Posts

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.

4 Things You Should Know Before Using Your Fireplace

The first step is making sure you have the right wood

While most homes no longer use wood burning fires as their primary heat source, there’s nothing like an old wood stove or fireplace glowing bright and flickering through the cold winter weather. Just the smell of woodsmoke puts one in the frame of mind of hot cider and warm toes.

Whether you’re new to the world of wood fireplaces or an old hand at stacking logs, we’ve got a few good tips about firewood that are worth reviewing.

What Characteristics Of Wood Give The Best Results?

First off, aged wood—at least two years—is best. Even better if it has been cut, split and stacked outside, exposed to the elements of nature.

Like a fine champagne (drank in front of a glowing fireplace of course!), good wood has been rotated in the stack to ensure an even and consistent aging, with decent exposure to sunlight and air flow to help dry it out and lower the moisture level to less than 20%. Less seasoned wood has as much as 50% moisture, which will smoke when lit.

Why is aged wood better?

Aged wood burns hotter and more slowly, giving you a better result in the fireplace and requiring you to add wood less often. The slow burn gives a more consistent temperature and heat, rather than a fast flare up that dies out quickly. There is also little to no smoke with well-aged wood.

There are three characteristics you are looking for beyond aging:

  1. Density of the wood, which gives you more heat per cubic foot volume of wood.
  2. BTU (British Thermal Unit) of the wood, which gives you more heat per piece of wood.
  3. This refers to the ability of the wood to form coals after the initial burn, extending the fire life.

Overall, a well-aged quality hardwood will have more density, BTUs and coaling ability, giving you a better burn, with consistent and even heat.

Examples?

White birch, which is a hardwood, has a density of 42 lbs per cu. ft. , 20.8 million BTUs / cord and is good at coaling.

In contrast, pine, which is a softwood, has a density of 22 to 31 lbs per cu. Ft., 15 million BTUs / cord and is poor at coaling. In addition, it has a strong smell and can leave an oily residue in your chimney.

Pieces that are cut from 12” to 16” are ideal to fit in most fireplaces so be sure to ask your provider what you are getting before you take delivery.

What Types Of Wood Are Available?

Hardwoods—maple, oak, ash, birch, and fruit trees—burn hotter and longer but are more expensive and harder to split. However, with a longer burn, you’re using less of it so it probably comes down to an even split for the recreational fireplace user.

Softwoods—pine, balsam, spruce, alder, and poplar—these are much easier to split and light, but they burn out quickly and are prone to creating creosote buildup in the chimney, which can cause a chimney fire.

TIP: Avoid FREE firewood sales! Very often, ‘free firewood’ is made up of wood pallets that have been broken down. Pallet wood is a major fire risk. They catch fire very easily and burn at such a high temperature that the fire could easily spread to nearby objects. They break down into wood dust, which can combine and ignite into a fireball! In addition, most wood pallets are treated with harmful chemicals that act as pesticides, such as Methyl Bromide or fungicides: when burned, the toxins are released into the air and can pose a serious health risk.

How Should Wood Be Stored?

When you’re checking out a seller, beware of those who simply pile the wood out of doors. This means that there is little to no airflow for the pieces underneath, resulting in wet, even mouldy wood that won’t burn well. You’re looking for nicely stacked wood that has plenty of airflow and a seasoned appearance.

unstacked-firewood

It should go without saying but it’s best not to store your firewood in the house. Split logs should be stacked with the ends facing prevailing winds, off the ground with only the top covered and bark facing up. This helps to ensure that sunlight and air can still reach the split logs but the bark protects them from rain and snow.

It’s best to get this done within two weeks of delivery from your firewood provider, so best to plan your location before you order! The goal is to prevent moisture from building up in your wood pile, which will make the wood too wet to burn properly.

How can you tell if your wood is too wet? If you try burning it and it hisses or steam bubbles appear at the ends, your wood is too wet to burn.

