Posts

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!

The Awesome Planting Guide For Your Plants – Knowing When

We’ve got the research and experience to give you this awesome planting guide to know when to plant for people living in Mississauga.

Read on to find out how you can get the best and (probably) the most productive garden on your block!

Timelines for gardening: three seasons dates and deadlines for Mississauga zone.

January is the time of year for planning: resolutions, good will, ideas and preparations for the year ahead. There is no more obvious place to lay the groundwork for the year than in your garden.

Do You Know Your Zone?

Before you can start planning your planning, you have to know your hardiness zone. This was originally an American system to categorize plants, shrubs and trees by temperature zone. Basically, the lower the number, the colder the weather in the zone. Picking plants that are meant for an 8 zone, when you live in a 6, will likely leave you with a dead plant.

For Mississauga, we are currently a 6a (there is also a 6b, in case you were wondering). 6a is a little colder than 6b but when you are picking most plants, you will simply pick by hardiness zone 6. You can choose from among hardier plants (5,4,3…) as well. We say ‘currently’ because global warming is having an effect on the hardiness zones. There are sources that say that Mississauga is now a 6b but for the gardener planning their next year’s garden, the number you need to remember is 6.

Know Your Frost Free Date

This is an ever changing target but in the GTA, you can reliably look to around Mother’s Day—in the area of May 9th— for the frost free date. This means that it is unlikely that we will experience severe frost after that date, making it relatively safe to start your planting. That said, it’s still best to leave less hardy plants and flowers—tomato plants, for example— for another month, if you can. Check your day and night forecasts from Environment Canada before you plant and remember that planting works best when the soil has had a chance to warm and dry up a little from the winter run off.

Highway 401 is a good demarcation point to use when considering your frost free dates. Above the 401? Wait an extra week or two after Mother’s Day. Proximity to the lake and to the general heat created in an urban setting like downtown Toronto affects the likelihood of late frost occurring.

January / February Planning

If you’re going to make changes to your garden this season, now is the time to plan them. Are you planning to add a water feature? You should get in touch with your local hardscaper to be sure that your plans are accurate, or to book them in for the Spring. Or maybe you’re going for a few more modest changes: just a couple of raised beds of perennials, perhaps? Are you planning a vegetable garden? Do your research now on plants and vegetables that are adaptable to your zone and check the dates for sowing / planting to get optimal return for the season, so you’re not scrambling later. Also, start checking out the seed catalogues and get your orders in, if you enjoy growing your garden plants from seeds.

March Planning And Action

By the middle of March, you should be starting to sow seeds indoors, if you really want to get a jump start on the season. Annuals like impatiens or vegetables such as peppers can be started indoors. Later in March, you can start sowing things like parsley, petunias and other more delicate florals.

April Planning And Action

If you’re into sowing seeds to prepare for Spring planting, this is the month when you really need to get it in gear!

  • Early to mid-April — tomatoes, onion, lettuce all should be sowed now.
  • Mid to end of April — cucumbers, herbs, cabbage and annuals such as morning glories and marigolds.

Once the daytime temperature is consistently above freezing, you can start preparing your beds:

  • Rake off winter debris of old leaves and clear twigs, branches or other materials.
  • Add compost and manure.
  • If you haven’t started already, now is a good time to start composting. You’ll have a good base with the old leaves you raked off.
  • Rake your lawn to get up the old, dead grass.

Late in the month of April and IF there has been no further frost, you CAN start to plant hardier items like peas, turnips, onions, radishes, and pansies. Just remember that a late, hard frost is always possible, right into the middle of May.

May Planning And Action

Once the threat of frost is well and truly over, you can start planting out some of the plants you were sowing indoors. If you prefer not to grow from seeds, you can start visiting your local garden centre and picking out the plants—annual and perennial—that you had planned for your beds. You may still want to have covers handy (old bed sheets or row covers): in case of a sudden frost, just pop them over your new transplants to keep the frost at bay.

June / July / August

Enjoy your garden! Summer is fleeting so spend time in your garden and if you want to do any autumn planting, check out our previous post on the subject! It will help you to plan what will work and what won’t, as well as give you a list of things you can do to start preparing your garden for winter.

