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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.

The Calming Effects Of Kitchen Gardening

During WWII, governments the world over were encouraging their citizens to plant “victory gardens”.

In Canada, these were vegetable gardens that citizens planted to help supplement their food resources.

But beyond the practical effects of providing additional nutrition, victory gardens were useful in helping people cope with the realities of war.

Today, we’re in a new war against the novel coronavirus so this is a great time to look for ways to help yourself and your family cope with the new normal. Gardening is a perfect outlet for that.

Depending on where you live, it may still be little too early in the season to be turning the soil outside, as you may disturb hibernating bees and butterflies, (which you’ll need if your garden is going to thrive), but there’s nothing wrong with getting your garden going indoors.

April / May is the perfect time to start with seeds for many vegetable options.

Working With Seeds

Growing veggies from seeds isn’t hard, but it does require a few essentials.

While many garden centres are closed during the pandemic, others have curbside pick up of your order available, so give them a call to see what you can get.

  • Use potting mix that is meant for vegetable seed gardening—it’s going to drain well and be more lightweight, so the seeds can sprout easily.
  • Vegetable seeds. More below on what vegetables should work well.
  • A container for starting them. If you don’t have a seed tray, an empty egg carton will help. Just make sure you have a plastic tray underneath it, to contain excess water! You’ll also need something to cover them with, to retain humidity, in the early days of their growth.
  • Once they’ve started sprouting, seedlings need light: a windowsill that gets a lot of sun, or even lights from bulbs will make all the difference.

Once you have your essentials, you can get started:

  1. Fill your seed trays with the potting mix and water it well before even adding your seeds. You’ll want the mix to be thoroughly soaked but you don’t want to add seeds into the wet soil. Let the water drain through the mix before sowing your seeds.
  2. Every vegetable will have different instructions, so make sure you read the packet before you start sowing.
  3. Sprinkle seeds with about a half to full inch between each one and then cover them with another layer of potting mix.
  4. Cover them with a plastic cover—standard kitchen wrap will work—until they germinate and don’t place them in harsh, direct sunlight just yet. You don’t want to fry them with a hot, direct heat source! The cover will keep them warm and humid, with water dripping down to feed back into the tray: it’s self-watering at its best!
  5. When they’ve begun to sprout (or germinate, for the technical term), you can take the cover off and move them into a sunny spot.
  6. For watering, the key is consistency. You don’t want them to dry out or to drown! Even, consistent watering is best.
  7. You’ll also need to fertilize the soil, if your potting mix didn’t already come with slow release chemical fertilizers. Read the directions carefully however because over fertilizing can burn the very tender root structure that is forming.

Once you’ve planted your seeds, make sure you label the containers with both the date you planted them and what they are.

Different veggies require different amounts of water and light, per the packet instructions mentioned above.

Most seedlings take about 6 weeks to grow to a point where they can be potted into larger containers where you add veggie soil.

They will need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day to keep growing successfully, once potted out, so consider that a window sill might not do the trick after a while.

Whether you transplant them to a garden plot or to larger containers, just remember that you need good drainage to ensure your plants get the nutrients they need without rotting.

If you are using containers, size matters. You can use large trays that are only inches deep for things like lettuce because you’ll cultivate them quickly and before they are very large. Crops like beans and cucumbers, however, need to be able to build a solid root system and have a structure to be able to support them as they begin to climb upwards.

Obviously, crops that grow underground, like carrots, need a certain amount of depth of soil as well.

Before you move your seedlings outside, they need to be hardened. Basically, this involves slowly taking your seedlings outdoors to get them used to the light, wind and rain before you transplant them into a garden bed or large containers outside. Take them outside for the day, and bring them back in at night for several days, eventually stretching that out to all day and night until you can get them transplanted.

If the sun is direct, you might want to give them some partial shade during the hottest part of the day, while they are still very young.

Ambient temperature matters too.

While hardier crops like chard, lettuce and spinach can thrive even if the temperature is around 15 degrees, warm weather veggies like tomatoes and peppers need consistent temperatures of 20 degrees, so consider that when you are thinking of moving your seedlings outdoors.

Vegetables That Grow Well From Seeds

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it does give you an idea of what you can get going on right now, so you can be transplanting when the weather is more consistently warmer, in May and June:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Lettuce, as well as other leafy greens like Swiss chard and spinach
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Of course, you can’t forget all the wonderful herbs that you can grow indoors year round, if you want to: basil, coriander, parsley and rosemary are easy to grow and will add so much flavour to your cooking.

