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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!

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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!

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

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A new take on tiny houses!

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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.

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!

 

 

 

THE Best Homemade Pizza: Fun and Easy Tips and Recipes!

Forget what the ads say: the BEST pizza is homemade. It’s easy and healthier than the store bought alternatives, to say nothing of fun to put together as a family. The next time you’re in the mood for a pie, pull out these tips for a perfect pizza made at home!

These steps will help you avoid a soggy pizza crust covered with toppings where some are barely warm and others that are charbroiled. Read on, my foodie friend…

The Best Base You Can Manage

Just like the foundation of a house which, if badly built, will crack and break down, the foundation of a great pizza needs to be solid to achieve maximum eatability.

Ideally, whether you make your pizza dough from scratch or buy it pre-made, you want to make sure you are stretching and rolling it out at room temperature. If it was in the refrigerator, let it rest on the counter while you prep the rest of the ingredients, before attempting to roll.

When the dough has dropped its chill, you can flour your rolling surface—more is better here: you don’t want the dough to stick!

Press your dough ball flat with your knuckles from the centre out towards the edges. If it’s still too cold, it will spring back and refuse to stay flat, like an out of control cowlick, so if that happens, just let it rest a few minutes more before continuing.

Whether you use the recipe below, or a store bought dough, it’s better to stretch the dough, rather than roll it. Ideally, you will be tossing it in the air, like you’ve seen at your pizzeria so that it pulls evenly and doesn’t tear. You’ll find it easier to get the round shape, but since we all can’t toss pizza dough in the air without making a mess, a rolling pin is fine to make sure that you get a consistent ¼ inch thickness and VOILA! You’re ready for toppings!

The best ‘from scratch’ recipe is so easy, it will take less time than walking to the store to buy pre-made, though it needs to be put together the day before, so a little planning is required!

This recipe makes four balls of dough—great for making individual pizzas:

Ingredients:

3 and ¾ cups of bread or all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast

2 teaspoons of salt

1 ½ cups of water

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, blend all your dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast).
  2. Add the water to the mixture and mix, preferably with your hands.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to sit on the counter overnight, at room temperature. It will rise to more than double the initial size!
  4. Generously flour your work surface where you will be rolling out the dough and scrape it out of the bowl. Now you can divide it into four and shape each dough ball. Dust with more flour if they get tacky or sticky.
  5. You don’t need to knead this dough extensively as the gluten needed is activated by the rising process. Just get stretching!

Toppings Galore!

Here’s the fun part for the rest of the family! Quality matters when it comes to toppings. Homemade or high quality crushed tomato sauce, hand shredded cheese and anything your heart, and stomach, desires. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pre-shredded cheese but like a fine wine, the secret is in the quality of the source ingredients!

Whatever toppings you like on your pizza, just remember to spread them as evenly as possible to avoid clumps that won’t cook through properly.

Other tips?

  • Just like the pie from your favourite take out place, leave a half an inch around the edge to avoid the toppings dripping or bubbling over. Pinch it a little so that it’s raised up to create a sauce barrier!
  • Try and limit your toppings, beyond sauce and cheese, to two or three. Anything more starts to get heavy and thick and might not cook through as evenly. Simple is best!
  • Don’t forget fresh herbs! Basil is the best when handily torn up and thrown over your toppings, right after the pizza has come out of the oven. Chives give that onion-y flavour without overdoing it and are also best popped on post-bake.

Cook It Low And Hot

Whether you have a pizza stone, pan or a perforated pizza sheet, make sure you put your oven rack to the lowest level before pre-heating. This will brown the crust nicely, leaving no soggy pockets.

What you’re looking for is a flat surface to ensure that the crust cooks evenly. If you’re worried about the pizza sticking, just spread a little cornmeal on the pan or sheet before adding the rolled out crust.

The key to home cooking a pizza is high heat—as high as your oven can go! Why? The air bubbles in your pizza dough will expand when they hit the blast of heat, causing a light, soft dough on the inside, which also crisps up nicely on the outside. Win-win!

