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How To Use Natural Stone In Your Landscaping

One of the best things about heading out for a hike in the great outdoors is the natural landscape and how a dose of it can calm even the most rumpled of spirits.

Whether you’re looking for a sleek modern look in your yard, or you prefer a slightly more wild design, natural stone is a perfect medium to work with. In addition to the aesthetic side, there are a couple of other advantages to natural stone:

  • It’s tough and durable but it can also be cut and shaped to bring out the best of the stone surface.
  • It’s an environmentally friendly option, relative to man-made materials, and also looks more natural in your outdoor space.

If you want to make a visual impression in your garden or infuse a natural look to your garden walls, steps, stairways or walkways, natural stone is definitely worth considering.

Rocks And Boulders

Provided you have a decently sized yard, rocks and boulders can be the perfect way to add some natural dimension and texture to a design. It is possible to go too far, however, by adding pieces that are too large or don’t fit well within the design of your landscape, so this is an area where you’ll want the discerning eye of a professional landscaper.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you go shopping for rocks for your landscape design:

  • Size matters — A small yard with several large boulders in a raised garden bed might look distinctly uncoordinated. Choose rocks that are proportionate to the size of your yard.
  • Type matters — Stick to one kind of natural stone, or at least pieces that go well together. One way to ensure that is to stick to stone that is local to your area. In Mississauga and southern Ontario, that includes Blue Mountain rock, Orillia Limestone, or pieces from quarries in Peterborough and Bobcaygeon. Another bonus is that local stone will be cheaper than imported rocks.
  • Placement — Consider whether the natural stone will stand out like a sore thumb in the place you want to put it, or if it will blend in and create a natural division? For example, if you have a terraced lawn, natural stone can create a beautiful cascading dividing wall between the two areas, accompanied by appropriate trees or foliage. Sticking a large boulder in the middle of a postage stamp sized yard? Maybe not.

If you’re building a rock garden, swale or some other way to redirect water on your property, river rocks are a great way to line a flowing riverbed, giving a natural appearance. One note about river rocks: Buy the from reputable retailer like Toemar. Never remove them from the side of your local riverbed. At Toemar, river rocks come in 3 sizes.

Flagstone

Cut and shaped to a specific use or used in its more natural shape, flagstone is a beautiful way to create walkways, pathways, entranceways and so on.

All of the areas of your garden that require a more structured and functional design can still be very elegant by using flagstone. Available in a range of colours, there is a flagstone to complement most any design, including Blue Ice, Slate Grey, Limestone Black and so on.

Preferred by many homeowners over interlocking concrete pavers, flagstone is durable and naturally slip resistant, making it a good option for outdoor use. You can choose irregularly cut stone, for a more random, natural look in your design, or tile flagstones, with uniform cut and design, for a more formal look.

Either way, a properly designed walkway or patio will have the beauty of natural stone, with a lot of other design features:

  • Unlike pavers, each stone will have unique attributes, which are gorgeous and add a richness to a design.
  • Flagstone is a very durable medium to work with that will add value to the space you create with it. By the same token, it requires very little in terms of maintenance.

Natural Stone Projects

In addition to the ideas mentioned above, natural stone is a perfect starting point for a variety of landscaping projects including:

  • Ponds and water features: a pond can only be enhanced by the use of natural stone, giving it the true look of being part of the landscape, not just added to it.
  • Fireplaces also look more integrated into the natural landscape, if they are created with natural stone.
  • Retaining walls and flower beds, while intended to create dividers and specific spaces, look more integrated with the natural environment when built with natural stone.

The visual appeal and elegance of natural stone is without compare and a worthwhile investment to create the garden of your dreams.

If you are looking for something more premium, consider Indiana Limestone to use as a natural stone. It’s been in use for more than 200+ years on various projects such as Royal York Hotel, Empire State Building, more recently the Royal Alberta Museum. With that being said, this product is also used for beautiful homes (inside and outside) or for individuals looking to achieve a very specific look in their landscaping project.

