourite chef has a great outdoor space—and what chef worth their salt doesn’t—the perfect accessory to complete the package would be a wood burning outdoor pizza oven.

With easy to install blocks for the base and a pre-assembled oven unit, the Forno Antico® Pizza Oven will be the chef’s best gift! It only takes 15 minutes to heat it up and cook up to two gorgeous artisanal pizzas. Who wouldn’t love that?

Make sure you give them some great recipes to go with it, and a load of firewood, so they can get started with the baking of pizza pies right away!

And by the way, outdoor pizza ovens CAN be used in winter! Just make sure to add extra time to getting it warmed up and add extra wood to keep the temperature nice and hot despite winter winds 😊

The Zen Yogi

When you think zen, do you think about the sound of water? Not a full-on waterfall, but the delicate tinkling sound of gently running water? You can bet that your zen yoga enthusiast thinks that too!

If they enjoy doing their yoga routine outside in good weather, make the space they use even more soothing and calm by adding an outdoor water feature.

Whether you opt for a pond or a stream, a small waterfall or fountain, this gift is a beautiful addition to the garden, and makes a fantastic Christmas gift.

Give your zen seeker everything they’ll need to install it or plan for some professional help in the spring, and they’ll be on their way to a more zen downward dog in no time. Namaste!

The DIYer

We all know a home and garden DIYer. They want to plan, purchase, and install everything in and out of their homes themselves and more power to them!

They can save a lot of money and have things exactly as they want them, while also having the satisfaction of getting it done themselves.

It’s all a lot easier, however, with the right gardening and landscaping tools. Whether that’s a job lot of basics, like pruners, shovels and rakes, or into the more specific, like lawn rollers, chisels and tampers, getting them the tools that make the job easier and help them get it right the first time, is the gift that keeps on giving.

From knee pads to wheelbarrows, there’s always something a gardener needs, and the best part? Most of these items (wheelbarrow excluded) will actually fit under your Toemar-bought Christmas tree!

The Hygge Obsessed

Hygge. That famous Danish word that means coziness. People who embrace hygge can enjoy the long months of winter and cold by doubling down on the blankets, pillows and hot drinks by the fire.

So make that last bit a whole lot easier for the hygge inspired family member by getting them a cord of perfectly seasoned and dry firewood, delivered in Mississauga and beyond.

Better yet, offer to stack it for them for maximum protection of the wood and you’ll be their hero every time the snow and wind is howling.

Anyone who doesn’t think that firewood is a romantic and useful gift, has never known the satisfaction of a cup of coffee laced with Baileys before a warm fire on Christmas Eve!

The Whole Family

Have you ever seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? You know the scene where Clark W. Griswold skips the Christmas tree lot and opts to trudge with his family through the woods to find the perfect tree? If you’ve seen it, you know how it ends (wince)

Don’t be a Griswold!

Starting in mid-November, drop by Toemar to check out the range of fresh cut Fraser and Balsam firs available, in sizes from 5 to 15 feet.

These trees come squirrel free and will keep their needles in good shape throughout the holiday. A gorgeous tree is just the icing on the cake when it comes to having a great Christmas and holiday season.

Now that you’ve got all the gifts planned for the special people on your list, what about you? Will you get yourself something? Plan your garden for the spring and start your list now!

 

 

 

Mulch: The Essential Ingredient for Fall Gardens

A lot of gardeners think of mulch as an ‘add on’, something to beautify their garden beds with. In fact, black mulch is in style right now, creating contrast in gardens that is seriously eye-catching!

Mulching in the autumn, however, isn’t just about looks. It’s about getting your garden ready for another winter season, in a cost-effective way. If you want a lush, beautiful garden next spring, you need to consider setting yourself up with a load of mulch in autumn.

What Is Mulch?

Essentially, mulch is anything you use to cover, enrich and protect the soil in your garden beds. While some people will opt for leaves or grass clippings to cover their soil, good mulch is much more structured than those options. Plus, a high quality mulch is also decorative! It can add a lot of wow to your garden beds, setting off the plants and flowers beautifully!

What Kinds Of Mulch Can You Get?

Recycled wood mulch — Most high quality mulch is made from recycled wood and natural food dyes, making it safe to use around kids and pets. Mulch comes in red, brown and black, adding elegant contrast in your garden! (Bonus! If you live in Mississauga, you can have a load of mulch delivered to you with Garden Bag to help you get your autumn mulching underway!)

Hemp mulch — Similar to recycled wood mulch, hemp mulch offers excellent soil protection from extreme heat or cold, maintaining constant temperatures. It’s also pH neutral and biodegradable.

Avoid mulches made from cocoa bean by-products, if you have pets. They have a chocolate odour that attracts your pets but as we all know, chocolate is toxic to them. Dogs don’t produce the necessary enzymes to process theobromine and caffeine, both of which can be found in cocoa bean.

Why Your Garden Loves Mulch?

Mulch is a warm blanket that protects your garden through the harshest winter conditions. It creates a barrier between your soil and the snow and ice. Think of it like insulation for your garden beds and perennials, shrubs and bulbs!

The insulation factor works both ways too! As much as it keeps the cold out, it will keep the moisture and nutrients locked in your soil. Instead of losing your soil’s moisture to evaporation—dew, for example, is the result of moisture being drawn from the soil, not the air—mulch keeps it contained, so that plant and tree roots are happy and well fed in the moist earth.

Mulch also helps to prevent soil erosion from spring melts, or soil compaction from heavy rains, two factors which make keeping garden beds well fed and plant roots well protected easier!

Finally, mulch provides a natural barrier against weeds. Studies have shown that well placed mulch can drop weed growth to as low as 7.5 weeds per 110 square feet of garden space. You’ll notice that city run gardens will often have mulch in their garden beds and part of the reason is that it cuts down on the manual process of weeding these gardens. That’s a significant cost savings!

For you as a homeowner, not having to weed your garden as much will not save you a lot of money but it will save you a lot of time and your back, in the bargain! You can spend more time enjoying your beautiful garden instead of being on your knees, pulling weeds!

How Do You Apply Mulch To Your Garden?

First off, order it in your favourite colour and get free delivery from Garden Bag, in the Mississauga area!

All you have to do is set aside a nice autumn afternoon to start spreading it at the base of all your shrubs, perennial plants, trees and on open garden beds. You want to pile up a good 2 – 4 inches of mulch under each plant / tree / shrub and across any open soil areas, to ensure a good coverage.

As you’re planning your autumn planting and garden prep for winter, plan to add a little mulch! Your plants will thank you and you can enjoy a robust, lush garden again in the spring!