Better yet, invest in a wood burning outdoor pizza oven. These easy to assemble, and even easier to use, ovens mimic the cooking process from your favourite pizzeria, right in the comfort of your own backyard.

Invest In A Pizza Wheel

Cutting your perfectly cooked pie is in itself an artform! You don’t want your toppings to come off the crust to tear in weird ways by trying to cut your pizza with a standard knife. A super sharp pizza wheel is an inexpensive kitchen tool that you will get value back again and again.

Prepping some dough and having it at the ready means you can have homemade pizza in a flash, so say goodbye to your delivery guy and hello to easy dinners that everyone will enjoy!

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.

5 Simple Tips to Stacking Firewood

Stacking firewood is just as important in getting a great burning experience as buying aged quality firewood.  Stacking the firewood properly ensure that the firewood quality remains long after you have purchased the product.  At Toemar, we go the extra mile in stacking firewood so that the wood ages properly with the appropriate moisture level.  Here are some great tips to ensuring that your firewood is stacked appropriately:

  1. Location – stacking firewood in a moist shaded area won’t help you in minimizing the moisture in the wood.  You want to stack the wood so that the cut ends face the prevailing west winds or moving air.  You also want to make sure that the ground is even so that the structure does not collapse
  2. Off the ground – you want to lift the entire wood stack off the ground to prevent bottom rot.  You know you have bottom rot by streaks of yellow mold or white fruiting bodies of fungus on the ground course of (ruined) wood.  You can do this by using placing interlocking stones at the end of each log so that gap in between the stones allows for moving air.  You may also want to consider building a wood shed with a floor
  3. Built-in airflow – when you stack your firewood, you want to build in as much airflow as possible by using irregularities and odd-shaped logs to create cross-stack channels for drying air
  4. Bark up – place the bark facing up when you stack so that you can use the bark to keep water out and allow moisture to continue to shed from the woodpile
  5. Pile sizes and shapes – the pile size and shape doesn’t matter as much as long as the pile is stable and allows for movement of air.  You can stack them against the home, or you can stack them in square piles, or even other whimsical shapes

firewood-stack-circular-shape

If you got any ideas or tips you like to share, please share them below.  We love to hear what others are doing!

Firewood Guide – An Infographic

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

firewood-stack-vs-pile

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

firewood-infographic
Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR

2014 Backyard Design – 5 Simple Ideas

Backyard design, specifically susatinable designs are not as difficult as you think. In fact, here are 5 simple tips and ideas that we think will help you to plan your backyard landscape with years of enjoyment to come:

#1. Sustainability going mainstream:

Sustainable landscaping encompasses a variety of practices and used in every phase of the process including design, construction, implementation and maintenance. Low-maintenance gardens, drought-tolerant plants and less grass have become the norm. This not only makes sense for the environment but also for economical reasons.

backyard-design-sustainable-landscape

Sustainable design going mainstream

#2. Edible landscapes:

Transform your backyard into a sensory experience that combines both sight and taste. Gardens that incorporate both edibles and ornamental plants will give you a taste of all natural produce while creating an eye-pleasing landscape that will be a hit with both your neighbours and food cost savings.

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Edible landscape

#3. Quality is key:

Times are still tough and spending your money wisely is key. Invest in quality and natural materials that will withstand the elements of nature and your use and enjoyment of the space. Not only do you save money in the long run, but you will save yourself a great deal of stress and aggravation from poorly constructed materials.

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Quality is key

#4. Water Features:

It was popular in 2013 and continues to be trend in 2014. Whether it is for the front yard or backyard, water features add another sensory experience to relaxing in your backyard. You can get relatively inexpensive self-contained systems in an urn or portable fountain to a high-end water wall are popular across all budgets.

water-features-backyard

Water features creates a relaxing atmosphere

#5. Indoor living outside:

Extend your home from the inside to the outdoors to create permanent living spaces that will not only add value to your home but also the level of enjoyment of your home. Make sure to take advantage of and use weather resistant fabrics and natural materials such as stone that both fade-resistant and waterproof.

indoor-living-outside-backyard

Indoor living outside

Image sources:
Sustainable Landscape http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccready | Edible landscape http://www.flickr.com/photos/aon/ | Water Features Source: Mcmonagle Stone | Build Quality Source: Turfdesigners | Indoor Living Outside Source: Nordby Design Studio

Practical Tips to Burning Firewood

Did you know that one cord of wood burned as firewood provides the heat equivalent to that produced by burning 200 to 250 gallons of heating oil, depending on the type of hardwood you are using?

