10 Wonderful Ways To Create Some Backyard Privacy & Enhance the Space

Living in modern Mississauga subdivision can feel a bit like living in a fishbowl. This is doubly true if you’re in a new home with neighbours sharing a yard on every side. And while it’s nice to wave to John while you’re outside at the BBQ, sometimes it’d also be nice for John not to know the details of your dinner every night!

Urban sprawl continues unabated, and many of us live in very close quarters with our neighbours. What’s that old quote? “Good fences make good neighbours”? So said Robert Frost in his poem Mending Wall. Well, it’s true.

Creating spaces in your backyard to maintain a level of privacy is a great way to enhance the space and make it feel more friendly and inviting.  Here are 10 ways to create some backyard privacy:

1. The Obvious Choice: A Fence

A standard wood fence is a good option, particularly if the point of the fence isn’t just privacy. If you need to keep your pets and kids safe from traffic, a solid wood fence is just the ticket.

A fence need not be aesthetically unpleasing either! If your neighbours will agree, you can you can trim it with lattice across the top, or at end points, where you can add some creeping vine or other greenery that will travel along and fill in the gaps a little.

If you’re not using fencing to keep people in the yard, you don’t have to cover the full length and breadth of your yard. Instead, use panels of fencing judiciously and in places where it will provide the maximum privacy. Surround it by bushes and grasses to break it up and make it look more natural.

This is a great option if you’ve sitting on a larger track of land (lucky you!)

2. A Natural Fence Made Of Hedges

Privet and other evergreens like cedar are a great option to have year round coverage in your backyard. Running them along property lines makes a clear divider without being harsh on the eye, from a landscaping point of view.

The advantage to well planted privet is that it provides excellent coverage with a minimum of fuss and bother. You have to watch that you don’t end up with too much weed and other plants popping up under or through the hedges, but on the whole, they are hardy and useful. The downside is that unless you plant it full grown, it will take a few years before your new hedge is doing its job.

3. Trellises And Pergolas

Placing a pergola over your patio area, or a trellis in the right spot, doesn’t destroy the sightlines of your garden but can shield you from the prying eyes of the two-story house right next door. You can enjoy the breeze and sunlight while still maintaining privacy.

Adding climbing flowers or vines give a more natural feel, blending the addition into the garden more subtly.

You can also do like the Europeans and grow grape vines over the pergola. When the grapes begin to grow they hang down and the look is enchanting. Ditto for wisteria, although grapes last longer. Just be aware that, if you plant purple grapes, they will stain the deck below.

4. Put Up A Gazebo

A gazebo has a lot of advantages. It provides shade and some privacy and if you get one that actually has window netting and a door, it will be a perfect reprieve from mosquitoes in the summer!

Eating outside isn’t always pleasant, thanks to bees, mosquitoes and other flying creatures, but a gazebo can create a space that will allow you to enjoy your picnics in peace.

Why not trim one side of the gazebo with lattice to provide more privacy? Or line the entire gazebo with bug mesh, so that when Rolf comes to visit your eldest daughter in a rainstorm, they can dance and sing around the gazebo without bug bites.

5. Vertical Gardening

This is a popular idea, particularly in smaller gardens where raised vegetable beds and other planting areas are more difficult to add, and it’s a useful solution for those who love to garden, but find themselves with an urban backyard the size of a postage stamp.

Build hanging planters on a wall of rods, which you then fill with vegetables, herbs and flowers. You’ve got an instant privacy wall and more space in the garden for a patio. Win-win!

6. Multi Level Gardens

By using raised beds at different levels, you can plant taller bushes, grasses and trees at the highest levels and use retaining walls to make a natural divider. By placing these strategically behind a terrace or seating area, your privacy is ensured.

Just make sure that you consult an experience hard-scaper before doing this yourself, so that you don’t upset the elevation and disrupt run-off patterns.

7. Outdoor Curtains

Who doesn’t love this trend? Each year we see more and more front-yard patios curtained off on the sides, and it’s beautiful.

We suggest that you take the trend into the backyard too.

Whether you have a pergola or a back deck, outdoor curtains are a great way to keep the breezes flowing and prying eyes out.

Even better if they’re hung on moveable frames, so you can place them where you want them and perhaps out of the path of a strong wind. White curtains always look best and provided they are machine washable, should look great throughout the warm season.

8. Potted Gardens Around The Patio

Particularly for a large yard, it’s sometimes easier to create a space within the space and protect one small part of the garden. Place potted plants, bushes and trees around a small raised patio or terrace in one corner of the yard, so as to maximize privacy when you want to sit and read or chat with friends, without having to figure out a way to create privacy over a vast expanse.

