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Guide to Winter Gardening In Mississauga And Beyond

Within the GTA, there are different zones for hardiness, but there’s one truth that is equal to all the areas: winter gardening isn’t easy! Snow, ice, blowing polar vortex winds… It’s not a recipe for joyful digging in the dirt.

As a result, those of you who are passionate about your gardens and landscaping may find the long months of winter hard, but there are ways you can keep going, to keep your passion alive through the deep freeze.

Did You Keep A Garden Journal?

Think of it like scrapbooking but it’s all about your garden: pictures, notes on when you planted and what, how it went, and more. As the winter weather sets in, you can sit by the fire and review your journal from the past season(s) and make some plans for next spring. If you didn’t keep a journal this year, think about it for next year and add it to your holiday wish list. Lee Valley has an excellent one!

If you took photos of your garden, think about putting them into a photobook. You can take your digital images and make a book online that will be printed, bound and shipped directly to your door. This way, you can peruse your images while you sip a hot toddy.

Order Up Seed Catalogues

Part of your planning can include some enjoyable hours poring over seed catalogues. Keeping in mind the hardiness zone in Mississauga, which is 6b, you can look through all your options for perennials, annuals, edibles and more, deciding what you want to add and when it would be best to start.

Add Some Indoor Greenery

House plants will help you forget that the snow is falling outside. You can spend your winter months babying your indoor plants. Just remember that most homes lack some humidity in the winter, so you will have to make sure your plants get plenty of water and misting.

Some lovely seasonal options are:

  • Christmas cactus
  • Poinsettias
  • Miniature evergreen

Another fun project is to create a terrarium. These tiny landscapes are fun to put together and a great project for kids too. They add a decorative focus that speaks to your green thumb, even in February. Cacti and succulents make the best choices, but you can also add rocks, moss and other features to jazz up your mini-garden.

Join A Garden Club

If you can’t garden, you can at least talk about gardening and landscaping with people who are interested in the topic as you are! Join a local garden group or horticultural society: they often use the winter months to bring in speakers on a variety of interesting topics. Don’t have one locally? Start your own!

Grow Edibles Indoors And Out, Even In January

With raised box beds that have lids, for example, you can grow veggies all year long. The key to remember is that snow is not the problem, for growing edibles in the winter: it’s ice.

For this, you’ll need to start in August / September with planting out happening before the first frost. On warmer, sunny winter days, you can open the lids of your planting boxes, so that the plants get some air and a little sunshine. When it’s cold and icy, keep them closed and protected.

What can you grow outdoors in winter?

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Leaf lettuce — spinach, mustard, arugula
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Swiss chard
  • Carrots and other root vegetables like beets

You can also continue to grow parsley and chives, and the beauty of herbs is that they will thrive indoors as well.

What can you grow indoors in winter?

Your best bet is to stick to herbs, which can flavour your cooking throughout the winter. You can start some from cuttings which will grow roots in water, like mint. Others can be grown from seeds, like basil and chervil.

Whatever you choose, just remember that the dry conditions in a centrally heated home mean that you have to pay special attention to your indoor herb garden, ensuring that they get the moisture they need.

  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Chervil
  • Basil

With all of those ideas, even the most ardent of gardeners can find something to do to keep them going through winter. What will you choose?9

5 Wonderful Ways To Beautify To Your Winter Garden

Think back to previous winters, when you looked out a window of your home, come December or January. What did you see in your winter garden?

Perhaps blankets of snow, or piles of dead leaves depending on the weather. But was there any visual appeal to your garden through the winter months?

If your answer is no, it’s time to start thinking about sprucing up your outdoor space so that it is a pleasure to behold, twelve months of the year.

Start With A Little Planning

Before winter sets in, visualize your garden as it will appear in January and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it include a variety of pathways, levels, walls?
  • Are there any eye-catching attractions non-vegetal focal points, like rocks and boulders?
  • Do you have easy to clear pathways for your pets and other people to navigate?
  • Do you have foliage that is still attractive in the winter?
  • Do you have firewood that you store year-round?

