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Garden Walls: A Primer

A well-designed landscape can be inspiring, consider creating visual interest by adding garden walls. Changing the heights in your garden is one sure way to improve curb appeal on a once boring, flat yard. A low retaining wall or garden wall might be just what your landscape needs.

Concrete vs Stone walls?

The difference between the |”look and feel” concrete versus stone walls has become more indistinguishable as technology continues to evolve in concrete forming. Here is a list of pros and cons for both concrete and natural stone walls.

Concrete Walls

Modern concrete walls are not the ones you think of in cold, commercial plazas. They have much improved over the years and come in a variety of shapes, textures and colours allowing it to blend in well with the yard, garden and the exterior of the house.

Pros

  1. Lightweight – Machinery is usually not necessary when installing concrete garden walls, most attempting this DIY project are able to lift one or two blocks at the same time. Concrete products are usually compact and easy to work with.
  2. Quick and easy install – The integral lip or tongue-and-groove system interlocks the blocks and makes the installation fast and easy. You simply drop the blocks in place. Just be sure to stagger the vertical joints between rows.
  3. Versatile design – The shapes that this material comes in allows for curves in the design and much more versatile than stone.
  4. Inexpensive – The cost to make a garden wall out of concrete is less expensive than using natural stone and is widely available at home centers.

Cons

  1. Requires a strong and level base – Leveling a concrete garden wall requires more tedious leveling, it is imperative that your base (4 to 6”) is perfectly level before installing. We do not want the wall to shift. Unfortunately, this means more digging and base material required.
  2. Cutting with a saw – Cutting is required when installing a concrete garden wall. A special saw is required to cut these materials during installation.

Stone Walls

Natural stone (Armour Stone/rock) of different shapes and sizes fit tightly together when stacked to form a wall. Stones create the nicest-looking walls but are more costly and it will take much more skill and creativity to build as they are also much heavier.

Pros

  1. Less time is spent on the base when installing Armour Rock because most rocks are not perfectly level to begin with, most applications do not need tedious leveling.
  2. Strength – Strength is one of the biggest reasons why a natural stone wall built out of Armour Rock is a terrific option for a garden wall, the sheer weight of an individual rock will make it next to impossible to shift or move.
  3. Best-looking – Natural Stone is currently the trendiest option for landscaping; it offers great curb appeal to all homes. With increased competition within the industry natural stone is more affordable than ever before.

Cons

  1. Too heavy – Weight is a problem when using Armour Rock, most of the time a machine (skid steer) is used when installing Armour Rock.
  2. It is much more difficult to install Armour Rock on a tight radius, most of the time you are limited to straight/linear designs.
  3. Harder to work with – Stacking Armour Rock is difficult because of the various heights, skill and experience is important when selecting specific Armour Rock.

The finished product looks complicated but is a fairly simple project. Be sure to do your research. Regardless of the material you choose to build your new garden wall, with a little planning and effort, you will soon have a new focal point in your yard and a new home for your flowers and plants.

For more free landscaping advice, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Soil Preparation for Gardens and Lawns

Good news fellow green thumbers, it’s time to get your gardening tools and gloves ready for spring! As we slowly enter into April, the snow melts into the ground and the cold winters break into longer, warmer days; many of us become eager to start planting in our gardens but it is important to care for the soil at this stage by adding back important nutrients and improving texture so that healthy plants can flourish.

Here’s a checklist to get your soil preparation for gardens and lawns started:

1. When can we start digging? Check the soil conditions.

A mistake that many make is working on the soil too early. Allow the melting snow and spring rain to pass and the earth to dry out a bit before attempting to do any work. Heavy, wet soil is difficult to work with and doesn’t break up into loose, plant-friendly texture. Also, treading across wet ground will further compact the soil making it much more difficult to dig up later.

Is the soil dry enough? Do a quick test!
Squeeze a handful of soil and form a ball in your hands. If the lump of soil shatters easily when given a tap, it is ready! If the lump keeps its shape or breaks apart in solid sections, it still contains too much water and you must let it dry out some more. Clay soil, the type commonly found in Mississauga, when too wet will feel slick when rubbed between the fingers.

2. Clearing the area

Springtime is often associated with new birth and green growth, but as the white snow melts, we are often left with areas of debris, rocks and twigs. These need to be cleared away. A spade or a hoe is a handy tool to have.

3. Dig deep and loosen the soil

Don’t make the common mistake by using lousy soil. Plant roots grow below the ground so remember to dig deep! It is best to work soil 10 to 12 inches deep.

4. Adding organic matter

Lay the organic matter on top of the loosened, prepared soil and work the material thoroughly into the soil with a spade or a fork. Make sure it is even distributed. You can’t change the soil you have but adding organic matter drastically improves the overall soil quality.

Organic matter improves the soil by:

  • It helps loosen and aerate clay soil
  • It improves the water – and nutrient-holding capacity of sandy soil

Add lots of organic matter such as:

  • compost
  • manure
  • peat moss
  • grass clippings
  • aged sawdust
  • Spring soil preparations maybe hard and tedious work but it can save you untold disappointments and ensure you give your new plants and seedlings the best nutritious soil to grow and thrive in.

