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Landscaping Materials

Landscaping Materials

Last month, we discussed gardening tools – how to select and use the right ones for your do-it-yourself landscaping needs. What we didn’t address were foundational landscaping materials – what they are, why you need them, and how and when to use them. So that’s this month’s gardening tip.

If you’re starting from scratch – creating new flowerbeds or planting new trees – then you’ll probably need to use most if not all of the materials listed below. If, on the other hand, you’re in maintenance mode, you may only need a couple materials we’ll be discussing. Regardless, we want to share the importance of each so you get the best possible results.

Soil

Soil types balanced loam sandy clay-based siltSoil is foundational to everything landscaping-related. The naturally occurring soil in your area may be clay-based. Clay holds onto water, which can promote poor drainage and lead to root rot in plants and trees.

On the other end of the spectrum, some areas have naturally silty or sandy soil. This tends to drain a little too well, making it difficult to keep plants adequately watered.

For most vegetation, loamy soil – a blend of the three soil types mentioned above – is preferred. Loam offers the best of all worlds, maintaining a more consistent moisture level over time and requiring little to moderate watering depending on weather conditions.

Struggling with your existing soil because it’s too sandy, silty, clay-based, or lacks the necessary nutrients? You can amend your soil by adding peat moss, manure, fertilizer, or compost as appropriate.

Mulch

adding mulch to flowerbed garden cedar mulchingThere are various types of mulch, including rustic options like straw, grass clippings, and shredded leaves. Some gardeners are even using newspaper as most of them are printed with neutrally-derived inks.

Pine needles can also be used as mulch and are especially effective around plants that require additional acid in soil. However, they are quite dry and small, so they’re not great at suppressing weeds and maintaining moisture.

The type of mulch that we use and recommend is made from bark. It’s an excellent choice for weed suppression and moisture retention. Above all other reasons, many people use it simply because it significantly improves the appearance of their gardens. Cedar and pine bark are excellent if you’re looking for a natural appearance. Hardwood mulch comes in various colours that you might opt for if you want to colour-match with your home’s exterior.

Stone

landscaping natural stone rocks gravel edging lawnStone has multiple applications in landscaping. Natural stone can be used with landscape fabric in place of mulch to suppress weeds and help retain moisture. Large natural rocks can be used as standalone sculptures and can even be made into water features. And of course, flat stone like flagstone is a great natural option for walkways, stairs, and patios.

Pavers are engineered stone also used for walkways, stairs, and patios. But the advantage is that pavers are easier to work with because of their consistency in thickness, size, and shape. This in addition to the variety of colour options and patterns means it gets chosen more often than flagstone.

Sand

Pavers gravel stone engineered concrete sandSand is an aggregate that’s most often used as a foundation for stone and pavers. It’s typically a combination of granular A gravel, sand or high-performance base stone.

If the aforementioned sand is at one end of the spectrum, then Polymeric Sand is at the other end. Primarily comprised of quartz silica, crystalline silica, and polymer (hence its name), Polymeric Sand is used to fill paver joints. Unlike regular sand, Polymeric Sand is activated when it comes in contact with water, providing a secure bond with pavers. It also greatly reduces weed and ant infestations.

So those are the basic landscaping materials. There are various others like soil amendments such as compost, peat moss, manure, and fertilizer. And landscape fabric can be used to keep weeds down and edging helps create clean lines between hardscaping, softscaping, and turf.

A final note about where to source your soil, sand, stone, and mulch: often times, you get what you pay for, so buy from a reputable retailer and consider these materials an investment. You don’t have to purchase the most expensive products, but you should base your decision solely on price or you might not get the best value for your money.

Contact us if you’d like to spend more time enjoying your landscaping and less time working on it.

 

 

Gardening Tools – Using the Right Ones for the Job

Gardening Tools – Using the Right Ones for the Job

Now that we’ve gotten halfway through winter and the daylight hours are increasing, our thoughts are turning to the approaching spring season. You might be starting some seedlings indoors or planning for a garden expansion or landscaping overhaul using some online planning tools.

