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The Real Cost Of Using Artificial Turf For Your Lawn

Tempting as low maintenance artificial turf might seem, there are issues to consider beyond aesthetics.

A few days ago, a Toronto homeowner received a notice from the City of Toronto to remove the astroturf that she’d had professionally installed in the front, and back, of her home or face a $1400 fine.

Operating on a complaint to 311, by-law officers informed the owner, Sangeeta Gounder, that 75% of a front lawn has to be comprised of ‘soft landscaping’. So that means no paving over the front lawn, but also, no artificial turf (aka synthetic grass).

What’s The Problem With Artificial Turf?

The city cited that the issue with the synthetic grass is drainage. Ms. Gounder’s artificial grass was professionally installed, with two feet of drainage installed below the turf, but nonetheless, there is the possibility of creating flooding or drainage damage.

Artificial grass, unlike natural turf, does not absorb water as quickly, so in a large or sudden downpour or during the spring melt, the water might just run off, causing problems for neighbours and other infrastructure around the area.

According to the city itself: “Soft landscaping excludes hard-surfaced areas such as decorative stonework, retaining walls, walkways, or other hard-surfaced landscape-architectural elements. Artificial turf is not acceptable or considered to be soft landscaping and is, therefore, not permitted.” (Source)

Ms. Gounder and her husband had the synthetic turf installed three years ago because: “It was getting very difficult to keep a green, weed-free lawn.” The irony of their story is that the City of Toronto gave them a “Beautiful Front Garden” Award last year.

If Artificial Turf Isn’t Allowed, What Is?

Ms. Gounder’s wish to have a nice yard that isn’t made up of grass in the front makes a certain amount of sense to us: a beautiful, green lawn requires a fair level of maintenance and if that’s not your thing, you could end up with a lawn full of weeds, crabgrass, infestations and more.

So what are some other options that would be permitted under the idea of ‘soft landscaping’?

  • Dry gardens — by creating a space with a combination of stones, gravel, ornamental grasses and succulents, even with a weed barrier, you are creating a permeable solution so that rainwater and runoff can get through and drain properly. It also creates a yard that requires far less maintenance than a standard lawn. Keeping to the rule of 75% soft landscaping, you can also include garden beds with a colourful mulch to add pop and style, with some low shrubs mixed in with tall, waving grasses that will give the space a nice look year round.
  • Wildflower garden — have you ever walked by a house with what looks like a meadow of wildflowers instead of a manicured lawn? A lot of people create these floral yards with intention, even though it looks wild and natural. The choices they make of different perennial flowers and tall, ornamental grasses means that the yard isn’t a usable space for playing but it also means that you’re not contending with the neighbour’s dog using your lawn as a lavatory!
  • Ground covering plants — with either of the two above suggestions, or just on its own around your hardscape walkway to your front door, you can also consider perennial ground covering plants. These are plants that grow low to the ground and spread, often overpowering weeds, to create a virtually maintenance free garden, once firmly installed. Like what?
    • Several varieties of creeping thyme will work well in this capacity.
    • Mazus will grow with stems that take root as the creep and spread along.
    • Golden carpet sedum also grows no higher than 4” but spreads as it takes root.
    • Dutch clover is another option, creating a soft layer of green, with flowers, that is clearly not in need of mowing!
    • If you’ve got a lot of shade because of trees, consider moss. It looks great, doesn’t need to be mowed and helps absorb water nicely.
  • A dry creek bed — building a dry creek bed with rocks and small stones, and surrounding it with ground cover plants, mulch, and other hardy perennials, you can make it look like your front lawn once had a river running through it, without the bother of a hardscaped water feature.
  • Sod — if you must have a green lawn in the front, for at least part of your yard, it’s worth considering professional landscaping and lawn maintenance. The enhancement to your curb appeal from the application of fresh sod every season makes it a worthwhile investment, and with the combined use of one of the garden alternatives we described above, you can minimize your costs by only sodding a part of the front lawn area.

As you can see, if a green grass front yard isn’t for you, there are lots of options that require some elbow grease at the outset, but are low maintenance, well draining and will look beautiful for years to come. Consider one or combine several for a look that leaves your visitors wowed and your weekends free from mowing.

