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Archive for the ‘Lifestyle Realm’ Category

Fall TLC for Lawn and Gardens

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

October is here and besides giving thanks and paying tribute to our ghoulish side, the month’s changing leaves and falling temperatures are a steady reminder that winter is on its way.

So let’s consider how to give our lawns and gardens a last bit of TLC before the snow flies.

Hydration

As living organisms, we all need it. It’s important to give all of your plants and especially your trees, a good watering this month. Their roots will need lots of moisture in the coming months so make use of those rain barrels and start collecting water. Fall is also the perfect time to aerate your soil, which allows oxygen, water and fertilizer to get at the roots of your grass.

Put Roses to Bed

These garden beauties not only deserve but need some extra care. Clear debris and leaves from the base of the plant as not doing so can help harbour disease and create problems for the plant next year. To avoid damage due to freezing, pile soil or mulch on the plant base. Do the same for other shrubs and perennials that might suffer from freezing temperatures.

Trim Grass Lower

A lower cutting height makes leaf-raking much easier, inhibits diseases and helps dry out the soil more quickly in springtime.

Fertilize 

Fall is the best time of year to do this. But you want to make sure the product you use has minimal impact on the environment. Switch to lawn fertilizers that are high in slow-release nitrogen and ones that contain no phosphorus. Both are designed to give lawns nutrients as needed which reduces run-off that harms waterways.

Cover Bald Spots

The easiest way to do this is with an all-in-one lawn repair mix sold at most home centres and garden spots. The ready-to-use mixture contains grass seed, fertilizer and organic mulch.

Feed the Birds

As food sources grow scarcer, don’t forget our feathered friends. Wild bird seed mixes, black or striped sunflower seed, peanuts and suet in balls or blocks are good choices. Also be sure to empty and clean your bird feeders and fill with fresh seed.

Divide & Conquer

Now is the time to dig up perennials that have grown too large for their space or to move plants that aren’t working where you originally placed them. While you’re at it, now is also the time to plant bulbs for colourful springtime displays.

Let the Air In

Don’t forget to winterize irrigation systems in an effort to prevent frozen pipe damage.

A Realtor’s Take on Gratitude

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Oprah and the other of our world insist that having gratitude in our hearts is the means to a happy and fulfilling life.

That sounds reasonable. After all, gratitude is an emotion that expresses thanks and appreciation for what you have. It focuses on your glass as half full, not half empty. At the same time, being grateful is a constant struggle for many because it is in direct conflict with our consumer-driven culture that perpetuates a never-fully satisfied desire for more.

Let’s look, for example, at where we live. How fortunate are we to live in a vibrant, culture-rich city that’s only volatility has been the real estate market. Believe it or not, as realtors, we’re happy to see the market returning to some sense of normalcy. The unpredictability of the spring market was never sustainable and it’s good for everyone now that cooler heads prevail.

So as we approach Thanksgiving, in the spirit of expressing gratitude, here’s a lighthearted look some of the people and things we want to publicly appreciate:

The Media: Buyers and sellers need to sit up and listen. The real estate market is no longer what it once was. You want scores of multiple offers and how much over your asking price did you say you wanted? Probably not going to happen. We’re glad the media continues to harp on the GTA’s cooling market but is anybody paying attention to the news?

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out is a common and repeated folly of not just social-media addicted youth. FOMO also takes root in the real estate market. Just look at the frenzied April market in which more than 77 per cent of Toronto sales went for over asking. FOMO fuels real estate activity so we kind of love it. Sorry.

Foreign Buyers: We are most sympathetic to your plight given the Ontario government’s move to curb foreign ownership with a non-resident speculation tax.

Condos: What’s not to love? They’re attractively and affordably packaged homes minus a lot of the work, often with great amenities and views to boot. And the condo market is still experiencing somewhat of a boom with increased prices and sales. Your kingdom for a condo? You bet.

Pumpkins: Dotting streetscapes and front porches from St. John’s to Victoria, these big orange jack-o-lanterns add a pop of happy to neighbourhoods as fall foliage displays a variety of warm colours in preparation for winter. Best of all, is the gastronomic enthusiasm with which people use the gourds. From ravioli, cookies and salsa to potato chips, candy and bagels, if there’s a food that can be pumpkinized, someone has already thought of it.

Hope everyone had a well resting Thanksgiving!

 

 

Resist Winter Garden Clean-up

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

Getting your outdoors ready for winter doesn’t need to mean a weekend of hacking, raking and bagging up every last leaf, twig and branch that contributed to the bounty of your lawn and garden for the past six months.

