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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.

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.

What’s Hot In Backyard Design in 2018 [6 Tips to an Amazing Yard]

Aiming for a new look for your outdoor oasis? Check out what’s hot in backyard design!

You might be looking for some of the latest and greatest gardening and landscaping ideas to make your space just that little bit more special. If so, you’ve come to the right place! The following are unique design concepts that are currently topping the gardening charts…

Landscaping With Edibles

Most of the time, people plan their landscaping to include an herb and veggie garden separate from their florals and other more ornamental landscaping, but the trend now is to mix and mingle the edibles with the decorative.

It’s a perfect way to keep the edibles front and center, and in some cases, the florals can help protect them from insects. Marigolds, sunflowers and lavender are just three examples of ornamental plants that can help protect your veggie plants from pests!

For extra fun, investigate and try your green thumb at growing a new veggie this year. Cucamelon, anyone? They are a cucumber watermelon hybrid that grow more or less like cucumbers do but are smaller, with a tinge of sour. Perfect for pickling.

Planning For Climate Change

Global warming is here to stay, so gardening in sustainable ways that match the current trends in weather makes sense. In our neck of the woods, designing your landscape to handle more water from wetter winters and more heat from drier summers is the best way to go.

Drought tolerant, low maintenance plants, good water drainage and decks that are properly treated to avoid wood rot are just a few of the ways you can improve your landscape with the environment in mind. Another big trend is planning for less lawn and more garden, including raised or multi-level beds, more natural looking mixes of tall grasses and foliage and even adding wildflowers, that are hardier and more resistant to changes in the environment.

If you don’t already have a rain barrel, get one! They come with spigots, so you can fill your watering can and hydrate your favourite flowers and plants without using municipal resources. Makes sense, right?

Keeping It Real. Your Garden, That Is…

For a few years, the trend in landscaping was about bigger, better and more. The fancier your back yard was, the better. These days, the trend is towards a more natural, rather than stylized, design. Following the flow of a garden and working with its existing qualities, rather than imposing large, expensive, and unnatural additions that don’t add any calm to the space.

Invest instead in high quality craftsmanship, rather than elaborate and overdone designs. That concept has never been out of style! If you want to create a long retaining wall along one edge of your garden, you can! Just make sure you blend it into the existing landscape by using natural stones and high-grade materials for a project that is done well the first time!

Another great option is to go for an eclectic design by mixing your old landscape with something new. No need to raz down the whole backyard to change things up! Just look at what you can and want to preserve in your current design and develop a plan that works around it.

Enhance Your Calm With Water

A great way to add value and calm, without being over the top, is to consider a water feature. It doesn’t have to be huge or complicated: even a standalone fountain can make a big impact without being ostentatious.

Surrounding your water feature with compatible plants and rocks keeps it natural looking.

Add Comfort And Chairs Further From The Back Door

Gone are the days with those old plastic webbing flip out chairs that left awful marks on the back of your legs and weren’t that comfortable! Worse still, you couldn’t leave them out for even one season without finding them deteriorated and raggedy by autumn. Now you can have a sofa, loveseat, chairs and swings, all in gorgeous weather resistant fabrics that will make you want to stay outside for hours, all summer long. Add an outdoor pizza oven, along with your grill, and you barely need to venture inside after June 1st!

An interesting trend is the idea of putting a deck and the eating area further away from the house, getting away from the traditional deck that comes straight off the back. It creates an island, as it were, in your yard, which you can surround with lush plants, an arbour or container gardens. If you have a pool or other visual feature in your yard, this can be a great way to enhance it!

Making Outdoor Play Space For EVERYONE

Sure, you can have a swing set for the littles, but how about a bocce or boules court for the ‘big kids’? All the studies say that North Americans aren’t active enough, so if you have the room, setting up a space for badminton, or bocce, will get friends and family coming to your house for the weekend barbecue, more often than not! After all, it’s nice to sit on the outdoor furniture and sip a cocktail; it’s even better to beat Uncle Lenny at a rousing game of horseshoes!

Whatever trend suits you, have a lot of fun in your garden this upcoming season by planning it now! You’ll be ready to roll when the warmer weather is here to stay.

Raccoons, Rabbits And Pets In Your Garden…Oh My!

If it’s like Wild Kingdom in your garden, you can take steps to protect your green space, and the animals who use it!

A beautiful garden filled with lovely plants and flowers is basically an open invitation to the animal world to pay you a visit. That might be a daunting thought but you can create an inviting outdoor space that is safe for the animals you love and less interesting for those that you don’t.

