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3 Garden Projects You Should NOT Attempt Alone

As the birds are now singing in the mornings, it’s tempting to start planning all of the gardening projects that will keep you busy this spring, summer and fall.

Perhaps you have simple aspirations, like putting in new annual or perennial plants in an old garden bed and re-seeding part of your lawn. Or perhaps you’ve got BIG plans? A walkway, a new deck, maybe even a pond?

If the latter, you need to consider whether or not you can do these projects yourself, or if it would be a better idea to bring in professional help.

With our climate changing, we’re likely to see more rain and higher water tables in many parts of Ontario, including Mississauga.

How you structure your garden could very well impact whether or not you end up with water in your basement.

Toemar’s take? DIY is well and good, but professional help at the outset could prevent a costly problem, down the road.

Interlocking Stone Driveways Or Pathways In The Garden

Laying down impermeable materials in a driveway or garden, particularly where none existed before, is a sure way to affect natural drainage patterns in your yard.

Ripping out the turf and installing paving stones in your backyard will certainly add beauty if well installed, but if could also create a path for water to flow into your foundation and flood your basement, if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Improperly planned drainage can also result in soil erosion around the impermeable materials, pooling or standing water which can also be ice in winter, creating a hazard, and potentially damaging your stone work. You can even end up creating sinkholes in your garden or driveway!

Installing impermeable like stone or concrete requires a professional, if not to install, then at least to help guide you.

Garden Or Retaining Walls

A small edge of scalloped interlocking stone around your garden beds is definitely a project that you can DIY if you want, but if you are looking for something more substantial, you should consult a landscape / hardscape professional.

Why? Well, getting it right takes some practice, in terms of laying stones or concrete bricks properly. Even interlocking ‘tongue and groove’ style concrete systems aren’t easy to manage for a larger project.

More importantly, if your retaining wall is less about aesthetics and more about how to manage a structural issue in your garden, professional help can make all the difference.

What kind of issues? Imagine you have two levels of elevation in your yard. A good retaining wall will hold back the soil, which exerts a fair amount of pressure, to keep the integrity of the yard intact. A badly built wall will cave against the pressure.

In addition, a badly placed wall that does not take into account natural drainage patterns for rainwater run-off, could flood parts of your garden, or worse, your neighbour’s garden. You could be looking at foundation erosion/infiltration, drowning plants, shrubs and trees that can’t cope with low draining soil areas, wood rot on decks and fences, pests and more!

Overall Landscaping Design

Once your garden is designed and in place, you can hire a gardener to take care of the basic lawn maintenance, garden pruning and weeding and so on, if you prefer.

But if you’re creating a garden from scratch, as so many people buying new homes have to do, you should definitely get advice from a qualified landscaper.

One of the main reasons is to ensure that you don’t create drainage problems that damage your house and garden, or anyone else’s in the neighbourhood. Most areas are designed to include swales and drainage paths: interfering with these could be a real issue. A qualified landscaper will be able to design a garden that is properly graded and contoured, to eliminate / avoid drainage issues.

Beyond drainage, a solid design will take into account how you want to use the space, what kind of time you can put into maintaining it, availability of sun and shade as well as hardiness levels of various plants to ensure that you are putting in place a garden that will not just survive, but thrive.

A Few Tips On Hiring A Landscaper

As with hiring any professional, getting referrals from trusted sources and checking credentials is always a good idea. Here are a few other tips:

  • Do a little research on your short list of landscapers. Look for verified reviews and at before and after pictures.
  • Ask for several project quotes. They should provide you with an outline of the work, time required and an estimate as to the cost. With several options to review, you’ll be able to make a better choice based on a variety of factors, including value for money.
  • Check their stated credentials. If they say they’re a member of Landscape Ontario and have taken extra courses for a variety of skills, check to make sure.
  • Get a contract with exactly what they’re going to do, a timeline and a payment schedule. NEVER pay for all of a project up front.

For months of every year, a beautiful garden can be the perfect spot to relax after a long day, or to enjoy the company of family and friends. Make sure that your yard is the oasis you long for by getting the job right, the first time!

Garden Walls: 4 Things You Should Know Before You Build

Also known as ‘retaining walls’, garden walls can make or break a yard – literally…

If you’re thinking about selling your house, garden and retaining walls are a great way to boost the curb appeal and value of your home.

They draw the eye into the garden and give the appearance of a major landscaping design with relatively little effort.

They can be a DIY project, for the adventurous gardener, but if a retaining wall is needed to maintain the integrity of the garden structure, it’s always wise to call in a pro (or risk disrupting the flow of runoff and flood every lawn on the block!)

Whether to boost the appeal, or to improve your garden for your own enjoyment, a garden / retaining wall might be just the addition you’ve been looking for.

What Is A Garden, Or Retaining, Wall?

A garden, or retaining wall, is a concrete or stone, for lack of a better word, wall. They are used in a variety of ways in landscaping, including creating raised beds, an elegant border, or to help with soil erosion and drainage.

