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Protect Your Garden For Winter: 4 Things You Can Do Now

It’s time to protect your garden & yard ready for the winter freeze!

Do you know that old fable ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’? While the ant was busy preparing for winter, the grasshopper lazed about enjoying the last of the season’s delights.

Come the first snowfall, the ant was ready to hole up for the winter, while the grasshopper was suddenly scrambling to find food. He showed up at the ant’s door and the latter told him to hop away. It’s such a great allegory for life… and gardening!

If you get all the pre-winter tasks done now, your garden will sleep happily through the winter months and be easily restored come Spring. If you want to be a grasshopper? You will have that much more to do in the Spring before you can enjoy your outdoor space.

So what’s on the list?

 

Preparing Your Lawn

Rake and aerate—Keep raking up those leaves and any other clippings to keep your lawn exposed to light and air, which will help it stay moist and fed.

You can toss the leaves in your composter but before you do, check some for disease or pests that you might not have noticed over the summer! If you have fruit trees, make sure you gather up any fallen / rotting fruit.

Finally, if you can, aerate your lawn to increase the amount of nutrients that are flowing to the roots of your grass.

Fertilize—After you have raked and aerated, it’s a good time to fertilize your lawn. The aeration will allow the fertilizer to get down to the roots and make them stronger and better able to withstand the rigours of winter.

Pick one that is meant for Autumn use, as these contain a high amount of potassium, which makes the grass and roots more resistant to the effects of frost.

Cut—Give your lawn one last trim before the snow flies and pay special attention to corners around your home or hardscapes, or around trees. Tall grasses in these areas are prone to be areas for mice and other small rodents to build their winter homes!

Avoid cutting your lawn too short at this point—2.5 inches is ideal. The right height ensures that your grass strands stay strong and upright, allowing for airflow and moisture, two things your grass needs to avoid rot and disease building up.

Overseed—We talked about this in our August post, but it’s worth repeating: if you want a lawn come Spring that is the envy of all your neighbours, do a little overseeding in the early Autumn. Remember that you need enough time to cut the new shoots a few times before winter hits or they won’t be strong enough to survive the freeze.

Use a high quality overseed topsoil and your grass seeds will be able to build a strong root structure, giving you a strong, healthy lawn in the Spring.

 

Preparing Your Trees, Plants And Bushes

Dig—Now is the perfect time to dig up any bulbs that don’t fare well in cold, like dahlias or gladiola. You can wrap them in burlap or place them in sand and store them in a dark, dry place. Don’t forget to plant your onion and garlic bulbs, so you can start harvesting next June.

Water—Until the first freeze, keep watering your garden beds, trees and shrubs. Like with people, plants are stressed if they lack moisture. Extra water will help to nourish them well into the winter.

Cut / Remove—As the first frost approaches, it’s time to remove your dead annuals and cut back your perennials and hedges. You don’t want to leave any ‘holes’ in the latter, but they should look bare. Don’t forget to remove the clippings so that airflow isn’t blocked, which can lead to rot.

Mulch—Adding mulch to your garden beds helps to protect perennials and bulbs. The danger isn’t snow or even the cold; the danger for your garden beds is the freeze / thaw / freeze cycles.

Over winter, the mulch will decompose, adding nutrients to the soil. The key is to avoid putting too much mulch, so as to prevent plants from pushing their way out in the Spring. If you’re using leaves, for example, don’t put more than four inches of cover over your plant beds. Roses need special care: insulate them by mounding at least twenty centimetres of top soil at the base of each bush.

Protect—Tie up any young trees or shrubs with stakes and garden twine, to prevent their being damaged by high winds and wet snow or ice.

A couple of layers of burlap will do the trick with cedar trees, so they aren’t impacted by icy winds. Young trees that are less than ten centimetres in diametre, particularly fruit trees, are favoured by small rodents in the winter so protect the bark with plastic protectors, on the base of the trunk.

