Four Easy Maintenance Plants for Your Landscaping

landscaping plantsMaybe you’re a beginner or maybe you’re just tired of spending so much time pruning, weeding and fertilizing to allow for a short, but underwhelming bloom of flowers in your garden.  Everyone loves the colour and scents of beautiful flowers, but not everyone is willing to put in the time and effort to grow some of the more finicky varieties.  But there’s a solution for that.  In this article we list four easy maintenance plants for your landscaping which will allow you to enjoy some beautiful flowers without having to do too much extra work.

Bluebells

Bluebells have great looking flowers and their bulbs are truly hardy and self-propagating.  They have a tendency to quickly spread and take over their immediate area, so they’re good for either very large or very small spaces.  If you have a field that needs some cover or a small border that’s looking lonely, bluebells are a good way to brighten them up.

Peonies

Peonies boast 3 foot tall stalks that will reliably produce large, colourful blooms every spring with very little maintenance.  The North American native varieties will grow in even some of the harshest climates, so there’s no worry about losing them to a late frost or a dry summer.  If you want reliable blossoms for years to come, invest in some peony plants.

Daffodils

Daffodils are a much loved plant because their bright yellow flowers are one of the first signs of spring.  They also deter destructive rodents such as mice and moles.  It may take some time to plant a garden bed full of daffodil bulbs, but once established they’ll come back year after year and proliferate on their own.  

Echinacea

Commonly known as coneflowers, echinacea is a herbaceous perennial that produces long lasting flowers of bright pinks and purples.  They’re very hardy, resistant to drought and native to North America which makes them quite easy to grow in Canada.  This is the plant that was long ago used by First Nations people as a folk medicine.  Modern herbal supplements using echinacea claim its use can help prevent colds and coughs, although the scientific literature on that is mixed.  Regardless of its medicinal uses, it’s a nice looking flower and great for landscaping.

What do Interlocking Pavers Do?

interlocking paversInterlocking pavers are a common substitute for poured concrete or asphalt when laying down driveways and sidewalks.  Composed of many separate stones that are laid down in uniform patterns and held in place by a binding medium such as sand, driveways and sidewalks made of interlocking pavers are much stronger than those made of poured concrete.  This is due to the composition of each individual paver as well as their intertwining connections to each other.  If you’re asking the question, “What do interlocking pavers do? or why you should consider them over poured concrete, check out this list.

Durability

As mentioned in the introduction, interlocking pavers have a much higher degree of durability when compared with poured concrete.  The spaces between each paver are key to the strength of the area overall.  Pavers are not set into a solid foundation such as mortar.  Instead they’re placed in sand or another fine material that allows for slight movements.  These minute movements allow the pavers to expand and contract in heat and cold without cracking.  It’s also these spaces between each paver that allows heavy weight to be distributed evenly across the surface without putting undue pressure on any one spot.

Repairs

If a poured concrete pad gets cracked, eventually you’ll have to replace the entire pad.  When a paver stone becomes cracked, it’s easy to replace the paver that’s cracked.  This negates the need to replace the entire surface.  It’s simply a matter of removing the damaged paver and replacing it with a new one.   

Aesthetics

Interlocking pavers can be laid out in any number of creative ways.  This allows the design of the sidewalk or driveway to be limited only by the imagination.  Interlocking pavers come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and colours, something that can’t be said for poured concrete or asphalt.

Permeability

Because of the spaces between interlocking pavers, they create a permeable surface that allows water to seep through and be absorbed into the ground.  This reduces the runoff associated with flat tops composed of poured concrete and asphalt.  

 

How to Prepare Your Landscaping for Spring

4 eco-friendly landscaping trendsWhether you’re an experienced gardener or simply a backyard enthusiast, spring is a season known for both anticipation and action.  As the cold ground begins to thaw, thoughts can turn to planting, pruning and an eventual harvest.  To help outdoor enthusiasts of all experience levels we’ve created a list of how to prepare your landscaping for spring.

General Clean Up

The best way to kick off the new season is with a round of spring cleaning.  Go around your property and clean up any debris such as dead and fallen branches, leaves or garbage that has drifted into your yard.  Now is also a good time to inspect your gardening tools to make sure they’re in good repair and ready to be put to work.  A general clean up will allow you to properly tackle the coming year.

