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Archive for August, 2016

The Benefits of Mulch

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Mulch, thanks to its many benefits for your soil and plants, can be a gardener’s best friend.


Generally speaking, mulch is spread or laid on the surface of the soil as a type of covering. Its benefits are many, from retaining moisture in the soil to suppressing weeds to keeping the soil cool and improving the aesthetics of your flowers beds. If you use organic mulch, you also have the added benefit of improving the soil’s fertility as the mulch decomposes.

There are many different kinds of mulch — bark, wood chips, sawdust, hulls of cocoa, straw, pine needles, shredded leaves, crushed stone, gravel or volcanic rock, black plastic and landscape fabric all qualify as effective mulches for your garden.

Characteristics of good mulch are mulches that are economical, readily available, easy to apply and remove, one that stays in place, mulch that provides your soil with organic matter and one that is free of weeds, insects and diseases.

Summer or growing mulches are normally applied after the soil begins to warm in the spring. The primary roles of summer mulches are to warm the soil, reduce weed growth, and retain soil moisture.

Other considerations for selecting the right mulch include the type of location you are covering. Vegetable gardens or small fruit plantings suit black plastic and straw. The area around shrub beds and trees is well suited to mulch made from wood chips, bark and pine needles. Flower beds of annuals and perennials are best covered in finer mulches such as bark granules, wood shavings, cocoa shells and buckwheat hulls. In rock gardens, fine gravel or crushed stone look best and most natural.

As for what quantity to apply, it depends largely on your soil, how much rainfall you get, the type of mulch and the quantity of weeds your garden produces. Generally speaking, you’re safe to go with a three- to -four inch depth of mulch. If you have dry soil, be sure to water it before applying the mulch so those weeds pull out easier.

As for timing, you can lay mulch just about any time. Just be mindful that if you apply it in early spring the earth might be slower to warm up.

If you use mulch in winter, wait until the ground is frozen. Mulch could delay this process and cause roots to go dormant later than normal and possibly damage them. Winter mulch is great for weed control and reducing the ravages of cold weather on your garden beds.

Sources: www.gardening.about.com, www.bhg.com, www.gardening.cornell.edu

The Right Way to Investigate a New Neighbourhood

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Your kitchen is too small and awkward for even the simplest of meals. Three kids and two adults fighting for a single bathroom put undue stress on your family’s morning routine. The neighbours regularly hold weekend jam sessions in their yard and not only do you hate the music you also work shifts.

These are all good reasons to think about moving. But a move comes with certain fears and apprehensions, a big one of which is wondering if you will like living in the new neighbourhood. Are there things about the neighbourhood that might affect the resale value of your home down the road? Will you enjoy the vibe?

Never fear because there are ways you can investigate a neighbourhood before signing on the dotted line. Here’s how:


Question Potential New Neighbours – While that might seem a bit intrusive, so is spending your life’s savings on a house in a neighbourhood you don’t enjoy. So buck up and introduce yourself and tell them flat out why you’re investigating the neighbourhood. They’re bound to understand. Ask the neighbours if they know of any problem neighbours. Ask them their opinion of the neighbourhood. Do they know of people who have home businesses on the street such as a daycare that might impact noise levels or other businesses that might take up street parking? Ask them if they know of any other neighbours who might be considering selling their home. Who knows? That place may be even better.

Drop by at All Hours – Okay not really but you should see what your neighbourhood is like at different times of the day. Is your street noisy or quiet in the evening? Do cars use it as a thoroughfare during rush hour? It’s a good idea to visit the area on weekends too. If you can, also check it out in early morning.

Visit the Town Crier – Neighbourhood news might be available in a local newspaper or online blog or newsletter of some kind. Find out. Read up on the community and find out its stories, its highs and its lows.  Pay close attention to crime stories or reports of break ins and sexual assaults. Read the classified section if there is one. Surprisingly, you can learn a lot about a community thanks to the wide assortment of ads found usually at the back of the paper.

Find the Crimes – Last year, the Toronto Police Service unveiled a new tool for tracking crime throughout the city. The Toronto Police Service Maps and Data Portal provide an interactive map of the city and show a variety of major crime indicators for each week. The map includes information about such crimes as sexual assault, robbery, break and enters and auto theft, among others.

Schools – Whether you have kids or not, don’t underestimate the value of good schools. You may eventually have a family and you’ll want them to get a good education. But even if children aren’t in your plans, schools, especially good ones, add value to your home. There are plenty of websites on which to explore the best city schools.

There is nothing like living in a neighbourhood to get a real sense of what the community is all about. While that’s usually not possible, doing your homework before you move into a new neighbourhood is the next best thing.


Burglar Proofing Your Home

Monday, August 8th, 2016

August is often a favourite holiday month for cottagers and families looking to take a summer vacation outside of the city. Many homes will be left vacant this month so what better time than now to talk about home security.