All About Walkways And Paths

Whether at the front or in your backyard, walkways and paths add a lot to your landscape.

When you stand on the curb of a typical Mississauga home, the houses with more appeal are always one where a walkway or path leads you to the front door in style.

Beauty is only one function of a walkway or path in your garden. They also serve to draw the eye, and the people, from one part of the landscape to another. Whether formal with interlocking brick, or more casual with slate stone pieces, a walkway or path has a visual effect on your landscape that adds not only aesthetic value, but can add actual value when you look to sell your home.

Practical Aspects To Walkways And Paths

Aside from the enhanced appearance of your landscaping, there are some practical aspects to walkways and paths:

  • They help protect your lawn from heavy foot traffic, in areas where it occurs naturally. For example, if you place a walkway at the front of your home, leading to your porch, people are less likely to cut across your lawn or garden beds to get to the front door.
  • They create a ‘clean’ space to walk, when the weather is poor. A big rainstorm can turn any lawn into a wet mess and people walking across it won’t improve matters. A walkway or path in the most travelled areas will save your lawn and your guests’ shoes.
  • They can be lit to create a safe passageway from point A to B. For example, a front walkway lit with solar powered lights makes it obvious for your everyone from your mother in law to your food delivery driver which is the best way to your front door. Creating well defined edges to your walkway makes it safer for your guests to maneuver, for your lawn and gives you a chance to highlight and show off the parts of your garden that you’re most proud of!
  • They are easier to shovel in the winter if you want to maintain a pathway to the back of the property, the garage or a path for your pets to travel in the snow to do their backyard business!
  • They are useful for creating a path from the pool area to the back deck, so that happy swimmers are walking on something solid and those who just want to lounge poolside can place their chairs in the best possible sun space.

Other Qualities Of A Path

Beyond the practical, a well designed path creates an appealing visual, leading someone who is walking on it either on a straight line to their destination in the yard, or on a winding discovery.

With the latter, you can line a path with beautiful garden beds, shrubbery and fragrant and blooming perennials, to make it that much more enchanting. As a bonus, a winding path can actually make a typically small Mississauga garden look much larger. It’s like a piece of “trompe l’oeil” art that fools the eye into thinking there is more garden than there might actually be!

Types of Walkways Or Paths And The Materials That Suit Them

The type of path your choose, and the materials you elect to create them with, will depend largely on what impact you want the path to have, both visual and practical.

Formal — interlocking brick creates symmetrical lines and a repeating pattern that is best suited for a formal pathway that is meant to lead people from A to B. This is a durable set up that, when properly installed, will last for a long time. Because this kind of pathway can impact water drainage and flow if badly situated, as well as needing to be perfectly level and weed free, it’s best to consider a professional installation. With a formal path, you can easily keep it cleared in the winter and have an appropriate way to maneuver around the yard when the weather is less than perfect.

  • Interlocking pavers are a great option for a formal walkway: they’re relatively easy to install and don’t require mortar to keep them in place. They’re made from concrete so water does wash off them easily, which is why you want to consider water runoff carefully when you’re installing them. They’re easy to maintain and durable, so they’ll look new for a long time. You can also use polymeric sand between them to keep the weeds at bay, prevent your pavers from shifting and keep insect erosion to a minimum.
  • Adding retaining (or garden) walls to either side of the walkway make it very well defined and creates a border that prevent people from accidentally stepping into your garden beds. An elevated wall on one side of a walkway can also create impromptu additional seating, when extra guests show up. Just have a few cushions at the ready.
  • Patio stones, for a larger pathway, or a path which ends in a shady seating area is a nice option when you don’t have a formal deck area. Flagstone is also a great option because they come in a variety of natural shades, which can be matched to your existing outdoor design.

Informal — picture flagstones or slate, limestone or other local stones that can be used to form a path but one that is more meant for a meander around the garden, like stepping stones in a pond, rather than a clear link between two points in the landscape. Set among the grass, gravel, pebbles or even a path made from cedar mulch, you can make a visually appealing walkway that draws the eye to your favourite garden beds!