We figure it’s never too early to share some DIY gardening tips for beginners and veterans alike.

This month, we’re focusing on gardening tools. Here are a few suggestions and tips for selecting the right tools and getting the most out of each one.

Use the Right Tools

There’s a reason we put this tip first. It’s important. Besides your hands and maybe a decent pair of gardening gloves, there are a few fundamental tools that can make quick work of most projects.

Wheelbarrow standing on a neat manicured green lawn alongside a flowerbed while planting a celosia flower garden around a house with fresh spring plantsSpade and Shovel

Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are different tools, each with its own set of unique capabilities. But both are foundational to your gardening toolbox. A spade tends to have a shorter handle and their flat blade makes them great for digging trenches, edging, and cutting into sod. A shovel has a longer handle, helping with leverage when digging holes and lifting soil. Its pointed blade helps with breaking materials apart as well.

Garden Trowel

This tool is a handheld version of a shovel, that allows gardeners to scoop and move smaller quantities of earth with more precision. Great for planting seeds, seedlings, and small plants. And great for potting and re-potting as well.

Pruning bush shrub pruners Hand Pruners or Secateurs

You’ll find that this is one tool that gets used often, spring, summer, and fall. Used for trimming soft stems and woody branches up to about a half inch thick, they’re perfect for trimming shrubs, hedges, bushes, and small trees. They also come in super handy when trimming everything back during fall clean-up.

Hoe or Cultivator

Like the garden rake, a hoe is also good for breaking up soil clumps, as well as moving and leveling it out. The smaller width and solid working surface means it can fit in tight spaces and move earth and mulch more efficiently.

Leaf and Garden Rakes

When you think of a rake, you probably think of the upside down fan-shaped leaf rake. Of course, these are a must-have for homeowners with any size of lawn. There’s just nothing that compares when trying to gather fallen leaves, sticks, and other debris on grass.

garden tools rakes trolley summer springA garden rake on the other hand, is a bit heavier and has one flat row of short steel tines. If you want to transfer, level out, and/or comb through soil, this is the device for the job. Other types of rakes include the hand rake, shrub rake, and thatch rake – all nice to have as well, but we wouldn’t consider them fundamental.

Wheelbarrow or Garden Cart

While it may take up a bit of room in your garage or shed, a wheelbarrow or garden cart is indispensable when you need to move large, heavy plants, shrubs, and materials around your yard. If you’re short on storage space, there are garden carts available that can be folded down to a fairly compact size when not in use.

Of course there are a plethora of additional and more specialized gardening tools and gadgets that are nice to have. A few we’d recommend in addition to the above tools are:

Lopper – for trimming and pruning thicker, woody branches

Edging Tool – you can edge a garden with a shovel, but this purpose-built tool does a much nicer job

Rain Gauge – such a simple tool that helps keep you from over- or under-watering

Soil Knife – has multiple purposes, from quick weeding and trimming, to cutting sod and dividing plants

Pitch Fork – great for moving mulch; like a pitch fork but with more tines that are more closely spaced

Clippers – great for shaping hedges and trimming excess growth

When you’re selecting tools, you don’t have to buy the most expensive of everything. Keep in mind though that you generally get what you pay for. So, if you don’t want to replace your tools every season, invest wisely and clean, maintain, and store them properly. Finally, it’s best to use tools for their intended purposes only to help avoid breaking them or injuring yourself.

Of course, if you find you lack the tools, time, or expertise to add landscaping or manage your existing lawn and garden, contact us to discuss how we can help.

What’s Your Landscape Design Style?

What’s Your Landscape Design Style?

Landscaping is a fantastic way to upgrade your home’s exterior. Done right, it improves curb appeal and enhances your enjoyment and the functionality of your outdoor environment.

And, like the clothing and home décor you choose, landscaping also provides an excellent opportunity to express your personal style. You may have inherited an already established landscape design when you moved into your home. Or you may have previously defaulted to a style that you thought suited your home’s exterior style.