Enjoying a delicious dinner with your family can be a bright spot in an otherwise difficult time.

How To Blend Edible Landscaping With Ornamentals

Unlike formal gardens, which usually separate those areas where they grow edibles, blending edible plants with your ornamental landscaping can be not only aesthetically pleasing but actually good for your flowers and food!

Referred to as ‘foodscaping’ by some (yes, we are serious!), the idea of mixing edibles and ornamentals was not ‘always’ considered ‘acceptable’ by horticulturalists. But we at Toemar take a different approach to things, and we believe that the idea of mixing edibles and ornamentals, given the tiny size of many Mississauga backyards, is a good and necessary thing.

The Practical Advantage Of Mixing Edibles And Ornamentals

First, and most importantly, the big advantage is that pollinators love gardens with mixed plantings.

If you’re interested in maintaining a garden to support healthy habitats for food supply pollinators (fancy term for ‘bees’), mixing your edibles and flowers is a great idea.

Pollinators—again, ‘bees’—will go from your rose bushes to your chives and to other herbs quite happily, and spread pollen and nectar from and to both.

If you grow your edibles with your ornamentals, instead of growing them separately, there is an even greater chance of bringing in those pollinators to your food garden. This is a WIN for everyone.

Having different flowers mixed in with edibles will help to attract insects that help to protect edible plants, and they can also distract other insects, like aphids, from attacking your edibles (if you have an apartment garden close to tree tops, you’ll know what we’re talking about!)

It’s one of the reasons that you’ll see rose bushes at the end of rows at a vineyard: The roses attract aphids more than the vines, and the bushes also serve as early warning signs for problems like rot and mildew, as they’ll suffer from those ailments before the vines suffer them.

With the variation on what’s available for those pollinators, they’ll stick around or visit again and again, as there’s value in cross pollination with different types of plants.

This will enhance the growth of your entire garden to a greater degree, which is ideal if you want to have greens and herbs, tomatoes and veggies, throughout the growing season.

The Aesthetic Advantage Of Mixing Edibles And Ornamentals

In addition to improving the pollination of your various plants by maintaining a healthy habitat for pollinators, mixing your edibles with your other flowers, grasses and vines provide texture to balance your garden.

Instead of having rows of edibles, all neat and tidy, mix them in with your annuals and perennials for a look that changes with the seasons.

After all, you probably don’t need a tractor to get through your rows of beans, so there is no technical reason not to mix things up a little.

If you’re partial to protected rows for your edibles, you can also go half-way and do a little of both. Sow some rows, then mix in your florals to add visual distinction to your vegetable patches.

The point in foodscaping is to grow edibles in a more natural and visually pleasing design, giving those who look at your landscape (including YOU!) a reason to linger.

After all, they might not notice the squash vine right away, nestled in near your favourite perennial blooms, but a second glance will have them counting your bright, showy  gourds blossoms.

Choosing the right combinations of colours will enhance your garden: from the blue-purple of lavender and violets to orange pumpkins and red peppers and tomatoes, there’s no lack of colour choices in the edibles to make your ornamentals pop even more. Rainbow swiss chard, anyone?

The Best Of Both Worlds: Edible Flowers

There’s nothing more attractive in a summer salad or frozen into ice cubes for summer sippables than edible flowers.

Zinnias, for example, are an excellent edible flower that come in a range of colours and can be mixed in with other edibles, to create a beautiful visual in your garden.

Your  handy list of edible flowers include:

  • Nasturtiums
  • Pansies
  • Chive blossoms
  • Violets
  • Elderflower
  • Marigold
  • Snapdragon

Gardening Basics When Mixing Edibles With Ornamentals

Most edibles require lots of sunshine to grow successfully, so you need to consider that when choosing with which plants to mix them. An excess of shade from trees or bushes will not yield a good crop, plus they also need nutrient rich soil, so fertilizing those areas is important, as is plenty of water.

One way to encourage growth in a partially shaded garden bed is to keep edibles to the outer edges of the beds where there is more sun, and it’s easier to water them.

Alternate between medium-high grasses and edibles, leaving the centre of the bed for bushy florals and climbing vines. You could also alternate with different herbs in a repeating pattern, creating an edge to your flower bed.