 

Preparing Your Water And Other Hardscape Features

Drain—It’s time to drain fountains and other water features to ensure that they don’t get damaged by fluctuating thaw / freeze temperatures. Terra cotta pots are particularly prone to cracking if they have any moisture in them during the thaw / freeze cycles, so be sure they are covered or otherwise untouched by snow and ice.

Sweep and Clean—While technically not a part of your garden, keeping your downspouts and gutters clean of leaves will prevent them from overflowing or backing up. That’s good for your house and your garden! Do you have cracks in between your paving stones? Fill them up so that they don’t fill with water, which then freezes and thaws, damaging the stones in the process. Clean up BBQs—unless you’re hardy enough to use it all winter long, it can be a happy munching space for mice and other small mammals. Clean and store outdoor furniture.

 

Preparing Your Tools

Sharpen—Sharpen all your shears and other tools; clean your digging tools and have your mower blade sharpened, if it’s not something you want to undertake yourself, before you put all your gardening tools away. Gas powered tools do best if the gas is removed or run until they are out of fuel. And a little oil goes a long way to keep tools in good condition for next Spring, ready for use.

Store—Hoses and watering cans should be drained and stored in a shed or basement. Leaving them outside could leave them open to cracking open after the first freeze, if there is still water in them. Outdoor faucets should also be drained and the water shut off from the inside.

After all that is done, you can sit back with your favourite hot drink and start planning your Spring planting and outdoor projects. It’s a great time of year to check in with your local landscaper / hardscaper to make sure that your projects are ready to start work when the ground thaws!

 

 

Autumn Gardening – 5 Awesome Tips for Planting in the Fall

While the evenings are cooler, the days are still warm, making autumn gardening a perfect time to start your winter preparations.

Traditionally Spring is seen as the optimal season for planting, but that’s really a fallacy.

Thanks to the summer warmed soil and more frequent rainfall of early fall, autumn gardening is far better for perennials and many trees and shrubs. Why? It’s easier for them to form roots with a more temperate and evenly moisturized soil.

Spring planting often leaves plants struggling for their first season as they are planted in cold soil, making rooting more difficult, while at the same time the new plants are dealing with fast growing foliage thanks to the warm air that surrounds them.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some plants and trees that you can plant when doing autumn gardening, to enjoy right away and into next season as well:

  • Hostas
  • Daisies
  • Daylilies
  • Peonies
  • Maple, spruce and pine trees—if they’re very small, don’t forget to stake them to avoid damage from the stronger fall winds.
  • Don’t forget your bulbs, like tulips, daffodils and garlic!

TIP! Fall planting is most successful if you continue watering, so that roots can develop adequately and the still warm soil will be fully moisturized, prior to the first frost. Make sure to use mulch, which will help to retain the moisture and warmth in the soil and add much needed nutrients for the rooting process that will take place over the winter.

What About Planting Seeds?

Nature knows what she is doing: seeds blow around in the autumn, end up in the soil and germinate in the spring. There are certain seeds that do very well by being planted in the fall:

  • Sweet peas
  • Pansies
  • Snapdragons… to name but a few!

Get Your Garden and Soil Ready For Winter

Late August/September is the perfect time to take care preliminary garden tasks like:

  • Adding compost to your gardens or vegetable beds, readying the soil for spring planting.
  • Covering your water features with nets to keep them leaf-free.
  • Pulling weeds—these will go to seed in the fall and you’ll have that much more to pull in the spring if you don’t do it now!
  • Adding fertilizer to your lawn.
  • Continuing to water your plants—as we noted earlier—to make sure they are hydrated right up to the first freeze.
  • Trimming back any diseased foliage to avoid a new outbreak next year. Do NOT compost the diseased clippings!
  • Pruning perennials that are now dormant—gone yellow/brown in the stems and leaves.

Sod Or Overseed Your Lawn In The Fall

Cooler air in September onwards means less evaporation and limited growth of grass stems, so the grass seeds or sod have ample time to develop a strong root structure. Next summer? Your lawn will be the envy of the neighbourhood.

