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The Real Cost Of Using Artificial Turf For Your Lawn

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

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

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

What’s The Problem With Artificial Turf?

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

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

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

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

If Artificial Turf Isn’t Allowed, What Is?

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

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

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

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

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.

5 Simple Fall Landscaping Ideas For The Front Yard

Curb appeal takes on a whole new meaning in autumn with some landscaping ideas

The colours of fall make it a perfect time of year to really enhance the front of your home with landscaping.

Leverage the cooler weather, as well as the beautiful plants and flowers that bloom at this time of year, to create a visual impression.

Planning your landscaping so that you have colour and texture all year around is ideal and easy to do. Incorporating perennials, shrubbery and grasses that bloom at different times of year assures you a beautiful front yard (well, with the exception of the blanket of snow from January through March!)

If you have deciduous trees on your property, Mother Nature will help you along in terms of brilliant colours, but there’s so much you can add to improve upon her good work!

Fix The Basics

If your lawn has patches or your planting beds need weeding, turning and mulching, now is the time. The cooler weather is an ideal time to start thinking about overseeding your lawn, to fix patches. Why? Because the cooler temperatures mean less evaporation of the soil moisture.

Grass seeds will have the opportunity to germinate and build a solid root structure before the stems take over, in the spring. Use a high quality overseeding soil with your new seeds and be sure to give it all plenty of water.

Don’t forget to do plenty of raking to pull up the dead grasses and remove your leaves. Your lawn can breathe better without the extra layer, though some fallen leaf coverage can be helpful to protect plant beds from an early frost.

It’s also a good time to take a look at your hardscaping and make sure it’s all in good condition for the upcoming winter. Your walkways and retaining walls should be repaired, as ice forming in cracks can expand and create further damage.

While water features are lovely in spring and summer, it’s a good time to drain yours and prepare it for winter by covering up any pool basins, so they don’t get clogged with falling leaves and other autumn detritus.

Establish Some New Color And Texture

Your summer blooms are fading, so it’s time to add some shades of fall. In fact, autumn is an ideal time to plant perennials because, just as with the grass seed above, the warm soil and mild evaporation make ideal conditions for roots to form and take hold.

What flowers and plants will bloom through the fall, improving the look of your landscape?

  • Hostas – from vibrant blue to dark red, there are many shades to pluck up your garden.
  • Daylilies – pinks and purples to gold and yellow, you’ve many shades of the rainbow in these!
  • Daisies – who doesn’t love daisies? To quote that old goody of a movie “You’ve Got Mail”: “They’re such happy flowers.” True.
  • Peonies – usually more subtle in creams, pinks and lavenders, these flowers add a special subtlety to any landscape design.
  • Chrysanthemums – that quintessential fall flower has lovely blooms to brighten your front garden.

As for texture, there’s nothing more elegant than some beautiful ornamental grasses, waving in the autumn breeze. They can add some flourish when other plants are beginning to be cut back for the season and are hardy enough to withstand our winters.

Trees and shrubs often do very well if planted in the fall, for the same reasons as the grass seed and plants, as noted above, so if you don’t yet have any trees with leaves that change (deciduous) in the fall, now is a great time to add some to your landscape plan. Just be sure to buy a rake at the same time!

Fall is also a good time to consider adding a structure to your hardscape, whether that is an arbor or a stone retaining wall, slate stepping stones or boulders. Whatever look you’re trying to achieve in your garden, adding structure to its already good bones will improve the look immeasurably!

Let There Be Light

Another way to enhance the landscape is to add some strategic lighting. Thanks to solar powered units, you can place lighting along your walk way or throughout your gardens to highlight the hard work you’ve put into them!

Porch lighting can be so much fun if you indulge in a wrought iron sconce or perhaps a hanging lantern? Whatever you choose, lighting the front of your home really improves the welcoming look of it.

Evergreens Are Important Too

With all this talk about adding colour, don’t forget that standing evergreens add symmetry and consistency to a garden, to say nothing of year round privacy and a beautiful backdrop for your blooming autumnal plant beds. That contrast of a dark green background with flaming florals and grasses set in front? Beautiful!

Improve Your Front Entrance

In addition to the landscaping, you can add a touch of fall to your front entrance by incorporating a seasonal wreath or planters on either side of the door, filled with fall foliage, grasses, flowers and more.

The key with entrance decor is to be subtle, with a few touches rather than overflowing buckets of plants and greenery. This is definitely one of those time when less is more. There’s one exception to that rule however: if you’re big on the fall holidays like Halloween, you can add a lot of color and a whole lot of fun with pumpkins and hay bales, scarecrows and fake spiders. Just be sure to take it all down before Santa comes by on his sleigh!

Ultimately, if you have a front porch, keep the furniture out as long as you can: it’s a lovely way to spend a cool evening, with a blanket and some hot chocolate, enjoying the landscape you’ve created!