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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!

 

 

Outdoor Projects: Hiring Qualified People Is A Must

You’re not sure whether you need a gardener or a landscaper or perhaps an arborist, for an outdoor project that you’re planning? This post will walk you through the ins and outs of each role so you can make the right choice.

In the not so distant past, if you wanted to do some work to the garden or exterior of your home that was a little bit beyond your DIY skills or just something you didn’t want to take on personally, you would call up your local ‘handyman’ contractor to take up the project. But here’s the thing: hiring a generalist for a specific project is not usually a good bet. They just don’t have the background or skills to do it right the first time. This can lead to significant downstream costs if the project needs to be repaired or re-done at a later date.

The roles of gardener, landscaper / hardscaper and arborist are actually quite different and each one is suited to very specific tasks; a well trained professional will be knowledgeable and experienced, leaving you with project results that will last. No one is an expert in everything, particularly where bylaws and regulations are concerned, so you’re always best to pick the professional, based on your needs and their training, expertise and knowledge.

What Does A Gardener Do?

A gardener is adept at planting new flowers, trees and shrubs—provided you have a plan for the design of your garden (see the landscaper role, below!)—watering, feeding, fertilizing, mulching, composting, grass cutting, hedge trimming and the like. If it involves the care and maintenance of your outdoor space, a gardener is the right person for the job. They can help you to maintain a beautiful, healthy lawn and garden throughout the seasons and prepare your garden for the winter season, including protecting sensitive plants and shrubs, raking leaves, trimming or pruning and the like.

What Does A Landscaper / Hardscaper Do?

Landscapers / hardscapers also do most gardening tasks and most landscaping companies are happy to provide you with a maintenance package for your garden, but their true talents lie in designing a garden that works for you, taking into account where you live and what plants, trees and shrubs are best suited to your climate zone, the uses of your garden, and other considerations.

If you want water features, ponds or if you have drainage issues around your home, a landscaper / hardscaper can fix these with contouring, grading and leveling of the ground and the addition of additional drainage, where necessary.

Hardscaping, which includes things like walkways, driveways, paved areas, solid water features and stairs, is done with the impermeable materials. Never hire anyone other than a qualified hardscaper to build a retaining wall or a landscaper to design the physical layout of your garden unless you really love spring floods seeping through your or your neighbour’s foundation because you’ve interrupted the run-off pattern. Without adequately planned drainage, you can find yourself with not only flooding but foundation issues, soil erosion, plant / shrub drowning, wood rot on porches and decks, pest infiltration and even sinkholes!

What Does An Arborist Do?

The technical definition is that an arborist is someone who is a professional in arboriculture: in the management and study of trees. The term trees, in this case, includes shrubs, vines and other wood perennials. An arborist is focused on individual or small groups of trees, rather than forests—which are managed through forestry and silviculture.

Arborists are knowledgeable in all things about the trees: different pests, infestations, signs of ageing and decay in a tree, best pruning methods, planting distances and so on. They should also be knowledgeable on the local bylaws in the areas within which they practice. For example, planting distances to power lines, regulations concerning the pruning or removal of trees, or the protection of trees in a construction zone. Most municipalities are very strict in the management of trees, so before you consider planting or pruning a tree on your property, make sure that your arborist is up to date on the laws.

Is There Such A Thing As An All-In One Professional?

If you’re still wondering why you wouldn’t just hire an all round landscape company to do a bit of everything or ask your arborist to trim the hedges a little while they’re dealing with an ageing tree, the reason is quite simply that it’s a waste of their time and your money. Hiring an arborist to do a little gardening is something like hiring a hazmat team to sweep your kitchen floor. A little bit of overkill, don’t you think?

In Summary:

Do you need your garden maintained, hedges trimmed, lawn fertilized, weeding and other similar tasks? You need a gardener.

Do you want a risk assessment done on a damaged / ageing tree, tree removal or the trimming of trees, including knowledge about the local bylaws on this topic? You need an arborist.

Do you want to build a retaining wall in your garden, install interlocking stone / brick, figure out drainage or ground leveling or design a garden from scratch? You need a landscaper /hardscaper.

With these roles in mind, think about the projects that you want to undertake in the next year and ask for referrals from your local garden centre and always check their references!

5 Ways You Sabotage Your Lawn and How to Fix It Now

From dog marks to grubs to fertilizer burns, it’s easy to repair a damaged lawn…

Like with most things, the best defense against a damaged lawn is prevention, but when it comes to lawn care, even the most diligent green thumb can end up with a burnt out, unattractive lawn.

These are the top 5 issues we see with damaged lawns on a regular basis:

  • Over-fertilization, resulting in burnt or bare patches
  • Urine damage from pets, also resulting in yellow, bare patches
  • Insect and critter damage
  • Weeds, including dandelions and crabgrass
  • Lack of moisture

Over-fertilization And Pet Urine Damage

This kind of damage causes patches of burnt out lawn, where the grass has died and thinned out, or bare patches where there is basically no lawn left. There are two ways to tackle the problem in the specific patches: seeding or sod.

For seeding, you need high quality topsoil and grass seed, and you need to know the kind of soil you’re working with.

