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Soil Types and Landscaping

Soil Types and Landscaping

Landscaping that not only is not only beautiful but healthy depends heavily on the quality of the soil that provides a landscape’s foundation. As in most places, Southwestern Ontario’s distinct regional climate and geological conditions shape the native soils. In this blog post, we will explore the connection between soil types and landscaping, delve into the characteristics of Southwestern Ontario soils, and discuss how homeowners can improve soil conditions in their own landscapes.

The Significance of Soil in Landscaping

Soil serves as the lifeblood of any garden, influencing plant health, growth, and overall ecosystem balance. Its physical, chemical, and biological properties contribute to water retention, nutrient availability, and microbial activity – all crucial factors for a flourishing landscape. Properly managed soil can enhance plant resilience, reduce erosion, and create a sustainable and visually appealing outdoor space.

Southwestern Ontario Soils

Amending soil for landscapingThe soils in Southwestern Ontario are diverse, shaped by various factors including climate, parent material, and topography. Common soil types include clay, loam, and sandy soils. Each soil type has unique characteristics that affect water retention, drainage, and nutrient availability.

Clay Soil

Clay soils are heavy and compacted, which allows them to retain water well. However, they can also result in poor drainage and aeration. To improve clay soil, adding organic matter such as compost can enhance its structure and drainage. Simply adding sand to dry soil can also improve drainage, as can adding garden lime. Clay soil comprises a significant proportion of the soils in our region.

Loam Soil

Loam soil is a well-balanced combination of sand, silt, and clay. It is ideal for gardening due to its excellent water retention and drainage properties. Regular addition of organic matter helps maintain its fertility.

Sandy Soil

Sandy soils consist of larger particles that drain quickly. However, they struggle to retain water and nutrients. Adding organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, can improve water retention and fertility.

Best Plants for Different Soil Types

Soil types and qualitySelecting the appropriate plants for your soil type is crucial for a thriving landscape in Southwestern Ontario:

Clay Soil

  • Plants that tolerate wet conditions: Redtwig dogwood, summersweet, and cardinal flower
  • Drought-tolerant options: Russian sage, yarrow, and black-eyed Susan

Loam Soil

  • Versatile options: Daylilies, coneflowers, and ornamental grasses.
  • Shade-loving plants: Hostas, astilbes, and ferns.

Sandy Soil

  • Drought-tolerant plants: Lavender, sedum, and coreopsis.
  • Acid-loving plants: Azaleas, blueberries, and rhododendrons.

Even if you have soil that is unsuitable for a particular tree or plant you desire to include in your landscape, you don’t have to give up on the idea entirely. It will require some effort to amend the soil to adequately sustain the chosen specimen.

Amending Soil Conditions

soil types and landscapingHomeowners in Southwestern Ontario can proactively improve soil conditions to meet their landscaping needs. Here are some suggestions:

Adjusting Acidity

  • Test the soil pH using a home testing kit.
  • To increase acidity, incorporate organic matter like pine needles, peat moss, or sulfur.
  • To decrease acidity, introduce lime into the soil.

Improving Drainage

  • For clay soils, add organic matter, garden lime, or sand to enhance aeration and drainage.
  • For sandy soils, mix in compost to improve water retention.
  • Consider installing raised beds or French drains in poorly draining areas.

Homeowners in Southwestern Ontario can achieve a beautiful and sustainable outdoor space by understanding the unique characteristics of their soils and implementing thoughtful improvements. By selecting appropriate plants and maintaining healthy soil conditions, they can create a vibrant and resilient garden that enhances the beauty of their homes while positively contributing to the local ecosystem.

Fragrant Trees and Shrubs for your Landscape

Fragrant Trees and Shrubs for your Landscape

When choosing trees and shrubs for your home’s landscape you most likely look for varieties that not only look good, but smell nice, too. Fortunately, there are myriad fragrant trees in shrubs for your landscape in Southwestern Ontario.

