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Archive for the ‘The Green Office’ Category

Weird Gardening Terms You Need to Know

Monday, August 6th, 2018

There are still a few good months to go in our efforts to manage and maintain our lawns and gardens.

While simply keeping on top of your vegetable garden and grass trimming can be work enough, August is a good time to get to know your garden a little better. So let’s explore those vaguely familiar, weird-sounding lawn-and-garden chores that you can begin applying. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find one you really like doing.

Deadheading:

This, quite simply, is the process of removing dead or dying blossoms from flowers and shrubs. The purpose for doing so is that it encourages the growth of more blooms.

Aerating:

This process pokes small holes in your grass so that air, water and nutrients can more easily penetrate the grass roots. This makes your grass stronger and greener.

Dethatching:

If healthy grass is important to you, you may want to take this step. Thatch is that layer of dead grass that sinks down into the soil line. As thatch builds, it prevents water and nutrients from leaching down into the roots.

Aphids:

These small insects are likely not an avid gardener’s favourite creature. Aphids suck sap from plants and they can cause heavy-duty damage to plants, shrubs and crops.

Biodegradable:

This word applies to natural substances that break down or decompose quickly thanks to the work of microorganisms. Food, leaves, wood, paper and cotton are all examples of biodegradable products.

Dibble:

These smallish tools might save your finger nails as the point makes holes in the ground for seeds, plants or bulbs.

Heirloom:

When plants are called heirloom, this refers to old fruit, flower and vegetable plants that have been grown by gardeners and farmers since before World War Two. These plants are generally grown in small-scale operations.

Hydroponics:

This is the art and science of growing plants without soil.

Irrigation:

This essentially means delivering water to your lawn and garden. When you sprinkle water on your flowers, whether with a watering can or hose, though there are many other methods, you are irrigating.

Symbiosis:

This is the relationship that occurs when life forms interact with each other. Sometimes it is beneficial, sometimes not. For example, marigolds release a chemical that wards off a type of worm. Beneficial, right?

Succulent:

All the rage right now, this often thick and fleshy type of plant retains water in dry climates.

Xeriscaping:

This is a type of water-saving garden that works well in drought conditions. Native flowers, plants and shrubs are ideal for this as they are accustomed to our climate. These gardens tend to be less maintenance and attract birds and beneficial insects.

Save Water and Money with these Summertime Tips

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Summer is here and the time is right for watering lawns and gardens, washing our cars and topping up pools.

Did you know that city water use doubles in the summer thanks in large part to grass and garden watering? While there’s nothing wrong with keeping your plants and lawn hydrated, homeowners often overdo it when it comes to H2O. The result tends to be water wasted due to evaporation, run-off and over watering.

In an effort to avoid wasting water and to cut costs, here are some guidelines set out by the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation:

Watch Mother Nature

It’s a good idea to assess your weekly rainfall by keeping a measuring container in your yard that is emptied each week. Established lawns, for example, need about 2.5 cm or 1 inch of water per week. To determine the measurement set out a can of tuna on your lawn and after an even watering, when the water reaches the top of the can, you know you’ve reached the limit. Time how long that takes and use the timer on your sprinkler next time. If you get a good rain, you can skip watering for one full week.

Timing is everything 

Water before 9 a.m. as this cuts evaporation and the scorching of leaves.

Don’t be a hoser 

Set up your sprinkler or hose so that you’re not watering your walkway, driveway or sidewalk. Talk about throwing money down the drain!

Roll out the barrel 

Rain barrels can cut your municipal water usage incredibly. They collect rainwater from your roof thanks to eaves troughs directed into the barrel.

Soak it

Apply a soaker hose to the base of plants, rather than to the leaves, as this reduces evaporation. Drip or trickle irrigation systems work well because they bring water slowly and directly to the roots. This will ultimately create deeper roots which heightens a plant’s drought resistance. If you prefer a sprinkler pick one that sprays close to the ground and that has a timer.

Don’t cut too short

Short grass doesn’t absorb as much water as longer grass so it’s best not to trim it too short. Set your mower blade so that it cuts no lower than 6 to 8 cm or 2.5 to 3 inches. Shaded roots can hold water better.