That’s the old-school approach. Getting your gardens winter ready today means understanding the role that our lawns and gardens play in sustaining wildlife. Think of our yards as sanctuaries for insects, birds, amphibians and animals. Delaying your garden clean-up till spring is a gain for all the creatures that live there and that includes you.

Because our gardens provide native bees with their winter habitat, chopping down every last stem and plant isn’t eco smart or friendly. Bees need a protected spot to spend the winter so you might find them in the hollow stem of a bee balm plant or under a piece of peeling tree bark. By chopping down every last remnant in your garden, you are removing the habitat of these important pollinators.

Declining butterfly populations are one of the best reasons not to clean up your garden this winter. Though Monarchs fly south, many species hang tight and overwinter right here at home. They nestle into rock crevices and leaf litter. Those that hibernate in a chrysalis can often be found hanging from dead plant stems. Some butterfly species spend the winter as a caterpillar inside the seed pod of a host plant. If we cut down our plants and haul away the debris, we’re eliminating overwintering sites for these pretty pollinators.

Skipping the garden clean-up can also aid beneficial insects such as ladybugs. North America is home to over 400 ladybug species, many of which are not red with black polka-dots. These beneficial garden pest eaters consume dozens of insects and eggs daily so leaving your garden intact over winter is a good idea if you’re looking for a natural way to control pests. They typically like to hibernate under a pile of leaves or under rocks.

Ladybugs aren’t the only predatory insects that benefit from an overwintered, intact garden. Assassin bugs, lacewings, big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, damsel bugs, ground beetles, and scores of other pest-eating predatory insects spend the winter hibernating in your garden as adults, eggs, or pupae. Probably the best reason not to clean up your garden is because these insects provide the right balance to naturally control lawn and garden pests.

Feeding insect-eating birds is another good reason to leave your garden alone. This will attract birds such as chickadees and wrens that are adept at preying on hibernating insects hidden in dead plant stems, branches and leaf litter. The more insect friendly your garden, the more birds you will have. Also, birds will enjoy dining on seeds and berries from your intact plants.

Finally, the beauty of a winter garden is reason enough to leave it alone. Snow resting on dried seed pods or berries clinging to bare branches is just a few of the splendors offered by a garden in winter.

April really is the best time to do a garden clean-up. Most critters have risen from their long winter’s nap so you’re not destroying them or their habitat by pruning and hauling away last summer’s dead leaves and stems.

Source: Savvy Gardening and Sd Sustainable

 

Green Ways to Control Outdoor Pests

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Summertime can’t be beat for backyard barbecues, enjoying the cottage and tending to your lawn and garden. But that’s not to say that summer doesn’t come without its challenges and perhaps one of the most annoying are pesky pests.

To be fair, most lawn and garden insects are beneficial with some naturalists claiming that fewer than two per cent are considered harmful. In fact, many insects, including ladybugs, fireflies, praying mantis, spiders and wasps will actually keep harmful insects from devouring your lawn and will also help to pollinate your plants. But it’s that two per cent that can wreak havoc on your plants, flowers and grass, making your best gardening efforts a big waste of time and money.

With that in mind, let’s look at how to handle unwanted pests without hurting beneficial insects and the world in which we live.

If your lawn is victim to a small infestation of unwanted bugs, you can try picking them off by hand. If that sounds unbearable, you can try homemade garlic and pepper sprays. You can also try insecticidal soap on pests.

Traps are another good eco-friendly option. The kind that allow an insect to enter and not leave are best for wasps and other bugs. Place insect traps around the periphery of your property so that the pests are taken out of commission before they’ve chewed up your grass and plants.

Bacillus thuringiensis or more commonly named BT is a naturally occurring soil bacteria ideal for controlling cabbageworm, tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, tomato hornworm and other leaf eating caterpillars.

To control beetles and other insects with shells, try diatomaceous earth, a fine silica powder made from the fossilized shells of already minute creatures called diatoms. The razor sharp powder destroys the shells of crawling insects, but does not harm earthworms, pets, or humans. Different bugs are susceptible to different extents (even beetles differ somewhat), so check before buying.

To identify a grub problem in your lawn, look for brown patches. If you’re still uncertain, dig up a bit of sod near the brown patch. If you see more than ten grubs per square foot, you should take action. Below that, there’s no need.

Use beneficial nematodes, which are tiny worms that feed on the larval, or grub, stage of the beetle. It takes a few weeks for nematodes to establish themselves in the soil and to parasitize their grub hosts, so it’s best to apply them before the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Be sure to carefully read the instructions for applying nematodes. Since they are living things they can also die. Follow the directions otherwise your time and money will be wasted.