Homes in Mississauga lend themselves beautifully to the look of walkways and paths, both at the front of the house and at the back. They will enhance your outdoor space, and the value of your home, with a minimum of effort.

Whether you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future, or want to improve the look of your home for your own satisfaction, there are plenty of easy ways to bump up your curb appeal.

First Up: Keep It Simple

Creating overly elaborate landscaping to your front garden that will require a team of professionals to maintain isn’t going to be a great investment for you, over the long term. And if you are thinking of selling, potential buyers might be put off by a design that looks hard to maintain.

Trends in gardening change and you don’t want to be the one person in the neighbourhood with topiaries or a waterfall in the front yard when everyone else is going low key. Opt instead for a classic design that will appeal generally, and you won’t go wrong.

Look At Your Home From The Curb

Take some time to look at your house as other people see it: from the curb. Is it inviting? Does it project a welcoming feel? You also want to look at what kind of shape it’s in:

  • Are the bushes and plants in good condition?
  • Are the garden beds neat and tidy?
  • Are the garden or retaining walls falling or degrading?
  • Are the pathways weed free and level?

Safety Is First Priority

Improvements to your front garden should be, first and foremost, safe.

For example, if your paving stones or interlocking bricks on the pathway leading to your front door weren’t expertly installed, you might find that they have moved in the freeze / thaw / freeze cycle of winter. That could cause a tripping hazard.

Garden beds could be leaking out earth or stones, such that they present a hazard too. Take a look at the space with an eye to a toddler walking up to your front door.

Tidy Is The Next Priority

A messy front yard, complete with dead annuals, leaves and debris, as well as weeds, will tell visitors—and future potential buyers—that this might just be the beginning of a messy house.

  • Do a thorough clean up of your yard to make sure that all the weeds, debris and any garbage have been removed. If you’ve got a part of your lawn that isn’t bouncing back after winter, make sure you dethatch it, aerate and either seed it with new grass seed or add fresh sod (yes, we sell sod!)
  • Deadhead your perennial plants and remove any annuals.
  • Add some Toemar mulch to your garden beds and rake stones neatly, if that’s what you have, so that any that have been disturbed by snow or animals are back in place.
  • Fix any out of place or degrading flag stones, retaining / garden walls or other placement of stones or rocks.

Upgrades That Make A Difference

If you want to go beyond tidying up to actually upgrading your curb appeal, consider these options:

Minimize your lawn with beds—if mowing isn’t your favourite activity or you struggle to maintain a healthy lawn, you can minimize your effort by adding garden beds. This is a relatively simple project that you can do yourself, although if you’re going to build out garden walls with interlocking bricks or rocks you will want to consult a landscaper.

The key is designing a bed that is eye catching but requires minimal upkeep. One option is to turn the entire bed into a rock garden, including tall grasses, which add texture, and a selection of perennial plants that suit your zone—in Mississauga, that’s 6b. If you prefer a standard garden bed, that’s great too: don’t forget the mulch!

Flagstone or natural stone creates an impressive walkway—this is an investment that will pay dividends when you eventually sell your home; it creates a beautiful finished look to the front of your home that you’ll love (you may even decide to stay put for a few years more!). Well installed flagstone won’t shift or become weedy, but it does add a lot of wow factor.

Add a lot of colour—if you’re going with garden beds and bushes, that’s great, but make sure that you add a lot of colour, with plants that bloom at different times throughout the spring, summer and fall. If you include some evergreens, your front yard will never look completely flat. Instead, your garden will be the talk of the neighbourhood!

Consider Non-Garden Related Upgrades Too

Aside from the garden itself, you can do a lot to improve appeal by doing simple projects:

  • Re-paint the front door or change the hardware;
  • Update the lighting on the porch, or include solar powered units along the walkway, lighting visitors’ path to your front door;
  • Add planters on each side of the door, for a symmetrical design that is pleasing to the eye.