What’s Dangerous To Your Pets

There are a variety of plants and flowers that are toxic for pets so if you plan to have them as part of your garden plan, you might want to consider keeping them in raised beds or away from bed borders, or install some cute picket or lattice fencing, to minimize the chances of your pet coming into contact with them.

Here’s a short but by no means complete list of common plants that can harm your pets:

  • Lily of the valley—they contain cardiac glycosides, which are used in human heart medication!
  • Daisey
  • Tulips
  • Holly—Christmas can be a dangerous time of year!
  • Azaleas
  • Birds of Paradise
  • Fall Crocuses—while the Spring crocus might cause an upset stomach if ingested, the Fall version is highly toxic
  • Daffodils
  • Amaryllis
  • Lavender
  • Lilies—cats are in danger with tiger, easter or day lilies, among others. Even a small amount of pollen or a petal or two can cause liver failure.

In addition to plants and flowers, there could be other things in your garden, which could harm Fido. Mulch, for example. Some types of mulch are made from cocoa bean by-products. The result is that they have a chocolate odour that attracts your pets but, as anyone with a dog knows, chocolate is toxic. Dogs don’t have the enzymes necessary in their bodies to process theobromine and caffeine, both of which are found in cocoa bean.

A good alternative mulch is hemp mulch. It’s effective as a mulch in keeping the soil moist, avoiding erosion, keeping weeds down and promoting seed germination BUT it is completely pet friendly!

Other concerns?

  • Fertilizers—any fertilizer that contains blood or bone meal can be both attractive to and dangerous for pets as the iron levels they contain, if ingested in sufficient quantities, could be harmful.
  • Pesticides—pesticides generally can be harmful but you particularly want to watch any that contain organophosphates, as many products produced for the care of roses do. Even small doses of these can seriously harm your pet.
  • Compost—yes, that earthy goodness can be dangerous if consumed by your pet directly from the compost heap or container. Why? One word: mould. As the compost breaks down, some mould does naturally develop. It will eventually break down as well but during the composting process, it can still be active and make your pet quite sick! Keep your compost area fenced off and away from your pets.

It goes without saying that if you do have chemical based products for your lawn and garden around, they need to be out of reach of not only children, but pets too!

 

Damage By Pets

The most common kind of damage in the garden caused by pets, aside from the digging of holes where you didn’t want them, is patches of burnt lawn, where the animal has urinated and the grass has died.

You can solve these in specific areas of your lawn by either seeding or sodding. How? Check out another of our posts, on this very topic!

If you’re just planning your landscaping, another way to avoid the problem is to work in more hardscaping! Yes, your doggo will love a good patch of lawn, but if you replace some of your planned lawn with stone, brick or flagstone, it’s that much less that you have to worry about patches on!

 

Damage By Other Animals

As cities expand, we humans are coming into closer contact with a wide range of wild animals and our gardens provide some great feeding grounds!

Raccoons and skunks—These are grub diggers! Your lawn might get dug up in parts as these two animals search for grubs underground. Your best bet for dealing with this issue is to minimize the grub population, utilizing a non-toxic, enviro friendly pesticide designed for that purpose! As for vegetable gardens, covers will stop most of their activities. Either cover individual plants or use netting to protect a larger grouping of plants.

Rabbits—How do you know if rabbits are eating you out of lawn and garden? Check the ends of the greenery that has been eaten. If they are neatly clipped, odds are it’s rabbits! You can also look for tell tale small round droppings. The only real solution for rabbits—and deer, if you’re farther out in the countryside—is fencing. You’ll have to dig down a few inches to avoid them going under and chicken wire won’t do the trick. You’ll need a stronger wire fencing to get the job done!

Squirrels—Squirrels LOVE to dig holes in lawns, as well as dig up and eat bulbs in flower beds. The only protection is a wire mesh cover. But here’s a tip: squirrels don’t like daffodil bulbs, so an investment in a few more of those will mean more flowers next year!

Whether your animal filled yard is by choice or by force, you can live peaceably with four legged creatures by taking the time to plan your landscape and hardscape so that everyone can enjoy the space, safely!

Essential Garden Tools To Create An Epic Outdoor Garden

All you need is elbow grease and a few critical garden tools to make your garden great!

The real results—and benefits—of a beautifully manicured garden stem from your exertions; the sweat of your brow, so to speak. Nonetheless, a few tools can make it a lot easier.