Lawn care at this point is a lot about maintenance but you can also start planning for the winter by doing some overseeding / sodding where it’s needed.

September / October Planning and Action

Now is the time to start getting your lawn and garden ready for winter and the first frost, which can be as early as the first days in October. You don’t want to be caught short and have all that hard work go to waste! Also, there is a lot you can do to prepare your lawn and garden for next year’s planting, to ensure that you get a maximum return on your green thumb efforts!

It’s a great time of year to check in with your local landscaper / hardscaper to make sure that your projects are ready to start work when the ground thaws or give us a call for some friendly landscaping advice.

Outdoor Projects: Hiring Qualified People Is A Must

You’re not sure whether you need a gardener or a landscaper or perhaps an arborist, for an outdoor project that you’re planning? This post will walk you through the ins and outs of each role so you can make the right choice.

In the not so distant past, if you wanted to do some work to the garden or exterior of your home that was a little bit beyond your DIY skills or just something you didn’t want to take on personally, you would call up your local ‘handyman’ contractor to take up the project. But here’s the thing: hiring a generalist for a specific project is not usually a good bet. They just don’t have the background or skills to do it right the first time. This can lead to significant downstream costs if the project needs to be repaired or re-done at a later date.

The roles of gardener, landscaper / hardscaper and arborist are actually quite different and each one is suited to very specific tasks; a well trained professional will be knowledgeable and experienced, leaving you with project results that will last. No one is an expert in everything, particularly where bylaws and regulations are concerned, so you’re always best to pick the professional, based on your needs and their training, expertise and knowledge.

What Does A Gardener Do?

A gardener is adept at planting new flowers, trees and shrubs—provided you have a plan for the design of your garden (see the landscaper role, below!)—watering, feeding, fertilizing, mulching, composting, grass cutting, hedge trimming and the like. If it involves the care and maintenance of your outdoor space, a gardener is the right person for the job. They can help you to maintain a beautiful, healthy lawn and garden throughout the seasons and prepare your garden for the winter season, including protecting sensitive plants and shrubs, raking leaves, trimming or pruning and the like.

What Does A Landscaper / Hardscaper Do?

Landscapers / hardscapers also do most gardening tasks and most landscaping companies are happy to provide you with a maintenance package for your garden, but their true talents lie in designing a garden that works for you, taking into account where you live and what plants, trees and shrubs are best suited to your climate zone, the uses of your garden, and other considerations.

If you want water features, ponds or if you have drainage issues around your home, a landscaper / hardscaper can fix these with contouring, grading and leveling of the ground and the addition of additional drainage, where necessary.

Hardscaping, which includes things like walkways, driveways, paved areas, solid water features and stairs, is done with the impermeable materials. Never hire anyone other than a qualified hardscaper to build a retaining wall or a landscaper to design the physical layout of your garden unless you really love spring floods seeping through your or your neighbour’s foundation because you’ve interrupted the run-off pattern. Without adequately planned drainage, you can find yourself with not only flooding but foundation issues, soil erosion, plant / shrub drowning, wood rot on porches and decks, pest infiltration and even sinkholes!

What Does An Arborist Do?

The technical definition is that an arborist is someone who is a professional in arboriculture: in the management and study of trees. The term trees, in this case, includes shrubs, vines and other wood perennials. An arborist is focused on individual or small groups of trees, rather than forests—which are managed through forestry and silviculture.

Arborists are knowledgeable in all things about the trees: different pests, infestations, signs of ageing and decay in a tree, best pruning methods, planting distances and so on. They should also be knowledgeable on the local bylaws in the areas within which they practice. For example, planting distances to power lines, regulations concerning the pruning or removal of trees, or the protection of trees in a construction zone. Most municipalities are very strict in the management of trees, so before you consider planting or pruning a tree on your property, make sure that your arborist is up to date on the laws.

Is There Such A Thing As An All-In One Professional?