If you’re unsure what your want for your outdoor space, grab a coffee and pop by Toemar’s showroom (really, it’s a show-patio within our show-lot!). Wander the lot and take note of those materials that catch your eye. If you’re not sure where to start, one of our staff will be happy to walk you through the different options.

Come visit us.  We look forward to serving you.

What Soil Is Best For Your Gardening Needs?

Since we’re all hanging out at home, now is the perfect time to get your garden and lawn in order for the upcoming summer season.

After removing all of the detritus of winter, including dead leaves, branches and so on, your garden beds and lawns are ready and waiting for a little TLC to help them reach their best potential.

If you’re not sure how best to nurture the soil for your garden beds, veggie boxes and patchy lawns, read on!

Best Soil For Flower And Garden Beds

Hands down, your best bet is veggie soil, sourced from the best place in Ontario to get nutrient dense soil: Holland Marsh.

If you don’t know it already, the Holland Marsh, an area of land just north of Toronto, is sometimes referred to as Ontario’s Vegetable Patch. Why? It is 7,000 acres of low-lying land that contains some of the richest farmland in the province, with another 2,500 surrounding acres.

Because of the canal drainage system and exposed organic soil, the Holland Marsh produces nearly 60% of Ontario’s carrots and 55% of its onions, along with a number of traditional crops.

Made up of a quadruple mix including peat loam, sandy loam, cattle manure and compost, veggie soil is best if you are doing new flower and garden beds.

It’s also perfect to rejuvenate old soil with nutrients. Mississauga soil is heavy with clay, particularly at new construction homes. It probably also contains a lot of fill, which isn’t nutrient rich. Basically, if you haven’t added any soil to your gardens, what you will have there already isn’t great, so you want to use veggie soil to get a maximum yield from your flower and garden beds.

60% of Mississauga homes have three types of soil and there are ways you can assess what you have particularly well, after rainfall when you have 50-100% moisture levels:

  • Heavy clay soil – The clay soil is wet, dark and feels slick when rubbed between thumb and forefinger. You could even draw with it! Even at less than 50% moisture, you will be able to form a ball with clay soil.
  • Coarse clay soil – This soil is more of a sandy loam or silt loam. At 50% moisture, you can probably form a ball but it will crumble. At 75% to 100% moisture levels, it will be similar to a heavy clay soil.
  • Coarse sandy soil – A ball will not form at less than 50% moisture. At 75% to 100% moisture, a weak ball can be formed but it will fall apart easily.

No matter the existing soil in your garden, you will need to add high quality, nutrient soil to get the flowers, herbs and vegetables that you want.

Veggie soil has high acidity and contains the nutrients your gardens will be needing. If you’re growing berries, you need specific soil, and you will want to be well informed about your soil’s pH levels. Some berries, like blueberries, require more acid. They are tougher to get a yield on, so if berries are part of your gardening game plan, use a pH tester to verify your soil. You may need to introduce more acidity / alkaline, but we’re not berry experts! We are, however, experts at eating berries!

Having the right soil can affect the quality of your growths. Ideally, you’re looking for a pH level between 6 and 7. If the soil is too acidic, you can add some lime to even it out. If you have sandy soil where there is not enough organic matter OR if you have clay soil which is too heavy and compact, you need to add compost to help improve soil structure and composition while providing the nutrients required by the plants. This is where veggie soil can definitely save the day!

Veggie Soil On Lawns

We’ve been asked this question before: “Can you use veggie soil on your lawn?” The short answer is: It depends.

If the issue is that your lawn isn’t getting enough nutrients, then it might work. But there is a very important caveat: Because cattle manure, and consequently veggie soil, is high in nitrogen, this soil will generate more weeds.

Grass seed doesn’t need a lot of nitrogen to grow; it grows simply, so overseeding soil might be a better option, giving grass seed what it needs to grow but not forcing you to break your back weeding your entire lawn.

Lawn Care With Overseeding Soil

If you are overseeding your lawn, remember that there is no grass seed in the soil so you have to order grass seed separately.

While you likely wouldn’t want to use veggie soil on your lawn, to avoid a weed infestation, you also wouldn’t use overseed soil in your veggie garden. There’s nothing wrong with overseeding soil, but it doesn’t have the nitrogen levels you’d want for veggies and blooms.

