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.

Precast and Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Precast and Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Retaining walls can enhance both the appearance and function of your lawn and garden.

Some DIYers may opt for wood when building a retaining wall. After all, timber and ties are easier to cut and install, and less expensive than stone options. Unfortunately, the benefits of a wood retaining wall are short-term.

precast wall stone retaining wallsEven though it may look nice at the beginning, a wood retaining wall will begin to weather after a season or two, detracting from its appearance and effectiveness. The structure will need to be treated regularly. And even with treatment, the material may need to be replaced in as little as five years. Plus, the chemicals from pressure-treated lumber leach into the soil, which is not good in general, but especially for vegetable and herb gardens.

So, while retaining walls can be made from various materials, we recommend precast or natural stone for superior looks and durability.

Why Retaining Walls

There are a few key functional and aesthetic reasons that home and business owners opt to incorporate retaining walls into their landscape design.

If soil erosion – either away from or toward a house – is an issue, a retaining wall will help diminish run-off while discouraging water from pooling around and possibly damaging your home.

precast wall stone retaining wallsIf the slope of the lot in question renders the yard otherwise tough to landscape, one or a tiered series of retaining wall(s) can help create stepped gardens that are much more amenable to hosting plants, shrubs, and trees. Or a retaining wall can convert a sloping lawn into one single level for enhanced enjoyment of your greenspace.

If there is a big difference between the level of the lot and a building’s entrance level, tiered gardens housed in retaining walls eliminate the stark contrast and drastically improve curb appeal.

Of course, retaining walls can be used strictly to enhance the appearance and enjoyment of an outdoor area. They can help frame an elevated sitting area or add privacy to a sunken or grade-level patio.

A Few Considerations When Building a Retaining Wall


Depending on the size and location of your retaining wall, you may need to submit a plan to and get a permit from your municipal building department.

paver interlocking brick retaining wallsFoundation

Retaining walls need a solid foundation or base of compacted gravel that is added to a trench which is dug down to the clay level.


Retaining walls should be constructed with the appropriate stone, and using the right techniques to avoid premature deterioration or total collapse of the structure.


The lower portion of the retaining wall’s contained area should be backfilled with drainage stone wrapped in filter cloth to prevent contamination between the soil and drainage stone. We recommend installing a drain tile so that excess water can easily drain from behind the wall.

The reason for this is two-fold. When soil gets wet, it expands and doesn’t drain well. Gravel and sand tend not to expand, minimizing the amount of lateral pressure that will be applied to a retaining wall. Gravel and sand also promote drainage, which will mitigate the risk of standing water. This is especially important if the area in question sits along a building’s foundation.

If you’re interested in adding one or more retaining walls to your landscape design, but the prospect of a DIY project seems a bit too much to handle, please contact us. We’re happy to work with you to create and install a design that makes your yard more attractive, more functional, and more enjoyable.

natural stone armour stone retaining walls
paver interlocking brick retaining walls
natural stone armour stone retaining walls
Why Fall is the Best Time to Seed or Sod Your Lawn

Why Fall is the Best Time to Seed or Sod Your Lawn

When we reach September, we tend to start thinking about putting our lawn and gardens to bed for the winter season. However, the onset of cooler nights with sunny, warm days is the perfect combination for establishing a healthy lawn. The absence of extreme heat means less demand for watering and minimal risk for seed dryout, and the overall cooler temperatures help keep weeds at bay.

Whether sodding or seeding, take advantage of late summer conditions to create a foundation of strong roots before the frost and snow set in. Here are the ins and outs of both sodding and seeding:


If you’re looking to get your lawn installed fast, then sod is your answer. Not only is installation quick, but the wait time before it’s ready to use is generally only three to four weeks.

Plus, you can cover a range of surface sizes, so while sod can handily cover a small yard, it really shines when you start with a large surface area and convert it to a lush green lawn in just a day or two.

But there are a couple caveats here. First, sodding can be labour-intensive as it requires a bit of prep and some heavy lifting during installation, so you want to make sure you have enough hands on deck to successfully complete the project.

Also, sod is considerably more expensive than seed (about 5x more expensive for the materials). So, if your priority is getting to a finished lawn quickly, sod is your answer. However, if keeping costs down is a factor, then you might opt to apply seed instead.


Starting a lawn from seed actually has a number of advantages. First and foremost, it’s a more natural process than sodding because the grass begins its life in the soil where it will live. With moderate watering, the seed germinates and takes root, ultimately creating a lush, native lawn.