Crab apple blossoms in spring beautiful smell fragranceIn our region, the climate is perfect for many fragrant trees and shrubs that can be enjoyed throughout the year. In this blog post, we will look at some of the best trees and shrubs that are ideal for fragrance in Southwestern Ontario. Whether you are an experienced gardener or just starting, this post will help you create a beautiful, fragrant oasis in your own backyard.

Fragrant Trees

Ivory Silk Lilac

This gorgeous tree is ideal for adding a pleasant, sweet fragrance to your garden. The ivory silk lilac has creamy white blooms that fill the air with a delightful, heady perfume.

Katsura Tree

Fringe tree flowers smell sweetKatsura trees are unique deciduous trees that emit a refreshing, burnt sugar scent in the fall. They have heart-shaped leaves and attractive yellow flowers in the spring.

Fringe Tree

These beautiful trees add a unique twist of sweetness to your garden. The fringe tree is covered in white, star-shaped blooms with a sweet, citrusy fragrance that lingers in the air.

Magnolia Tree

Magnolia trees – both the Saucer and Star varieties – are renowned for their large, white flowers that emit a sweet, citrusy scent.

Crab Apple TreeFragrant Trees and Shrubs for your Landscape Ornamental cherry tree blooms smell fantastic

Crab apple trees offer a pronounced sweet scent and an attractive display of pink to white flowers in the spring.

Ornamental Cherry Tree

Ornamental cherry trees are renowned for their fragrant, Instagram-worthy pink and white blooms.

Fragrant Shrubs

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle smells sweet and attracts hummingbirds

If you’re looking for an intoxicating scent in your garden, then look no further than the honeysuckle. This shrub is best known for its fragrant, pink, white, coral, and/or yellow blossoms that burst with a sweet aroma.

Mock Orange

The Mock Orange has beautiful white blooms with a strong citrus scent that fills the air with its refreshing aroma.

Lilac

Mock Orange tree white flowers smell sweet and citrusy

The lilac is one of the quintessential fragrant garden shrubs in Southwestern Ontario. These shrubs have dark green leaves and beautiful purple or white blooms that fill the air with their sweet scent in the spring.

Peonies

Peonies are a timeless favorite for adding fragrance and beauty to any garden. These shrubs have large but delicate, fragrant flowers that come in a variety of colors including white, pink, red, and yellow.

Peonies have a lovely fragrance

Catmint

Catmint is a great option for gardeners who want to attract cats with their fragrant garden. Unlike catnip though, cats don’t generally roll in or eat catmint, so this small shrub will stay looking beautiful all season long. This herb can be invasive if left unchecked, so best to give it wide berth in a garden or plant it in a container.

Lavender

Bee balm smells wonderful and attracts pollinatorsLavender is renowned throughout the world for adding fragrance and beauty to any garden. This herb has beautiful purple blooms that fill the air with their calming scent.

Hyssop

Hyssop is a great option for adding an aromatic touch to a garden. This herb has small, bright blue flowers that fill the air with their sweet scent.

Bee Balm

Bee balm is a great option for gardeners who want to attract bees and other pollinators with their fragrant garden. This herb has shaggy, fragrant red or pink flowers that are sure to draw in your buzzing friends!

Primula

Primula flowers are fragrant and a great choice for the gardenThis herb has delicate, fragrant flowers in vibrant shades of pink, purple, and white.

These are just a few of the fragrant trees and shrubs that you can use to add a refreshing scent to your garden. Keep in mind, though, that all plants require regular watering and maintenance for optimal health. Be sure to research each type of tree or shrub before planting so you know their individual needs and can provide them with proper care. With a little bit of effort, you’ll have a beautiful, fragrant oasis right outside your door. And of course, if you’d like assistance establishing a fragrant garden that suits your style and lifestyle, contact us!

Five Ways to Attract Wildlife to Your Backyard

Five Ways to Attract Wildlife to Your Backyard

If you are looking for ways to attract wildlife to your backyard, then you have come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ll be exploring different methods for attracting and nurturing wildlife in an eco-friendly way. We will discuss how native plants can provide food and habitat, which water sources are best suited for animals, how to create safe shelters, and much more. By the end of this blog post, you’ll have all the tips and tricks required to turn your backyard into a thriving habitat for various types of animals.