If you really only want to get one type of soil for your lawn and your garden, we’d recommend that you use veggie soil. It will be more work, but overseeding soil simply won’t be enough for a veggie garden.

What About Topsoil

Topsoil is used for filler. So if you built a beautiful garden wall, you would use topsoil to fill in the space, for volume. Topsoil is also good for building up around existing trees, but if you’re planting new trees, use veggie soil.

Whatever projects you want to start in your garden this spring, starting from a solid base of good quality soil is the way to ensure your veggie, flower and lawn success for the coming summer season.

The Calming Effects Of Kitchen Gardening

During WWII, governments the world over were encouraging their citizens to plant “victory gardens”.

In Canada, these were vegetable gardens that citizens planted to help supplement their food resources.

But beyond the practical effects of providing additional nutrition, victory gardens were useful in helping people cope with the realities of war.

Today, we’re in a new war against the novel coronavirus so this is a great time to look for ways to help yourself and your family cope with the new normal. Gardening is a perfect outlet for that.

Depending on where you live, it may still be little too early in the season to be turning the soil outside, as you may disturb hibernating bees and butterflies, (which you’ll need if your garden is going to thrive), but there’s nothing wrong with getting your garden going indoors.

April / May is the perfect time to start with seeds for many vegetable options.

Working With Seeds

Growing veggies from seeds isn’t hard, but it does require a few essentials.

While many garden centres are closed during the pandemic, others have curbside pick up of your order available, so give them a call to see what you can get.

  • Use potting mix that is meant for vegetable seed gardening—it’s going to drain well and be more lightweight, so the seeds can sprout easily.
  • Vegetable seeds. More below on what vegetables should work well.
  • A container for starting them. If you don’t have a seed tray, an empty egg carton will help. Just make sure you have a plastic tray underneath it, to contain excess water! You’ll also need something to cover them with, to retain humidity, in the early days of their growth.
  • Once they’ve started sprouting, seedlings need light: a windowsill that gets a lot of sun, or even lights from bulbs will make all the difference.

Once you have your essentials, you can get started:

  1. Fill your seed trays with the potting mix and water it well before even adding your seeds. You’ll want the mix to be thoroughly soaked but you don’t want to add seeds into the wet soil. Let the water drain through the mix before sowing your seeds.
  2. Every vegetable will have different instructions, so make sure you read the packet before you start sowing.
  3. Sprinkle seeds with about a half to full inch between each one and then cover them with another layer of potting mix.
  4. Cover them with a plastic cover—standard kitchen wrap will work—until they germinate and don’t place them in harsh, direct sunlight just yet. You don’t want to fry them with a hot, direct heat source! The cover will keep them warm and humid, with water dripping down to feed back into the tray: it’s self-watering at its best!
  5. When they’ve begun to sprout (or germinate, for the technical term), you can take the cover off and move them into a sunny spot.
  6. For watering, the key is consistency. You don’t want them to dry out or to drown! Even, consistent watering is best.
  7. You’ll also need to fertilize the soil, if your potting mix didn’t already come with slow release chemical fertilizers. Read the directions carefully however because over fertilizing can burn the very tender root structure that is forming.

Once you’ve planted your seeds, make sure you label the containers with both the date you planted them and what they are.

Different veggies require different amounts of water and light, per the packet instructions mentioned above.

Most seedlings take about 6 weeks to grow to a point where they can be potted into larger containers where you add veggie soil.

They will need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day to keep growing successfully, once potted out, so consider that a window sill might not do the trick after a while.

Whether you transplant them to a garden plot or to larger containers, just remember that you need good drainage to ensure your plants get the nutrients they need without rotting.

If you are using containers, size matters. You can use large trays that are only inches deep for things like lettuce because you’ll cultivate them quickly and before they are very large. Crops like beans and cucumbers, however, need to be able to build a solid root system and have a structure to be able to support them as they begin to climb upwards.

Obviously, crops that grow underground, like carrots, need a certain amount of depth of soil as well.

