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A New Year, a New Landscaping Business? Tips to Help You Get Started

The big lesson we learned in 2020 is that, when forced to stay home, the good people of Peel region turn to their landscapers to create their ideal environment.

As a result, last year was a steady year for many landscaping businesses, so it’s no surprise that, for 2021, many of enterprising souls plan to start their own landscaping business.

Landscapers are the heart-blood of Toemar; they always have been, and with over 40 years working with landscapers and hardscapers under our belt, we’d like to think we’ve learned a thing or two about the anatomy of a successful landscaping business.

Before we begin, it’s worth saying that this industry is on the grow. There is lots of room for new companies! We can speak to this anecdotally of course; last year was off the charts in terms of demand (even if the situation meant we couldn’t always be open), but the years before Covid also saw incremental growth and an influx or new landscaping companies, the vast majority of them successful.

The numbers also prove the point. Landscaping in Canada is an $8bn (USD) industry. It employs upwards of 70k people across the country, and it’s egalitarian and diverse: No one company owns more than 5% of overall market share (as small business owners ourselves, we love this stat.)

Landscaping growth tends to follow housing industry growth and is therefore concentrated in certain places – Mississauga and the GTA being one of them.

Just because the external conditions may be right to start a landscaping business, what we’ve found is that it’s the internal conditions – your skill set, aptitude and attitude, that are the real driver of success.

There’s a wonderful quote from Bruce Pon Tip (founder of Toronto-based G Adventures (formerly Gap Adventures)) who said back in 2010, “If the economy isn’t good, you need to make your own economy.”

Ladies and gentlemen: This is 100% true, and while Bruce delivers the line quite nicely, we’ve been living it at Toemar since the day we opened our doors.

Beyond good equipment and a reliable pickup truck or two, here’s what you really need to run a successful landscaping business.

1. Willingness to Learn

No matter how much you think you know, there’s always more to learn.

In our industry, all our tradespeople work side by side and need to understand each other’s function. If you’re redesigning your client’s backyard, you must understand the physics of hardscaping, the science of horticulture and aboriculture, and the art of making those realities support your client’s vision.

This doesn’t mean you have to become an expert in all these things, but it’s important to create relationships with complementary tradespeople, and at least have a basic understanding of why you may need to call on them and what they can do for you/your client.

This often requires business owners to put their ego aside and be open to what other experts have to say, even if it may impact their project. When you’re working in the field, this is easier said than done, which is why an open-minded attitude comes in handy.

2. Support Your Team

A landscaping company will rise or fall according to the quality of its team.

If you’re lucky enough to find talented support staff, you must know how to effectively and respectfully communicate your expectations, while supporting their growth and development.

Personnel issues are going to come up. How will you handle them?

And there will be times when you will be blindsided because your team’s perspective is so far off from what you thought it was, or what you thought you’d communicated, that you will, at times, wonder if you’re living in a parallel universe.

As a business owner, it’s up to you to bridge that gap in understanding. It’s also up to you to take responsibility for how you communicate.

Something we’ve learned at Toemar is that, if someone is not receiving the message the way we’d intended it, the issue is with how it’s being communicated. So the issue is with us, not with the employee or the client or whomever.

It’s easy to blame the other person when something you’ve communicated is misinterpreted, but it’s a mistake that could cost you the trust of your team and respect of your employees. And always remember: In this industry, your team will make or break you.

3. Understand the Value of Client Relationships (Marketing)

The above header is synonymous with ‘know how to market your business’.

We didn’t want to write that because people may talk themselves out of starting their business because they think they don’t know how to market, but the foundation of marketing is simple: Build solid relationships with your clients, so that they know you, like you and trust you.

If you can do that without over-complicating it, you’re half-way there.

Speaking of complicated, having attractive social media is important to a degree. You will need a way to showcase the work your team has completed and the good results people have when they choose your company for their landscaping, but our advice is not worry about social media for now, and to focus your preliminary marketing efforts on two things:

  1. Invest in a decent website that contains lots of pretty pictures of work you’ve done and an easy-to-use contact form that includes a ‘referred by’ field
  2. Get to know your clients. Do a good job for them. Ask them for referrals. Do a good job for those referral clients. Ask them for referrals.