Use mulch

Mulch does a lot more than simply retain moisture in the soil. It’s also good for moderating soil temperature, erosion and weed control. Try wood chips, bark and crushed rock, though there are other choices for mulch as well.

Other ways to save water

Don’t hose down paved surfaces to get rid of dust, dirt and debris. Use a good old-fashioned broom. When washing your vehicle, use a water-filled bucket instead of a hose. Finally, cover your swimming pools when not in use. This decreases the water’s evaporation.

Why bugs are good for your garden

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

It’s easy to understand why we cringe, swear and swat at creepy crawly insects. But in reality, if they didn’t exist our eco-system would be an absolute disaster.

Clearly, there are pests we don’t want in our lawns and gardens such as mites and aphids, which do a great job at destroying plant life and spreading disease. But there are plenty of bugs that do good. They’re known as beneficial insects and they help your garden strike the perfect balance of creating a chemical-free garden that displays healthy looking and abundant plants.

Using beneficial insects to control other less garden friendly bugs is a method known as biological control. By using living organisms to control malicious insects you create a garden that is free of pesticides and other garden chemicals. Essentially, you are creating an organic garden.

We’ve all heard about the shortage of bees in recent years. These garden must-haves are essential for pollinating vegetables, fruit trees and other crops. To attract more bees and other pollinators such as butterflies plant a wide variety of flowering plants as well as pollen and nectar sources. Bees are especially attracted to blue, purple, white, yellow and violet. Leave a section of your garden free from mulch so as to attract ground bees. A dead tree or rotting log will supply prime nesting for bees. Provide them with a shallow water source such as a bird bath or saucer filled with water.

Beetles are another beneficial insect you should welcome on your property. These nocturnal bugs help to keep night-time pests at bay. They prey on about 50 types of pests such as snails and slugs. Attract beetles to your garden by using mulch and planting perennials. They nest and lay their eggs in decaying plant matter and will overwinter there as well.

Ladybugs are another garden friendly bug you want to have. They enjoy munching on a number of pests such as aphids, white flies, mites and mealy bugs. Their larvae are equally important in your garden as they are as ravenous, if not more so, than their parents. One thing to keep in mind is that the ladybug larva looks remarkably different from its parents. In fact, the larva looks like a tiny red and black alligator and not at all like its parents, which are often considered the darlings of the bug world.

Don’t let the large size and scary shape of a praying mantis scare you. They are harmless to humans. Not so much to other bugs, though. In fact, a praying mantis will eat just about any insect in the garden. They’ve been known to catch small frogs and birds as well.

Sources: www.organiclesson.com, www.thespruce.com, www.care2.com,

Celebrate Mother Earth

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

Did you know the first Earth Day was marked 48 years ago in 1970? To help celebrate this April 22nd observance, why not head outdoors and do something green?

Begin with your own property. By now, hopefully winter’s assault is over and what you’re left with is the promise of spring mixed with the remains left by snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Take a mental inventory and begin to prioritize what needs tending first.

Prune dormant trees, non-flowering shrubs and vines such as wisteria, clematis and climbing roses. Rake up leftover curled fall leaves caught in your flower beds, shrubs and hedges. Now is the time to feed your garden so try an organic fertilizer on trees, vines, roses and other plants. Trim summer-blooming shrubs such as hydrangea. Also don’t forget to divide perennials that have grown too big.

April is also a good time to begin trying to keep weeds at bay. According to Mark Cullen, weed control comprises a four-step approach:

  1. Kill them when they’re young.
  2. Mulch is so effective at preventing weeds. It’s also not a chemical and easy to apply. Cullen says the secret is to apply four to five centimetres of finely ground up cedar or pine bark mulch. The sooner this is done, the better.
  3. For grass weeds, he recommends removing all loose debris from the area and getting grass blades to stand up on end. Smoothly rake on three to five centimeters of lawn soil or triple mix. Use quality grass seed on the area. Rake it smooth and then step on the patch to ensure the seed comes in contact with the soil and water until germination. Keep it damp and be sure to fertilize.
  4. Consider trying biologically based weed killers.

Once your lawn and garden is spring ready you may want to tackle the neighbourhood. Consider organizing a spring clean-up on your street or in your community. It’s likely in desperate need of a polish what with coffee cups, dog poop and plastic bags now on full display now that the snow is gone.