Another option is to plant your edibles in pots and then place them in amongst your flowers, keeping some distinction between them, while getting the benefits of a beautiful and bountiful mixed arrangement.

Consider also the height of your edibles, when deciding where to place them. Climbing beans or peas will be taller and should be mixed in with other tall ornamentals that like sun, like sunflowers. Mid-range edibles like peppers and tomatoes mix in well with lavender. Low plants like squash are nice in the front of a bed, intermingled with smaller florals, like Pansies and Sweet Williams.

Edible perennials are a good bet, to avoid replanting every year. Varieties include:

  • Asparagus
  • Chives
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Currants
  • Lavender
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Rosemary
  • Strawberries
  • Rhubarb

Whatever combination of edibles and ornamentals you plant this spring, do a little planning to ensure that the edible plants get the soil, water and sun that they need without compromising the flowers and grasses that make a garden beautiful.

Do you have a beautiful Mississauga garden that you’d like to share? Share a pic on our Facebook page! We’d love to see it!

A Surefire Way To Growing Vegetables In Your Garden

The secret to growing vegetables is in the soil.

Like an epic wine that takes its flavour from the land where the grape is grown, vegetables are also effected by the soil.

The taste of vegetables can be impacted by the soil, and the quality of soil that you use. The idea that ‘locally-grown’ produce taste better is not just a happy notion to make people feel good: it’s a reality.

Since you can’t get more local than your own backyard, create an environment where your vegetables—and plants, shrubs and flowers—can not only grow, but thrive!

About That Mississauga Soil In Your Backyard…

Fact: The natural soil types found in the Mississauga area aren’t necessarily conducive to that perfect vegetable garden. Most of the area is comprised of three soil compositions, two of which are heavy in clay: heavy clay and coarse clay. These can be difficult to plant in, being too heavy or too compact.

The rich, organic soil of the Holland Marsh, on the other hand, where a full 55% of Ontario’s produce is grown, is fertile and primed for growing produce including carrots, onions, parsnip, potatoes, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers and more!

While you might not want to move to the Marsh, you can bring soil that is native to that area to your home, to enhance your vegetable (and flower / shrub) beds.

Three Types Of Soil For Your Garden

Vegetable soil—This should be a combination of peat loam, compost and manure, as it is at Holland Marsh. A fertile organic soil will be ‘active’, in that it will contain organic matter that will help keep moisture in and keep the soil alive with organisms, bacterias and fungi… all the things that make the soil diverse, and which then produce a tasty vegetable.

Overseeding soil—A combination of peat loam and compost, this is a weed free soil that is meant to be combined with grass seed, to promote grass growth.

TopsoilA filler type soil that is best used for filling uneven ground areas, creating raised beds and landscapes, and as a base for fresh sod. It’s also good for planting shrubs and trees.

When To Plant

Every spring, the question arises: when is it okay to start working the soil and begin planting? Ignoring for the moment the question of air temperature, the issue for soil is moisture.

If you start to work the soil too early, it will be too wet and dense from thawing and snowmelt, as well as spring rains, and will clump. Those clumps don’t break down later into the smaller, loose dirt particles that you need to create air pockets in the ground for plant roots to thrive in. If your soil is clumping, it’s too soon.

You can test your soil to see if it’s ready to start being tilled and worked: take a baseball size amount of soil that you think is relatively dry and squeeze it until it compacts into an actual ball shape. Then drop the ball from about table height. If it crumbles into loose soil, your soil is dry enough to begin your spring digging. If it breaks into large pieces or not at all, it’s still too wet.

Preparing Your Soil

Once you’ve determined that your soil is dry enough to begin digging, you need to clear the vegetable beds of any debris that accumulated over the winter: twigs, rocks, etc…

Then you can start working your soil, which means turning it over and digging down, at least 10 to 12 inches. Vegetable plants root fairly deeply. This is the point where you want to add your vegetable soil and work it through the soil in the bed. Particularly in the Mississauga area, where clay is a major composite of standard soil, adding clay-free vegetable soil will aerate the existing earth and create the air pockets your plants will need to germinate. The active, organic composition of the veggie soil will also help to retain necessary moisture and nutrients.

Creating New Beds?

If you’re new to vegetable gardening or creating new beds for the season, you can start off on the right foot (or bed!) by making sure that you plan for the best outcome!