This is a one-two marketing punch. Your website makes it easier for your clients to refer their friends and neighbours to you. Your strong relationships with these clients will make them want to refer people to you using your website.

(And aside: Write into your contract that you will take before and after pictures of your client’s property and use these for marketing purposes. Then, take those pictures and show them to every single lead.)

Some new businesses may opt to rely on a social media account to replace the need to have a website. While this practice can yield results and be affordable, there are a few issues we see with it.

First, it’s never a good idea to build your house on someone else’s property. As your business grows, you may want more flexibility to scale your business, and your chosen network may limit you.

Second, all social media users are beholden to the terms of use of their chosen platform, and most of those terms of use are written clear as mud. If you or an employee or contractor you’ve hired to manage your social media accidentally violates those terms, your account can be suspended or banned. It doesn’t matter how much money or time you’ve spent developing it, it can disappear overnight.

This is why, in the first year or two, we think it makes sense to invest your money in your own website, and to spend your time networking, and then, if you have the resources, add social media to the mix.

4. Get a Handle on Contracts and Money

Contracts

Never, ever, ever-ever, do work without a contract.

Look, we understand that the idea of hiring a lawyer to write a 45-page document in legalease can feel like a crime against humanity, but rest assured – that kind of contract is probably overkill anyhow.

What is necessary is a statement of work, or a scope document. We recommend you keep this down to a page or two, write your terms in simple English, and make sure you’re specific about what your team is responsible for, and what are additional billable services that are not covered in the initial scope of work. It can sometimes be hard to control scope-creep, but you can control whether or not you get compensated for it.

Also be clear about your payment terms and any guarantees you may offer, and promise the client that you will not embark on additional billable services without informing them and seeking their consent. There should never be a suprise on an invoice (unless it’s a good surprise for your client!)

If you don’t want to include pages and pages of terms in your statement of work, but you feel the need to include them, you can always post them online, provide the url in the statement of work, and have a check box that client has visited that url and read those terms in full.

Finally, make sure your statement of work has a dated sign-off for both you and your client.

Make it easy for clients to pay

Most landscapers need to invest in materials before starting a project, but if you have to wait two weeks  after you’ve begun your project to get the first payment, you’re going to run into serious cash flow issues.

Our advice is to a) be clear about terms (see above) and b) set up a merchant account so that all your clients have to do is provide a credit card number at the get-go, and you can do the rest.

It may sometimes be necessary to call a client who is behind on payments, and that can be awkward as anything. Our advice? Use the term ‘money conversation.’

For example, you can say to them, “Hi John. I’d like to have a money conversation with you, can we do that?” This is allows the other person to mentally prepare, and it empowers a frank and effective conversation about money, while separating that conversation out from small talk and other conversations.

Hire a bookkeeper

When you’re a business owner, its up to you to find, mind, and grind the business.

Hiring a bookkeeper is an affordable way to keep your books and invoicing up to date and shipshape  while freeing up much of your time.

An affordable virtual assistant who is also a bookkeeper is worth their weight in gold and will do more to free up your time and help you run your business in those first few years than most other functions.

This will not only assist with cashflow, but it will also mean that, should your name be drawn for a CRA audit, your books will be available, accurate and up to date. The less stress the better!

Be Proud of What You’re Doing

Look man, if it were easy, everybody would have a corner office.

What you’re doing is hard work. It takes courage and resilience. You’re going to trip, learn and succeed, in that order. But it IS a trip, and a good one too.

When you decide to open your own business, you are choosing to take control of your own destiny and finances, you are choosing to claim your own space in this world, and you are empowering others to reach their goals and provide for their families.

Sure, it’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding, and it’s always a bit of thrill to tell someone that you run your own business. And there’s one thing that’s even better than that: That feeling at the end of a day, on the last day of a project, when your team has done an amazing job, and you take a moment to look at what you’ve done. A happy client, a happy team, and a brilliant outcome. You did that, my friend. Kudos to you.