Pruning

The spring is the best time to prune trees, hedges and shrubs as they’re still dormant.  It’ll also be easier to attack rogue tree branches as they won’t yet be covered in leaves.  Start by getting rid of any diseased limbs followed by unnatural looking branches.  Using the plant’s natural lines as a guide, get it into a pleasant looking shape.  As the weather warms, things will eventually grow back and fill out.

Mulching

Mulching serves several different purposes.  First of all it makes the bases of trees look much neater.  Mulch also helps the ground retain moisture while reducing runoff.  It stunts the growth of weeds while slowly releasing a consistent supply of organic matter into the soil.  If there’s still mulch from the previous year it’s a good idea to replace it completely.

Fertilizing

Spring is also the ideal time to fertilize your lawn and garden beds.  If possible, do it just before or after a light rain.  If your lawn is prone to weeds, this is also a good time to apply any herbicide that you typically use.  Just be careful about its application around flower or vegetable beds.  If you’re seeding your lawn you should hold off on any herbicide use until well after the seed has properly taken.

Four Water Saving Irrigation Tips

water savingKeeping your plants alive requires water. But the amount of water you use is something you can and should control. As we come to realize how precious a resource water is, conserving water while still allowing our landscapes to flourish becomes a balancing act. However, utilizing a few simple tips can make a drastic difference in the amount of water you use to keep your backyard looking lush and verdant. In this article we provide four water saving irrigation tips.

Apply Mulch

Mulch actually provides several benefits – water conservation simply being one of them. Laying down mulch around the bases of trees and over gardening beds not only reduces moisture evaporation, it prevents weed growth and soil erosion while providing a slow, but consistent source of organic material for the soil.

Reduce Runoff

Water that flows away from your landscaping is not only wasted, it can also be a source of pollution for the waterways that it ends up in. Reducing the amount of runoff on your property will save water, money and the environment. Be conscientious in where you set down your sprinklers. Watering the pavement isn’t helping anything. Utilize rain barrels to capture water from your gutters and drainpipes. Set down grass and plants rather than concrete and pavement. How you layout your property can play a large role in retaining water and getting the most use out of it.

Maintain Irrigation Systems

Leaky hoses, taps and other parts of your irrigation system can be a source of significant water loss. Keeping your irrigation systems properly maintained will ensure the water you’re using is getting put to good use and not being unintentionally wasted. Keep a constant eye on your watering system and keep it in good repair.

Utilize Smart Tech

Farmers are far ahead of the game when it comes to using smart technology to monitor their water use. This technology is now becoming more readily available to the average homeowner. You can now employ smartphone apps to measure the ideal amount of water necessary to keep your landscape healthy. Combined with rain sensors, today’s smart tech allows you to optimize your water use.

Top Landscaping Tips To Hide Pool Equipment

pool equipmentSwimming pools have always played a large role in beautifying a property.  Having the sun shine off a body of clear blue water will brighten up anybody’s backyard – as well as attitude.  Infinity pools have since come along to maximize the view your property overlooks. But when it comes to the machinery that allows your pool to operate, beauty isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  And although you can enclose this equipment in a shed or pool house, yet another backyard structure just takes away from any sense of natural charm. But there is another option. And that’s using a greener approach.  For some examples, here are some top landscaping tips to hide pool equipment.

Ornamental Grass

There are several types of ornamental grasses that grow tall enough and thick enough to provide both a visual and aural screen for your water pump and filtration system.  Combined with a small fence to separate the foliage from the machinery, ornamental grasses can provide a calming visual barrier while also cutting down on the amount of noise that reaches the rest of the property.  Maiden grasses, zebra grasses and switch grasses are all examples of species that grow tall, thick and quickly enough to provide a decent screen for your pool gear.

Shrubs And Bushes

Shrubs and bushes can create a low maintenance barrier that looks great while reducing visual and auditory pollution.  And although they might take too long to grow from scratch, installing full grown specimens will afford you an instant partition.  Evergreen species will ensure your pool equipment remains out of sight all year round while adding to the natural verdancy of your backyard.

Earthen Berms

Surrounding your pool equipment with an earthen embankment or creating or using a natural depression in the ground will not only hide the machinery from sight, but it will dampen the sound generated by the motors.  Constructing or using existing hills and valleys on your property can be a great way to create more pleasant lines that are as functional as they are visually appealing. Consider bringing in a load of dirt or sculpting the natural contours of your property to create an enclosure for your pool gear.