The city is also encouraging spring cleanup with drop-off depots for items such as electronics, books, dishes and toys. Beginning April 7 in Scarborough-Rouge River and Parkdale-High Park wards will take turns hosting these Community Environment Days until the end of July. Free compost collected thanks to the city’s yard-waste program is also available.

According to the CBC.ca, about 200,000 volunteers from Toronto schools, businesses and community groups participate in Community Cleanup Days, which are local city-run events that clean up public spaces. They take place from April 20—22.

 

The Lowdown on Lead-Based Paint

Monday, April 9th, 2018

It’s for good reason that Toronto is known as the City of Neighbourhoods with some of those many communities dating as far back as 200 years. Given that lineage, it’s safe to assume that lead-based paint could be in your home.

If your house was built prior to 1960 chances are pretty good that lead-based paint was used. Homes constructed between 1960 and 1990 may have lead in the exterior paint, though paint used inside could still contain some smaller amounts of lead. Residences built after 1990 should not have any lead in their paint as North American manufacturers were producing lead-free paint by then.

The danger with lead paints is highest among children because they absorb it more easily and because they are still developing.  According to the federal government, even small amounts of dust with lead are dangerous to babies and children. Unborn infants could also be at risk if a pregnant mother-to-be consumes lead. Lead poisoning causes anemia in addition to brain and nervous system damage. A simple blood test is how you determine your level of exposure.

There are ways to detect if lead-based paint was used in your home. Having paint chip samples analyzed at a lab is a possibility as is hiring a contractor who has the appropriate x-ray equipment to detect lead on painted surfaces.

The federal government recommends taking action if your lead paint is chipping, flaking or within reach of children who might ingest it. But it also stipulates that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone when it comes to lead paint, as long as the safety of children is not compromised. As an added protection home owners can cover lead-based painted areas with wallpaper, wallboard or panelling.

If you plan to do the work yourself, know that it’s a tall order. Remove all furnishings, rugs and window coverings on which lead dust might cling. If you can’t remove a belonging or furnishings make sure they are covered in plastic. Cover your heating and cooling vents and doorways as you want to prevent scrapings and paint particles from travelling throughout your house. Open your windows. To trap the dust and keep yourself protected you will need tarps, a respirator, protective eye coverings and gloves.

It’s a good idea to take frequent breaks, every ten minutes or so. Exit the work area immediately if you begin to feel dizzy, sick or have trouble breathing.

Use a chemical paint stripper paste and apply it with a brush. You want to avoid sanders, heat guns or blowlamps as they create toxic dust and fumes.

Then again, you may decide to hire a lead abatement company to get the job done. You’ll find them online. Be sure to check references.

How Technology Helps Green Our Homes

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

There’s no doubt that when historians look back on this time it will be deemed the Age of Technology or some such name that indicates the era as a whirlwind of rapidly changing automation.

Perhaps nowhere is that revolution more evident than in our homes with how technology has served to make them warmer yet more eco-friendly. Let’s take a look at some of the tech advances that are helping green our homes:

Temperature-Controlled Living

Saving us money and time, but perhaps most importantly, saving our planet from environmental ruin are home automation systems that allow you to cool or warm your home remotely. What’s unique about smart thermostats is that technology allows you to be eco-smart so that you are not heating or cooling a space when you’re not there. Sync these thermostats with your iPhone so that your habits are remembered. Some tech companies allow you to use your smartphone to link your temperature controls with your lighting for added savings. Just think: no more fiddling with tricky timers or leaving lights on at all hours to fool people into thinking you’re home. With this technology, you can easily control the timer from anywhere with a simple click.

Tiny Bubbles

While laundering your clothes will never be a snap, there are smart washing machines now that don’t guzzle energy like their predecessors. Equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities, these machines also allow you to use your smartphone to detect any issues that crop up with your washer.

Ditch the Dryer

While that is much easier said than done, dryer chugs through an inordinate amount of energy that rivals your washer, dishwasher and refrigerator combined. Try using folding racks to hang and air dry your laundry or simply hang clothes such as shirts from hangers. Or consider hanging half your laundry and machine drying the other half. Just be sure to air dry the heavier items and let the lighter loads in the machine, which will cut down drying time.