Seed is pretty approachable for the average homeowner as it’s relatively easy to apply, and the tools and materials needed for the job can be found at most garden centres and home improvement stores.

Of course, the aspect of seeding that makes it a popular choice with homeowners is the price. Seeding costs only about a fifth of sodding your yard, making it a seemingly obvious choice.

However, there is a drawback of seed and that is time. From start to finish (a lawn that’s ready to be walked on), a seeding project takes considerably more time than sodding. Depending on amount of sunlight, variety(s) of grass, watering, air temperature, nutrients and grading, a seeded lawn can take up to one year to be completely ready to go, so patience is a requirement.


  1. Choose good quality sod or seed.
    1. Sod should be deep green and the accompanying roots should be moist. Laying down dry sod will result in less than ideal results, and will require a lot more watering.
    2. There are a lot of different varieties and combinations of grass seed available depending on if you are seeding a shaded area, full sun area or simply over-seeding.
  2. The ideal conditions for establishing a lawn are as follows:
    1. Level or gently-sloping ground with no significant low areas where water would puddle,
    2. Adequate water supply, either from rain and/or a sprinkler or irrigation system,
    3. At least six hours of sunlight each day for sod; seed varieties can be adapted for areas that receive less sun,
    4. Little or no walking on it, until it is established,
    5. Moderate air temperature – not too hot or too cold (high teens, low twenties),
    6. Well aerated soil with lots of nutrients and good drainage; moderate pH is good but if it’s a bit acidic, that will work well, too.


If you want a lawn established quickly and properly (and done right the first time) there’s no substitute for professional workmanship. We have a lot of experience creating and maintaining lawns. If you’d like your lawn areas to be prepared and either sodded or seeded correctly, contact us at A Touch of Dutch Landscaping about our sodding and seeding services. We guarantee our work.

How much water your grass needs

How much water your grass needs

Landscaping design companies like us install and maintain a lot of grass every season. We sod, we seed, we cut, we weed. New lawns look great – green, lush, and weed-free. But often, maintaining a healthy lawn can be trying, and one of the biggest challenges is typically adequate watering.

With heightened environmental awareness these days, homeowners tend not to be heavy-handed with watering, but many overestimate the amount of water it actually takes to keep your lawn green. Below, we’ll break down watering needs for new sod, seeded yards, and established lawns.

New Sod

For best results, water each area daily for 1 ½ – 2 hours. The second week, reduce watering to every other day, for the same length of time.

Note: Do not cut sod for at least 2 weeks after it is installed. When you first cut it, raise blade to highest position. Wait at least 3 days to cut again, this time with the blade in second-highest position. This will ensure the vaccum-like suction of the lawn mower doesn’t lift the sod before it is fully established. After another 4 days you can cut using your usual blade position.

New Seed

A newly seeded lawn requires brief watering – only 15 minutes per area – twice daily until seed has germinated. The goal is to keep the soil moist but not oversaturated, so avoid having run-off or standing water. Once seed has germinated, reduce watering to every other day, for the same length of time. If at any point, you get rainfall while seed is getting established, you can forego watering for the day and resume next day.

Note: Wait until the grass is at least four (4) inches high before cutting for the first time. Raise blade to highest position for the first cut. Wait at least 3 days to cut again, this time with the blade in second-highest position. This will ensure the vaccum-like suction of the lawn mower doesn’t lift the seed before it is fully established. After another 4 days you can cut using your usual blade position.

Established Lawn – Ongoing Watering

If you’re going to water, water regularly. If not, let your grass go dormant. Anywhere in between is not healthy for your grass as irregular watering can put stress on your lawn’s root system.

Water in the morning. The air is generally cooler and the water has just enough time to soak into the ground before the day heats up. Afternoon watering leads to evaporation, which means the water doesn’t get where it’s supposed to go, and watering in the evening generally can make grass more susceptible to fungus growth as the water sits on the blades of grass for too long.

Water just long enough for the water to soak about 2 inches (5 cm) into the ground. This will take about 2 hours of watering per area. If you do that twice a week during dry spells you should be able to keep your lawn green and healthy, while avoiding overwatering.

Many people set up a sprinkler, intending to move it or turn it off after 10 or 15 minutes, but then get preoccupied with something else, resulting in overwatering. Consider using a hose timer to avoid over-watering. A decent one will only set you back $15-$40 and can be found at most hardware stores and major gardening centres.

Following these guidelines will help you maintain a healthy, green lawn from Spring to Fall. Of course, if you have any questions, we’re just a phone call away.