Stats:

https://www.ibisworld.com/canada/market-research-reports/landscaping-services-industry/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/899045/revenue-of-landscaping-services-in-canada/

How To Create Privacy In Your Garden

As the poet Robert Frost said: “Good fences make good neighbors.” We like to say: “Privacy makes GREAT neighbours.”

We’re not talking about building an English style walled garden with a secret doorway—though that would be lovely! When we say privacy, we’re talking about ways you can create spaces in your suburban backyard that go beyond standard fences.

Many neighbourhoods in Mississauga and beyond are designed in rows of two story, single family homes. That means that unless you’re at the end of a row, you’ve got neighbours who can see into your backyard on three sides. Your ideas around creating a private backyard oasis will be marred slightly if every time you sit out, you can see your neighbour in their bathroom, looking back at you!

In other words, fences will only get you so far: you need some other garden creations to create some legitimate privacy for yourself and your family.

Assess The Space You Have To Work With

Your first step in creating some privacy is deciding where you want it most and where it makes sense for your garden. Depending on the size of your garden, which way it faces and how much sun you get, there are different ways you can proceed.

Toemar has a handy checklist you can use before starting any project.

For A Small Garden, A Great Option Is A Living Wall

When you don’t have a lot of space for garden beds or even potted plants, creating a vertical garden, known as a living wall, will help you get some plants growing AND create some privacy. This is also a great option if you live in a condo or apartment to separate your patio from your neighbour’s side.

Planting edibles and perennials that bloom throughout the season in a vertical garden is ideal use of the space, while still giving in to your green thumb. If you place it in such a way that the plants get the sun they need, you can then create a space for yourself in the shade beside it! Add a simple shade awning, using your wall as an anchor, and you’ve got a little private space to lay on the chaise and snooze on a sunny, summer afternoon.

A Pergola With Vines, For Shade And Privacy

If you have more space in the garden, it’s nice to create a patch where you can set up seating or a dining table, to really enjoy your outdoor space to the maximum, without ruining the sight lines in your garden.

A pergola set up on a deck or on some flagstone can be enhanced with flowering vines, or even grape vines, grown through the lattice like “roof”, so that you have shade and privacy in one natural looking setting.

This can also be a perfect set up if you have a hot tub, to ensure that you can sit and soak without being peeped at.

A Gazebo Can Give You Privacy And Bug Protection

With the solid roof of a gazebo, you can eliminate the second floor viewings of your lunch spread as well as create a decent amount of shade. If you set up your gazebo on the corner of a deck, adding lattice on two sides can help create even more privacy.

The other advantage to a gazebo is the ability to add netting and a door, which makes dining al fresco more enjoyable, and an evening drink with fairy lights decorating the ceiling will be mosquito free.

Outdoor Curtains

You’ve probably seen people who have added gauzy, flowing curtains to the sides of their porches, giving them more privacy while still letting the breeze flow through. You can take that same idea to your backyard by adding them to your pergola or gazebo, if you have a side that is particularly exposed to the view of others.

If you don’t have the space for a pergola, another option to leverage the beauty and privacy of flowing curtains is to create moveable frames for them: this way, you can put them where you want in the garden, in effect creating a privacy wall, and you can move it around if you want to, depending on the position of the sun.

Lattice And Vines Keep A Balcony Cool And Private

If you have a small deck or balcony that you don’t use because of the way you are on display when you sit there, a simple fix is to add lattice with climbing vines intertwined throughout, positioned on the sides where you have the most ‘visibility’. The light still comes through but you can sit out and enjoy your morning coffee in peace, with a little shade to protect you from the heat of the sun.

For A Large Yard, Plant Some Trees

It’s a solution that takes time to grow up, but if you have a good sized yard, a large, leafy deciduous tree or two  will help create shade and privacy throughout the spring and summer months. The only downside is the raking you’ll have to do come fall, but jumping in leaf piles is a time honoured tradition worth preserving!

