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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.

Drought-Tolerant Perennials

Drought-Tolerant Perennials

When we’re consulting new customers about their goals for new landscaping, “low-maintenance” is typically high on their list of outcomes. One of the key traits that makes a garden low-maintenance is the ability to thrive in dry conditions. And there are plenty of drought-tolerant perennials that fit the bill.

Drier summers like the one we’re experiencing this year can put a lot of stress on plants, trees, and shrubs. This is especially true for plants that are not yet established (newly-planted) and for non-native species and varieties.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to resign yourself to rock gardens with drought-tolerant succulents. There are many beautiful perennials that can weather and even thrive in dry conditions.

Below is a selection of our favourite drought-tolerant plants and flowers suitable for Southwestern Ontario’s hardiness zone (5/6).

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Sunny Locations

drought-tolerant perennials purple coneflowersConeflowers

Also known as Echinacea, Coneflowers provide pops of (most commonly) vibrant purple with a thistle-like centre that attracts pollinators.

Perennial Grasses

Available in a wide variety of sizes and colours, ornamental grasses add a lot of texture and visual interest to a garden. Be sure to select varieties that are hardy in your zones, as some grasses will not survive our winters and so are better suited to annual planters.

drought-tolerant perennials russian sageRussian Sage

This lavender-hued beauty thrives in dry soil and offers a wispy appearance with silvery foliage that is as striking as its flowers.

Daylilies

The ubiquitous Daylily, with all of its available sizes and colours, makes a great, low-maintenance addition to gardens and fence lines.

Sedum

Also referred to as Stonecrop, sedum is a succulent whose light pink, purple, or reddish flower clusters that bloom in late summer and last into the fall. Autumn Joy is a common variety and looks great alongside ethereal grasses.

drought-tolerant perennials liatris blazing starGayfeather

Liatris spicata, commonly known as Gayfeather or Blazing Star, is a spreading, upright perennial with vibrant green foliage and spikes of purple, pink, and/or white flowers.

Yarrow

Super easy to grow, Yarrow has fern-like foliage with clusters of small, white or pale-coloured blooms. Plants can be easily split to avoid it taking over your garden.

Drought Tolerant Plants and Flowers for Shady Locations

drought-tolerant perennials sedge carexCarex/Sedge

Some varieties of Sedge do well in shady locations. The prominent, grass-like foliage is brightly-coloured and/or variegated, making it an excellent companion for flowering perennials.

Barrenwort

Also known as Longspur or Bishop’s Hat, Barrenwort produces gorgeous, orchid-like flowers on long stems and thrives in low-light areas.

drought-tolerant perennials lamiumLamium

Part of the mint family, Lamium spreads nicely to provide an interesting ground cover with mottled or variegated leaves and small, orchid-like flowers.

Bleeding Heart

Emerging in the spring, first with foliage followed by blooms, the Bleeding Heart earns its name from the heart-shaped flowers that grow along long, horizontal stems.

drought-tolerant perennials foam flowerFoamflower

Blooming in the spring, the Foamflower’s bright and sometimes variegated cut-leaf foliage yields to tall sprays of delicate flowers.

Bigroot Geranium

Unlike its upright annual cousin, the perennial Bigroot Geranium remains low and spreads to create a beautiful flowering groundcover that keeps weeds at bay.

So, there are myriad options for gardens in dry conditions. However, if you need assistance with choosing the right combinations for your gardens, contact us.

Give Annual Flowers A Second Wind

Give Annual Flowers A Second Wind

It’s late summer and for many people, that means it is time to start thinking about fall flowers. With fall just around the corner, many people start thinking about pulling out those annuals and overgrown perennials to get ready for the cooler months.

However, if your flower beds and planters are looking a bit past their prime right now, don’t write them off. Summer’s not over yet. Here are some tips on how to get your late-summer annuals back into shape so you can enjoy their blooms until the frost.

Annuals can start to get leggy this time of year with extreme heat and/or prolonged periods without adequate care. Other annuals maybe just didn’t fare well in this summer’s damp, humid conditions.

Cut annuals back to allow for new growth

Hanging Baskets of Annual Flowers

Mix of annual flowers and foliage in hanging baskets

Some annuals thrive in the dog days of summer, but if some of your blooms are looking more dead than alive, trim them back, removing all dried out stems and foliage, and cutting back the healthier looking parts by about 30-50 percent.

The heat-loving flowers will continue to thrive for the time being, but once the weather starts to cool down, the trimmed down plants will come back to life and provide another round of colour to finish out the season.

Replace flowers that can’t be brought back to life

If there’s no reviving select plants, you might consider replacing them, as annuals are generally being cleared out at nurseries so the pricing will be favourable. If you have a lot of affected flowers in pots and beds, consider only replacing those in high-visibility areas, and simply remove others and add to yard waste.

Replace annual flowers with a fall favourite

Chrysanthemums mums fall flowers perennial annual plants

Mums offer beautiful late-summer colour and will come back every year when planted.

Mums are starting to appear in nurseries across Southwestern Ontario right now. They’re typically positioned as an annual. But Chrysanthemums planted in the ground, given sufficient time to get established, and mulched well before the snow flies will generally tolerate our winters, coming back year after year. And they’re available in a wide range of beautiful colours, making them a fantastic candidate to replace or compliment annual blooms.

Create balance

Annuals are ideally used to provide bursts of colour in planters and flowerbeds throughout the summer. Be sure to balance the lively hues of annuals with dependable, low-maintenance perennials that provide ever-evolving visual interest from spring to fall.