 

Green Ways to Control Outdoor Pests

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Summertime can’t be beat for backyard barbecues, enjoying the cottage and tending to your lawn and garden. But that’s not to say that summer doesn’t come without its challenges and perhaps one of the most annoying are pesky pests.

To be fair, most lawn and garden insects are beneficial with some naturalists claiming that fewer than two per cent are considered harmful. In fact, many insects, including ladybugs, fireflies, praying mantis, spiders and wasps will actually keep harmful insects from devouring your lawn and will also help to pollinate your plants. But it’s that two per cent that can wreak havoc on your plants, flowers and grass, making your best gardening efforts a big waste of time and money.

With that in mind, let’s look at how to handle unwanted pests without hurting beneficial insects and the world in which we live.

If your lawn is victim to a small infestation of unwanted bugs, you can try picking them off by hand. If that sounds unbearable, you can try homemade garlic and pepper sprays. You can also try insecticidal soap on pests.

Traps are another good eco-friendly option. The kind that allow an insect to enter and not leave are best for wasps and other bugs. Place insect traps around the periphery of your property so that the pests are taken out of commission before they’ve chewed up your grass and plants.

Bacillus thuringiensis or more commonly named BT is a naturally occurring soil bacteria ideal for controlling cabbageworm, tent caterpillars, gypsy moth, tomato hornworm and other leaf eating caterpillars.

To control beetles and other insects with shells, try diatomaceous earth, a fine silica powder made from the fossilized shells of already minute creatures called diatoms. The razor sharp powder destroys the shells of crawling insects, but does not harm earthworms, pets, or humans. Different bugs are susceptible to different extents (even beetles differ somewhat), so check before buying.

To identify a grub problem in your lawn, look for brown patches. If you’re still uncertain, dig up a bit of sod near the brown patch. If you see more than ten grubs per square foot, you should take action. Below that, there’s no need.

Use beneficial nematodes, which are tiny worms that feed on the larval, or grub, stage of the beetle. It takes a few weeks for nematodes to establish themselves in the soil and to parasitize their grub hosts, so it’s best to apply them before the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Be sure to carefully read the instructions for applying nematodes. Since they are living things they can also die. Follow the directions otherwise your time and money will be wasted.

 

Staging Your Home

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Staging your house for a quick and lucrative sale might sound like a daunting and expensive task but there are ways to do so that don’t break the bank or test your patience.

Here’s how:

Curb appeal

Enhance your house’s outside appearance by making sure all is clean and tidy. Wash your front windows, power wash siding and walkways, make sure your lawn is trimmed, weed flower beds and sweep up fallen debris. If your porch needs freshening give it a lick of paint or stain. These simple efforts will help lure in potential buyers.

Welcome visitors

Keep your porch lights on at night. Make sure your doormat is clean and keep an arrangement of blooming flowers or pretty plants by the entrance. Don’t clutter your entrance with too many pieces of outdoor furniture. Select a few nice pieces and arrange them artfully.

Elbow grease

A clean home is a happy home and potential buyers will be thankful for your efforts. This is one of the most inexpensive ways to prepare your home for staging. Clean and polish floors, scrub grout, remove cobwebs from corners and make sure the bathrooms gleam.

Clear the clutter

This is also fairly inexpensive but it is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. You’re used to living the way you do and that may mean jam-packed countertops and closets loaded to the brim. Get rid of unnecessary and unsightly things. Potential buyers want to be able to envision themselves in your space and your mess makes that more difficult.

Rearrange the deck chairs

Is your furniture inviting or oddly laid out? Use symmetry to balance it. Pairs of chairs, lamps, even sofas work well at creating a cozy conversation area. Use sophisticated neutral shades to paint walls and pull your furnishings together. This also applies to bedrooms and bathrooms. And don’t forget to add different types of lighting, ambient, task and accent.

Clean out your closets

Clear out excess junk so that closets and storage areas have some open and unused space. Store stuff outside your home if you have to. The point is to make your space lived in, but not too lived in.

Kids and pets

Don’t leave toys strewn around because that looks messy. Find a good storage bin that you can tuck away under a bed or in a corner or closet. Same goes for pet toys. Also be sure to tackle pet odors by cleaning carpets and kitty litter.

Spare rooms

It’s not unusual to have a spare bedroom or other room that becomes a catch-all for household odds and sods. Transform the room into something usable by adding an armchair and a table or turn it into a yoga studio. Giving the room a purpose will add value to your home.