Step 1: Mow the whole lawn, paying particular attention to the areas you plan to re-seed

Step 2: Rake the soil areas that you want to re-seed

Step 3: Spread the grass seed according to the package instructions and roll the area to ensure that the seeds have good contact with the soil

Step 4: Add a layer of topsoil to the areas. This will help protect the seeds from blowing away or being picked up by birds and insects, while they germinate. It also helps to retain moisture, which the seeds will also need to effectively take hold.

For sod, preparation is key.

First off, plant your sod right away.

Step 1: Rake and prepare the damaged areas, lowering them to about 10-15 cm, below your lawn grade so your new sod will be level with the rest of the lawn.

Step 2: Remove weeds and clumps of clay.

Step 3: Till and level your topsoil (your finished topsoil should be an inch below the sidewalk curb.

Step 4: Install the sod in a staggered brick pattern if covering a large area, or in patches for spot repairs. Make sure edges are snug but do not overlap.

The sod needs to be watered frequently throughout the first season, and it will take a few weeks for the roots to truly take; Be patient!

Insect damage

Damage from insects occurs in two ways: from the insects themselves and from the birds and small animals that prey on the insects. Very often, lawn damage that is due to insects isn’t immediately visible, such as when the lawn is growing in the summer, but come the following spring, the damage may be very easy to spot.

Watch out for evidence of small animals, like raccoon droppings or a proliferation of skunks or birds congregating in one area of your lawn: these are signs that you’ve got grubs or other insects infesting your lawn. If your infestation is heavy, It will be hard to miss the quantify of torn grass resulting from these critters’ nightly grub hunts. They do provide a form of free pest control, but it’s at the cost of your lawn!

Pesticide bans in Ontario have made it difficult to deal with this type of infestation so your best bet is a thick healthy lawn and the easiest way to achieve that, again, is to re-seed or sod the affected areas, as described above.

It’s important to really work the ground, removing all the old sod, and keep an eye on re-seeded areas to make sure that weeds don’t take root.

TIP! A well-watered, appropriately fertilized and overseeded lawn is less likely to have issues with grubs and insects (and weeds, for that matter) simply because they’re more robust and can withstand the insects better, from the root upwards.

Weeds be gone

Issues with weeds like dandelions and crabgrass are similar to those of insects: they’re more likely to invade less healthy and bare areas of your lawn where competition for water and nutrients is less, and again, pesticide bans have made them more difficult to manage.

A healthy lawn will block out weeds before they can gain a foothold, so really the true solution to weed problems is prevention.

Unfortunately, once you have weeks, there’s no magic cure. You simply need to pull them by hand or by raking them from the root, then fix the lawn with seed or sod. After that, you can keep them at bay with a thick, healthy and well maintained lawn.

TIP! Don’t over-mow your lawn! A good lawn mower will have adjustable cutting heights so be sure to set it at the highest level: you want to be taking off no more than a third of the grass blade, each time you mow. Too short and the weeds will have an opportunity to invade!

Lack of moisture

The single biggest threat to a healthy lawn is lack of moisture. Without it, the grass roots will be shallow and easily disturbed, to say nothing of their inability to get the available nutrients in the soil.

How can you tell if your lawn needs moisture—before it turns brown, that is? Step on it. Does the grass retain your footprints or does it bounce back? If the former, you need to water. If the latter? Good job watering!

If you have any questions about seed, sod or anything else green thumb related, pop by the store or leave us a comment, below…

The Muck Truck – Indispensable Power Tool

We’re Hiring for Spring/Summer 2016!

WE ARE HIRING!

Spring is here and summer is around the corner so we thought we get the word out that we are looking for people to come join the Toemar team starting this April till September in both part time and full time positions. If you are a hard worker, like working with people and responsible, we want to hear from you.

To APPLY for any of these positions available, please come visit us IN STORE (no phone calls and/or email) and bring your resume with you.

Here are the positions that we have available.

Customer Service Representative:

  • Strong math skills required.
  • Ability to make quick calculation of materials for customers and generating orders.
  • Responsible for general office/front desk tasks (filling invoices, answering phone calls etc..).
  • Ability to lift up to 50 lbs (if required).
  • Minimum 1 year of customer service experience.
  • Part Time/Full Time Positions available.
  • Seasonal work, up to 40+ hours per week during peak times.

 Yard Worker/Loader:

  • Ability to lift up to 100lbs.
  • Loading landscape materials into customer vehicles, making bagged products.
  • Some customer service experience is required (>1 year).
  • Part Time/Full Time Positions available.
  • Seasonal work, up to 40+ hours per week during peak times.

Truck Driver:

  • D Licence required.
  • Clean drivers abstract.
  • Strong navigation skills especially locally (Mississauga, Toronto, Brampton and Oakville).
  • Delivering landscape materials with either dump truck, bin truck or flat-bed.
  • Minimum 3 years driving experience.
  • Ability to lift up to 100 lbs.
  • Part Time/Full Time Positions available.
  • Seasonal work, up to 40+ hours per week during peak times.

Apply now by visiting us at the store.