Before you move your seedlings outside, they need to be hardened. Basically, this involves slowly taking your seedlings outdoors to get them used to the light, wind and rain before you transplant them into a garden bed or large containers outside. Take them outside for the day, and bring them back in at night for several days, eventually stretching that out to all day and night until you can get them transplanted.

If the sun is direct, you might want to give them some partial shade during the hottest part of the day, while they are still very young.

Ambient temperature matters too.

While hardier crops like chard, lettuce and spinach can thrive even if the temperature is around 15 degrees, warm weather veggies like tomatoes and peppers need consistent temperatures of 20 degrees, so consider that when you are thinking of moving your seedlings outdoors.

Vegetables That Grow Well From Seeds

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does give you an idea of what you can get going on right now, so you can be transplanting when the weather is more consistently warmer, in May and June:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce, as well as other leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Of course, you can’t forget all the wonderful herbs that you can grow indoors year round, if you want to: basil, coriander, parsley and rosemary are easy to grow and will add so much flavour to your cooking.

Enjoying a delicious dinner with your family can be a bright spot in an otherwise difficult time.

Guide to Winter Gardening In Mississauga And Beyond

Within the GTA, there are different zones for hardiness, but there’s one truth that is equal to all the areas: winter gardening isn’t easy! Snow, ice, blowing polar vortex winds… It’s not a recipe for joyful digging in the dirt.

As a result, those of you who are passionate about your gardens and landscaping may find the long months of winter hard, but there are ways you can keep going, to keep your passion alive through the deep freeze.

Did You Keep A Garden Journal?

Think of it like scrapbooking but it’s all about your garden: pictures, notes on when you planted and what, how it went, and more. As the winter weather sets in, you can sit by the fire and review your journal from the past season(s) and make some plans for next spring. If you didn’t keep a journal this year, think about it for next year and add it to your holiday wish list. Lee Valley has an excellent one!

If you took photos of your garden, think about putting them into a photobook. You can take your digital images and make a book online that will be printed, bound and shipped directly to your door. This way, you can peruse your images while you sip a hot toddy.

Order Up Seed Catalogues

Part of your planning can include some enjoyable hours poring over seed catalogues. Keeping in mind the hardiness zone in Mississauga, which is 6b, you can look through all your options for perennials, annuals, edibles and more, deciding what you want to add and when it would be best to start.

Add Some Indoor Greenery

House plants will help you forget that the snow is falling outside. You can spend your winter months babying your indoor plants. Just remember that most homes lack some humidity in the winter, so you will have to make sure your plants get plenty of water and misting.

Some lovely seasonal options are:

  • Christmas cactus
  • Poinsettias
  • Miniature evergreen

Another fun project is to create a terrarium. These tiny landscapes are fun to put together and a great project for kids too. They add a decorative focus that speaks to your green thumb, even in February. Cacti and succulents make the best choices, but you can also add rocks, moss and other features to jazz up your mini-garden.

Join A Garden Club

If you can’t garden, you can at least talk about gardening and landscaping with people who are interested in the topic as you are! Join a local garden group or horticultural society: they often use the winter months to bring in speakers on a variety of interesting topics. Don’t have one locally? Start your own!

Grow Edibles Indoors And Out, Even In January

With raised box beds that have lids, for example, you can grow veggies all year long. The key to remember is that snow is not the problem, for growing edibles in the winter: it’s ice.

For this, you’ll need to start in August / September with planting out happening before the first frost. On warmer, sunny winter days, you can open the lids of your planting boxes, so that the plants get some air and a little sunshine. When it’s cold and icy, keep them closed and protected.

What can you grow outdoors in winter?

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Leaf lettuce — spinach, mustard, arugula
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Swiss chard
  • Carrots and other root vegetables like beets

You can also continue to grow parsley and chives, and the beauty of herbs is that they will thrive indoors as well.

What can you grow indoors in winter?

Your best bet is to stick to herbs, which can flavour your cooking throughout the winter. You can start some from cuttings which will grow roots in water, like mint. Others can be grown from seeds, like basil and chervil.