Another great option is to add trellis panels to planters and position them strategically to ensure maximum coverage

9. Privacy Screens For Smaller Spaces

If your “garden” is more like a tiny space out the back of your house or even a balcony, you can still add planters with lattice and climbing vines to create division.

Another great option is a privacy screen. You can buy these or make one from reclaimed shutters, and it has the advantage of being moveable. When the sun turns or your neighbours come out on to their open patio, you can set it up in such a way as to give a little privacy without putting in a permanent structure.

10. Shade Trees For Larger Spaces

In larger gardens, creating privacy and shade can be accomplished by strategically planting deciduous trees. You get a natural screen protection with the leaves and branches from other multi-level homes near you. And in the winter when the leaves have all fallen, you can have streaming sunshine for your home. Planting deciduous trees is a longer term project, but well worth it in the end.

However you enjoy your garden and green spaces, a little bit of privacy can go a long way to making these places another part of our home. Places where you can entertain or just relax after a long day. Plan your garden privacy this winter so that come the spring, you’re ready to go!

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…

5 Simple Fall Landscaping Ideas For The Front Yard

Curb appeal takes on a whole new meaning in autumn with some landscaping ideas

The colours of fall make it a perfect time of year to really enhance the front of your home with landscaping.

Leverage the cooler weather, as well as the beautiful plants and flowers that bloom at this time of year, to create a visual impression.

Planning your landscaping so that you have colour and texture all year around is ideal and easy to do. Incorporating perennials, shrubbery and grasses that bloom at different times of year assures you a beautiful front yard (well, with the exception of the blanket of snow from January through March!)

If you have deciduous trees on your property, Mother Nature will help you along in terms of brilliant colours, but there’s so much you can add to improve upon her good work!

Fix The Basics

If your lawn has patches or your planting beds need weeding, turning and mulching, now is the time. The cooler weather is an ideal time to start thinking about overseeding your lawn, to fix patches. Why? Because the cooler temperatures mean less evaporation of the soil moisture.

Grass seeds will have the opportunity to germinate and build a solid root structure before the stems take over, in the spring. Use a high quality overseeding soil with your new seeds and be sure to give it all plenty of water.

Don’t forget to do plenty of raking to pull up the dead grasses and remove your leaves. Your lawn can breathe better without the extra layer, though some fallen leaf coverage can be helpful to protect plant beds from an early frost.

It’s also a good time to take a look at your hardscaping and make sure it’s all in good condition for the upcoming winter. Your walkways and retaining walls should be repaired, as ice forming in cracks can expand and create further damage.

While water features are lovely in spring and summer, it’s a good time to drain yours and prepare it for winter by covering up any pool basins, so they don’t get clogged with falling leaves and other autumn detritus.

Establish Some New Color And Texture

Your summer blooms are fading, so it’s time to add some shades of fall. In fact, autumn is an ideal time to plant perennials because, just as with the grass seed above, the warm soil and mild evaporation make ideal conditions for roots to form and take hold.

What flowers and plants will bloom through the fall, improving the look of your landscape?

  • Hostas – from vibrant blue to dark red, there are many shades to pluck up your garden.
  • Daylilies – pinks and purples to gold and yellow, you’ve many shades of the rainbow in these!
  • Daisies – who doesn’t love daisies? To quote that old goody of a movie “You’ve Got Mail”: “They’re such happy flowers.” True.
  • Peonies – usually more subtle in creams, pinks and lavenders, these flowers add a special subtlety to any landscape design.
  • Chrysanthemums – that quintessential fall flower has lovely blooms to brighten your front garden.

As for texture, there’s nothing more elegant than some beautiful ornamental grasses, waving in the autumn breeze. They can add some flourish when other plants are beginning to be cut back for the season and are hardy enough to withstand our winters.

Trees and shrubs often do very well if planted in the fall, for the same reasons as the grass seed and plants, as noted above, so if you don’t yet have any trees with leaves that change (deciduous) in the fall, now is a great time to add some to your landscape plan. Just be sure to buy a rake at the same time!

Fall is also a good time to consider adding a structure to your hardscape, whether that is an arbor or a stone retaining wall, slate stepping stones or boulders. Whatever look you’re trying to achieve in your garden, adding structure to its already good bones will improve the look immeasurably!

Let There Be Light

Another way to enhance the landscape is to add some strategic lighting. Thanks to solar powered units, you can place lighting along your walk way or throughout your gardens to highlight the hard work you’ve put into them!