Well seasoned, dry wood is darker towards the ends, with cracks and splits in it; it’s also relatively light weight.

Before you get your first roaring fire going this season, check out our Fireplace and Chimney Checklist! Toemar has been in the business of selling firewood for more than thirty-five years, so if you’re looking for a source of wood that you can trust, give us a call.

Burning Firewood Guide – Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

Nothing fills the house with smells and warmth like the crackling of a burning fire. Wood-burning fireplaces can creative a peaceful, inviting ambiance as well as an alternative way to heat your home.

Choosing the type of firewood to use can be a daunting task, so here is a quick guide to selecting the best firewood to use to get the best burning firewood experience. Arm yourself with some key information to help you be on your way to picking the right kind of firewood for you.

1. Always pick a seasoned firewood

Freshly chopped or unseasoned (green) wood has up to 50% water content and burning this will only result in a room full of smoke. Seasoned wood on the other hand have been cut, split and properly dried out for over a year allowing the moisture in the wood to evaporate.

2. What is the difference between hardwood and softwood?

Wood TypeType of TreesPositiveNegative
Hardwoodmaple, oak, ash, birch, fruit treesburns hotter and longer, uses less firewoodmore expensive, harder to split
Softwoodpine, balsam, spruce, alder, poplareasy to ignite, easy to splitcreosote build-up (cause chimney fires), highly flammable, burns out quickly

3. How does wood burn?

In the first stage, wood is heated to the point where moisture within the wood cells is driven off and the cells are drying out. As the wood is losing moisture, it is chemically changing into charcoal – which is famous for its volatile gases and liquids. Stopping the process at this point is where the charcoal industry packages their products.

The second stage is where actual flames burn off the volatile gases and volatile liquids to the point where charcoal has lost most of these volatile fuels. Much of the energy of wood fuel is lost during this stage.

Finally, the third stage occurs when the charcoal burns and can be seen when the embers glow. This is called “coaling”. At this point, heat is radiated from the burning bed of coals. Different species of wood burn and expend energy differently throughout these three stages.

4. What do I look for when buying firewood?

The burning properties and the heating potential of wood depend upon its species and density of that wood. Here are three heating values to consider when buying firewood – density, heat content and coaling quality.

  • Density – Denser wood contains more heat per volume
  • BTU – The higher the value, the more heat you get per unit of wood
  • Coaling – Wood that forms coals allow a fire to burn longer
Tree SpeciesDensity (lbs/cu.ft)Million BTUs/cordCoalingCharacteristics
White Birch (Hardwood)4220.8goodBirch gives off good heat but tends to be consumed pretty quickly. The flavor is good, similar to maple which compliments pork and poultry nicely.
Beechwood (Hardwood)32 to 5624 to 27excellentThis has some great heat and flame but tends to give off a fair amount of sparks. Use a fireplace screen or door.
Pine (Softwood)22 to 3115poorThis burns well when well- seasoned but has a tendency to crackle and pop because it is resinous and a softwood. Good for kindling since it lights easily but too much can leave a strong piney smell which is nice outdoors but can be overwhelming indoors or with food. Can also leave an oily soot in your chimney and your food.
Spruce (Softwood)25 to 4415.5poorBurns too quickly, produces low heat, can be smokey and with too many sparks. It is good to start fires with, but substitute with a hardwood.
Poplar (Softwood)22 to 3116fairNot recommended – even when very well seasoned it burns poorly and produces an unpleasant black smoke.

Remember, part of having a memorable fireplace experience is having the right type of fire wood – choose a quality hardwood that have been proper aged

A Fun Way to Remember your Firewood

Here’s a fun rhyme to help you to remember:

These hardwoods burn well and slowly,
Ash, beech, hawthorn oak and holly.
Softwoods flare up quick and fine,
Birch, fir, hazel, larch and pine.
Elm and willow you’ll regret,
Chestnut green and sycamore wet.

For more information, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Image Source: Flickr