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!

Design Ideas For Small Front Yards

How to make even the smallest front yard beautiful

Drive through any Mississauga neighbourhood, and in many cases, you’ll see some large, beautiful homes with wide driveways and just the tiniest bit of a front yard.

That’s pretty standard, particularly in newer developments.

The other standard is the fact that most people don’t know what to do with this little patch, so they throw down some sod, get a city tree planted and call it a day.

The thing is, the curb appeal of the front of your house is everything: it’s the first thing you and others see when you drive up to your home. Does it leave you underwhelmed or are you happy with what you see?

And let’s not forget resale value! Even though the front yard isn’t typically a living space (you aren’t likely to BBQ right out front!), it can be inviting and pleasing to the eye, with little effort.

Keeping your front yard low maintenance, which is desirable for many of us, is how we end up with the sod and tree combination. But low maintenance need not be boring, and while we love sod (yes, Toemar sells a ton of sod each year!), we also believe that it’s tip of the iceberg/garden!

Bring On The Rock Garden

Getting beyond sod has a couple of advantages, right off the bat:

  • There is no lawn to try and keep green and free dog pee spots. Urine spots, created by your own pets or your neighbour’s wandering mongrel, are a pain to deal with. In the aim of keeping your small front yard low maintenance, no lawn means no yellow spots.
  • A lawn-free front yard is also racoon un-friendly, which is a good thing! Racoons like to feast on grubs that they pick out of lawns, wrecking your hard won green carpet in the process. Squirrels have been known to dig up a fair patch of sod too, in the aim of getting to something underneath. Either way, by skipping the lawn, you can keep the beasties at bay. Since racoon droppings are particularly unsanitary for both humans and pets, the less you have on your yard, the better off you’ll be.

Instead of placing sod or planting grass seed, opt instead for a beautiful pathway made of interlocking stones, with a rock garden laid out beside it. There is some lovely local rock that you can get including Blue Mountain rock, Orillia limestone and Bobcaygeon rock. Ontario has some fabulous rock quarries, including some very close by in Milton, that produce gorgeous pieces.

TIP: Hire a professional hardscaper to plan and put your rock garden and pathway in place for one simple reason: run off. You want to make sure the grading is managed in the design so that water, whether rain or melting snow, runs off your property and away from your neighbours lawn too!

Add A Mixture Of Perennials And Bushes

Once you’ve got your rocks and path in place, you can plan to add some plants and bushes, to add texture and colour to the space, with minimal maintenance.

You can create height and a little bit of coverage for the front of your home, that might otherwise be a blank canvas, with bushes or small cedars. Mix in some colourful flowering perennials to punch up the look and break up the grey, white and green of your background rocks and bushes, to create a visually appealing look.

Some people even add water features, within the rock garden, to enhance it further. Do remember, however, that at the front of your home, you’re less in control of the space and run the risk of someone tampering or playing with the water feature, as in the case of a small child who absolutely wants to touch it but trips and falls in. Keep that in mind when choosing your feature.

Top 3 Tips For A Small Front Garden Design

Tip #1—Grass is not always greener—We’ve covered this pretty well, above, so suffice it to say that grass isn’t always the better option on a front yard. In fact, ill maintained grass in a small space looks worse than it would in a larger space. You don’t want your curb appeal ruined by weeds or dead grass. Once installed, a rock garden requires so much less effort. So yes, it will take some money and time up front, but it will be smooth sailing after that.

Tip #2—Blow out the colours—Imagine someone driving down your street. Your home has a rock garden with beautiful yellow, orange, red and pink flowers blooming throughout it. The house next door has grass and a bush. Whose do you think will give the best impression? While curb appeal might not seem important to you, it really makes a statement about how much you care about your home.

Tip #3—Think proportionally—Rocks come in many different shapes and, for a small yard, you don’t want to choose overwhelming sizes, to the point where people see the rocks and nothing else! Everything you put in front of your house should be on a complementary scale to the size of your house. So if you’ve got a bungalow, you might want to skip the tall trees and bushes right out front, which will bury everything, including the house! Instead, choose smaller bushes or tall grasses, which look lovely and require little help to thrive.

However you choose to beautify your front yard, remember that first impressions mean a lot, whether it’s a potential buyer for your home, or your future mother-in-law. Either way, put your best foot forward without breaking a sweat and you’ll enjoy the look of your home as you approach it, every single day.