Porch lighting can be so much fun if you indulge in a wrought iron sconce or perhaps a hanging lantern? Whatever you choose, lighting the front of your home really improves the welcoming look of it.

Evergreens Are Important Too

With all this talk about adding colour, don’t forget that standing evergreens add symmetry and consistency to a garden, to say nothing of year round privacy and a beautiful backdrop for your blooming autumnal plant beds. That contrast of a dark green background with flaming florals and grasses set in front? Beautiful!

Improve Your Front Entrance

In addition to the landscaping, you can add a touch of fall to your front entrance by incorporating a seasonal wreath or planters on either side of the door, filled with fall foliage, grasses, flowers and more.

The key with entrance decor is to be subtle, with a few touches rather than overflowing buckets of plants and greenery. This is definitely one of those time when less is more. There’s one exception to that rule however: if you’re big on the fall holidays like Halloween, you can add a lot of color and a whole lot of fun with pumpkins and hay bales, scarecrows and fake spiders. Just be sure to take it all down before Santa comes by on his sleigh!

Ultimately, if you have a front porch, keep the furniture out as long as you can: it’s a lovely way to spend a cool evening, with a blanket and some hot chocolate, enjoying the landscape you’ve created!

Raccoons, Rabbits And Pets In Your Garden…Oh My!

If it’s like Wild Kingdom in your garden, you can take steps to protect your green space, and the animals who use it!

A beautiful garden filled with lovely plants and flowers is basically an open invitation to the animal world to pay you a visit. That might be a daunting thought but you can create an inviting outdoor space that is safe for the animals you love and less interesting for those that you don’t.

What’s Dangerous To Your Pets

There are a variety of plants and flowers that are toxic for pets so if you plan to have them as part of your garden plan, you might want to consider keeping them in raised beds or away from bed borders, or install some cute picket or lattice fencing, to minimize the chances of your pet coming into contact with them.

Here’s a short but by no means complete list of common plants that can harm your pets:

  • Lily of the valley—they contain cardiac glycosides, which are used in human heart medication!
  • Daisey
  • Tulips
  • Holly—Christmas can be a dangerous time of year!
  • Azaleas
  • Birds of Paradise
  • Fall Crocuses—while the Spring crocus might cause an upset stomach if ingested, the Fall version is highly toxic
  • Daffodils
  • Amaryllis
  • Lavender
  • Lilies—cats are in danger with tiger, easter or day lilies, among others. Even a small amount of pollen or a petal or two can cause liver failure.

In addition to plants and flowers, there could be other things in your garden, which could harm Fido. Mulch, for example. Some types of mulch are made from cocoa bean by-products. The result is that they have a chocolate odour that attracts your pets but, as anyone with a dog knows, chocolate is toxic. Dogs don’t have the enzymes necessary in their bodies to process theobromine and caffeine, both of which are found in cocoa bean.

A good alternative mulch is hemp mulch. It’s effective as a mulch in keeping the soil moist, avoiding erosion, keeping weeds down and promoting seed germination BUT it is completely pet friendly!

Other concerns?

  • Fertilizers—any fertilizer that contains blood or bone meal can be both attractive to and dangerous for pets as the iron levels they contain, if ingested in sufficient quantities, could be harmful.
  • Pesticides—pesticides generally can be harmful but you particularly want to watch any that contain organophosphates, as many products produced for the care of roses do. Even small doses of these can seriously harm your pet.
  • Compost—yes, that earthy goodness can be dangerous if consumed by your pet directly from the compost heap or container. Why? One word: mould. As the compost breaks down, some mould does naturally develop. It will eventually break down as well but during the composting process, it can still be active and make your pet quite sick! Keep your compost area fenced off and away from your pets.

It goes without saying that if you do have chemical based products for your lawn and garden around, they need to be out of reach of not only children, but pets too!

 

Damage By Pets

The most common kind of damage in the garden caused by pets, aside from the digging of holes where you didn’t want them, is patches of burnt lawn, where the animal has urinated and the grass has died.

You can solve these in specific areas of your lawn by either seeding or sodding. How? Check out another of our posts, on this very topic!

If you’re just planning your landscaping, another way to avoid the problem is to work in more hardscaping! Yes, your doggo will love a good patch of lawn, but if you replace some of your planned lawn with stone, brick or flagstone, it’s that much less that you have to worry about patches on!

 

Damage By Other Animals

As cities expand, we humans are coming into closer contact with a wide range of wild animals and our gardens provide some great feeding grounds!