Add natural colour

Fresh flowers, plants and clippings from your lilac tree or forsythia add splashes of colour. You can bring nature indoors in the fall and winter, too, with fall foliage and a poinsettia.

Chemical-Free Fixes for your Lawn

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Most of us enjoy having lawns and gardens that are pretty and lush. But the problem with achieving the kind of leafy green grass that your neighbours will envy is that it’s hard on the environment, not to mention your wallet.

We’re big spenders when it comes to our grass. It’s been said that Canadians spend at least $2-billion per year on seed, sod and chemicals, a number that’s been rising steadily, according to Planet Natural.

Bear in mind, too, that much of lawn care products help your turf in very superficial ways so you should question whether degrading the soil, polluting nearby water sources and posing health threats to humans, pets, wildlife and the birds and the bees is worth it.

Fortunately, attitudes about perfect lawns are beginning to change. Dozens of municipalities and even a few provinces including Ontario have passed laws that severely restrict pesticide use.

Let’s look at some ways to reduce our addiction to lawn chemicals:

Spot treat weeds with vinegar

Mix the vinegar with a little dish soap and Epsom salts and apply with a hand-pump sprayer. Try to be precise when applying to weeds only because the mixture can burn grass.

Corn Gluten

This non-toxic by product of corn processing can kill young weeds in days. An added benefit is that it adds nitrogen to your soil. It’s believed that after several years of use, the gluten can control up to 90 per cent of weeds. Apply in early spring.

Make the switch

Convert your lawn to a grass that is drought resistant and lower maintenance. Eco lawn grass requires little or no mowing and fertilizer.

Let clippings chill

This process is sometimes called grass-cycling as it provides a good nutrient boost of nitrogen, phosphorus and water. Clippings don’t cause thatch. To do this properly make sure the grass is three inches high and set your mower height to chop one-inch of grass. The clippings will disappear among the blades of grass. Think of the time and effort saved, not to mention the benefit to your landfill site.

Watering

Avoid over-watering your lawn because that is more damaging to your grass than under-watering. Try to water early in the morning. If you wait till the middle of the day, much is lost to evaporation. Water deeply but not frequently. Most healthy lawns need about one inch of water per week.

Clover

This is a good weed to have. It often appears when soil is low in nitrogen so the solution is to let the clover clippings fall where they may after cutting, which will fix the problem without using fertilizer.

Dandelions

These indicate you’re having nutrient problems with your soil or that your grass isn’t developing healthy roots. Get a soil test to determine your issue. Corn gluten applied early in the growing season prevents dandelions from germinating and makes your grass stronger and more weed resistant.

 

 

Going Solo: Tips for Single Homebuyers

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Singles are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the country and as such those who live solo comprise more than 25 per cent of Canadian households.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in 2011 a full 42 per cent of owner-occupied condos housed singletons, and single person households are expected to continue growing.

Here are a few pointers if you’re thinking of taking the plunge by yourself:

Do your homework

There’s a saying about information being power and that’s true here. Whether you are buying for the first time or relocating to a new area talk to friends and colleagues about their house-buying experiences. Ask about neighbourhoods, realtors and public transportation. Search for info online, read books, attend seminars and explore different lenders.

Wish list

Knowing what you want is usually a good thing, unless your wishes are completely out of whack with reality. Condos and townhouses are often ideal for singles. Living on your own means you need less space and a mortgage payment that fits a single income. A smaller living space also means less time, money and resources spent on maintenance.

Safe & sound

Living alone often means issues around security; safety and privacy are high on your priority list. Look for neighbourhoods with lower crime rates, a home with an alarm system, fenced-in yards, secure windows and doors and an attached garage accessible from within your home. Condos fit this requirement quite well with such features as a concierge, underground parking and gated entrances.

Rainy day fund

As a solo homeowner, since you’re the only one to depend on, it’s critical that you begin to build an emergency fund. Being able to handle unexpected expenses without taking on more debt is important. A general rule to thumb for emergency savings is to have enough money to pay today’s bills plus living expenses for three to six months.

Cooperative buying

Because house prices have skyrocketed in the GTA and many prefer to stay in the city rather than move to cheaper towns and cities, there’s a small movement of folks looking to buy a house with other likeminded people. This arrangement can lead to many different buying scenarios so lining up knowledgeable realtors, lawyers and lenders is key.

Sorry, Eh? But Here’s Our Quiz on Patriotism

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Do you bleed red and white? Are you pulling out tissues at the first few bars of O Canada? Do you feel a deep emotional attachment to your country? Then you may be way more patriotic than you think.