Variety For Your Garden

Being able to access the garden, even through the winter, makes the long season bearable.

Having pathways that are stable, well-built and either covered with interlocking paving stone or other stone work, can help make your garden accessible year round. After all, you need to be able to easily remove the snow from the path, to continue to enjoy it.

Adding in different levels to your garden, including a well-placed garden wall or two, provides interesting visual relief. Instead of looking out on a flat, often white space in the winter, you’ll have bushes and plants on different levels to attract the eye.

Garden walls are particularly attractive for visual interest, but you do need to make sure you build them correctly so that they don’t fall or crack under the pressure of ice and snow.

Pathways and walls need to be correctly placed and built to ensure that there is proper drainage in your garden, avoiding patches of ice forming where water can’t clear out.

If you’re not sure how to go about this, consider getting some professional help from a hardscaper.

Non-Vegetal Focal Points

Whether you like concrete statues or displays, or a more natural composition of boulders and rocks, creating non-vegetal focal points keeps your garden more interesting regardless of the weather outside.

Every rock or boulder is unique, and whether your go for one giant monolith or a grouping of smaller pieces, consider the vegetation that will grow around it to keep that natural look.

When adding rocks or boulders, you need to consider the following:

  • The size – bigger isn’t always better, depending on the look you’re trying to achieve in your garden. Good proportions are more important.
  • Placement – where you put these features in your garden is very important but they are also hard to move, so try to do some visualizing before your pieces arrive.
  • Shape and colour – if you already have rock features in your garden, any additions should blend in with them.

Prep Your Pathways

We’ve already noted that you should have pathways into your garden that are easy to clear but it’s equally important to make sure that they are in good repair.

The freeze and thaw cycles of winter can cause a lot of damage, particularly if you’ve got drainage issues, so before the winter sets in for the season, make sure your pathways are all in good repair and effectively draining.

Winter Foliage

Deciduous trees are lovely in any garden but once those leaves are gone, you’re left with little visual appeal until spring returns.

Mix in a few evergreen trees or shrubs and some ornamental cedars to keep the appeal. Just don’t overdo the evergreens as they will attract mosquitoes in the summer!

Holly and juniper bushes are also excellent options, mixed into your beds or surrounding the natural rocks.

The pops of colour from the berries are gorgeous, particularly set against the dark green of the leaves and your evergreens, as well as the snow!

Dogwood shrubs are also lovely, thanks to their signature red / burgundy bark.

Ornamental grasses are the perennial that stay the course through winter and snow, popping out to create a visual break in the landscape.

They come in many colours, which makes them a standout choice.

And if you’re thinking of adding any trees to your garden, one that looks particularly good throughout the winter, thanks to its bark, is a birch tree.

Decorate With Your Firewood

If you have the good fortune to have a wood burning stove, you can be creative with your stack by putting in a covered rack, somewhere in visual range, and stacking your wood there.

It will still be protected from the elements but will add a rustic appeal to your garden. Something straight out of Norman Rockwell painting!

However you choose to add a little something to your winter garden, the key is to create a space that you can enjoy, even from behind your living room window, as you grip a mug of hot cocoa.

Different Types Of Christmas Trees: Useful Pros, Cons, & Tips

‘Tis the season for planning Christmas and how you’ll decorate this year!

The first and most important decision you’ll make, when it comes to getting ready for the holidays, isn’t the turkey. It isn’t the presents. It’s the Christmas tree. What kind of tree should you get? How long will it last? How do you take care of it? All valid and important questions that we’ll address right here!

Fake Or Real?

The first question many people ask themselves is whether they want to bother with a real tree or if they will just get a fake one to use, year over year. Call us biased but there are a lot of reasons that a real tree beats fake every time, not the least of which is the gorgeous smell of evergreen in your home. Nothing beats it at Christmas time!