When someone looks at your home from the curb, it should say to them that you care about your space. Whether you’re in the market to sell or just want to enjoy your garden without burdening yourself with too much maintenance, choose accents that make even you do a double take as you drive up!

Low Maintenance Ways To Up Your Curb Appeal

Whether you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future, or want to improve the look of your home for your own satisfaction, there are plenty of easy ways to bump up your curb appeal.

First Up: Keep It Simple

Creating overly elaborate landscaping to your front garden that will require a team of professionals to maintain isn’t going to be a great investment for you, over the long term. And if you are thinking of selling, potential buyers might be put off by a design that looks hard to maintain.

Trends in gardening change and you don’t want to be the one person in the neighbourhood with topiaries or a waterfall in the front yard when everyone else is going low key. Opt instead for a classic design that will appeal generally, and you won’t go wrong.

Look At Your Home From The Curb

Take some time to look at your house as other people see it: from the curb. Is it inviting? Does it project a welcoming feel? You also want to look at what kind of shape it’s in:

  • Are the bushes and plants in good condition?
  • Are the garden beds neat and tidy?
  • Are the garden or retaining walls falling or degrading?
  • Are the pathways weed free and level?

Safety Is First Priority

Improvements to your front garden should be, first and foremost, safe.

For example, if your paving stones or interlocking bricks on the pathway leading to your front door weren’t expertly installed, you might find that they have moved in the freeze / thaw / freeze cycle of winter. That could cause a tripping hazard.

Garden beds could be leaking out earth or stones, such that they present a hazard too. Take a look at the space with an eye to a toddler walking up to your front door.

Tidy Is The Next Priority

A messy front yard, complete with dead annuals, leaves and debris, as well as weeds, will tell visitors—and future potential buyers—that this might just be the beginning of a messy house.

  • Do a thorough clean up of your yard to make sure that all the weeds, debris and any garbage have been removed. If you’ve got a part of your lawn that isn’t bouncing back after winter, make sure you dethatch it, aerate and either seed it with new grass seed or add fresh sod (yes, we sell sod!)
  • Deadhead your perennial plants and remove any annuals.
  • Add some Toemar mulch to your garden beds and rake stones neatly, if that’s what you have, so that any that have been disturbed by snow or animals are back in place.
  • Fix any out of place or degrading flag stones, retaining / garden walls or other placement of stones or rocks.

Upgrades That Make A Difference

If you want to go beyond tidying up to actually upgrading your curb appeal, consider these options:

Minimize your lawn with beds—if mowing isn’t your favourite activity or you struggle to maintain a healthy lawn, you can minimize your effort by adding garden beds. This is a relatively simple project that you can do yourself, although if you’re going to build out garden walls with interlocking bricks or rocks you will want to consult a landscaper.

The key is designing a bed that is eye catching but requires minimal upkeep. One option is to turn the entire bed into a rock garden, including tall grasses, which add texture, and a selection of perennial plants that suit your zone—in Mississauga, that’s 6b. If you prefer a standard garden bed, that’s great too: don’t forget the mulch!

Flagstone or natural stone creates an impressive walkway—this is an investment that will pay dividends when you eventually sell your home; it creates a beautiful finished look to the front of your home that you’ll love (you may even decide to stay put for a few years more!). Well installed flagstone won’t shift or become weedy, but it does add a lot of wow factor.

Add a lot of colour—if you’re going with garden beds and bushes, that’s great, but make sure that you add a lot of colour, with plants that bloom at different times throughout the spring, summer and fall. If you include some evergreens, your front yard will never look completely flat. Instead, your garden will be the talk of the neighbourhood!

Consider Non-Garden Related Upgrades Too

Aside from the garden itself, you can do a lot to improve appeal by doing simple projects:

  • Re-paint the front door or change the hardware;
  • Update the lighting on the porch, or include solar powered units along the walkway, lighting visitors’ path to your front door;
  • Add planters on each side of the door, for a symmetrical design that is pleasing to the eye.

When someone looks at your home from the curb, it should say to them that you care about your space. Whether you’re in the market to sell or just want to enjoy your garden without burdening yourself with too much maintenance, choose accents that make even you do a double take as you drive up!