 

What is Urban Gardening?

fall shrubsWhen most people think of gardening and food production, they think of large farms with wide open fields.  However, a lot more food and greenery is now being grown in urban centres. And as more people move into cities, this practice is likely to increase.  So what is urban gardening? In this article we go over the definition of urban gardening, its history and the benefits that it creates.

 

What Is Urban Gardening?

 

Urban gardening is basically any type of tended plant growth that takes place in a city environment.  There’s no single approach that defines urban gardening, but rather there are a seemingly endless array of techniques that encourage the growth of plants, foliage and food in urban centres.  Urban gardening can be undertaken by individuals, communities, businesses or governments. It can take the form of backyard vegetable patches, rentable gardening allotments, planting on vacant land and roofs or community, business or government directed cultivation projects.  The common factor is that these activities take place within the urban environment.

 

Urban Gardening History

 

Urban gardening is, by no means, a modern phenomenon.  It was thought to be first practiced in Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago where small garden plots were kept inside the walls of the city.  The ancient Egyptians grew fruit and nut trees in urban environments for shade and the food they produced. The Aztecs were also known to create garden beds with irrigation systems within the urban environment.  Allotments, or community gardens became popular in late 19th century Germany as a place to introduce greenery into the city and benefit from the food that was grown. Similar types of rentable garden patches were introduced as an antidote to oppressive urban environments during the Industrial Revolution in England.  During the two world wars, many countries developed “war” or “Victory” gardens where citizens were encouraged to grow food to supplement the war effort.

 

Benefits Of Urban Gardening

 

One of the main benefits of urban gardening is the greening of the city and creating larger recreational areas.  Not only does the greenery create a more pleasing environment, it helps boost its quality by reducing water runoff, soil erosion and carbon dioxide levels while increasing oxygen production, cooling the air and filtering rainwater.  Urban gardening can provide easier access to quality produce for city dwellers while reducing the environmental costs of transporting food from farther away.  

 

Top Four Landscaping Tips to Avoid

landscaping mistakes Nobody said that landscaping is an easy job.  If they did, they were either lying or didn’t know what they were talking about.  That’s why there are so many professional companies that will take care of it for you.  But if you’re an adventurous DIY type, landscaping can be a very pleasurable and creative process.  To help you get the best results, we’ve come up with a list of the top four landscaping tips to avoid.

Cutting Your Lawn Too Short

Mowing the lawn is an ongoing task throughout the growing season.  To cut back on the amount of effort you might think it’s a good idea to cut it as short as possible.  But this can allow diseases to take over or kill the grass altogether. How short is too short will depend on the type of grass you have, so it makes good sense to put in a bit of research to find the ideal clearance for your lawn mower blades.

Not Understanding Your Plantings

Having a full understanding of the life cycles of the plants you introduce to your yard is incredibly important.  What might seem like a cute little tree could grow into a behemoth in a relatively short period of time. This could spell disaster for your house foundation, your neighbour’s property or the scenic view out back.  Knowing what to expect over the lifetime of your plantings will ensure your landscaping efforts don’t come back to cause you future grief.

Neglecting Your Hedges

Keeping your hedges neat and trimmed will ensure they look good while providing decent cover, shading and property delineation.  But neglecting them will lead to hedges that grow out of control, develop weakly and sparsely in the middle and become hard to get back into a proper shape.  Try to trim your hedges so they’re wider at the bottom and thinner at the top as this will allow sunlight to equally reach all the branches.

Allowing Your Trees To Become Girdled

Girdling of a tree is when something is wrapped tightly around the bark and cuts off the flow of nutrients.  That something could be a twist tie or cable that wasn’t removed when the tree was young, or it could be other plants, such as vines, that make their living by choking off trees.  Make sure to remove any inhibiting girdles or you may find your tree literally being choked to death.

 

The Pros and Cons of Concrete Pavers

Concrete pavers can be used in almost any area that requires a smooth, flat surface.  For this reason they’re often found in driveways, sidewalks, garden pathways, patios, around swimming pools and more.  But because there are more ways to create these kinds of surfaces than concrete pavers alone, there can be drawbacks to using them as well.  To help explain the pros and cons of concrete pavers, we’ve come up with this helpful article.

Pros

Strength

Concrete pavers can actually be stronger than poured concrete which can make them ideal for surfaces that have to bear a lot of weight, such as driveways.  Because the weight is distributed across several different sections at once, concrete pavers can withstand a greater load than a singular concrete pad.