While matching the style of your home may be a factor you want to consider, the design can be updated to better reflect your personal style as well.

If you haven’t given much thought to your landscaping style, we’ll outline the major styles, their differences, and their defining elements. When we get right down to it, there are really only two principal styles – traditional and contemporary (or “modern”) – with many substyles that can play a role in the overall design.

Traditional landscaping with native plants

An example of a traditional garden design overflowing with a mixture of native plants and flowers

Traditional Landscape Design

The traditional landscaping style tends to be associated with soft or curved lines, more rustic, textural materials in muted, mottled tones, and a balanced mixture of softscaping, hardscaping, and water elements that create a relaxed, laid back atmosphere. More often than not, traditional landscape design tends to be associated with the “informal” style. Because of its more free-flowing lines, a traditionally designed landscape can be more desirable for those wanting a lower maintenance outdoor living area.

Contemporary Landscape Design

On the other end of the spectrum, modern landscape design employs straight lines, clean edges, and sharp angles. Contemporary landscapes offer steep contrast in colour, with lots of symmetry in the shape and size of its elements. Hardscaping materials tend to be flat with a matte or polished finish. These attributes lend to what is generally considered a more “formal” style and also tend to demand more work to maintain the shapes and symmetrical appearance.

modern landscape design clean lines right angles monochromatic hardscaping retaining wall

Elements of modern landscape design – clean lines, right angles, and monochromatic colour scheme

Generally speaking, while most landscape designs may primarily be classified as traditional or modern, they really fall somewhere in between. Besides your personal style, here are many good reasons for a hybrid design, including:

  • Soil conditions and light exposure
  • How you use your yard
  • Your proclivity for garden maintenance
  • Your home’s exterior style

Substyles and Themes

If you don’t want your yard to be purely traditional or one hundred percent contemporary, below are a few substyles/themes you can work into your design.

Native

Plants and trees are indigenous to Ontario/Canada. These not only attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other native wildlife, but also tend to require less maintenance because they’re well-adapted to our climate.

Xeriscape

This type of landscaping reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering through the use of above-ground or underground water collection and circulation techniques in conjunction with more drought-tolerant plant and tree varieties.

 

asian inspired traditional landscape design natural flagstone walkway native plants and shrubs pagoda

An example of Asian-inspired traditional landscape design with flagstone walkway

Asian-Inspired

Elements can include a pergola, gate, trickling water feature, ornamental grasses, koi pond, walkway or labyrinth, and soft lighting.

English Garden

Lush green lawns with one or more sitting areas among large, colourful gardens, overflowing with flowers, plants, and trees that attract a range of pollinators.

Natural/Organic

Plants and materials are sustainably sourced and managed. Can be easily combined with Native and/or Xeriscape themes.

Rustic

Incorporates wood and natural stone into decks, patios, walkways, fencing, sheltering structures, and retaining walls.

So, what’s your landscape style? Hopefully, this guide has provided some insights. If you’re having trouble deciding, we’re just a call or email away.

Increase Curb Appeal of Your Home with Landscaping

Increase Curb Appeal of Your Home with Landscaping

Enhance the appearance and enjoyment of your home on any budget

First impressions are lasting impressions. And this is as true of your home’s appearance as it is your personal appearance. Little updates can go a long way. Of course, extensive updates can as well. Regardless of your budget, we’ve compiled some landscaping tips below that will help you put your home’s best foot forward.

Any Budget

Lawn Care
increase curb appeal lawn care edging pruning trimming weeding landscapingIf your home has a grass-dominant greenspace in front, keeping your lawn neat and tidy is a no brainer for improving and maintaining curb appeal. Keep grass cut to a consistent length, but not too short as doing so can cause undue stress and increased exposure to weeds and pests. Edging your lawn along walkways, gardens, and your driveway provide a nice, polished appearance as well.