However you create your space, always be mindful of what you want to use it for and how much space you have to work with. The winter is a great time to start planning for next spring, so that by summer, you’re able to enjoy your backyard to the fullest.

How To Use Natural Stone In Your Landscaping

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

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

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

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

Rocks And Boulders

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

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

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

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

Flagstone

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

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

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

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

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

Natural Stone Projects

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

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

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

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

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

Come visit us.  We look forward to serving you.

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!

Mulch: The Essential Ingredient for Fall Gardens

A lot of gardeners think of mulch as an ‘add on’, something to beautify their garden beds with. In fact, black mulch is in style right now, creating contrast in gardens that is seriously eye-catching!

Mulching in the autumn, however, isn’t just about looks. It’s about getting your garden ready for another winter season, in a cost-effective way. If you want a lush, beautiful garden next spring, you need to consider setting yourself up with a load of mulch in autumn.

What Is Mulch?

Essentially, mulch is anything you use to cover, enrich and protect the soil in your garden beds. While some people will opt for leaves or grass clippings to cover their soil, good mulch is much more structured than those options. Plus, a high quality mulch is also decorative! It can add a lot of wow to your garden beds, setting off the plants and flowers beautifully!

What Kinds Of Mulch Can You Get?

Recycled wood mulch — Most high quality mulch is made from recycled wood and natural food dyes, making it safe to use around kids and pets. Mulch comes in red, brown and black, adding elegant contrast in your garden! (Bonus! If you live in Mississauga, you can have a load of mulch delivered to you with Garden Bag to help you get your autumn mulching underway!)

Hemp mulch — Similar to recycled wood mulch, hemp mulch offers excellent soil protection from extreme heat or cold, maintaining constant temperatures. It’s also pH neutral and biodegradable.

Avoid mulches made from cocoa bean by-products, if you have pets. They have a chocolate odour that attracts your pets but as we all know, chocolate is toxic to them. Dogs don’t produce the necessary enzymes to process theobromine and caffeine, both of which can be found in cocoa bean.

Why Your Garden Loves Mulch?

Mulch is a warm blanket that protects your garden through the harshest winter conditions. It creates a barrier between your soil and the snow and ice. Think of it like insulation for your garden beds and perennials, shrubs and bulbs!

The insulation factor works both ways too! As much as it keeps the cold out, it will keep the moisture and nutrients locked in your soil. Instead of losing your soil’s moisture to evaporation—dew, for example, is the result of moisture being drawn from the soil, not the air—mulch keeps it contained, so that plant and tree roots are happy and well fed in the moist earth.

Mulch also helps to prevent soil erosion from spring melts, or soil compaction from heavy rains, two factors which make keeping garden beds well fed and plant roots well protected easier!

Finally, mulch provides a natural barrier against weeds. Studies have shown that well placed mulch can drop weed growth to as low as 7.5 weeds per 110 square feet of garden space. You’ll notice that city run gardens will often have mulch in their garden beds and part of the reason is that it cuts down on the manual process of weeding these gardens. That’s a significant cost savings!

For you as a homeowner, not having to weed your garden as much will not save you a lot of money but it will save you a lot of time and your back, in the bargain! You can spend more time enjoying your beautiful garden instead of being on your knees, pulling weeds!

How Do You Apply Mulch To Your Garden?

First off, order it in your favourite colour and get free delivery from Garden Bag, in the Mississauga area!

All you have to do is set aside a nice autumn afternoon to start spreading it at the base of all your shrubs, perennial plants, trees and on open garden beds. You want to pile up a good 2 – 4 inches of mulch under each plant / tree / shrub and across any open soil areas, to ensure a good coverage.

As you’re planning your autumn planting and garden prep for winter, plan to add a little mulch! Your plants will thank you and you can enjoy a robust, lush garden again in the spring!

Design Ideas For Small Front Yards

How to make even the smallest front yard beautiful

Drive through any Mississauga neighbourhood, and in many cases, you’ll see some large, beautiful homes with wide driveways and just the tiniest bit of a front yard.