Skip to the Loo

Dual-flush toilets are all the rage and with good reason. Instead of flushing away six gallons of water with each flush, dual-flush toilets only use up either.8 or 1.6 gallons. Let’s say a family of three each uses the toilet five times a day. If they are using an older style toilet then they are flushing nearly 100 gallons of water down the drain each and every day. Dual-flush toilets allow you to select the level of water required for each flush. Another great technological advancement is the toilet that uses gray water from your bath and shower in order to flush.

Eco Padding Your House

While spray polyurethane foam insulation is a workhorse of a product in terms of helping keep homes draft free and temperature controlled, environmentalists don’t look too kindly on it for its greening properties. Soybean-based spray foam is a good alternative as it does not contain the chemical (MDI or diphenyl diisocyanate) that causes off-gassing. Castor-oil based lcynene is also a good option. Cotton denim batting is a good green insulation, though it can be expensive to install and not nearly as easy as foam. Similarly, sheep’s wool is a good eco-friendly alternative, but like denim, it is not as easy to install.

Sources: Mother Earth News, Better Homes & Gardens, Organic 4 Greenlivings, Eco Building Pulse, Green High Five

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,

Save Money and the Planet this Winter

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

You may still be recovering from excessive holiday spending so now might be the perfect time to look at ways to save money this winter.

Keeping comfortable in our homes in winter not only costs money but also wreaks havoc on the environment. What better time than now to look at ways to help you save while sparing our planet.

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Keep it Simple

We may not get lots of it, but winter sunshine can be a good friend for those trying to heat their homes economically. Open curtains, shades and blinds and let in the free, natural light. When it gets dark, you should close your window coverings, which provide a layer of insulation against the cold.

Is your couch blocking a heat vent? If you’re trying to save coin and do so in a way that is eco-friendly, that’s not how to do it. Let the warm air circulate more freely by moving away couches and furniture that blocks the vents.

Try a draught excluder. They run the length of your door and prevent draughts from getting inside. You can buy them fairly cheaply or make your own. These long sausage-shaped draught excluders can be made from something as simple as an old pair of tights stuffed with socks, rice, kitty litter or lentils. Naturally, you can pretty them up to match your décor if that’s more your style.

Area rugs help prevent the heat loss that comes from bare hardwood floors.

Don’t forget to let ceiling fans do their work. By reversing the direction they turn to clockwise in winter the fan will push warm air back down from the ceiling height. Use on a low setting.

Don’t mean to sound all 1930s on you but throw on a sweater and some wool socks. Walking around your home in shorts and a t-shirt in -15 degree weather doesn’t do your furnace any favours or your wallet.

Windows

New ones can be pricey but there are other means to help you control your expenses. Inspect your windows for cracks and leaks and caulk if needed. Also consider weather stripping to reduce air leakage. Window insulation kits are a cheap alternative to replacing your windows. A thin layer of film adheres to your window, blocking warm air from escaping. The film, which looks like plastic wrap, doesn’t block or impair your view. Another option for windows is to hang heavy curtains that prevent the cold from coming in.

Hot Water

Turn down the temperature of your water setting. Did you know that heating your water accounts for about 18 per cent of the energy consumed in your home?

What’s the Temperature?

When you’re home try to keep the furnace temperature on the low side. When you’re sleeping or out of the house, turn down the temp considerably. Try setting it back between 10 and 15 degrees F for eight hours daily and you could save five to 15 per cent on your annual heating bill.

 Block the Fireplace

In many older homes, fireplaces make for attractive rooms but are highly impractical when not in use. Be sure to keep the flue closed or buy a chimney balloon, which blocks cold air from getting in while allowing ventilation.

There are plenty of simple, eco-friendly ways to save money this winter while keeping the earth green. Stopping to think before cranking up the thermometer is a good start.

Revive Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Revive Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Whether you’re thinking of selling your house or staying put, creating curb appeal is something every home owner seems to aspire to. Having an admiration worthy home is something many of us yearn for and some of us spend serious time and money trying to achieve.