Raccoons and skunks—These are grub diggers! Your lawn might get dug up in parts as these two animals search for grubs underground. Your best bet for dealing with this issue is to minimize the grub population, utilizing a non-toxic, enviro friendly pesticide designed for that purpose! As for vegetable gardens, covers will stop most of their activities. Either cover individual plants or use netting to protect a larger grouping of plants.

Rabbits—How do you know if rabbits are eating you out of lawn and garden? Check the ends of the greenery that has been eaten. If they are neatly clipped, odds are it’s rabbits! You can also look for tell tale small round droppings. The only real solution for rabbits—and deer, if you’re farther out in the countryside—is fencing. You’ll have to dig down a few inches to avoid them going under and chicken wire won’t do the trick. You’ll need a stronger wire fencing to get the job done!

Squirrels—Squirrels LOVE to dig holes in lawns, as well as dig up and eat bulbs in flower beds. The only protection is a wire mesh cover. But here’s a tip: squirrels don’t like daffodil bulbs, so an investment in a few more of those will mean more flowers next year!

Whether your animal filled yard is by choice or by force, you can live peaceably with four legged creatures by taking the time to plan your landscape and hardscape so that everyone can enjoy the space, safely!

THE Best Homemade Pizza: Fun and Easy Tips and Recipes!

Forget what the ads say: the BEST pizza is homemade. It’s easy and healthier than the store bought alternatives, to say nothing of fun to put together as a family. The next time you’re in the mood for a pie, pull out these tips for a perfect pizza made at home!

These steps will help you avoid a soggy pizza crust covered with toppings where some are barely warm and others that are charbroiled. Read on, my foodie friend…

The Best Base You Can Manage

Just like the foundation of a house which, if badly built, will crack and break down, the foundation of a great pizza needs to be solid to achieve maximum eatability.

Ideally, whether you make your pizza dough from scratch or buy it pre-made, you want to make sure you are stretching and rolling it out at room temperature. If it was in the refrigerator, let it rest on the counter while you prep the rest of the ingredients, before attempting to roll.

When the dough has dropped its chill, you can flour your rolling surface—more is better here: you don’t want the dough to stick!

Press your dough ball flat with your knuckles from the centre out towards the edges. If it’s still too cold, it will spring back and refuse to stay flat, like an out of control cowlick, so if that happens, just let it rest a few minutes more before continuing.

Whether you use the recipe below, or a store bought dough, it’s better to stretch the dough, rather than roll it. Ideally, you will be tossing it in the air, like you’ve seen at your pizzeria so that it pulls evenly and doesn’t tear. You’ll find it easier to get the round shape, but since we all can’t toss pizza dough in the air without making a mess, a rolling pin is fine to make sure that you get a consistent ¼ inch thickness and VOILA! You’re ready for toppings!

The best ‘from scratch’ recipe is so easy, it will take less time than walking to the store to buy pre-made, though it needs to be put together the day before, so a little planning is required!

This recipe makes four balls of dough—great for making individual pizzas:

Ingredients:

3 and ¾ cups of bread or all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast

2 teaspoons of salt

1 ½ cups of water

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, blend all your dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast).
  2. Add the water to the mixture and mix, preferably with your hands.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to sit on the counter overnight, at room temperature. It will rise to more than double the initial size!
  4. Generously flour your work surface where you will be rolling out the dough and scrape it out of the bowl. Now you can divide it into four and shape each dough ball. Dust with more flour if they get tacky or sticky.
  5. You don’t need to knead this dough extensively as the gluten needed is activated by the rising process. Just get stretching!

Toppings Galore!

Here’s the fun part for the rest of the family! Quality matters when it comes to toppings. Homemade or high quality crushed tomato sauce, hand shredded cheese and anything your heart, and stomach, desires. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pre-shredded cheese but like a fine wine, the secret is in the quality of the source ingredients!

Whatever toppings you like on your pizza, just remember to spread them as evenly as possible to avoid clumps that won’t cook through properly.

Other tips?

  • Just like the pie from your favourite take out place, leave a half an inch around the edge to avoid the toppings dripping or bubbling over. Pinch it a little so that it’s raised up to create a sauce barrier!
  • Try and limit your toppings, beyond sauce and cheese, to two or three. Anything more starts to get heavy and thick and might not cook through as evenly. Simple is best!
  • Don’t forget fresh herbs! Basil is the best when handily torn up and thrown over your toppings, right after the pizza has come out of the oven. Chives give that onion-y flavour without overdoing it and are also best popped on post-bake.

Cook It Low And Hot

Whether you have a pizza stone, pan or a perforated pizza sheet, make sure you put your oven rack to the lowest level before pre-heating. This will brown the crust nicely, leaving no soggy pockets.