That’s pretty standard, particularly in newer developments.

The other standard is the fact that most people don’t know what to do with this little patch, so they throw down some sod, get a city tree planted and call it a day.

The thing is, the curb appeal of the front of your house is everything: it’s the first thing you and others see when you drive up to your home. Does it leave you underwhelmed or are you happy with what you see?

And let’s not forget resale value! Even though the front yard isn’t typically a living space (you aren’t likely to BBQ right out front!), it can be inviting and pleasing to the eye, with little effort.

Keeping your front yard low maintenance, which is desirable for many of us, is how we end up with the sod and tree combination. But low maintenance need not be boring, and while we love sod (yes, Toemar sells a ton of sod each year!), we also believe that it’s tip of the iceberg/garden!

Bring On The Rock Garden

Getting beyond sod has a couple of advantages, right off the bat:

  • There is no lawn to try and keep green and free dog pee spots. Urine spots, created by your own pets or your neighbour’s wandering mongrel, are a pain to deal with. In the aim of keeping your small front yard low maintenance, no lawn means no yellow spots.
  • A lawn-free front yard is also racoon un-friendly, which is a good thing! Racoons like to feast on grubs that they pick out of lawns, wrecking your hard won green carpet in the process. Squirrels have been known to dig up a fair patch of sod too, in the aim of getting to something underneath. Either way, by skipping the lawn, you can keep the beasties at bay. Since racoon droppings are particularly unsanitary for both humans and pets, the less you have on your yard, the better off you’ll be.

Instead of placing sod or planting grass seed, opt instead for a beautiful pathway made of interlocking stones, with a rock garden laid out beside it. There is some lovely local rock that you can get including Blue Mountain rock, Orillia limestone and Bobcaygeon rock. Ontario has some fabulous rock quarries, including some very close by in Milton, that produce gorgeous pieces.

TIP: Hire a professional hardscaper to plan and put your rock garden and pathway in place for one simple reason: run off. You want to make sure the grading is managed in the design so that water, whether rain or melting snow, runs off your property and away from your neighbours lawn too!

Add A Mixture Of Perennials And Bushes

Once you’ve got your rocks and path in place, you can plan to add some plants and bushes, to add texture and colour to the space, with minimal maintenance.

You can create height and a little bit of coverage for the front of your home, that might otherwise be a blank canvas, with bushes or small cedars. Mix in some colourful flowering perennials to punch up the look and break up the grey, white and green of your background rocks and bushes, to create a visually appealing look.

Some people even add water features, within the rock garden, to enhance it further. Do remember, however, that at the front of your home, you’re less in control of the space and run the risk of someone tampering or playing with the water feature, as in the case of a small child who absolutely wants to touch it but trips and falls in. Keep that in mind when choosing your feature.

Top 3 Tips For A Small Front Garden Design

Tip #1—Grass is not always greener—We’ve covered this pretty well, above, so suffice it to say that grass isn’t always the better option on a front yard. In fact, ill maintained grass in a small space looks worse than it would in a larger space. You don’t want your curb appeal ruined by weeds or dead grass. Once installed, a rock garden requires so much less effort. So yes, it will take some money and time up front, but it will be smooth sailing after that.

Tip #2—Blow out the colours—Imagine someone driving down your street. Your home has a rock garden with beautiful yellow, orange, red and pink flowers blooming throughout it. The house next door has grass and a bush. Whose do you think will give the best impression? While curb appeal might not seem important to you, it really makes a statement about how much you care about your home.

Tip #3—Think proportionally—Rocks come in many different shapes and, for a small yard, you don’t want to choose overwhelming sizes, to the point where people see the rocks and nothing else! Everything you put in front of your house should be on a complementary scale to the size of your house. So if you’ve got a bungalow, you might want to skip the tall trees and bushes right out front, which will bury everything, including the house! Instead, choose smaller bushes or tall grasses, which look lovely and require little help to thrive.