    For more free landscaping advice, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Burn Safe: Fireplace and Chimney Important Checklist

Burn Safe: Fireplace and Chimney Checklist

Now that November is here and December is just around the corner, I’m getting ready to dust off the fireplace and chimney so I can enjoy that warm cozy fire and the crackling sound of the fire in the comfort of my home (and even possibly save on my heating bill). However, I’m also aware that home fires are a bit too common during the winter and it would be foolish of me to not take the necessary steps to protect my family and my home.

Basic Fire Statistics in Canada

Here is a recent excerpt from the COUNCIL OF CANADIAN FIRE MARSHALS AND FIRE COMMISSIONERS 2007 report on fire statistics in Canada.

“On average, home fires accounted for 30% of all fires and 73% of all fire deaths in the jurisdictions that contributed data. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, while smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths. One-third (33%) of all home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the living room; 20% resulted from fires originating in the bedroom; and 11% were caused by fires starting in the kitchen. Fire causes in Canadian homes were very similar to those reported for homes in the United States.”

It is not surprising that the 33% of ALL home fire deaths start in the living room which is typically where most fireplaces are located in a home. Maybe not all of these deaths are fireplace related, but even if it is fraction of this number, you can take steps to protect you and your family by taking the time to inspect your fireplace and chimney.

Your Fireplace and Chimney Basics

Before you even begin to light the firewood, it is always smart and wise to inspect your fireplace to make sure that it is safe to use. Check out this video as it gives you a rundown of the key components of your fireplace so that when you speak to professional chimney professional, you completely understand all the jargon that is being thrown at you.

Key Terms:
Spark arrestor or chimney cap – located on top of the chimney, prevents sparks from hitting roof
Flue – vertical column where the smoke leaves the home
Damper – allows access to the flue, open and close mechanism near the bottom of the flue
Firebox – where the fire takes place
Hearth – located just in front of the firebox
Facade – the front area above the firebox

Once you’ve mastered these terms, you can start the process of inspecting the chimney and fireplace. See the video below on some basic tips on checking your fireplace before using.

 

After all this, it is better to call in the professionals.

For more information, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Winter Preparation for your Lawn is like a Massage

As I write this article I realized that taking care of your lawn is an ongoing effort similar to the taking care of your skin. You would take care of your skin by applying moisturizers, exfoliation, and even going for a massage. For your lawn you would apply fertilizers, get core aeration or dethatching, mowing the lawn (at the right height) and raking up the leaves or debris. The result is a healthier lawn and increasing the curb appeal of your home. Similarly, people are attracted to people who look put in an effort to keep healthy and look good (moisturizers, facial massages, working out, etc.).
Now that summer is over, chances are that summer has taken a toll on your lawn because of drought, disease, insects or weeds or all of the above which can make your lawn look thin and patchy (translation: ugly).
patchy-lawn-needs-help
By preparing your lawn for the winter (aka massage), you are rejuvenating and protecting the grass roots for the winter. Unlike a massage, you don’t necessarily need an expert to help you prepare your lawn. With a little work and advice from us, this is something you can complete within a day.

Here are some simple tips for getting your lawn back into shape, preparing it for the winter survival and a quick green-up in the spring.

Lawn Tips for Winter

  • Help and heal damaged lawns by fertilizing – damaged areas in turf will recover more quickly with two applications of fertilizer in the fall. The first application should be made in early fall (early September) with a high nitrogen content and this will help the turf recover from damage during the growing season. The second application (mid to late October) should be in late fall with a high phosphorous content and this will help with root growth.
  • Repair extensive turf damage or loss by overseeding – distribute the desired seed mixture in a uniform manner in two directions and make sure the grass seed is in contact with the soil by core aerating before spreading the grass seed and roll the area after seeding. In addition, do not forget to water the seeded areas frequently to ensure good germination.
  • Controlling thatch (grass clippings/debris) – dethatch the lawn before you overseed and apply the first application of the fertilizer as thatch can harbor disease-causing organism and makes your lawn more prone to winter injury. You can dethatch by using core-aeration or dethatching (using a machine or a rake). The benefit of core aeration is that you break up the thatch and bring up soil containing microorganisms that help break down the thatch. In addition, the holes also help with soil-to-contact with both grass seeds and fertilizers.
  • Remove fallen tree leaves – by not removing the fallen leaves, your lawn will not get sunlight and will eventually die. The alternative to removing leaves is to pulverize the leaves with a mover and let them decompose on your lawn. Don’t forget to sharpen the blades of your lawnmower!
  • Last lawn cut at the right height – raise the mowing height slightly in the fall as grass root depth is proportional to mowing height – the longer the grass leaves, the deeper the roots. Longer grass blades also provide some insulation for the crown (growing point) of the grass plant. However, too long of length will encourage winter diseases.

However if you lawn is beyond repair, now is also a good time to re-sod your lawn. The cool Fall weather is a great time to re-sod your lawn because grass is sensitive to heat. This also creates the opportunity for the new sod to develop its root systems well so that when spring comes, the grass is well established and can grow vigorously.

Don’t delay and take advantage of good growing conditions to help your lawn recover from the summer. With this preparation your lawn will survive the winter better, green up earlier in the spring and have deep roots that will help it withstand next year’s summer drought.

For even more information on preparing your lawn for winter, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.