If you’re still wondering why you wouldn’t just hire an all round landscape company to do a bit of everything or ask your arborist to trim the hedges a little while they’re dealing with an ageing tree, the reason is quite simply that it’s a waste of their time and your money. Hiring an arborist to do a little gardening is something like hiring a hazmat team to sweep your kitchen floor. A little bit of overkill, don’t you think?

In Summary:

Do you need your garden maintained, hedges trimmed, lawn fertilized, weeding and other similar tasks? You need a gardener.

Do you want a risk assessment done on a damaged / ageing tree, tree removal or the trimming of trees, including knowledge about the local bylaws on this topic? You need an arborist.

Do you want to build a retaining wall in your garden, install interlocking stone / brick, figure out drainage or ground leveling or design a garden from scratch? You need a landscaper /hardscaper.

With these roles in mind, think about the projects that you want to undertake in the next year and ask for referrals from your local garden centre and always check their references!

Autumn Gardening – 5 Awesome Tips for Planting in the Fall

While the evenings are cooler, the days are still warm, making autumn gardening a perfect time to start your winter preparations.

Traditionally Spring is seen as the optimal season for planting, but that’s really a fallacy.

Thanks to the summer warmed soil and more frequent rainfall of early fall, autumn gardening is far better for perennials and many trees and shrubs. Why? It’s easier for them to form roots with a more temperate and evenly moisturized soil.

Spring planting often leaves plants struggling for their first season as they are planted in cold soil, making rooting more difficult, while at the same time the new plants are dealing with fast growing foliage thanks to the warm air that surrounds them.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some plants and trees that you can plant when doing autumn gardening, to enjoy right away and into next season as well:

  • Hostas
  • Daisies
  • Daylilies
  • Peonies
  • Maple, spruce and pine trees—if they’re very small, don’t forget to stake them to avoid damage from the stronger fall winds.
  • Don’t forget your bulbs, like tulips, daffodils and garlic!

TIP! Fall planting is most successful if you continue watering, so that roots can develop adequately and the still warm soil will be fully moisturized, prior to the first frost. Make sure to use mulch, which will help to retain the moisture and warmth in the soil and add much needed nutrients for the rooting process that will take place over the winter.

What About Planting Seeds?

Nature knows what she is doing: seeds blow around in the autumn, end up in the soil and germinate in the spring. There are certain seeds that do very well by being planted in the fall:

  • Sweet peas
  • Pansies
  • Snapdragons… to name but a few!

Get Your Garden and Soil Ready For Winter

Late August/September is the perfect time to take care preliminary garden tasks like:

  • Adding compost to your gardens or vegetable beds, readying the soil for spring planting.
  • Covering your water features with nets to keep them leaf-free.
  • Pulling weeds—these will go to seed in the fall and you’ll have that much more to pull in the spring if you don’t do it now!
  • Adding fertilizer to your lawn.
  • Continuing to water your plants—as we noted earlier—to make sure they are hydrated right up to the first freeze.
  • Trimming back any diseased foliage to avoid a new outbreak next year. Do NOT compost the diseased clippings!
  • Pruning perennials that are now dormant—gone yellow/brown in the stems and leaves.

Sod Or Overseed Your Lawn In The Fall

Cooler air in September onwards means less evaporation and limited growth of grass stems, so the grass seeds or sod have ample time to develop a strong root structure. Next summer? Your lawn will be the envy of the neighbourhood.

Consider using a high quality weed free overseeding soil—which contain organic compost—if you are going with seeds, to ensure that there are adequate nutrients available.

Don’t Forget Your Herbs

This is a perfect time to collect all the remaining herbs in your garden to dry them out for use throughout the winter. If you’re bringing some inside for the season, September is the perfect time, before the temperature fluctuations start to damage the plants.

Remember, clay pots, in particular, don’t do well as temperatures begin to cool more – they crack in the cold.

Once the temperatures start to really dip in October, it’s time to bring them inside for the season. Even if you have plastic pots, our advice is to store them in the garage at the very least so they don’t become bleached and weathered and last a year or two longer.

The average Southern Ontario September is mild and enjoyable with cooler evenings and no mosquitoes! So get outside, start autumn gardening and enjoy the fruits of your labour now and next season. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions about fall gardening.