However you choose to beautify your front yard, remember that first impressions mean a lot, whether it’s a potential buyer for your home, or your future mother-in-law. Either way, put your best foot forward without breaking a sweat and you’ll enjoy the look of your home as you approach it, every single day.

Lawn 9-1-1: Bringing Your Lawn Back To Life

It happens to the best of green thumbs: you were a little overzealous with the fertilizer or a little under focused on watering. Before you know it, your lawn is looking tired, or worse, brown and dying.

There are a lot of things you can do to bring your lawn back to life, that won’t require anything as drastic as sodding.

Reasons Why Lawns Go South

We’ve talked before about pest control, pet urine damage and weeds, so visit that post to get more information on those issues. In this post, we’re going to talk about other ways your lawn can go downhill in the summer: too much or too little watering, cutting the lawn too short, soil that is hard and compacted down, a pH imbalance in the soil and so on.

Your first step should be to test your soil’s pH levels to see if the levels fall within a normal range. Good quality compost can help to balance high levels of pH in the soil. That said, your patchy lawn might be the result of other activities, so read on!

Is Your Lawn Acidic?

A pH level that indicates acidity in the soil means adjusting the balance. A natural, simple way to do this is to add epsom salts to your lawn. Despite its name, it’s not actually sodium based. Epsom salt is actually made of magnesium and sulfate, a chemical compound that will help balance the acidity in your soil naturally.

Compost Your Lawn

Yes, your lawn needs to eat but too much fertilizer creates a two fold problem: first, it creates a ‘dependency’. Your lawn will not draw nutrients from the soil but rather wait for you to feed it. Second, fertilizer will attract some pests.

Adding a layer of high quality compost, on the other hand, will enable your lawn to build up and draw the nutrients it needs, without your help.

Cut With Care

The single most frequent way people kill their lawns is by cutting the grass too short. The tiny blades will dry up far more easily in the summer sun. Set your mowers blades at the highest level to make sure you’re not cutting off more than a third of the blades at a time. It’s better to cut less, and cut more often, rather than thinking that one big chopping will do the trick!

Pull Up Dead Grass

After you mow your lawn, use a rake to pull up dead grass. Too much of it in your lawn will only prevent the roots of healthy grass from getting the water, nutrients and fresh air it needs to thrive. If you don’t do this, over time, your lawn will build up a thatch of dead grass and other detritus, again preventing water, air and nutrients from reaching the roots. You can break up the thatch, if you’ve built one up, but best to avoid it in the first place!

How Are You Watering?

In the middle of a hot day, you might enjoy a nice misting from the hose, but your lawn won’t. First of all, water early in the day. Middle of the day watering leads to heavy evaporation in the hot sun and late night watering just leaves the lawn waterlogged through the night, making it prone to fungus and other issues. If you have in-lawn sprinklers, get a timer and set it to run in the early a.m.

Now that we’ve got timing down, how much should you water? It might be intuitive to assume that a light but more frequent watering would be best, but in fact, that can lead to a shallow grass root structure. That shallow structure will become ‘dependent’ on you to water regularly. Instead, water less frequently but when you do, give it a good soaking so that the root structures that develop are deeper and more solid. Half an inch of water a couple of times a week is all it should take, even in the hottest weeks of summer.

Aerate Compacted Soil

If part of your lawn issues are that your soil is too compact, particularly in high foot traffic areas, water, nutrients and air can’t get to the roots. It’s time to aerate your lawn! You can rent an aerator, which will pull plugs of earth out, allowing the water, air and food to reach the roots more easily.

Starting From Scratch

If, despite all your efforts, your lawn just isn’t coming back to life, you might decide your best course of action is to start all over again. It’s a big job but a lush, green lawn is such a lovely sight… Here’s how you would go about it:

  1. Cut the sod. You will be slicing through existing root structure to make it easier to pull up.
  2. Remove the sod / grass. You can then lift up existing sod, roots and all.
  3. Till the soil.
  4. Spread a good dose of compost, to the tune of 2-3 inches, all over.
  5. Grade your soil / compost. You want to break up any big clumps and give yourself a level playing field!
  6. Spread the grass seed.
  7. Water well for the first soaking and every day, possibly twice a day during very hot weather, until you start to see the grass seed sprouting.