There’s no better time than now to dust off the cobwebs, pack up winter gear and roll out springtime. Here is our must-do checklist for adding a bit of curb appeal:

 

The Front DoorFront Door

As the home’s focal point, your front door should be inviting and attractive. It should say, ‘You’re welcome here.’ Make sure it’s clean for starters. Paint it a pretty, eye-catching colour. Think of changing the hardware or adding an attractive door knocker. Finally, consider adorning it with an attractive spring wreath or door decoration.

 

What’s Your Number?

Is your house number clear and easy to read? Walk across the street to see yours. You don’t want the numbers blocked by shrubs or trees and it’s best if they’re placed near an outside light housenumberso the pizza delivery person can find you in the dark. Also, try to position the numbers horizontally because they are easier to read than if laid out vertically.

 

 

Garden in a Pot

gardenpotAdding to that welcoming feeling is a grouping of spring plants near your front door. Depending on your space place one great big pot or three various sized ones on your porch or the walkway near your front door. Providing your steps are wide enough, you can also use the sides of your front stairs to arrange pots bursting with spring blooms. Hanging pots of plants also lend curb appeal.

 

Pretty Up Your Porch

Many older city houses have a front porch ideal for watching the world go by or just being a nosy neighbour. Regardless, your porch can be an extension of your summertime living space so throw down an outdoor rug, a table and some patio furniture. Decorate your space with favourite colours and tchotchkes such as lanterns, pillows and candles. You’ll never want to go indoors.

 

Grass & Flower Beds

Is your lawn looking a little tired after winter’s abuse? You may need to reseed your graflowerbedss or replace patches of it. Cover your flower beds with natural mulch such as leaves, sawdust or shredded bark so they retain moisture longer and look even and finished.

Wash Windows & Siding

There’s nothing like clean windows and spotless siding to draw the eye. Try using a power washer or simply a regular hose with a washing attachment.

Look Up

Your roof should get a once over. Curling shingles or those that are crumbling should be looked at by a professional.

 

Putting the Green in Spring Cleaning

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Come the warmer temperatures, our longing for renewal, shine, even a little spit and polish grows stronger with each passing day.

Spring cleaning is somehow more tolerable than regular cleaning simply because, well, it’s springtime. Add to that ways to clean that don’t pollute or waste valuable resources and you have an activity that’s practically heaven-sent.  So let’s get to it. imagesM6BA60CL

Start by opening up your windows and letting all that fresh air inside your home. You’ll likely need to clean your windows so using a mixture of water and vinegar is a good green way to start. Wipe them clean with newspaper for a lint-free shine. Wash curtains and sheers. Dust shades and blinds. If yours are really grimy you may want to soak them in the bathtub or laundry sink. As the eyes of a home, the windows play an important role in maintaining its appeal. Don’t forget to clean your interior windows and window ledges as well.

The entryway or hallway of your home suffers a fair bit of abuse with the comings and goings of family members, friends and pets. Use an all-natural all-purpose cleaner to wipe away mud, salt stains and grime. Vacuum out your closet and de-clutter. Hang something fresh and spring like on the outside of your door.

Vinegar is a great cleaner for most floors. Mix it with some rubbing alcohol and a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Area rugs will need a good going over after winter’s assault. Sprinkle baking soda on your rugs to eliminate odors. Be sure to vacuum both side of your rug.

Use old athletic socks turned inside out to dust your home. Just cover your hand with the sock and start dusting.

Springtime is the right time to get rid of clothes you haven’t worn and other household items that have been left to collect dust. Consider donating gently used items to charity, where they can get another life. Opt for tearing up old absorbent articles of clothing and towels to add to your rag bag. Think of the money you’ll save on paper towels. untitled

Remember to go easy on the toxic chemicals. Many household cleaning supplies, while safe in small doses, may have longer term side effects. Volatile organic compounds, phosphates, petrochemicals and chlorine bleach have been linked to various health concerns. Instead, stock up on kitchen essentials that with a little finesse on your part do a beautiful job of making your home sparkle. Vinegar, baking soda, lemon, borax and essential oils either on their own or in various combinations make great eco-friendly cleaners that easily match or exceed store-bought products.

There’s no need to choke back noxious fumes or waste gobs of paper and water when spring cleaning. And while old habits die hard, it’s not a bad idea to stop and think can I clean in a way that’s safer, less toxic and generally kinder to the planet.

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.