What you’re looking for is a flat surface to ensure that the crust cooks evenly. If you’re worried about the pizza sticking, just spread a little cornmeal on the pan or sheet before adding the rolled out crust.

The key to home cooking a pizza is high heat—as high as your oven can go! Why? The air bubbles in your pizza dough will expand when they hit the blast of heat, causing a light, soft dough on the inside, which also crisps up nicely on the outside. Win-win!

Better yet, invest in a wood burning outdoor pizza oven. These easy to assemble, and even easier to use, ovens mimic the cooking process from your favourite pizzeria, right in the comfort of your own backyard.

Invest In A Pizza Wheel

Cutting your perfectly cooked pie is in itself an artform! You don’t want your toppings to come off the crust to tear in weird ways by trying to cut your pizza with a standard knife. A super sharp pizza wheel is an inexpensive kitchen tool that you will get value back again and again.

Prepping some dough and having it at the ready means you can have homemade pizza in a flash, so say goodbye to your delivery guy and hello to easy dinners that everyone will enjoy!

Garden Walls: 4 Things You Should Know Before You Build

Also known as ‘retaining walls’, garden walls can make or break a yard – literally…

If you’re thinking about selling your house, garden and retaining walls are a great way to boost the curb appeal and value of your home.

They draw the eye into the garden and give the appearance of a major landscaping design with relatively little effort.

They can be a DIY project, for the adventurous gardener, but if a retaining wall is needed to maintain the integrity of the garden structure, it’s always wise to call in a pro (or risk disrupting the flow of runoff and flood every lawn on the block!)

Whether to boost the appeal, or to improve your garden for your own enjoyment, a garden / retaining wall might be just the addition you’ve been looking for.

What Is A Garden, Or Retaining, Wall?

A garden, or retaining wall, is a concrete or stone, for lack of a better word, wall. They are used in a variety of ways in landscaping, including creating raised beds, an elegant border, or to help with soil erosion and drainage.

While similar, a garden wall is more about creating raised beds and upping the look of the landscape , while the retaining wall is more functional, to deal with uneven ground levels and slopes.

Why Should You Have Garden Or Retaining Walls?

Walls serve a practical, as well as aesthetic purpose. A solid retaining wall is designed to hold back the pressure that the soil exerts when there are two different ground elevations in a garden.

A slope might not be what you want in the garden, so the wall acts to break up the two elevations. The stability of the soil and more elevated portion of the garden is ensured by the solid stone or concrete wall, which takes the bulk of the pressure being exerted by the soil.

Garden walls are more about design: they typically aren’t as tall and are used more to create divided garden areas and beds, rather than to deal with slopes or elevations. They can be created in curved designs, which are very elegant and can enhance your flower beds and other divided garden areas immeasurably.

Materials Used In Garden Walls

Whether you opt for stone or concrete, most walls products are mortarless these days, which makes garden walls a project that the DIY landscape gardener can undertake (with caution.)

You can also opt for a combination of concrete and stone, such as where you use natural stone for steps or for the caps / coping; you or your hardscaper can create an elegant design that will last for years.

Concrete forming technology has resulted in concrete wall products that have the look and feel of natural stone, available in a range of textures and colours.

Concrete is lighter than natural stone, making it possible to build a wall without the extensive use of machinery, though it does require a level base, which might take some effort to dig down to create, to prevent the wall from shifting down the road.

Concrete wall systems are designed for easy tongue-and-groove interlocking installation and the new designs allow you to create curves that are still smooth and consistent.

One of the biggest pluses to concrete, particularly if this your first attempt at building a wall, is that is relatively inexpensive, compared to natural stone.

Those points made, natural stone has a beauty to it that is unmatched in other products.

The stones are different shapes and sizes, so they take more creativity to fit together tightly to build the optimal wall, but the result is gorgeous. Natural stone is stronger—and consequently heavier to work with—and requires less effort during the leveling process, as most natural stones aren’t perfectly level to begin with.

You may need some machinery to bring in natural stone and it is much harder to create a curved, consistent look. But when a natural stone wall is put together, with flair and design, it’s a sight to behold!

Should You DIY Your Wall?

The short answer is: Probably not.

Building a retaining wall to deal with unequal ground levels without the help of a professional CAN be risky. You want to be sure that you aren’t interfering with run-off patterns. Drainage that isn’t planned properly could end up seeping into your—or your neighbour’s—basement, among other risks.

Like what? Foundation erosion, drowning plants and trees, wood rot on decks and other garden features, pests and so on!