If you’ve been gardening for years, this is not new information, but if you’re new at it, like a young couple in your first home with a yard, you’ll want to bookmark this one and head over to Toemar soon.

Tools That Every Gardener Needs

Whether it’s a patch of green behind your house or a standard ‘city’ yard, there are certain tools that every gardener needs in their basic kit.

Trowel — This small tool is used to scoop and move earth and plants.

Spade — This shovel-like implement has a rectangular head and a sharp edge. Use it for cutting up earth, turf or digging.

Rake — At the very least, you’ll want a leaf rake but you can also consider a hand rake for when you need to work around plants that are more delicate, without damaging anything.

Hoe — This tool with a longer handle than a handheld has a thin metal blade. You use it for weeding or cutting up the earth, before planting.

Round head shovel — This is an essential tool for digging and moving materials like gravel and mulch around. Look for one with a D shaped handle, and a short enough shaft that you’ve got the leverage you need when using it.

Hose & Nozzle — Once you’ve planted your fabulous new garden or laid your grass seed or turf, you’ll need to keep it moisturized! A hose and adjustable nozzle are just the ticket to keep on top of your garden’s water needs.

Wheelbarrow — When planting, it’s a lot easier to buy loads of soil, topsoil etc., however carrying these bags is back breaking work so make sure you have a solid wheelbarrow to help with the heavy lifting.

Lawn Mower — Electric, gas or hand pushed, a lawnmower is essential for any yard space larger than a postage stamp. Keeping your grass at the right height ensures its health: That the stems get enough sun and rain, that you don’t get an influx of crab grass or weeds and generally have a healthy looking green space!

Extras?

Edge trimmer — Grass edges, around flower beds, shrubs and trees are hard to mow, so an edge trimmer (usually gas or electric) can help clean up these areas nicely.

Garden scissors — Having a pair of scissors that are exclusively kept with your garden tools makes sense and you’ll use them more often than you think: cutting herbs, removing the deadheads on perennials, cutting twine and so on.

Gardening gloves — These are a good idea of you are at all squeamish about bugs, worms or anything else that lives in the loam. A couple of other reasons for investing in a solid pair of gardening gloves is that they keep your hands safe from splinters, your nails impeccable and makes cleaning up after a long day of gardening a snap, allowing more time for sitting on the patio, with a drink and your feet up!

How To Pick Out The Right Tools

Go to the store and try them out! Okay, don’t go and dig in the garden store’s plant area, but you definitely want to handle the tools and see if they fit your hand and aren’t too heavy to use. Something might look good on a screen but when you see it in real life, you might realize that the shaft is just too long or heavy for you to handle.

Tools That Experienced Gardeners Need

Shears — Whether trimming grass around a feature, edging a garden bed, cutting back grasses or shrubbery, shears are an all around useful tool for the more careful cutting that needs to be done.

Muck Truck — Think of it as part wheelbarrow and part Tonka truck. Basically, it is a motorized wheelbarrow but with three times the capacity of the traditional kind, with an engine that can handle most uneven ground levels without losing a bit of earth, sand or gravel. It has 4 wheel drive and can go in reverse, and is equipped with a set of breaks so that it doesn’t become a runaway barrow on an incline!

Pruner — When you’re cutting branches that are less than 3/4” thick, where a saw or chainsaw is just ‘too much’, a pruner is a great way to get it done cleanly and neatly. You can also get telescopic ones with a rope action so that you can reach some branches that are high up without bothering with the ladder. If you prefer the ladder, a long handled pruner is still a good idea.

Bow rake — This is the perfect tool for leveling soil in your garden beds, spreading mulch or compost and generally keeping everything in your garden on the straight and narrow!

Is It Better To Buy Or Rent Bigger Items?

This depends entirely on the type of gardening you do. A person who does landscaping not only for themselves but for other family members or even as a volunteer for a local horticultural society might consider buying but for a one off project? Renting makes good sense. You get professional grade tools for just the amount of time you need to get the project done!

The types of tools you can rent include:

  • Compactors and hand tampers
  • Saws, including table saws
  • Stone cutters
  • Rock dolly
  • Lawn rollers
  • Muck Trucks

Taking Care Of Your Tools

Once you’ve made an investment in the necessary tools, you need to be sure to take care of them so that they’ll last you a long while. Wipe down any dirt or water off of your hand tools and store them. Ideally, long shafted shovels, hoes and rakes will be hung on the shed or garage wall, keeping the blades and tines in good shape, sharp and ready to go the next time you need them.