Positioning—Many vegetable plants, including tomatoes, need a lot of sunlight to grow and to keep disease at bay, so placing your beds in relatively sunny, well drained areas of your garden is ideal.

Sizing—Make sure that your vegetable beds are big enough to leave space between your plants. Too close together and they will suffocate, get overly humid and be prone to more disease. You might also find one creating shade over another and stunting the growth.

The right foundation for any vegetable bed is going to be, first and foremost, the soil. The right base will retain an appropriate amount of moisture while still creating those all-important air pockets for roots to germinate and take, and will supply nutrients to the seedlings that your veggies need. Start with the right base, and you’ll find it easier to grow a steady supply of succulent vegetables, all season long.

To find out more about soil types, or to purchase soil, visit us at www.gardenbag.ca. If you live in Mississauga, we’ll deliver your soil for free! ?

Soil Preparation for Planting

As our spring days become warmer and warmer, now is the time to think about soil preparation for your garden. So before you get out there and start shoveling or tilling the soil consider the following when you should start “working” the soil.

Too Early

Clumps. That is what happens when you start to work the soil too early. When the ground is still saturated with water from melting snow or spring rain, turning the soil over will give clumps that will be difficult to break down at a later time. Wet soil doesn’t break up into loose and fine particles of dirt that create miniscule air pockets perfect for plant roots to grow in.

Dried Yet?

You can get a moisture reader which is expensive, but the surefire way is a much simpler and you’ll know whether or not the soil has dried out enough to be worked on. Grab a handful of soil (the size of a baseball) and squeeze the soil together until it forms a ball. If the dirt can be crumbled by pressing your fingers together or dropping it from table height, then you’ve got soil that is dry enough to start digging. If the ball of dirt maintains it shape or breaks into solid sections rather than loose soil, there is still too much water in the dirt.

Mississauga Soil

Approximately 60% of Mississauga’s soil being clay, here are some pointers that will help you understand the soil in your yard:

  • Heavy clay soil – At 75% to 100% moisture, the clay soil is too wet, it is dark in color and feels slick when rubbed between thumb and forefinger. The soil will be completely pliable and you can draw with it. A ball will form moisture content is less than 50%.
  • Coarse clay soil – This soil is more of a sandy loam or silt loam. At 50% moisture, you can probably form a ball and will tend to crumble. At 75% to 100% moisture 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 form but shatter easily.

The “RIGHT” soil

Having the right soil can greatly affect the quality of your plants. Soil composition should be balanced, well-drained, fertile and with a pH (acidity level) between 6 and 7.  If the soil is too acidic, add some lime. 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 decomposed manure or compost to help improve soil structure and composition while providing the nutrients required by the plants.

Image sources:https://www.flickr.com/photos/scrap_pile/

Vegetable Soil Mix – Get your garden growing

With all the rainy and cloudy days, it has been a challenge to grow vegetables and flowers into the luscious green foilage that we are used to. One of the things that we can do to prepare for sunnier days is to have the right type of soil and nutrients in the ground that our plants and vegetables to draw from.

Introducing Veggie Soil

Veggie Soil or vegetable soil mix from Toemar is a clay free mixture product containing peat loam, sandy loam, compost and manure. This premium soil blend is a fertile organic soil which is native to the Holland Marsh area. It is an excellent product if you are looking to apply it to a new or existing vegetable or flower garden bed or looking to repair your lawn with grass seeds.

About Holland Marsh

Holland Marsh is approximately located north of Toronto, Ontario and is commonly referred to as Ontario’s
vegetable patch’ because of its incredible variety and copious amounts of fresh produce.

The Holland Marsh is a community of approximately 100 farms on 7,000 acres of low-lying land that
contains some of the richest farmland in the province, with another 2,500 surrounding acres
also being recognized by growers as prime agricultural land. It is the largest and most productive
marsh because of the canal drainage system and exposed organic soil which products nearly 60% of Ontario’s
carrots and 55% of its onions, along with a number of traditional crops such as celery, lettuce,
potatoes, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, cucumbers and commercial
flowers to more diverse options like Chinese broccoli, Asian radish and water spinach.

Getting started

If you still have questions about the veggie soil, please feel free to contact us and/or visit our location and we will be more than happy to answer your questions about our veggie soil or any other soil that we carry such as topsoil, cattle manure, sheep manure, 3-way mix, and peat moss.