Building a garden wall, which is far more about creating a design that you want for your yard, is much simpler and can be done with a little design help from your local garden centre. With it, you will soon have a new focal point in your yard and a new area to grow flowers, plants and trees.

Concrete or stone, DIY or professionally installed, consider garden or retaining walls when you’re planning your landscaping changes: they can add a real dimension of visual interest to your yard, helping it to make it an oasis for you and your family to enjoy!

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! ?

Essential Garden Tools To Create An Epic Outdoor Garden

All you need is elbow grease and a few critical garden tools to make your garden great!

The real results—and benefits—of a beautifully manicured garden stem from your exertions; the sweat of your brow, so to speak. Nonetheless, a few tools can make it a lot easier.

If you’ve been gardening for years, this is not new information, but if you’re new at it, like a young couple in your first home with a yard, you’ll want to bookmark this one and head over to Toemar soon.

Tools That Every Gardener Needs

Whether it’s a patch of green behind your house or a standard ‘city’ yard, there are certain tools that every gardener needs in their basic kit.

Trowel — This small tool is used to scoop and move earth and plants.

Spade — This shovel-like implement has a rectangular head and a sharp edge. Use it for cutting up earth, turf or digging.

Rake — At the very least, you’ll want a leaf rake but you can also consider a hand rake for when you need to work around plants that are more delicate, without damaging anything.

Hoe — This tool with a longer handle than a handheld has a thin metal blade. You use it for weeding or cutting up the earth, before planting.

Round head shovel — This is an essential tool for digging and moving materials like gravel and mulch around. Look for one with a D shaped handle, and a short enough shaft that you’ve got the leverage you need when using it.

Hose & Nozzle — Once you’ve planted your fabulous new garden or laid your grass seed or turf, you’ll need to keep it moisturized! A hose and adjustable nozzle are just the ticket to keep on top of your garden’s water needs.

Wheelbarrow — When planting, it’s a lot easier to buy loads of soil, topsoil etc., however carrying these bags is back breaking work so make sure you have a solid wheelbarrow to help with the heavy lifting.

Lawn Mower — Electric, gas or hand pushed, a lawnmower is essential for any yard space larger than a postage stamp. Keeping your grass at the right height ensures its health: That the stems get enough sun and rain, that you don’t get an influx of crab grass or weeds and generally have a healthy looking green space!

Extras?

Edge trimmer — Grass edges, around flower beds, shrubs and trees are hard to mow, so an edge trimmer (usually gas or electric) can help clean up these areas nicely.

Garden scissors — Having a pair of scissors that are exclusively kept with your garden tools makes sense and you’ll use them more often than you think: cutting herbs, removing the deadheads on perennials, cutting twine and so on.

Gardening gloves — These are a good idea of you are at all squeamish about bugs, worms or anything else that lives in the loam. A couple of other reasons for investing in a solid pair of gardening gloves is that they keep your hands safe from splinters, your nails impeccable and makes cleaning up after a long day of gardening a snap, allowing more time for sitting on the patio, with a drink and your feet up!

How To Pick Out The Right Tools

Go to the store and try them out! Okay, don’t go and dig in the garden store’s plant area, but you definitely want to handle the tools and see if they fit your hand and aren’t too heavy to use. Something might look good on a screen but when you see it in real life, you might realize that the shaft is just too long or heavy for you to handle.

Tools That Experienced Gardeners Need

Shears — Whether trimming grass around a feature, edging a garden bed, cutting back grasses or shrubbery, shears are an all around useful tool for the more careful cutting that needs to be done.

Muck Truck — Think of it as part wheelbarrow and part Tonka truck. Basically, it is a motorized wheelbarrow but with three times the capacity of the traditional kind, with an engine that can handle most uneven ground levels without losing a bit of earth, sand or gravel. It has 4 wheel drive and can go in reverse, and is equipped with a set of breaks so that it doesn’t become a runaway barrow on an incline!

Pruner — When you’re cutting branches that are less than 3/4” thick, where a saw or chainsaw is just ‘too much’, a pruner is a great way to get it done cleanly and neatly. You can also get telescopic ones with a rope action so that you can reach some branches that are high up without bothering with the ladder. If you prefer the ladder, a long handled pruner is still a good idea.

Bow rake — This is the perfect tool for leveling soil in your garden beds, spreading mulch or compost and generally keeping everything in your garden on the straight and narrow!

Is It Better To Buy Or Rent Bigger Items?

This depends entirely on the type of gardening you do. A person who does landscaping not only for themselves but for other family members or even as a volunteer for a local horticultural society might consider buying but for a one off project? Renting makes good sense. You get professional grade tools for just the amount of time you need to get the project done!