Make sure your mower blade is always sharp, to get optimal performance and check the tires on your wheelbarrow for proper inflation. If every tool has a place for storage, they’ll be easy to find when you just want to spend an hour doing a little weeding before you stretch out on the lounge chair and enjoy a sunny afternoon!

If you’ve rented the garden tools, then you don’t have to worry about the tools being maintained which leaves you more time to enjoy garden space you’ve so lovingly created.

Whether a newbie to the world of gardening, or an old hand, find a garden centre that you like and don’t be afraid to ask the staff questions! It’s what we’re here for!

 

 

 

 

 

Shhh: An Easy Secret To A Lush Beautiful Garden – Mulch

This secret garden ingredient will transform your lawn and garden from burnt to bountiful

A dry autumn with burnt leaves, as Mississauga experienced last year, results in drought like conditions for your garden, lawn and trees, come the following spring. So what’s a gardener to do? Mulch.

What Is Mulch?

At a most basic definition, mulch is a material that you spread over your lawn and garden to protect it from the elements.

Mulch comes in a variety of formats. Some people use their fallen leaves in the autumn, but if you want to mulch year round, in garden beds for example, you can get bark mulch, as well as mulch made from recycled wood, in different colours (red, brown and black) to suit your landscaping design. In the case of the brown mulch, it is made up of natural pine and cedar so it not only has a beautiful colour, but also a heady aroma that gardeners favour!

What Is Mulch Used For?

Mulch has a variety of important uses. It works to keep moisture and nutrients in the soil while at the same time minimizing soil erosion and preventing weeds from growing. It also breaks down over time, enriching the soil. Think of it like the layer of leaves that protect a forest floor in the wild, except your garden has a little help from you (and your local garden centre)!

The weed prevention aspect is an important one for gardeners as a little mulch can go a long way to saving your back from endless weed pulling. There’s a reason you see it in garden beds on city / municipal property. It’s good for the garden but it also saves a lot of money in toil, weeding and maintaining the beds.

In the fall, a solid layer of mulch is a blanket between your garden and the cold and snow. Roots of plants, trees and shrubbery are better protected against the elements, by maintaining a more consistent, moderate temperature below ground. Come spring, it will also prevent soil erosion from heavy rain showers and run offs.

But if it is a barrier, isn’t it preventing moisture from penetrating? The bigger issue with moisture protection is evaporation and dew is the biggest culprit. Dew is mostly created by the condensation of the moisture in the soil, as opposed to the moisture in the air being deposited on the ground. So a barrier of mulch helps to prevent dew from the soil from forming and ultimately evaporating.

If you’re looking to grow plants like tomatoes, compost is indispensable, but so is mulch. Tomatoes are prone to soil-borne diseases and mulching your plants at the right time ensures that the soil won’t splash up onto the plants, during a rainstorm, for example.

What Is The Difference Between All The Types Of Mulch?

People use all sorts of things to mulch their gardens: straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, sawdust and so on. There are merits to all of them, and some downsides to many. Straw, for example, can attract vermin and may also contain some weed seeds, which really would defeat the purpose of using it in your garden. Grass clippings are useful to mix in with mulch if they’re green because while in that stage, they contain plenty of nitrogen and other nutrients. As the grass breaks down in the soil, those nutrients will be released and be good for your beds. Wood chips and shredded bark are the ideal forms of mulch, as they don’t come with the downsides of some of the others and are not only functional but add a lot of beauty to a gardenscape.

When Should You Apply Mulch To Your Garden?

You can mulch anytime of year: many people do it to beautify their garden beds in the spring and summer, as well as to minimize weed infestations. It creates a colour infusion or a lovely base for your grasses and flowers and will enhance everything from garden beds to pool decks.

The critical time of year to mulch that you should not miss however is in the fall, where the materials provide a blanket for your garden, to safeguard it through the winter months and help the ground retain the moisture it will need to be lush and full in the spring.

Whether spring or fall, just pile the mulch at the base of trees, plants and shrubs and if you’re covering a wider area, like a garden bed, make sure that you add a substantial enough layer—two to four inches ought to do the trick—to be effective in both moisture retention and weed prevention.

Where to buy your mulch in Mississauga

The good news is that mulch is one of our biggest spring sellers so we keep tons in stock. Come by the store to place your order, or order from www.gardenbag.ca and we’ll deliver it to you along with your soil.

If you need advice on mulching, composting or other gardening and landscaping needs, let us know! We’re happy to answer questions and remember that you needn’t cart your mulch home with you in the back seat: we deliver!