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Grass Is Still King:  Bring It Back To Life!

If Spring 2020 taught us anything, it’s that people are serious about their grass, and the more they’re home, the more serious they become!

In a world of front yard gardens, rock gardens, natural cottage gardens and innovative landscaping ideas, the reality is that, in Mississauga, grass is still king.

If you’re like many people, however, your lawn is a cross between overgrown in some patches and down to the dirt in others, with a hodgepodge of yellow spots, courtesy of Fido or your furry raccoon neighbours.

Low Spots And Drainage

One thing you might have noticed when the spring rain started pouring is that you have some low spots or depressions in your lawn that are accumulating water. Depending on your soil content, a heavy downpour can struggle to drain properly.

This is a great time, while you’re repairing your lawn, to deal with those depression by levelling them out.

Toemar’s advice? Fill those depressions with Garden Bag’s topsoil. Remember that topsoil has clay in it, so absorption is less, keeping your ground nice and stable, and, if you grade your lawn appropriately, keeping water away from the foundation of your house.

Most importantly, don’t use sand for this purpose. Sand doesn’t hold its shape when water pressure from rainfall is applied. If you use other soil, like veggie soil, for example, your depressions will be back after a few rainfalls!

Repairing grass on your newly leveled lawn

There are two ways to repair grass on a level lawn:

  1. After you’ve filled your low spots / depressions, put an inch to an inch and half of overseeding soil mixed with grass seed, on top of the topsoil. You’ll need 2-4 kg of grass seed per 1 cubic yard of soil. Don’t use more soil than 1.5 inches; you’ll find there’s too much drainage, and your seeds might dry out.Speaking of drying out, now it’s time to water it.

    Will you get a velvety lawn this season? Probably not: it takes time.

    If you have dogs and kids, you may want to fence off the area you are working on to allow the grass to take root properly. Paws and feet wreak havoc on freshly seeded areas! You might have to repeat the overseeding process next year to get the thick velvety grass you want.

  1. If you don’t have time for seeding and want to have a gorgeous lawn this year, or kids and dogs are a factor, consider using topsoil and sod instead.Each sod roll at Toemar is 2ft x 4.5ft of sod (9 feet), which gives remarkably good coverage and immediate results if it’s well watered and protected so that the rooting can occur. With a few rolls of sod and a little TLC, you can have a nice lawn within a few weeks!

A caution about lawn watering…

Remember that you need to water new seed / sod, but overwatering can also be damaging. How much is too much? It can be less about volume than frequency.

With new grass seed / sod, your gut might tell you to water less in volume but to do it more frequently.

In fact, that can create lawn dependency, where your lawn is growing in such a way that it expects frequent watering and if it doesn’t get it? You’ll end up with a shallow root structure.

Your best bet is to water less frequently but give your new growth areas a good soaking. This way the root structures develop deeply and are stronger. After all, who needs a needy lawn?

Pesky Pests

Insects, raccoons, and squirrels are just a few among the pesky pests that can get between you and a healthy lawn. One thing is for sure: if you’re seeing a lot of skunk or racoon droppings, it’s a pretty good sign that you’ve got grubs and other ‘delicious’ insects below ground.

Whether your lawn is being damaged by the insects themselves, or by pests that are feasting on them, if you live in racoon country, it might be easier to landscape your yard and skip the golf course lawn.

Toemar’s advice?

It might be time to surrender to the forces of nature. But take heart, there are so any alternatives to a traditional lawn.

Why not create flower beds, veggie beds, or rock gardens add interest to the landscape in those troublesome areas?

These are more sustainable for the environment, to say nothing of the increase to the value of your home. And if you plant perennials, your efforts to maintain your garden in future seasons are less. Result? More time enjoying your garden and less time planting, mowing and pulling weeds!

A few other tips:

  • Grow native species that are appealing to bees and butterflies.
  • Work with a landscaper to create a beautiful rock garden. The professional help ensures that you will have the right drainage to avoid damage to yours or your neighbours backyards.
  • Include ponds or water features for truly zen environment
  • If allowed, artificial turf is a possibility but only in VERY small areas. Covering your entire front lawn with turf impacts rain water runoff patterns, and in many areas is simply not allowed, and we think that’s a good thing. Furthermore, it’s pricey and there are lots of other gorgeous options open to you instead, to ‘soft landscape’ your space!

In Mississauga, like in other recently developed locales, a lot of homes have small yards, so remember that a lawn doesn’t have to be the be all and end all. Think instead about an oasis of a patio, where you can escape after a long day and enjoy the warmth of the summer sun.