The types of tools you can rent include:

  • Compactors and hand tampers
  • Saws, including table saws
  • Stone cutters
  • Rock dolly
  • Lawn rollers
  • Muck Trucks

Taking Care Of Your Tools

Once you’ve made an investment in the necessary tools, you need to be sure to take care of them so that they’ll last you a long while. Wipe down any dirt or water off of your hand tools and store them. Ideally, long shafted shovels, hoes and rakes will be hung on the shed or garage wall, keeping the blades and tines in good shape, sharp and ready to go the next time you need them.

Make sure your mower blade is always sharp, to get optimal performance and check the tires on your wheelbarrow for proper inflation. If every tool has a place for storage, they’ll be easy to find when you just want to spend an hour doing a little weeding before you stretch out on the lounge chair and enjoy a sunny afternoon!

If you’ve rented the garden tools, then you don’t have to worry about the tools being maintained which leaves you more time to enjoy garden space you’ve so lovingly created.

Whether a newbie to the world of gardening, or an old hand, find a garden centre that you like and don’t be afraid to ask the staff questions! It’s what we’re here for!

 

 

 

 

 

Shhh: An Easy Secret To A Lush Beautiful Garden – Mulch

This secret garden ingredient will transform your lawn and garden from burnt to bountiful

A dry autumn with burnt leaves, as Mississauga experienced last year, results in drought like conditions for your garden, lawn and trees, come the following spring. So what’s a gardener to do? Mulch.

What Is Mulch?

At a most basic definition, mulch is a material that you spread over your lawn and garden to protect it from the elements.

Mulch comes in a variety of formats. Some people use their fallen leaves in the autumn, but if you want to mulch year round, in garden beds for example, you can get bark mulch, as well as mulch made from recycled wood, in different colours (red, brown and black) to suit your landscaping design. In the case of the brown mulch, it is made up of natural pine and cedar so it not only has a beautiful colour, but also a heady aroma that gardeners favour!

What Is Mulch Used For?

Mulch has a variety of important uses. It works to keep moisture and nutrients in the soil while at the same time minimizing soil erosion and preventing weeds from growing. It also breaks down over time, enriching the soil. Think of it like the layer of leaves that protect a forest floor in the wild, except your garden has a little help from you (and your local garden centre)!

The weed prevention aspect is an important one for gardeners as a little mulch can go a long way to saving your back from endless weed pulling. There’s a reason you see it in garden beds on city / municipal property. It’s good for the garden but it also saves a lot of money in toil, weeding and maintaining the beds.

In the fall, a solid layer of mulch is a blanket between your garden and the cold and snow. Roots of plants, trees and shrubbery are better protected against the elements, by maintaining a more consistent, moderate temperature below ground. Come spring, it will also prevent soil erosion from heavy rain showers and run offs.

But if it is a barrier, isn’t it preventing moisture from penetrating? The bigger issue with moisture protection is evaporation and dew is the biggest culprit. Dew is mostly created by the condensation of the moisture in the soil, as opposed to the moisture in the air being deposited on the ground. So a barrier of mulch helps to prevent dew from the soil from forming and ultimately evaporating.

If you’re looking to grow plants like tomatoes, compost is indispensable, but so is mulch. Tomatoes are prone to soil-borne diseases and mulching your plants at the right time ensures that the soil won’t splash up onto the plants, during a rainstorm, for example.

What Is The Difference Between All The Types Of Mulch?

People use all sorts of things to mulch their gardens: straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, sawdust and so on. There are merits to all of them, and some downsides to many. Straw, for example, can attract vermin and may also contain some weed seeds, which really would defeat the purpose of using it in your garden. Grass clippings are useful to mix in with mulch if they’re green because while in that stage, they contain plenty of nitrogen and other nutrients. As the grass breaks down in the soil, those nutrients will be released and be good for your beds. Wood chips and shredded bark are the ideal forms of mulch, as they don’t come with the downsides of some of the others and are not only functional but add a lot of beauty to a gardenscape.

When Should You Apply Mulch To Your Garden?

You can mulch anytime of year: many people do it to beautify their garden beds in the spring and summer, as well as to minimize weed infestations. It creates a colour infusion or a lovely base for your grasses and flowers and will enhance everything from garden beds to pool decks.

The critical time of year to mulch that you should not miss however is in the fall, where the materials provide a blanket for your garden, to safeguard it through the winter months and help the ground retain the moisture it will need to be lush and full in the spring.