Whatever you choose, just remember that the dry conditions in a centrally heated home mean that you have to pay special attention to your indoor herb garden, ensuring that they get the moisture they need.

  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Chervil
  • Basil

With all of those ideas, even the most ardent of gardeners can find something to do to keep them going through winter. What will you choose?9

Growing A Dog Friendly Garden

For those of us who love our four-legged friends, it can be hard to reconcile their rambunctious, digging ways with maintaining a beautifully landscaped garden. But it’s not impossible! At the same time, it’s very important to avoid plants and flowers that can be dangerous, even deadly, to our fur friends.

The key to growing a dog friendly garden is to train your dog and do a little homework. Since we can’t help you with the first part of that statement, we’ll give you what you need for the second part!

Potty Train With Purpose

If you’re lucky enough to be starting with a puppy or younger dog, you can leverage a true fact about dogs: they don’t like to mess where they live. That’s the foundation behind crate training, and it can be extended to the garden too. Designate a certain patch of grass as the ‘potty zone’. As you are training your dog, always, always, always take them to that spot. Consistency with training is everything and there are a couple of advantages to taking the time to get this done right:

  1. You will avoid yellow spots of dead grass due to dog urine ALL over your lawn.
  2. You will know exactly where to go to pick up to pick up the little bombs that doggo has left behind, before the yard can be enjoyed by everyone.
  3. Your dog will learn quickly, if you are consistent, that this is the place to go.

If you’ve already got burnt grass from pet urine damage, check out this earlier post on how to manage the damage!

Supervise All Yard Play

Particularly while your dog is still learning where they can play, and where they can’t, make sure they aren’t left alone in the yard. You can’t train them to not dig holes in the middle of your recently sodded green space or in the raised garden beds if you aren’t there to see them attempt it! Like sneaky toddlers, they’ll test the limits of what they can and can’t do, so consistency is important here too.

Part of a dog’s natural personality is to get into trouble when they’re bored, so ensuring that they get plenty of exercise through walks and play makes it less likely that they’ll try and burn off extra energy by digging holes!

Protect The Parts You Particularly Care For

If there are parts of your garden that you really want to keep safe from digging paws, consider putting up a decorative fence, at least for the early days, while your dog is learning. It doesn’t have to be taller than them: even a low fence will stop most dogs and it makes a visual reminder as you train the dog, that they can’t pass that fence!

You can also use plants on your garden borders that are fairly sturdy and give the appearance, at least from doggo’s point of view, of being a fence. Other options? Consider larger rocks or pieces of elegant driftwood to block the way. Container gardens are also a good way to keep your favourite blooms safe from digging paws.

Beyond protecting some features, it’s also important for your dog to be safe. Water features could be problematic with a small puppy, if they were to fall in. Consider all the elements of your garden from their height and age.

Have Some Toys Ready

Just like kids have indoor and outdoor toys, it’s a good idea to have a few outdoor ones handy for the furkids. They might get bored watching you pull weeds, so some toys or a ball you can throw between pulling clumps is a good idea!

Garden Elements To Avoid

If you’re using mulch, avoid any brand based from cocoa bean hulls. These contain the same chemical as chocolate—theobromine—which is deadly if your dog eats it. As to plants and shrubs, here’s a list of some of the more common ones that are found in local Mississauga gardens but which are toxic to dogs, if ingested.

Common yet dangerous plants for dogs:

If you love these, consider planting them at the front of your house, where your dog doesn’t necessarily roam free.

  1. Iris
  2. Ivy
  3. Autumn Crocus
  4. Hydrangea
  5. Azalea
  6. Daffodil
  7. Tulips
  8. Amaryllis
  9. Clematis
  10. Cyclamen
  11. Lily of the Valley

This list isn’t exhaustive but covers some of the more common plants you might be considering for your garden. If you want to see a full list, the ASPCA maintains one here, including the common and scientific names. As you’re making your list for your spring planting, if you’ve got a dog, cross reference it to make sure you’re keeping your fur friend safe!