Plant a variety of native plants that provide food and habitat.

attract wildlife to your backyard with native plants foxglove bees pollinatorsPlanting a variety of native plants is one of the best ways to attract wildlife to your backyard. Native plants provide food in the form of berries and nuts, as well as providing shelter and nesting materials. They also help to increase biodiversity, which helps promote healthier ecosystems for animals to thrive in. Planting native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses will create a space that allows for birds, insects, and other animals to find food and shelter from predators. Not only do these plants have benefits for wildlife but they require less maintenance than non-native plants since they are accustomed to the local soil conditions and climate.

 

Provide water sources, such as bird baths and small ponds.

Provide water source for wildlife pollinators pond waterfall bubblerProviding a source of water is essential for wildlife in your backyard. Bird baths and small ponds are excellent methods of providing a source of water. Not only do they help to attract birds and other animals, but they also give them a safe source of hydration. If you are looking to create a bird bath or pond, make sure it is shallow enough that there is no risk of drowning.Additionally, place rocks or pebbles in the water to provide areas where animals can drink safely without having to enter the water. One caveat: ensure your water source doesn’t freeze over by keeping water moving (with a bubbler or waterfall) or add a small heater to keep it usable. By adding these water sources you will be able to keep birds and other animals safe, hydrated, and happy in your backyard.

 

Keep pets indoors or away from areas of wildlife activity.

Keep pets indoors to avoid scaring off wildlife from your backyardKeeping pets indoors or away from areas of wildlife activity is an important part of protecting wildlife in your backyard. Cats and dogs may be attracted to the small animals in your yard, such as birds, rodents, or other creatures. It is best to keep these pets inside or restrain them while they are outside so they do not disturb or harm any wildlife.Additionally, make sure that any outdoor dog runs are not set up in areas where wildlife likes to rest and feed. By taking these extra steps you can ensure that both your pets and the local wildlife stay safe and happy.

 

Create a shelter for wildlife with logs, brush piles, birdhouses, and nesting boxes.

Creating a shelter for wildlife can be a great way to improve your backyard habitat. Logs, brush piles, birdhouses, and nesting boxes are all excellent places for animals to take refuge from harsh weather or predators. Logs provide shelter underneath and can also be used by birds as perching spots.Brush piles offer animals tall grasses and shrubs to hide in while keeping warm. Birdhouses and nesting boxes give birds and small animals a safe place to build their homes. All of these structures will help create an inviting environment for wildlife in your backyard.

Leave some areas of your garden undisturbed.

undisturbed flower garden hyacinth daffodils hummingbird mothProviding undisturbed areas in your garden is a great way to support local wildlife. By leaving some areas of your garden untouched, you are giving animals the chance to make their own homes without interruption from people or pets.This can take the form of wild patches of grass, untended corners of your yard, or piles of sticks and logs that provide harborage for small creatures. Even if it seems like doing nothing is best, keeping these areas free from human activity and disturbance will be beneficial to the wildlife that makes use of them.

With a few simple changes and an open mind, you can transform your backyard into a hub of biodiversity, where birds, amphibians, mammals, and insects come together to build their homes. Create shelters with logs, brush piles, birdhouses, and nesting boxes to attract wildlife to your backyard. Leave some areas of your garden undisturbed for animals to make their own homes. Once you get started on making your backyard more wildlife-friendly, there’s no telling all the types of critters that will call it home.

Improve drainage in your lawn and garden

Improve drainage in your lawn and garden

At one time or another, many homeowners will encounter issues with poor draining soil. This can lead to flooding of patios, gardens, and low-lying or high-traffic grassy areas.

Stratford and area, in particular, has predominantly clay-based soils, making drainage problematic from the outset.

But not to fear, there are various solutions – some simple, some more complex – to your drainage woes.

Improving drainage in garden flowerbed rototiller sandy soil

Improve Drainage

Gardens

Mix in compost or sand. These materials have larger particles than clay, so incorporating them into the soil will create space for drainage. Just ensure that you mix the added materials in well – ideally by rototilling – to prevent layers from forming.

