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Pretty Patios & Balconies

Summer-Porch-with-CoffeeJune is almost here and it won’t be long before we’re enjoying our morning coffee on the front porch or catching some rays on our backyard patios! At this early stage in the season, trees and shrubs are still budding, your gardens are rather barren and you might be craving a little colour! Luckily, there are so many ways that you can add some serious style to your patio, porch, decks and backyards without spending a fortune!

For some instant green foliage, bring your indoor plants outside. May is usually a safe time to start acclimating plants to the outdoors for the summer season but be sure to bring them inside at night if it’s still cool, and don’t place them in direct sunlight for more than a few hours. Strategically place plants around the seating area, just as you would indoors.

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Using fabric is a wonderful way to make an outdoor space homier. Search clearance bins for colourful throw pillows you won’t mind tossing after the summer season and find a couple outdoor rugs to really bring the space together. Place a larger, neutral-coloured rug down first, underneath your patio furniture and place a smaller, more vibrant area rug centred on top of the first to add a little pizzazz. If your space is very exposed, you can create privacy with a screen, some old shutters or a few curtain panels. Bed, Bath and Beyond sells outdoor curtains in a variety of pretty patterns that are built to withstand the elements.

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A hot trend in 2017 is the vertical garden. Ideal for backyards where space is a commodity, a vertical garden will become a gorgeous focal point in your outdoor space while providing privacy, visual interest and even food! You can DIY the project using old pallets, chicken wire, wooden boxes, an old dresser, even old, plastic pop bottles! Check Pinterest for ideas and step-by-step instructions. Love to cook? Plant herbs in your vertical garden and enjoy fresh, flavourful dishes all summer long.

For the finishing touches on your outdoor space, hang some artwork or a mirror on outside walls, add some mood lighting or place a few sturdy candle holders on tables.

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

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Getting your kids into gardening

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Summer is a great time to get the kids outside and learning about nature, especially when nature’s so close to home – the garden! Why not plant a tree, create a window box, start a vegetable garden or plant flowers in personalized container planters?

If you have a recently moved into a new home, planting a tree is a fantastic way to plant your roots (literally!) at your new address. It’s importance to do some research first, and be sure to involve the kids in this initial step. Find out what kind of soil you have at home, consider how much space you are working with and decide how big you want the tree to grow. Some trees will do well in cold Ontario winters and others are good for small to medium-sized backyards, including Newton Sentry Sugar Maple (12 metres height, spread of 2.5 metres), Single seed Hawthorn (10 by 4 metres), Pencil Point Common Juniper (10 by 1.5 metres)and Upright English Oak (15 by 5 metres).

If you don’t have the space for sprawling flowerbeds, container gardening is the way to go. Let your kids help choose the flowers. A good rule of thumb to think of when selecting flowers is this: you need a thriller, some fillers and a spiller. The thriller is your bold, centrepiece plant – purple fountain grass or large red coleus are good options. Next you need your fillers, those that will surround the thriller. Begonias, dusty miller or marigolds would work well. Your spiller is the plant that will eventually cascade over the edges of your container – sweet potato vine and verbena are good choices. Purchase a good quality potting mix and remember that container plants dry out very quickly on hot, sunny days. Let kids take on the responsibility of daily watering.

Finally, teaching children the basics of growing their own food is a lesson they won’t soon forget. Keep it simple and small to start and select a few vegetables they enjoy eating. Peppers, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce mixes and snap peas are good options. Choosing a spot for your garden is an important step – aim for full sun as veggies need 6-8 hours of sun per day. Ask an expert at your local garden centre for tips on perfecting the soil in your vegetable garden.

If you have a crafty kid at home, have them create DIY plant makers for your garden. Pick up plain, wooden paint stirrers at your local hardware store, paint them various colours and write the names of your vegetables or flowers on them. You could also find small, flat rocks, paint them bright colours and write the names on them.

Jennifer Birch

Get your kids into the garden!

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If you’re looking for a springtime project for you and the kids to tackle this month, turn your attention to the ground. It’s the perfect time of year to plant a tree, create a window box or start a vegetable garden.

If you have a recently moved into a new home, planting a tree is a fantastic way (literally!) to plant your roots at your new address. It’s importance to do some research first, and be sure to involve the kids in this initial step. Find out what kind of soil you have at home, consider how much space are working with and decide how big you want the tree to grow. Some trees that will do well in cold Ontario winters and are good for small to medium-sized backyards include:

Newton Sentry Sugar Maple (12 metres height, spread of 2.5 metres)
Single seen Hawthorn (10 by 4 metres)
Pencil Point Common Juniper (10 by 1.5 metres)
Upright English Oak (15 by 5 metres)

If you don’t have the space for sprawling flowerbeds, container gardening is the way to go. Let your kids help choose the flowers. A good rule of thumb to think of when selecting flowers is this: you need a thriller, some fillers and a spiller. The thriller is your bold, centrepiece plant – purple fountain grass or large red coleus are good options. Next you need your fillers, those that will surround the thriller. Begonias, dusty miller or marigolds would work well. Your spiller is the plant that will eventually cascade over the edges of your container – sweet potato vine and verbena are good choices. Purchase a good quality potting mix and remember that container plants dry out very quickly on hot, sunny days. Let kids take on the responsibility of daily watering.

Finally, teaching children the basics of growing their own food is a lesson they won’t soon forget. Keep it simple and small to start and select a few vegetables they enjoy eating. Peppers, tomatoes, green beans, lettuce mixes and snap peas are good options. Choosing a spot for your garden is an important step – aim for full sun as veggies need 6-8 hours of sun per day. Ask an expert at your local garden centre for tips on perfecting the soil in your vegetable garden.

If you have a crafty kid at home, have them create DIY plant makers for your garden. Pick up plain, wooden paint stirrers at your local hardware store, paint them various colours and write the names of your vegetables on them. You could also find small, flat rocks, paint them bright colours and write the vegetables names on them.

Jennifer Birch

Fall Garden Maintenance

Though spring and summer are now over, your garden is still very much alive and needs some care to ensure it can handle the harsh winter and save you some work come spring again. Here are some tips to help you maintain your garden:


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1. Don’t forget to water!

You may think because the weather is cooler, your plants and lawn don’t need watering, but that is not the case. Watering will help you keep the beauty of your yard longer and will minimize winter damage to your garden. According to homedepot.ca the roots of plants are still active in the autumn and they will absorb and store any water they get in order to replace water that gets lost during the winter. Even when flowers and leaves start to fall off, keep watering trees and shrubs. This will help keep moisture in the ground and keep roots warmer for a longer period of time, helping plants survive the winter. Water lightly until the first freeze.

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2. Insulate your shrubs

Have shrubs or trees in your garden? Insulate them with mulch at their base. This will limit frost penetration and help prevent sudden changes in soil temperature from deep freezing, which will help protect the root system of tender plants.

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3. Don’t cut perennials too early

After the beautiful September we had, it’s pretty safe to say that Canadian weather is unpredictable. Which is why cutting back your perennials too early may actually be detrimental to it. Allow the perennial to be dormant first until the weather is more stable and cooler (late October and November) then begin pruning. Also, trim any damaged or dead branches on trees and shrubs before the first snowfall.

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4. Shelter delicate trees and shrubs

If we have a winter like last year, we know it will be biting cold and can be especially hard on tender trees and shrubs. To minimize damage caused by frost and snow, homedepot.ca recommends wrapping your trees and shrubs in burlap and securing them with twine.

Jennifer Birch