Instantaneous Use

Poured concrete pads require curing before they can be used.  Depending on the size of the pad, this can take as long as a full month.  Concrete pavers, however, can bear a full load immediately after their installation.

Repair

If some of your concrete pavers crack or get damaged, it’s easy enough to simply replace the broken pieces.  If a concrete pad becomes cracked you’re going to need to replace the entire thing if you want it properly repaired.

Cons

Movement

Concrete pavers can be susceptible to movement.  Often this is caused by freezing water combined with alternating warm and cold temperatures, but it can also be due to growing tree roots or simple settling of the ground.  

Weed Growth

Without proper sealing, the cracks between concrete pavers can provide ideal spaces for weed growth.  These growing plants could even cause the pavers to move over time. To prevent this you’ll need to reapply the sealing regularly and keep an eye out for growing weeds.

Base Preparation

Installation of concrete pavers requires the proper preparation of a base beforehand.  After excavation of any grass and the top layer of soil, a gravel bed of four to six inches needs to be laid down and properly compacted.  The gravel needs to be topped with an inch or so of sand, into which the pavers are installed.  

What to Consider for Buying Artificial Turf

artificial grassThere are many different reasons for wanting to install artificial turf on your property.  Maybe your yard doesn’t actually get any sunlight. Maybe your locale doesn’t get enough moisture to easily grow a good looking lawn.  Or maybe you just like the idea of never having to run a lawnmower again. Whatever your reason for choosing artificial grass, you’ll need to educate yourself on a few of its lesser known characteristics.  Check out this article if you want to learn what to consider for buying artificial turf.

Maintenance 

It’s true you’ll never have to mow your artificial lawn, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually zero maintenance.  There are still some things you should do to keep it looking good. Although you’ll need to keep any lawn clean, you don’t have to do it on a daily basis.  With artificial turf, every week or two is fine – even less if you get a lot of rain. Just hose it down to get rid of any excess dirt You’ll also want to brush your turf every so often so that it doesn’t get beaten down and flattened out.  And although you won’t be fighting dandelions like you would with natural grass, you should keep an eye out for any weed growth to stop it before it gets out of hand.

Colour 

You may not have known it but artificial grasses come in a wide array of colours.  There are many different shades of green to choose from, but you can also make it look even more natural by mixing several different shades together.  This prevents your lawn from appearing too perfect and actually looking artificial. You can even include a bit of brown to closely mimic real grass. 

Pile Height

Artificial grasses come in many different heights.  The height that’s best for your needs depends on how you’ll be using it.  If you plan on having lawn furniture you might want to go for a shorter pile to prevent it from compressing the turf too much and leaving marks.  However, the taller the pile height, the more lush the lawn will look.

 

Top Pool Landscaping Trends

pool landscapingIt may be the dead of winter and your swimming pool is probably the last thing on your mind, but this is actually the perfect time to start thinking about getting your pool ready for the new year.  Not only does the down time allow you to concentrate on how you can improve your pool, most swimming pool practitioners are in the midst of their slow season and will have plenty of time to help you achieve your goals.  To give you a jump start we’ve created an article about today’s top pool landscaping trends.

Fire Features

The combination of fire and water seems to instill a sense of wonder and awe.  Perhaps it’s some innate or instinctual attraction to primal fundamentals. Or maybe it’s just because it looks cool.  No matter the reason that these two so-called elements combine so well, you can use them to great effect around your pool.  A firepit, gas-powered outdoor heater or even a barbecue can make a great addition to your swimming pool area.

Phone Apps

Of course there’s an app for everything these days and the swimming pool is no exception.  There are several apps on the market that allow you to monitor your water temperature, the number of calories you’re burning when swimming laps or even your water chemistry.  Take a look through your app store to find out how the internet can help with your swimming pool maintenance and enjoyment.

LED Lighting

LED lights are now the industry standard.  These highly efficient, environmentally friendly light sources are easy to install and provide both functional and fashionable benefits.  LED lights also last a lot longer which means replacing the underwater fixtures isn’t the huge hassle it used to be. You don’t have to worry about them containing nasty chemicals such as mercury and they don’t attract insects like most conventional light sources.  Upgrade your pool lighting with a wide range of LED colours.

Unique Hardscaping

Most pools are surrounded by concrete.  This doesn’t have to be the case. You can upgrade your pool surround with attractive materials such as porcelain, tiling or cedar.  Really, the possibilities are endless. And most of them will look much better than regular old concrete.