In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, take our fun and totally unscientific quiz to see how you rate when it comes to true, patriot love:

  1. Do you own clothing with a Canadian flag on it?

__A. Yes, totally

__B. Maybe…

__C. Absolutely not

  1. Do you own clothing that bears other symbols of Canadiana such as a beaver, a moose or a hockey stick?

__A. Sure do

__B. Maybe when I was in grade school

__C. No. That’s ridiculous

  1. Ever painted your face or the face of your child red and white?

__A. Every Canada Day, pretty much

__B. In university, I woke up after a party and found my face looking quite nationalistic

__C. That’s just silly

  1. When you hear people criticize your country, how do you react?

__A. I go into full-on attack mode

__B. Let sleeping dogs lie

__C. Nothing. They’re probably right

  1. What happens when you hear O Canada?

__A. I jump up and sing loudly and proudly

__B. I try to sing the parts I know

__C. Nothing, quite frankly

  1. How do you show support for your favourite hockey team during the play-offs?

__A. I hang a flag on my car and paint team colours on the garage door

__B. Might buy beer or pop with the team’s logo on it

__C. What are play-offs?

  1. What does Canada Day mean to you?

__A. An opportunity to show my devotion and enduring loyalty to my homeland

__B. I love the fireworks and food

__C. A three-day weekend

  1. Canada’s biggest contribution to the world stage has been…

__A. Our peacekeeping efforts around the globe

__B. Poutine, without a doubt, followed by Drake

__C. Peanut butter

If you answered mostly As you are a deeply devoted patriot, through and through. Loyalty could be your middle name; you’re that much in love with Canada. Red and white is your favourite colour combination and it shows in everything from your fashion style to your home décor.

If you answered mainly Bs you rate about average on the scale of flag wavers. Never one to rah-rah too loudly for your country, you approach patriotism with a lukewarm enthusiasm. You’re difficult to read because one can never tell if that expression on your face is one of pain or pleasure.

Answering mostly Cs means there’s no hope for you. You’re about as patriotic as Benedict Arnold. Sorry, eh?

Attracting Bees and Butterflies to Your Garden

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

If you’re looking to heighten your level of environmental good-deed doing this summer, why not consider establishing a garden or flower bed that welcomes bees and butterflies.

Little thought they are, bees and butterflies are incredibly important to our ecosystem.  Did you know that 75 per cent of the food we eat, from fruits and nuts to herbs, need pollinators? Bees do this quite well. The fruit and vegetables you grow will be delightful with more bees around.

Butterflies play an important role in pollinating flowers, especially those that are strongly scented, are red or yellow or those that produce a healthy dose of nectar from which to feed. It’s believed that an abundance of butterflies is a sign that our ecosystem is doing well.

So let’s look at ways to create a bee- and butterfly-friendly space in your garden:

Make a Bee House

Paint a wooden house a bright colour with low-VOC paint. The bees will buzz around and make mental snapshots of their new home before nesting in their new dwelling. Once the temperature hits 12 to 14 degrees C hang the house at eye level out of the rain facing south or east.

Dig down below the soil near your bee house to expose the clay soil. This will encourage the masons to use it as construction material or you can also keep a bowl of moist clay near their house.

Offer Food

Grow a variety of plants that flower at different times. That way there’s always a snack available for them.

Showy flowers are sometimes the worst food providers for bees. Look for native plants or heirloom varieties. Consider planting flowers in clumps. Bees especially love blue, purple, violet, white and yellow. A variety of flower shapes are good for a diverse bee population with different tongue lengths.

Here are a number of bee-friendly plants categorized based on their bloom times. Early bloomers include blueberry, crabapple, foxglove, heather and willow. Good mid-season bloomers for bees are chives, dahlia, lavender and sunflower. Late blooming plants include coneflower, cosmos, pumpkin and sedum.

Butterflies like alyssum, bee balm, delphinium, hollyhock, marigold, nasturtium, phlox, Shasta daisy, verbena and zinnia, among others. Don’t forget to include plants like dill, fennel and milkweed that butterfly larvae feed on.

Create a Bee Bath

Bees and butterflies needs fresh water to survive. Because of the way they’re built, though, they need something to land on when trying to touch down in bird baths and the like. Try lining a shallow bowl with rocks or stones, leaving the rocks to stick out in spots so bees and butterflies have landing pads on which to settle.

The bath should be at ground level in your garden. Better yet, place the bath near your problems plants, those that get aphids and such, and these beneficial insects that are flying in for a drink will also take care of your plant’s pests.

Refresh the water daily.

 

Sources: www.gardeners.com, www.davidsuzuki.org,

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.