  1. Real trees—spruce, fir or pine—are sourced locally, within 5 – 25 kilometres of your home. They keep small family farms in business, which also contribute to your local economy and employ local people. Fake trees—made from PVC: polyvinyl chloride—come from overseas locations 85% of the time, to the tune of 2000+ kilometres, creating business for overseas firms, with no local employment.
  2. Real trees need sunlight and water to grow. Fake ones from countries like China need coal to be created (powering their electricity).
  3. Real trees might need some pesticides—about ¼ ounce over the lifetime of the tree. Fake trees are full of PVC related toxins, including phthalates and dioxins.
  4. Fake trees are not recyclable or biodegradable. Real trees serve the environment before and after they are cut, as well as being easily managed in terms of agricultural standards.

So, now that we’ve convinced you that real is a good option, the question is: which variety?

Spruce Trees—Pros And Cons

White Spruce

Pros are a good, uniform shape, dense branches and a gorgeous dark green colour. If you like a symmetrical, full and well balanced tree that looks good from any angle, this is a good option.

Cons are that the needles tend to be very prickly, which can be an issue if you have little ones helping with the decorating!

Fir Trees—Pros And Cons

Balsam Fir

Pros include dark green needles with an amazing fragrance, a tall, slender look with excellent needle retention. This variety is ideal if you need a tree for a smaller space and want a classic Christmas fragrance to permeate your home. Also, the needles aren’t very sharp, so decorating is easier, particularly for kids.

Cons include a shorter lifespan than some other varieties, with an outside limit of six weeks indoors.

Fraser Fir

Pros include a long life, up to eight weeks, and a beautiful scent. The needles are silvery and not as dense as some others, which makes a gorgeous backdrop for your decorations.

Cons include the lack of needle and branch density, which doesn’t give that full appearance you get with some of the other varieties, but that’s really up to personal taste. The branches are also flexible so are not ideal for heavy ornaments.

Pine Trees—Pros And Cons

Scotch Pine

Pros include vivid colours, ranging from bright green to a blue green, superior needle retention even as it dries, strong branches, and it keeps well during shipping and storage. If you use heavy decorations and HATE vacuuming needles, this is the tree for you.

Cons? There aren’t many. This is one of the most popular trees in North America for a reason! One remark people tend to make is that the needles are longer than with spruce or fir, so that can make decorations more difficult to see and arrange.

Five Tips To Keeping Your Tree Healthy

Now that you’ve chosen your tree, you’ll want to know how to keep it happy and thriving right through until New Year’s Day. These tips should help you along the way:

  1. Pick a healthy tree to begin with. At the tree lot, do a pinch test: Pick a branch of your chosen tree and place your thumb and fingers around it, about six inches in. Pull gently along the branch, towards you. If the tree is healthy and fresh, no more than 10 needs should come off in your hand.
  2. Make a cut. Give your tree a fresh cut, about an 1” above the base, to ensure that it can absorb water easily.
  3. Keep it cool. If you need to store your tree for a day or two before putting it up in the stand, make sure you choose a cool, dark place. An unheated garage is perfect. Leave it standing in a bucket of water so that it stays hydrated and cut it again before putting it in the tree stand indoors.
  4. Give it water. Make sure your tree stand can take a lot of water because your tree will need it. 4 litres is ideal. Set yourself a reminder to check the water levels and add to them regularly. Skip the chemical additives: they will only prevent your tree from getting the hydration it needs.
  5. Pick a good location. Placing the tree near heat sources, fireplaces, appliances like televisions or direct sunlight are not ideal. It will dry out more quickly.

Finally, when the holidays are over, you can dispose of your tree with curbside pickup in January, but if you miss it, just put it aside and cut it up in the spring to put out with yard waste.

Every November, Toemar receives a shipment of the healthiest and most beautiful Christmas trees in the GTA! Keep your eyes peeled; we always announce when trees are in store! We’ll help you choose the best tree for your home…

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.