The garden should be an oasis for the whole family, so don’t forget to provide your dog with fresh, clean water when they’re outside for a while—garden hose water can contain several toxins that aren’t good for humans or dogs—and make sure there’s a shady spot, so they can get out from under the sun. Most of all, enjoy your garden this season, with your WHOLE family.

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.

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!

Interlocking Pavers For A Pulled Together Look In Your Mississauga Garden

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.  ~ Anatole France

Are you a landscaper looking for the perfect way to add some class to a design? Or perhaps you’re a homeowner looking for ideas to make your garden look stylish, and while you’re at it, the value you of your home? Either way, interlocking pavers are the perfect way to accomplish these goals.

The contrast that interlocking pavers provide, whether as a patio, a poolside design, or a pathway in your garden, makes everything else in your green space stand out! Concrete pavers are durable and come in different colours and shapes, to enable you to create intricate designs and patterns that are pleasing to the eye.

History Of Paving Stones

Yes, they have a history! “Interlocking pavers were invented by the Dutch after World War II, when brick, their traditional paving material, was in short supply. Billions of the chunky blocks found their way onto European roads, and many of the originals are still in good shape despite 50 years of traffic.” (Source) What a testament to their durability!

Why Use Pavers?

Part of the value of interlocking pavers is that they are very durable but also because, unlike poured concrete or asphalt, they can move independently and are less likely to break or crack. They aren’t susceptible to damage from ice or tree roots and if any of your pavers ever ends up being pushed up or out of place, you need only remove that one, fix the ground below and replace it!

Interlocking Pavers Are Easy To Install

The genius is in the interlock design itself, which allow for relatively simple  installation, without the need for mortar. That said, it’s one thing to lay pavers for a small path through your secret garden; it’s another to use pavers to create an entire driveway. For a larger project, we would recommend using a hardscape expert who can lay them down perfectly.

In addition to an expert installation, your hardscaper can help you ensure that you’re not creating water runoff problems. Water will wash off and away from concrete pavers, as it would on any paved surface. Ensuring that you’ve planned for runoff from larger installations is essential.

So without mortar, how do the pavers remain in place? The strength of the lock and a very valuable extra: polymeric sand. Spread over the final laid pavers and into the spaces between them, polymeric sand creates a solid―but pliable―joint between the pavers.

With the sand in place, you simply need to moisten it to create the bond that will help prevent weed growth between the pavers, stave off insect erosion and be resistant to traffic, cleaning and so on. Plus it’s environmentally friendly, so there’s no downside to using polymeric sand to finish off your interlocking paving project.

Interlocking Pavers Are Easy To Maintain

  • Being made from concrete, they can stain, so if you’re using pavers for your driveway, and a vehicle leaks some oil, remove these stains as soon as possible. That said, pavers can be washed, swept and kept tidy with minimal effort.
  • Keep them weeded. While the polymeric sand will keep most of the weeds at bay, it’s worth pulling any strays that get through, right away!
  • Thanks to their durability, you will likely have your pavers in place for a long time. Do you want to keep your pavers looking new? A sealant can help.

Paver Projects To Consider

There are so many lovely ways you can use interlocking pavers to improve your outdoor space:

  • Accents, like a walkway or path, rather than the entire patio area of your backyard, is one option. It adds some different texture to your yard, creating a break in the green space for the eye, which makes your flower beds and other beautiful blooms shine!
  • Terraces, creating the look with elegant patterns from your interlocking pavers. If you want an easy to clean space where you have your outdoor dining, interlocking pavers are a good choice. A well planned design can look natural and inviting!
  • Steps, which creates a pretty design for your steps, rather than standard concrete. This is a project that you can add to your plans when you’re redoing your front walkway or porch.
  • Driveway, getting away from poured concrete, which can be very slippery when wet or icy, particularly, if it’s on an incline, or asphalt, which isn’t aesthetically pleasing.

Homes in Mississauga, particularly newer ones, lend themselves beautifully to the look of interlocking pavers, both at the front of the house and in the back. You can create paths and walkways that enhance your outdoor space, and the value of your home, with a minimum of effort.