If you are burning firewood or thinking about burning firewood here are some great tips that you can apply to your own experience:

  • Freshly cut wood contains up to 50 percent moisture and must be seasoned (approximately 2 years) to 20 to 25 percent moisture content before burning. Wood containing more than 25 percent moisture is wet, or green, and should never be burned in a fireplace or wood stove.
  • Wood must be split into pieces and stacked out of the rain for at least six months to season properly. If you see a place where firewood is just thrown into pile, you are not getting what you pay for.
  • If steam bubbles and hisses out of the end grain as the firewood heats up on the fire, the wood is wet, or green, and needs to be seasoned longer before burning. Do not burn!
  • Well-seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with visible cracks or splits. It is relatively lightweight and makes a sharp, distinctive “clink” when two pieces strike each other.
  • To maintain proper airflow, regularly remove ashes from your wood-burning appliance into a metal container with a cover and store outdoors.
  • Build hot fires. A smoldering fire is not a safe or efficient fire.
  • Start fires only with newspaper, dry kindling and all natural or organic fire starters. Never start a fire with gasoline, kerosene, or charcoal starter.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Contact us if you have any questions on how to burn your firewood efficiently and effectively. Be safe and stay warm!

Source: Farmer’s Alamanac, US EPA

Free Firewood Sales – Is Burning Pallets OK?

You are tempted and it is hard to resist.

On your drive home, you see companies posting signs saying Free Firewood on their property. You decide to stop at one of them to check it out. You drive around back and you see a large stack of pallets and realize that you really could save money this winter. Someone comes out to meet you and tells it is fine to use as firewood and there have been no reported problems. When he says “reported problems”, it should be cause for you to stop and ask yourself why he would say that?

Here are some reasons why you should NOT burn pallets as firewood:

  • Low flashpoint – wooden pallets catch fire very easily
  • Extremely high temperature – this makes the potential for a fire spreading to nearby objects increase drastically
  • Explosive wood dust – under the right conditions, the accumulation of wood dust can ignite into a fireball which is extremely dangerous
  • Chemical use or exposure – many pallets are treated with toxic chemicals such as Methyl bromide (MB) or a fungicide to increase its life span. It is a pesticide used in the control of pest insects, nematodes, weeds, pathogens, and rodents
  • Releasing harmful toxins – as a pallet is burning, these toxins are released which is a serious health risk. In addition, you have no idea what type of chemicals or particulates have soaked into the wood which can significantly increase the temperature and/or create hot sparks which could lead to an explosion.

Simply put, wood pallets are known to be a major fire risk. Wood pallets need to be properly disposed of. Burning them as firewood is not a proper solution.

Here are some reasons why you should use “log or natural” firewood:

  • Cut to length – firewood is typically cut to length so that it can fit properly in your fireplace (12 inches) or woodstove (16 inches)
  • Free from toxins – the only processing that a “log” firewood goes through is the cutting and the removal of the branches. There are no pesticides and/or fungicides used
  • Eliminate waste – sometimes firewood is harvested strictly for burning. For the most part, firewood comes from felled trees that either do not meet specification for building materials (e.g. too thin) or is a byproduct of off cuts
  • Minimal smoke – properly aged or seasoned firewood will burn with very little to no smoke. This makes your firewood experience more enjoyable
  • Consistent temperature – log firewood has a high flashpoint and provides constant and even heat which makes it more comfortable in your home

Come and see how we age or season our firewood for two years to give you the perfect burning experience. We look forward to supplying you quality firewood this coming winter.