Whether spring or fall, just pile the mulch at the base of trees, plants and shrubs and if you’re covering a wider area, like a garden bed, make sure that you add a substantial enough layer—two to four inches ought to do the trick—to be effective in both moisture retention and weed prevention.

Where to buy your mulch in Mississauga

The good news is that mulch is one of our biggest spring sellers so we keep tons in stock. Come by the store to place your order, or order from www.gardenbag.ca and we’ll deliver it to you along with your soil.

If you need advice on mulching, composting or other gardening and landscaping needs, let us know! We’re happy to answer questions and remember that you needn’t cart your mulch home with you in the back seat: we deliver!

4 Useful Tips for Pool Landscaping – More than just a fence

Pool Landscaping is more than just a pool and a fence!

You want the area around your pool to be clean and safe, but there’s no reason why it has to look unpleasant.

An inground pool is THE focal point in a yard, so the surrounding features should enhance it and blend beautifully.

If you’re thinking about putting in a pool this spring, think ahead not just to the pool itself but on the landscaping / hardscaping that will surround it, so that you can include it in the budget.

Consider Your Space

This is the kind of landscape project that benefits from a drawn design—so you can get a sense of scale and how the project will look when it’s completed.

  • A good design will draw from your home and the existing landscape. Do you have a preference for clean lines or are you into very ornate styles? The design style in your home should extend to the outside area, so that it creates a seamless flow.
  • Do you have colour schemes that you prefer? A lot of natural greens, browns and shades of stone? Or do you prefer strong, vibrant florals? Contrast is ideal so if you’ve got a deep blue pool, keep the stonework lighter, or vice versa.
  • The pool already requires some level of maintenance so you have to consider how much time you want to spend dealing with the landscape that surrounds it, particularly during prime swimming months. Focus on plants, trees and layouts that suit the level of time commitment you want to make.
  • Look at the grading of the ground around your pool, if it is already in place, or if you’re planning one, make sure that drainage has been factored into the design. (More on this later!)

Walkways Around The Pool

There are so many options: Cement, interlocking pavers, flagstone or stone tiling, to name a few. The pavers are a superb way to create pathways to and around the pool and a pool deck, allowing space for sunbathing or sitting poolside with a cocktail in hand. Durable and easy to install, pavers don’t require mortar, so they make an economical option too. Different colours and shapes are available, which allow you to design a pool area that matches your style.

A very popular design style is to use pavers or interlocking stone on the walkways and pool deck and then switch to natural rock and boulders, intermixed with small evergreens, tall grasses and mulch or decorative stone. It’s a clean and easy to maintain look.

Landscaping Around The Pool

If you’re planning on having trees near your pool, you need to consider those that will not have a far reaching root structure.

Look to species that will not ‘shed’ a lot of leaves and branches into the pool (and consequently, the pool filtration system!) Some people choose to have trees to create some shade for part of the day, or even as a windbreak, depending on your land’s elevation and how much wind flow your backyard is subjected to. Evergreens are a good option for both aesthetics—that oh so Canadian look and feel—and ease of maintenance.

For flowers and plants that are placed close to the pool, consider garden containers. Flower beds are lovely but unless you have set the pool on an incline and the flower beds on the downstream side, a heavy rainstorm could leave you with mud draining directly into the pool. You can, of course, line your walkways with a small edge, which will keep the flowerbeds close but still protect the pool. Make sure these drainage considerations are part of your design plan, from the beginning!

The types of trees, flowers and plants that you choose should be consistent with your hardiness zone and the look you are trying to achieve. It may be that a tropical paradise is your heart’s desire, but the reality is that you can’t plant palm trees in Mississauga. You can, however, use a textural mixture of stone, rock, garden pots, grasses and shrubbery to create a truly luxurious ambiance. Ideally, your floral landscape will consist of a variety of plants that will bloom throughout the ‘swimming season’, to ensure a pleasing aesthetic.

One advantage of adding green plants, grasses and bushes near to the pool area is that it gives the impression of the pool being an integrated, natural part of the space; more like a chlorinated (or salt water!) pond, than a pool.

Other Accessories

Lighting around the pool area, accenting certain trees, ornamental grasses or the walkway around it make all the difference come nightfall, in terms of the look of your garden. It also ensures the safety of anyone venturing out after dark.

And don’t forget the patio furniture! Because what’s a pool if you can’t luxuriate beside it on a comfortable chaise longue or under the wide shade of a beautiful umbrella?

With all these tips in mind, you can get to planning the ideal pool escape to enjoy for years to come. Got questions, call us today for some friendly landscaping advice.