Garden Maintenance
Eliminate dead foliage as seasons change and cut back or split any overgrown perennials. Pull weeds and apply a thick layer of mulch, which will instantly give your flowerbeds a uniform appearance. Mulch has the added benefit of helping to maintain moisture and keep weed growth down.

Pruning & Trimming
It’s hard for people to get a first impression of your home if they can’t see it. If you have large trees, trim back dead limbs and those that block the view and/or sidewalks. Shrubs against your home and along walkways should be pruned and shaped. And be sure to train any wayward vines on a trellis, pergola, or fence.

Hardscape Repair
We can’t overlook your yard’s stairs, walkways and driveways. If your stone or concrete is in a state of disrepair, it can take away from your home’s otherwise neat appearance. Eliminate weeds popping up in cracks and repair or replace broken stones or pavers. Ensure all hard elements are level and secured in place to ensure the safety of your visitors.

Moderate Budget

With a moderate budget, you can add some architectural interest to your front yard and entrance that will make it look more inviting. Here are a few ways to add warmth to your home’s façade:

Softscaping
improve curb appeal medium moderate budget window boxes stone walkway Fill in flat, exposed areas of your home’s exterior with shrubs, ornamental grasses, and small trees. This will add depth, balance, and visual interest to areas that were previously a blank canvas. Remember not to obstruct windows.

Window boxes
Adding boxes of annuals below windows allows you to add splashes of colour in the warmer months and perhaps some seasonal décor for the holidays. Ensure that box shape and size is balanced with window size and coordinated with the rest of your home’s exterior finishes.

Sitting area
Create or better define an area where you can sit and watch the world go by. A small stone patio or porch not only increases curb appeal but also creates additional outdoor lounging space. Be sure to add appropriately-sized greenery to add visual interest and a bit of privacy.

Small water feature
The appearance and sound of a bubbling rock or small fountain creates an attractive focal point for passersby and enhances your own enjoyment of a front patio or porch. Birds are also more likely to visit feeders when there is a nearby water source.

Upgraded concrete steps or walkway
Consider upgrading your standard concrete sidewalk and/or stairs with natural stone pavers. You can create a traditional or modern look to match the style of your home, and this upgrade can add significant visual impact to your front entrance.

Shade tree
While planting a tree won’t provide instant shade, over time a properly selected and placed tree will provide visual interest as it matures. Some varieties grow faster than others, so if you’re looking for quick results, consider a Birch, Ivory Silk Lilac, Crab Apple, or a smaller Maple variety like the Tartarian Maple.

Larger Budget

If you have a more significant budget for upgrading your front yard and entrance, here are some sure-fire ways to enhance curb appeal and enjoyment while adding value to your home.

Upgraded driveway
Improve curb appeal privacy of front yard retaining wall raised gardens wind screen privacy screen shrubs treesConsider replacing your asphalt driveway with a professionally-installed stamped concrete or natural paver driveway. This area of your front yard is highly visible from the street and sidewalk, so making it visually interesting not only adds curb appeal but also distinguishes your home from others in your neighbourhood.

Privacy or windscreen
Adding a row of small trees, shrubs, or natural grasses can add privacy, cut down on wind exposure, and better define your property. As an alternative, you might consider mixing well-placed fence panels with shrubbery for a balanced and visually-compelling appearance.

Pond or water feature
Many find the sights and sounds of a pond or waterfall both calming and visually appealing. Adding a water feature that is proportionate to the size of your house and yard increases the value and enjoyment of your home. Adding lighting allows you to enjoy your pond or waterfall even after the sun has gone down.

Multi-tiered gardens
If your house is tall and you’re your front yard is sloped, you might consider adding tiered flowerbeds defined and contained by natural stone retaining walls. For colour and interest throughout the year, fill your beds with a mix of shrubs, flowering trees, perennials, and annuals in a balanced mix of shapes and sizes.

Whether you’re getting your house ready to put on the market or just keeping up with the Jones down the street, there are big and small things you can do to improve your home’s appearance and value. Of course, if you’re not up to the task, we are here to help. Just contact us to get started.