While similar, a garden wall is more about creating raised beds and upping the look of the landscape , while the retaining wall is more functional, to deal with uneven ground levels and slopes.

Why Should You Have Garden Or Retaining Walls?

Walls serve a practical, as well as aesthetic purpose. A solid retaining wall is designed to hold back the pressure that the soil exerts when there are two different ground elevations in a garden.

A slope might not be what you want in the garden, so the wall acts to break up the two elevations. The stability of the soil and more elevated portion of the garden is ensured by the solid stone or concrete wall, which takes the bulk of the pressure being exerted by the soil.

Garden walls are more about design: they typically aren’t as tall and are used more to create divided garden areas and beds, rather than to deal with slopes or elevations. They can be created in curved designs, which are very elegant and can enhance your flower beds and other divided garden areas immeasurably.

Materials Used In Garden Walls

Whether you opt for stone or concrete, most walls products are mortarless these days, which makes garden walls a project that the DIY landscape gardener can undertake (with caution.)

You can also opt for a combination of concrete and stone, such as where you use natural stone for steps or for the caps / coping; you or your hardscaper can create an elegant design that will last for years.

Concrete forming technology has resulted in concrete wall products that have the look and feel of natural stone, available in a range of textures and colours.

Concrete is lighter than natural stone, making it possible to build a wall without the extensive use of machinery, though it does require a level base, which might take some effort to dig down to create, to prevent the wall from shifting down the road.

Concrete wall systems are designed for easy tongue-and-groove interlocking installation and the new designs allow you to create curves that are still smooth and consistent.

One of the biggest pluses to concrete, particularly if this your first attempt at building a wall, is that is relatively inexpensive, compared to natural stone.

Those points made, natural stone has a beauty to it that is unmatched in other products.

The stones are different shapes and sizes, so they take more creativity to fit together tightly to build the optimal wall, but the result is gorgeous. Natural stone is stronger—and consequently heavier to work with—and requires less effort during the leveling process, as most natural stones aren’t perfectly level to begin with.

You may need some machinery to bring in natural stone and it is much harder to create a curved, consistent look. But when a natural stone wall is put together, with flair and design, it’s a sight to behold!

Should You DIY Your Wall?

The short answer is: Probably not.

Building a retaining wall to deal with unequal ground levels without the help of a professional CAN be risky. You want to be sure that you aren’t interfering with run-off patterns. Drainage that isn’t planned properly could end up seeping into your—or your neighbour’s—basement, among other risks.

Like what? Foundation erosion, drowning plants and trees, wood rot on decks and other garden features, pests and so on!

Building a garden wall, which is far more about creating a design that you want for your yard, is much simpler and can be done with a little design help from your local garden centre. With it, you will soon have a new focal point in your yard and a new area to grow flowers, plants and trees.

Concrete or stone, DIY or professionally installed, consider garden or retaining walls when you’re planning your landscaping changes: they can add a real dimension of visual interest to your yard, helping it to make it an oasis for you and your family to enjoy!

Backyard tranquility: Landscape with Waterfalls

Backyard water features are becoming more and more popular, year after year. Who wouldn’t like the soothing aquatic sounds and the sparking quality as the sun light reflects off the trickling water. Big or small, birdbath or a koi pond, there is something for everyone and making a splash in your garden this season can be both easy and inexpensive.

Consider these questions:

How big do I want this feature to be? What type of shape? Cost?

It would be difficult to install a waterfall feature that flows into a large pond if you do not have the adequate space. Be honest with your limitations and consider the space, shape and balance before committing to a design. Also, consider your wallet. Cost can be a big factor when considering the type of pond you want to build. There are many inexpensive options – ready-to-install kits found at your local home garden center, professional landscapers and DIY resources found online.

Pond vs. pondless?

A pond is a beautiful living thing. An established ecosystem works with Mother Nature to provide food, shelter and safety to the wildlife living in its waters or around it. A pump circulates the water to ensure adequate oxygen levels for healthy fish and plants. A filtration system is also needed to remove debris and organic matter, and to maintain a stable, biological balance in the pond. Once established, a pond is all-natural, low maintenance and will run year-round. However, the initial cost and operating costs could be far greater than the pondless option.

A pondless waterfall works very much like a regular pond except after the hole is dug; it is then lined with rock and gravel and filled with water. The water is then circulated from below the rocks by a pump and is cycled over and over. Similar to operating an outdoor swimming pool, the water feature will not be operational for parts of the year. Pondless water features allow you to have the benefits of a waterfall without the presence of pooling water which may be a safety concern for parents of young children and small pet owners.

Research online, visit gardening centers and home and garden shows for ideas. Weather you choose to make this a weekend project or hire a professional team, this will surely be a beautiful addition to any backyard.

Come in and check out our simple, no digging, pondless backyard waterfall called Colorfalls.

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