Lawns

If water pools in one or more areas of your lawn, the best strategy is to add drain tile. It’s a bit laborious (and potentially something you’ll want to outsource), but will be effective in eliminating standing water from your yard.

Improving drainage in lawn with drain tile dig trench

Use a 4” perforated drain tile, either (with or without a sock) and lay it in an 8 to 10-inch deep and 12-inch wide trench in the ground. Backfill around tile with a sandy loam soil that will help facilitate drainage of excess water into the tile.

If possible, extend the tile to an area where the water can run off your property. If that’s not possible, create a 3’ x3’ x3’ pit filled with ¾ clear stone where the tile can drain into and the water can disperse into the lower soil levels.

The top 4 to 6 inches of the trench should be filled with good quality top soil to ensure some water is retained to nourish grass, preventing the lawn from drying out during dry periods.

Patios

Patio areas, especially older ones or those that were poorly constructed, may fall prey to standing water. This can make the patio unusable until the surface either drains by itself or is cleared with a broom or squeegee.

Improving drainage on patio standing water elevate patio

Standing water on stone surfaces can also lead to mossy growth, which is both slippery and unsightly. Prolonged pooling water can also negatively affect your home’s foundation and may even seep inside your basement.

The best solution to an ill-draining patio is to remove all stones and increase the level of the patio’s foundation by adding several inches of well-draining aggregate. In addition, it’s important to ensure that the patio has a slight slope away from the house, so that the water can drain freely and without risk of harming adjacent structures.

High-Traffic Areas

Some grassy areas serve as throughways (from the front to the back yard, for example). Many homeowners, especially owners of newer homes find that their side property lines shared with neighbours become tough to navigate due to standing water in wet conditions.

Improving drainage in high-traffic areas pea stone gravel pavers low maintenance walkway

With houses being built closer together these days, new home owners may also find that plants and grass grow unpredictably or inconsistently due to lack of sufficient sunlight. When you add that to the fact that side yards are generally not used or seen by many, it’s not surprising that many look to a low-maintenance option to address all of these issues at once.

The most common solution is the installation of perforated drain tile, keeping with the original slope/grade of the property (typically back-to-front). Once the drain tile is installed and the trench backfilled, the area is finished with a combination of river rock and slabs to achieve a result that is navigable, well-draining, nice-looking, and low-maintenance.

Work with Wet Conditions

Of course, instead of fighting standing water, and assuming the issue isn’t too pervasive, there is a way you can work with the situation.

Choose moisture-loving plants and trees

Add moisture tolerant perennials to wet areas cardinal flower lobelium cardinalisJust as some plants and trees flourish with more or less light than others, they all have varying tolerances of moisture. Choosing varieties that can tolerate slower-draining conditions will relieve you of what could otherwise be a ongoing battle. Ideally, you’ll still want to add some well-draining material to the soil to avoid plants having perpetually wet “feet”.

Some of these solutions are easier to implement on your own than others. If or when you reach the end of your capabilities and want the job done quickly and properly, give us a call. We regularly included drainage improvement measures in our landscaping projects and would be happy to help.

Plant Combinations

Plant Combinations

When it comes to selecting plants, shrubs and trees for your gardens, there are myriad options you can choose to add visual interest, minimize maintenance, and attract birds, bees, and other pollinators. But the real magic happens when you select plant combinations that complement one another, elevating the overall effect.

plant combinations for shade perennial shady garden hosta fernWhen you drive by a home and find yourself admiring their beautiful landscaping, it’s typically not due to an individual element in their garden, but rather the combination of plants, shrubs, and trees that work nicely together.

Regardless of whether you’re planning a formal or informal style, you can find specimens that will help you achieve the look you’re aiming for. A few things to consider:

Height

Create depth and balance by grouping elements of various heights. Taller plants/trees can be placed at the back (or middle for an island flowerbed) while shorter selections can be added at the front or around the edge.

Shape

Consider the various shapes of foliage, flowers, and overall plants. While consistent shapes throughout a design can be effective, they tend to lend a more formal appearance, so choose shapes accordingly. Also, look for options that tend to naturally hold the desired shapes to minimize the additional task of pruning.