Bringing a dying lawn back to life isn’t impossible but it does take a little hard work. A good landscape company will be able to help you out, if you can’t manage it. The time and effort will be worth it when you can sit on your lawn chair and enjoy your fabulous lawn for the rest of the season!

Marketing Ideas for Landscapers in Mississauga & Beyond

Landscapers: Fill up your seasonal schedule ahead of time!

If you haven’t set up your marketing for the season, there’s still time, but you need to be strategic.

After all, better weather will mean being out in the neighbourhood, taking care of business. You need to have your ducks in a row, so to speak, with your marketing before you get bogged down in dirt, walls and and stones.

Do You Have A Website?

None of the other things you will do to market your business will be as important as a website.

You can do it yourself, but there are a lot of affordable services out there that will put together a simple ‘brochure’ style site for you, quickly and professionally.

Just make sure your site has the following on it:

  • A blog. The reason for a blog is simple: it keeps your website content fresh, which is good for your SEO (search engine optimization). Good SEO will allow people to find your site when they’re searching for a landscaper in their area! Having fresh content on a regular basis goes a long way to ensuring that your SEO is in good shape. This is a GREAT place to outsource: get yourself a ghostwriter and let them take care of putting the words down, while you do what you do best.
  • A picture gallery. You don’t need special equipment to get gorgeous pictures for your gallery! Even an iPhone 6 can take high quality images. Before and after are a great idea, but just get in the habit of taking pictures at your worksites.
  • Links to social media that you use (more on that later)
  • Appropriate contact information.
  • Make sure your site is mobile enabled: that means, that a person looking at it on a phone will see it properly. Mobile is the largest growing method for consuming digital information: if your site isn’t formatted for it, viewers will bounce off it.

Do A Little Networking

Spending a morning a week working ON your business, rather than IN your business, will go a long way to keeping your name fresh and on people’s minds.

A great angle is to consider the business-to-business market. Join a local chapter of a BNI (Business Networking International, a networking organization), your local chamber of commerce or other economic development groups.

All of these groups host events, including networking, that will introduce you to other business owners in the area.

Even if they’re not in the market for your services, they probably know people who are, so it’s always worth the effort. You never know when that next contact will come…

Community events are also a great way to get your name out there. A booth at a local event where you hand out potted seedlings will be money well spent if each is tagged with your business info / website.

People like to get to know the businesses they are going to be dealing with, so showing up and participating is half the battle. Don’t forget that supporting local organizations will help get your name out there. Is your kid’s school doing a Spring fair? Make sure you are a sponsor or have a booth there!

Get On Social Media

This is a tougher one, particularly for a smaller business who might not have a dedicated person to handle the marketing.

Luckily, social media is one of those things you can do during downtime, like when you’re sitting in the truck waiting for your lunch order!

  • Pick one or two social channels to participate in – it’s too hard to manage more unless you outsource the effort. TIP: If you’re interested in finding clients who own homes, who make money and can spend on hardscaping, decking and more, check out LinkedIn. There are few landscapers on LinkedIn, but there are a lots of landscaping clients! This is a professional network that will put you in touch with so many within your target audience. Start by connecting with your existing and past clients on LinkedIn. Every new lead you meet? Connect with them on LinkedIn too!
  • Those pictures you took of the worksite? Share them on your social channels. Let people see the work that you’re doing. Share your latest blog post there too. Letting potential customers know about your skills is what it’s all about.

Don’t Forget Traditional Marketing

Social media and websites aside, there is a lot of value in traditional marketing: brochures, postcards, a mail out of the latter via Canada Post to specific neighbourhoods in your area. Use those to feature a promotion with a code, so that you know where the business is coming from.

Marketing comes down to not putting all your eggs in one basket: Do a lot of different things to net good results. It doesn’t take a lot of time once you’re set up and organized.

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.