There are countless gadgets and gizmos available from those within the home security industry. They are usually costly and sometimes vexing but security equipment can include video surveillance cameras, wireless alarms and infrared motion sensors.


Fortunately, Toronto is a relatively safe city. In fact, the rate of break and enters in the city declined in 2015 and hasn’t grown at all in the first half of 2016, according to Toronto Police Service crime statistics.

Still, it pays to play it smart and there are some simple, relatively easy and economical ways to help protect your family and secure your home.

  1. Cover Up – Install window and door coverings that make it hard for someone to peek inside. The shades, blinds or curtains should let some light in so that at night the house looks occupied.
  2. Lights On, Lights Off – Pretend there is someone living in your house by using timers that will turn TVs, lights and radios on and off.
  3. Control Outdoor Lights – Nothing says we’re not home more than a porch light that’s been left on all night long. Install infrared or motion-controlled lighting.
  4. Prune It – Shrubs, trees and plants that block your front door and window makes for a great hiding space for thieves. Get rid of them and create a more open setting.
  5. Never Leave a Tip – Giving out info about your whereabouts on your answering machine is simply looking for trouble. Also, never leave notes for friends, family or service people on your door. Who knows who’s reading them? And never announce on social media how charming your Lake Rosseau cottage is.
  6. Garages and sheds – They may not be as big as your house but they certainly contain valuables. Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home so burglars are prevented from seeing items they find attractive. It’s a good idea to lock up expensive grills and bicycles separately with a chain and padlock.
  7. A Clean Sweep – Get neighbours or friends to pick up flyers, newspapers and mail. An overstuffed mailbox is a sure sign you’re away.
  8. Tell the Neighbours – Let your neighbours know that you’re going away. It never hurts to have another set of eyes keeping watch.
  9. Spare key – If you’ve thought of a clever hiding spot, likely so has the robber. You’re better to leave it with a neighbour.

Install Window Stops — These prevent windows from being opened more than six inches — perfect for ventilation, but not for a criminal who wants to slip inside.

Fake Your Trash — Intruders have been known to watch on garbage days to see which houses aren’t putting out any trash. Ask a neighbour to occasionally put out your trash so it looks like you’re home.

Fake Your Signage — A “Beware of Dog” sign or a bowl and chain by your back door can be enough to scare off burglars. Also think about posting a sign that your home is protected by a security system, even if it’s not.

Sources: Bob VilaHGTV, Home – How Stuff Works




Roll Out the Barrel

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Given the hot and dry summer we’re experiencing, keeping your lawn and garden fresh, healthy and hydrated can be a costly and time-consuming chore.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. In fact, according to the David Suzuki Foundation, more than 40 per cent of residential drinking water goes to watering lawns and gardens. And while many of us know that using tap water is something of an environmental no-no, it’s hard not to turn on the tap when thirsty plants and flowers are crying for a drink.

Just know that your tap water didn’t get there easily. By the time it reaches your home, it’s been tested and treated and purified and distributed via a complex system of water treatment plants that treats more than one billion litres of potable water a day in Toronto alone.

You may want to think about using a rain barrel to capture and store rainwater since it’s one of the kindest things you can do for your wallet and the world. Here’s why:

  • Not only will you cut down on the quantity of water that undergoes costly and energy guzzling sewage treatment, you will also save on your water bill. The typical gardener can save 1,300 gallons of water during the growing season thanks to a rain barrel’s catch.
  • During a dry summer, a rain barrel allows you a water source during times of water restrictions or drought.
  • The pollutants from rainwater runoff increase the growth of algae in lakes, changing the habitat for fish and in extreme cases making bodies of water dangerous for recreational vehicles. Using a rain barrel helps reduce this runoff.
  • The use of rain barrels contributes to the prevention of erosion efforts. The runoff created by rain can be an issue where land erosion is a concern.
  • Your rain barrel water is one of the freshest and greenest ways to wash pets and your car.  Believe it or not, but rain water is free of salt and other chemicals found in municipally treated water.
  • Collecting rain water around your house helps reduce moisture so dampness, flooding and mold are reduced.
  • Rainwater is good for your plants and soil as it is highly oxygenated and free of the salts, inorganic ions, and fluoride compounds contained in tap water that accumulate in the soil over time and potentially harm plant roots. Rainwater dilutes this impact, making plants more drought-tolerant, healthy, and strong.
  • Keep in mind that the overflow from the rain barrel should be directed to a suitable discharge area. During winter months, remove and store your rain barrel to avoid freezing and breaking. After removing the rain barrel, add an extension to your downspout to ensure proper drainage away from your home.

You can purchase a rain barrel at just about any large home and garden supply store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.

If you’ve been thinking about reducing your municipal water usage, you may want to gauge how much you use thanks to a city website that lets residents and businesses track their water use online. Log on today at www.toronto.ca/mywatertoronto


Sources: David Suzuki Foundation, Epoch Rain Barrels, City of Toronto


The data included on this website is deemed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed to be accurate by the Toronto Real Estate Board. The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS® and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.