Quantity

Design theory dictates that odd numbers are more visually appealing, so group plants, shrubs, and trees accordingly.

planting combinations shrubs tall short height sizeSeasonality

Some perennials look great in spring, summer, and fall (and even winter). Others have features that really shine for only a limited amount of time during one season, and then are rather unremarkable the rest of the year. For example, Forsythia is full of brilliant yellow blooms in the spring while the Burning Bush foliage is a brilliant red in the fall. Group elements to ensure that at least one plant or tree is always offering some visual interest.

Colour

Play around by planting different shades of the same colour. Go monochromatic by planting elements whose colours are all the same, but size and shape varies. Or select plants, shrubs, and trees whose colours are different from one another but complementary.

Hardiness

If you’re planting combinations that you want to come back year after year, ensure they’re all appropriate for your hardiness zone. Stratford and area’s hardiness zone is generally a 6. If in doubt, ask the nursery where you buy your plants.

Plant Combinations for Sun and Shade

plant combinations prairie echinacea purple coneflower rudbeckia black eyed susanSun

Coneflowers, Ornamental Grasses , Black-Eyed Susan, and Gayfeather (Liatrus) creates a low-maintenance prairie look that is colourful and showy from early summer to late fall.

Shade

Combining Hostas with Ferns and Japanese Forest Grass creates visual interest with a range of leaf sizes, textures, and colours. And Hostas provide the added bonus of white or pale purple blooms in the summer.

These are just two of many types of plant combinations you could try in your gardens. If you’re interested in adding or enhancing visual interest in your gardens but don’t want to do it yourself, contact us to discuss your landscaping goals.

Groundcover for Sun and Shade

Groundcover for Sun and Shade

groundcover to grow in sun and shade landscaping around pondGroundcover for sun and shade are plants that tend to grow low to the ground and spread. These ranging plants do double duty in your flowerbeds. With their showy foliage and/or flowers, they add visual interest. But just as importantly, if not more so, they act much like mulch, helping to suppress weeds, reduce soil erosion, and retain moisture.

What’s more, groundcovers are generally low-maintenance, so you get all the benefits mentioned above, without back-breaking work. Just ensure that you plant groundcover plants according to their light exposure requirements.

groundcover creeping phlox plant in full sunA few of the reasons you might consider planting a groundcover:

  • To cover ground where it’s extremely hot and sunny. Drought conditions can leave grass and/or plants parched. Some of the varieties listed below can better tolerate these conditions, and will look nice doing it.
  • To keep weeds down. Weeds are simply unwanted plants in your lawn and garden. If you find weeds particularly troublesome in an area of your flowerbed or lawn, consider planting groundcover appropriate for that area to keep weeds in check.
  • groundcover creeping juniper plant in full sunTo cover steeply graded areas of grass. If your yard has any sloping areas that are hard to maintain, consider replacing the grass with a ground cover to eliminate the hassle.
  • To cover shady spots where grass is sparse. Too much shade can also lead to patchy grass growth. Plant a shade-loving groundcover instead for lush, even coverage.
  • To reliably cover areas with high foot traffic. If your grass is worn in areas where there is consistent foot traffic, a robust groundcover with a creeping habit should provide better coverage.

groundcover for sun stonecrop sedumGroundcovers to plant in the sun

  • Creeping Thyme
  • Stonecrop Sedum
  • Creeping Juniper
  • Ice plant
  • Catmint
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Black-Eyed Susan

groundcover for shade sweet woodruff fernGroundcovers to plant in the shade

  • Lamium
  • Bugleweed
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • European Ginger
  • Carex/Sedge
  • Japanese Spurge
  • Periwinkle

groundcover for shade periwinkle vincaNote that some groundcovers, due to an aggressive spreading or creeping habit, can be invasive, so it’s important to take a bit of time to choose the right plants based on your goals and available space.

If you would like to incorporate groundcovers into a new or existing landscape design but aren’t up for doing it yourself, we can help you make the right choices for your needs and goals. Contact us any time.