Annual flowers zinnias mixed with shrubs boxwood perennials day lilies

Annual flowers mixed with shrubs and perennials for evolving visual interest.

You’ll still be able to find many perennials at nurseries at this time of year. Opt for native, non-invasive species, which are adapted to our climate. Not only do they typically require less maintenance than their more exotic counterparts, but they also can provide food and habitat for pollinators – birds, bees, and butterflies.

If you’re relying too heavily on annuals to provide colour and visual interest around your home, or if you’re ready for a landscaping makeover, contact us anytime. We’d love to help you create a plan that better suits your lifestyle, needs, and budget.

 

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

With the current circumstances – stay-at-home orders and a crazy local housing market – many homeowners are opting to invest in their homes. Money that would otherwise be spent on travel, entertainment, consumer goods, etc. is directed instead to home improvement.

Done right, this can potentially increase a home’s value. However, the value of your home isn’t just about what you can get for it when you sell, but also the enjoyment you get out of it while you live there. So, let’s discuss a few ways to enhance both your quality of life and the monetary value of your home.

Curb Appeal

improve curb appeal to increase the value of your homeIf you search online for ways to increase a home’s value, one method that almost invariably tops the list is to increase your home’s curb appeal. After all, the front of your home provides the first impression for potential buyers, whether they’re passing by or viewing your home online.

Improving curb appeal doesn’t have to be complicated. The most important thing to do is keep things tidy by weeding, edging, and mulching your flowerbeds, pruning your trees and shrubs when appropriate, and aerating, fertilizing, and dethatching your lawn.

Minimal Maintenance

Low maintenance perennials with mulch and stone walkwayIf you’re looking to upgrade your home’s exterior – front, sides, or back – consider updates that will enhance livability, functionality, and practicality. Not only will this maximize your enjoyment, but when it comes time to sell, potential buyers will be able to see themselves relaxing in, rather than working on, the yard and gardens.

One way to add low-maintenance beauty to your landscape, is to include native varieties among the trees, shrubs and plants you choose. Native Ontario plant species are well-acclimated to our conditions, so require very little extra care over that which Mother Nature provides. Native species also attract native birds and smaller pollinators, which is an added bonus.

Hardscaping

Hardscaping stone patio and surrounding flowerbeds improve outdoor living area and add valueWalkways, patios, and retaining walls are gratifying additions to a home’s exterior. In keeping with the theme of minimal maintenance, though – a focus of almost every one of our customers – we recommend being mindful of the materials you use.

Wood decking has historically been inexpensive but does have a limited life span and also can require quite a bit of maintenance to keep it looking good and hazard-free. Poured smooth, brushed, or stamped concrete can make a great patio or walkway, but durability can be an issue and maintenance is required in the form of cleaning and sealing.

For optimal durability and ease of maintenance, precast or natural stone pavers are ideal. The range of colours, textures, and styles is virtually limitless and a stone patio or walkway can be straight/square or round/curvy, so you can be sure to find the right look to complement your home’s exterior.

And if you like the look of stone, smaller-sized decorative stone like river rock, lava rock, quartz, peastone, granite, and dolomite can be used in lieu of mulch in flowerbeds, in between large pavers in walkways and patios, and in and around water features.

Visual Impact

Visual impact adds value to your home lush gardens around poolPlants, trees, and shrubs can be used to camouflage imperfections, add privacy, and enhance the existing beauty around your home’s exterior and yard. For example, an exposed foundation can make a home appear old and unkempt. But, planting a balanced selection of plants and shrubs appropriate for the location’s sun exposure can add depth and colour, providing a welcome distraction from your foundation’s drab, grey expanse.

Exposure to winds or neighbouring properties can make backyard living less enjoyable than it should be. Planting a row of trees, shrubs, or ornamental grass can add shelter and/or privacy. Consider mixing shrubs or grasses with fence panels for increased visual interest.

Serenity

Water feature bubbling rock serene serenity peaceful atmosphereAdd unique atmosphere to your outdoor living areas, walkways, and/or front entrance with lighting and water. Ponds, streams, waterfalls, fountains, and bubbling rocks add an audio-visual element that has a universally relaxing effect. And including lighting along walkways, trees, water features, pools, and patios enhances outdoor safety and enjoyment after the sun goes down.

There are a multitude of ways to improve your landscaping for added quality of life and value. Starting with a plan can help you get focused and establish a budget. If you’re planning some upgrades this year, but don’t want to go it alone, we’re here to help. Drop us a note to let us know what your goals are and we’ll help you get there.

Spring Cleaning for Your Lawn & Garden

Spring Cleaning for Your Lawn & Garden

Finally, after another long winter, Spring is here. Although the weather in Southwestern Ontario can still be unpredictable, the overall warmer temperatures and increased daylight hours are waking our lawns and gardens up.

Before we get too far into the growing season though, you might like to take care of a bit of cleaning and maintenance. Last year, Johan walked through some basic landscaping and maintenance tips that help get and keep your grass, trees, and flowerbeds in optimal condition right through the to fall.

Edging Your Flowerbeds

In this episode, Johan discusses when, why and how to edge around your softscaping and hardscaping.

Dethatching Your Lawn

Johan discusses what thatch is and when you need to take action. You’ll also learn how to use grass clippings.

Mulching Your Gardens

In the second episode of this series, Johan discusses using mulch to help retain moisture and minimize weeds. 

Pruning Your Trees

Johan discusses when and how to prune to promote and preserve the health of your trees and shrubs.

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.