Looking For Calm? Plan A New Water Feature In Your Garden

Adding a water feature to your backyard is a wonderful way to create another layer of serenity in your quiet space. The tranquil sounds of water bubbling, the sunlight glinting off the surface… all intended to enhance your calm.

If you want to add your water feature this spring, for a summer of enjoyment, you should start planning now!

What Kind Of Water Feature Do You Want?

There are several questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How big a feature do you want? This depends on the size of your yard and your existing landscaping. You don’t want the feature to become overwhelming. Balance is everything!
  • You also need to decide why you want a water feature? If it is to enjoy the sound of running water, you’ll want to place it not too far from seating areas and you’ll want an option that runs, like a waterfall, rather than a standing pond.
  • What type of feature would suit your current landscaping?
    • Pond
    • Waterfall
    • Stream
    • Fountain
    • Some combination of the above?
  • How much budget you want to set aside for this project? With water features, ‘you get what you pay for’ is a true statement. If you skimp up front, you’ll have more maintenance issues downstream.

Features Of Different Options

Pond — A pond, whether inground or above, including fish or not, is a beautiful addition. You can add a waterfall, to get more of the sound of water effect. Either way, a pond is lovely but it is also space consuming so you need to have a big enough yard to accommodate a pond without risking that someone is going to fall into it because it’s taking up too much space! Consider also, if you have a sloping area in your garden, how a waterfall would look, with a pond at the base, making positive use of the natural grade of the ground.

Ponds are build with a pump to ensure that oxygen levels are adequate for maintaining fish and plants. Your setup will also include a filtration system, which removes debris and other matter that might throw the pond out of balance. While a pond isn’t expensive to maintain, the initial cost might be a consideration, particularly if you want to add a waterfall to your feature.

Placement of an inground pond is particularly important if you want to avoid flooding your garden! A low spot that will already be taking the bulk of the spring run off might overwhelm the pond, in terms of water and chemical balance. Another consideration is what trees you have around the pond. Overhanging deciduous trees can look romantic until you end up spending a lot of time cleaning the leaves out of the pond.

Pondless Waterfall — As stated above, you can include a waterfall with your pond, but if you have small pets or children and are concerned about their safety, a pondless waterfall is a great option! The waterfall is designed to flow into a rock and gravel basin, which by way of a pump, is cycled back up and down the waterfall without pooling.

Utilizing natural elements, like boulders and rocks, to create your waterfall allows you to place it in your garden, almost as if just appeared there one day! A waterfall can also spruce up a space that is otherwise less visually appealing, like a standard retaining wall. Double it up with a waterfall and now you have a focal point to enjoy!

Stream — If you really want to create an interesting focal point and have the space for it, you could use a stream as a way to connect two separate features. For example, you could have a waterfall that is connected by a tiny stream to a pond. With the addition of foliage and rocks, the whole water feature can look very natural!

Fountain — If space is an issue, a fountain might be the perfect solution. An above ground fountain creates a gorgeous focal point in a garden. You can do anything from a traditional stone fountain or bird bath in the middle of your yard to a modern spherical waterfall fountain feature on your deck.

Just be sure to match it to the style of your home and garden. A focal point that doesn’t blend well with the surroundings isn’t a plus. If you use smaller, self-contained fountains, you can place several of them in your garden, surrounded by flowers and foliage, so that they almost seem part of the landscape.

Water gardens — A water garden is a space where you cultivate water plants. This could be a watertight container or a group of them on your deck, or set amongst other foliage in the garden. Lotus is a great example of a beautiful flower that blooms in water. Water lettuce and canna plants are other options.

Make A Water Feature Part Of Your Larger Landscaping Project

If you were planning to revamp your landscaping this spring, including a water feature in the plan from the beginning will be a lot easier—and less expensive—than adding it in later. Having to grub up some of your newly planted flower beds to make room for the pond isn’t ideal!

Whether you’re planning to DIY your project, or hire a professional to get it done, visit your local garden center for advice and information to make sure that your water feature project is a success you can enjoy for years to come!