Lawn 9-1-1: Bringing Your Lawn Back To Life

It happens to the best of green thumbs: you were a little overzealous with the fertilizer or a little under focused on watering. Before you know it, your lawn is looking tired, or worse, brown and dying.

There are a lot of things you can do to bring your lawn back to life, that won’t require anything as drastic as sodding.

Reasons Why Lawns Go South

We’ve talked before about pest control, pet urine damage and weeds, so visit that post to get more information on those issues. In this post, we’re going to talk about other ways your lawn can go downhill in the summer: too much or too little watering, cutting the lawn too short, soil that is hard and compacted down, a pH imbalance in the soil and so on.

Your first step should be to test your soil’s pH levels to see if the levels fall within a normal range. Good quality compost can help to balance high levels of pH in the soil. That said, your patchy lawn might be the result of other activities, so read on!

Is Your Lawn Acidic?

A pH level that indicates acidity in the soil means adjusting the balance. A natural, simple way to do this is to add epsom salts to your lawn. Despite its name, it’s not actually sodium based. Epsom salt is actually made of magnesium and sulfate, a chemical compound that will help balance the acidity in your soil naturally.

Compost Your Lawn

Yes, your lawn needs to eat but too much fertilizer creates a two fold problem: first, it creates a ‘dependency’. Your lawn will not draw nutrients from the soil but rather wait for you to feed it. Second, fertilizer will attract some pests.

Adding a layer of high quality compost, on the other hand, will enable your lawn to build up and draw the nutrients it needs, without your help.

Cut With Care

The single most frequent way people kill their lawns is by cutting the grass too short. The tiny blades will dry up far more easily in the summer sun. Set your mowers blades at the highest level to make sure you’re not cutting off more than a third of the blades at a time. It’s better to cut less, and cut more often, rather than thinking that one big chopping will do the trick!

Pull Up Dead Grass

After you mow your lawn, use a rake to pull up dead grass. Too much of it in your lawn will only prevent the roots of healthy grass from getting the water, nutrients and fresh air it needs to thrive. If you don’t do this, over time, your lawn will build up a thatch of dead grass and other detritus, again preventing water, air and nutrients from reaching the roots. You can break up the thatch, if you’ve built one up, but best to avoid it in the first place!

How Are You Watering?

In the middle of a hot day, you might enjoy a nice misting from the hose, but your lawn won’t. First of all, water early in the day. Middle of the day watering leads to heavy evaporation in the hot sun and late night watering just leaves the lawn waterlogged through the night, making it prone to fungus and other issues. If you have in-lawn sprinklers, get a timer and set it to run in the early a.m.

Now that we’ve got timing down, how much should you water? It might be intuitive to assume that a light but more frequent watering would be best, but in fact, that can lead to a shallow grass root structure. That shallow structure will become ‘dependent’ on you to water regularly. Instead, water less frequently but when you do, give it a good soaking so that the root structures that develop are deeper and more solid. Half an inch of water a couple of times a week is all it should take, even in the hottest weeks of summer.

Aerate Compacted Soil

If part of your lawn issues are that your soil is too compact, particularly in high foot traffic areas, water, nutrients and air can’t get to the roots. It’s time to aerate your lawn! You can rent an aerator, which will pull plugs of earth out, allowing the water, air and food to reach the roots more easily.

Starting From Scratch

If, despite all your efforts, your lawn just isn’t coming back to life, you might decide your best course of action is to start all over again. It’s a big job but a lush, green lawn is such a lovely sight… Here’s how you would go about it:

  1. Cut the sod. You will be slicing through existing root structure to make it easier to pull up.
  2. Remove the sod / grass. You can then lift up existing sod, roots and all.
  3. Till the soil.
  4. Spread a good dose of compost, to the tune of 2-3 inches, all over.
  5. Grade your soil / compost. You want to break up any big clumps and give yourself a level playing field!
  6. Spread the grass seed.
  7. Water well for the first soaking and every day, possibly twice a day during very hot weather, until you start to see the grass seed sprouting.

Bringing a dying lawn back to life isn’t impossible but it does take a little hard work. A good landscape company will be able to help you out, if you can’t manage it. The time and effort will be worth it when you can sit on your lawn chair and enjoy your fabulous lawn for the rest of the season!