If you’re unsure about what to do, come by Toemar and talk to our knowledgeable staff. We can point you in the right direction and even provide referrals to talented local gardeners, landscapers, hardscapers, and arborists. See you soon!

What Soil Is Best For Your Gardening Needs?

Since we’re all hanging out at home, now is the perfect time to get your garden and lawn in order for the upcoming summer season.

After removing all of the detritus of winter, including dead leaves, branches and so on, your garden beds and lawns are ready and waiting for a little TLC to help them reach their best potential.

If you’re not sure how best to nurture the soil for your garden beds, veggie boxes and patchy lawns, read on!

Best Soil For Flower And Garden Beds

Hands down, your best bet is veggie soil, sourced from the best place in Ontario to get nutrient dense soil: Holland Marsh.

If you don’t know it already, the Holland Marsh, an area of land just north of Toronto, is sometimes referred to as Ontario’s Vegetable Patch. Why? It is 7,000 acres of low-lying land that contains some of the richest farmland in the province, with another 2,500 surrounding acres.

Because of the canal drainage system and exposed organic soil, the Holland Marsh produces nearly 60% of Ontario’s carrots and 55% of its onions, along with a number of traditional crops.

Made up of a quadruple mix including peat loam, sandy loam, cattle manure and compost, veggie soil is best if you are doing new flower and garden beds.

It’s also perfect to rejuvenate old soil with nutrients. Mississauga soil is heavy with clay, particularly at new construction homes. It probably also contains a lot of fill, which isn’t nutrient rich. Basically, if you haven’t added any soil to your gardens, what you will have there already isn’t great, so you want to use veggie soil to get a maximum yield from your flower and garden beds.

60% of Mississauga homes have three types of soil and there are ways you can assess what you have particularly well, after rainfall when you have 50-100% moisture levels:

  • Heavy clay soil – The clay soil is wet, dark and feels slick when rubbed between thumb and forefinger. You could even draw with it! Even at less than 50% moisture, you will be able to form a ball with clay soil.
  • Coarse clay soil – This soil is more of a sandy loam or silt loam. At 50% moisture, you can probably form a ball but it will crumble. At 75% to 100% moisture levels, it will be similar to a heavy clay soil.
  • Coarse sandy soil – A ball will not form at less than 50% moisture. At 75% to 100% moisture, a weak ball can be formed but it will fall apart easily.

No matter the existing soil in your garden, you will need to add high quality, nutrient soil to get the flowers, herbs and vegetables that you want.

Veggie soil has high acidity and contains the nutrients your gardens will be needing. If you’re growing berries, you need specific soil, and you will want to be well informed about your soil’s pH levels. Some berries, like blueberries, require more acid. They are tougher to get a yield on, so if berries are part of your gardening game plan, use a pH tester to verify your soil. You may need to introduce more acidity / alkaline, but we’re not berry experts! We are, however, experts at eating berries!

Having the right soil can affect the quality of your growths. Ideally, you’re looking for a pH level between 6 and 7. If the soil is too acidic, you can add some lime to even it out. If you have sandy soil where there is not enough organic matter OR if you have clay soil which is too heavy and compact, you need to add compost to help improve soil structure and composition while providing the nutrients required by the plants. This is where veggie soil can definitely save the day!

Veggie Soil On Lawns

We’ve been asked this question before: “Can you use veggie soil on your lawn?” The short answer is: It depends.

If the issue is that your lawn isn’t getting enough nutrients, then it might work. But there is a very important caveat: Because cattle manure, and consequently veggie soil, is high in nitrogen, this soil will generate more weeds.

Grass seed doesn’t need a lot of nitrogen to grow; it grows simply, so overseeding soil might be a better option, giving grass seed what it needs to grow but not forcing you to break your back weeding your entire lawn.

Lawn Care With Overseeding Soil

If you are overseeding your lawn, remember that there is no grass seed in the soil so you have to order grass seed separately.

While you likely wouldn’t want to use veggie soil on your lawn, to avoid a weed infestation, you also wouldn’t use overseed soil in your veggie garden. There’s nothing wrong with overseeding soil, but it doesn’t have the nitrogen levels you’d want for veggies and blooms.

If you really only want to get one type of soil for your lawn and your garden, we’d recommend that you use veggie soil. It will be more work, but overseeding soil simply won’t be enough for a veggie garden.

What About Topsoil

Topsoil is used for filler. So if you built a beautiful garden wall, you would use topsoil to fill in the space, for volume. Topsoil is also good for building up around existing trees, but if you’re planting new trees, use veggie soil.

Whatever projects you want to start in your garden this spring, starting from a solid base of good quality soil is the way to ensure your veggie, flower and lawn success for the coming summer season.

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!