Consider using a high quality weed free overseeding soil—which contain organic compost—if you are going with seeds, to ensure that there are adequate nutrients available.

Don’t Forget Your Herbs

This is a perfect time to collect all the remaining herbs in your garden to dry them out for use throughout the winter. If you’re bringing some inside for the season, September is the perfect time, before the temperature fluctuations start to damage the plants.

Remember, clay pots, in particular, don’t do well as temperatures begin to cool more – they crack in the cold.

Once the temperatures start to really dip in October, it’s time to bring them inside for the season. Even if you have plastic pots, our advice is to store them in the garage at the very least so they don’t become bleached and weathered and last a year or two longer.

The average Southern Ontario September is mild and enjoyable with cooler evenings and no mosquitoes! So get outside, start autumn gardening and enjoy the fruits of your labour now and next season. Be sure to let us know if you have any questions about fall gardening.

Winter is coming! Is Your Lawn Prepared?

Fall has arrived, which means winter can’t be far behind. Autumn is the best time to do last minute lawn preparation to ensure your lawn will be fuller and healthier in the spring. Here are some tips on fixing and preparing your yard for the winter time:

Remove leaves, rocks, and debris

Autumn-leaves-on-lawn-preaparing-lawn-in-fall
Remove dead leaves, rocks and debris. Doing this, you eliminate moss, fungus and disease which hamper strong root growth in your lawn. The autumn leaves you collect can be put to good use. Create mulch or break it down in your compost. Another good idea is to save them for spring, when brown leaves with their high carbon are hard to come across. Remember, one person’s trash can also be their treasure.

Give your lawn some breathing room

Metal-Rake-Tool-Dirt-Lawn-Core-Aeration
Using a spading fork or a core aerator, poke holes into the ground. This, helps break down thatch and allows for better irrigation and deeper grass root growth, which protects them from the cold. If you don’t own one, many companies can help you for an affordable fee. Finally, fill the holes using fine horticultural grade sand, which lets a greater amount of water and air through.

Overseeding and fertilizing make for a greener lawn next year

Growing-Lawn-Preparing-in-FallA soil test is an exact way to find out what nutrients your lawn needs. Although when one isn’t available, you can use fertilizer with a high nitrogen level to control overgrowth and low-to-moderate potassium to promote root growth. Together with overseeding, these are two steps that will make sure you will have a thicker and stronger lawn next year. This will take care of dry patches and leave no space for new weeds to grow.

Mow and Water, but just enough

Watering-Lawn-During-Fall
It’s best to water lightly allowing the lawn to be moist, but never waterlogged. As for mowing, cut enough to leave the shoots with a two to three inch length. Your clippings are strong source of nitrogen and protection, but try to limit their use for composting. A good rule of thumb is mow until you notice the rate your grass is growing has slowed.

Where’s the grub?

Grubs-eat-lawn-preparing-in-fall
It’s recommended taking care of grubs in autumn since they are small and easier to get rid of. Deal with them easily with beneficial nematodes. What are they? Microscopic organisms that quickly spread through your lawn devouring larvae and other pests. Also remember that while some pruning is necessary for some plants, others don’t need it. Regardless, you must completely remove dead branches so that pests have nowhere to run and hide during winter.

Enjoy your lawn next year!

Yard-In-Spring-Preparing-in-Fall
It might seem like hard labor at first, but the truth is once you take these steps you’re saving yourself from a lot of work next year. Remember the thicker your grass, the less room for weeds, and the healthier your yard will grow.

For more information on landscape grading and other landscaping advice, you can contact us by email or by phone and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Burn Safe: Fireplace and Chimney Important Checklist

Burn Safe: Fireplace and Chimney Checklist

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

Basic Fire Statistics in Canada

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

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

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

Your Fireplace and Chimney Basics

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

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

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

 

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

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

Winter Preparation for your Lawn is like a Massage

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

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

Lawn Tips for Winter

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

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

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

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