The winters of Toronto are harsh on your beautiful landscapes. The frigid cold kills your seasonal plants, while heavy snow and moisture can cause your stone pathways and driveway to crack and split. As a homeowner, this is the stuff of nightmares; all that hard work and investment gone in only a few short years! Thankfully however, you can prepare for these issues months in advance: during the fall months. The following are some helpful tips that you can use in order to keep your landscaping in the best shape in can be for years to come.
Maintaining the Hardscape
Hardscaping consists of all the non-living materials that make up your landscaping. This means the stone paths you had constructed to lead up to your front door, the stone tiling around your pool, your backyard deck, as well as the concrete driveway that leads all the way up to your garage. While this aspect of landscaping is hardier than the plants of your softscape, it’s still very much susceptible to the destructive effects of a cold Toronto winter. The following are some fall and winter landscaping tips to prevent damage to your hardscaping when the snow, ice and frost comes.
1. Take care of cracks during the fall
If you notice cracks in your hardscaping, it’s a good idea to deal with them before the winter comes. This is because water can seep into these cracks, and freezing water expands, causing the cracks to grow during the winter, making your problem worse. If you notice any cracking occuring in your concrete driveway, contact a landscape contractor and have them patch it up for you. If you wait until the cracks worsen and spread, it might require more significant repairs in the future.
2. Make sure you get the right type of de-icer
De-icing your hardscaping is an important job for the Toronto homeowner, but you need to choose the correct type of de-icer or else you risk damaging your hardscaping significantly, leading to costly repairs. Sodium Chloride and Calcium Chloride deicing solutions corrode concrete and other materials used in hardscaping, leading to unevenness in the surface and possible discoloration as the concrete breaks down. Use Potassium Chloride salts as a deicing solution instead.
3. Avoid using metal snow shovels
Metal snow shovels, while effective for scraping up snow will leave scratches and marks on the concrete and stone you use for your hardscaping. Instead, go for shovels with rubberized scrapers. These, while less effective at scraping, will not damage your hardscape, just make sure you keep up with the shoveling so the snow doesn’t pile on and compact, causing you to scrape snow off harder. Alternatively, look at investing some money into a snow blower instead.
4. Maintain your deck one last time
Before the winter comes, inspect your deck one last time. Check your wood deck for rot or cracks that can potentially worsen during and after the winter. Replace these wooden panels immediately. Take this time as well to restain and reapply waterproofing to your deck to further protect it from the snow and cold weather. It’s also important to give your decks a good clean before the winter comes as accumulated dust and other debris can damage the material if you leave it buried under inches of snow for long periods of time. Finally, during the winter, take a plastic shovel and occasionally clear out the snow that accumulates on your deck.
Taking Care of Your Yard Furniture and Appliances
Besides just your softscape and landscaping, it’s also important to take care of your lawn and backyard furniture. These parts bring personality to your backyard but they’re also the most susceptible to winter damage. Avoid unneeded expenses replacing your furniture with these late fall landscaping tips.
1. Outdoor Kitchens
Most backyards will have a dedicated cooking area whether this is a fully featured kitchen or just a simple round grill. For grills, it’s a good idea to take them into the house or store them in the garage for the winter, since you won’t be cooking much outside during this time. For fully featured kitchens, make sure that your pipes and water lines are properly drained. You don’t want them to burst during the winter to avoid covering appliances with a lot of electronics as well as moisture tends to accumulate under there and may cause electrical issues. Your stone countertop may also need to be treated with waterproofing sealants to prevent debris and snow from damaging the material
If you like entertaining guests outside, your landscaping may include an outdoor media center. In preparation for winter, it’s a good idea to take the electronics back into the house for storage. Most outdoor outlets have a weatherproof cover but you need to make sure that these are properly closed before the snow comes.
3. Lawn Furniture
Most outdoor lawn furniture is built to withstand harsh conditions compared to indoor furniture. But this doesn’t mean it’s alright to just leave them out as is. Make sure you cover them up to prevent direct damage from snow and ice. Most higher-end pieces will likely come with a cover for you to use during the winter. If your furniture doesn’t come with it, you can always purchase a waterproof and weatherproof cover from a hardware store and use that instead.
It should come as no surprise that if your furniture has fabric components that can be removed, you should definitely take them into the house for the winter. Take the time during the cold winter days as well to give them a thorough laundering. All that moisture and changes in temperature throughout the year makes throw pillows and cushions left outside the perfect breeding ground for mold and the formation of mildew. It’s a good idea to take these to the cleaners if you have no way to effectively clean them at home.
Taking care of Your Softscape
Softscape means all the organic material found in your landscaping. This includes bushes, trees, and flowers found in your garden and lawn. In the winter months, most of these plants will wither and die off in preparation for the spring next year where they’ll grow anew. Here are a few fall landscaping tips that can help you keep your softscape looking pristine through winter and into the following spring.
1. Deal with fallen leaves properly
This should go without saying, but having a lawn full of dead leaves can be an eyesore. Take the time every week or so of the fall to rake your leaves into a pile for disposal. If you’re growing a small vegetable garden, consider using the leaves as part of your compost to provide fertilizer for the next planting season. Alternatively, they can be used as garden mulch as well.
2. Get rid of dead and spent plants to prevent diseases
If you have a garden or a flower patch on your landscaping adding color to your home, you’ll need to prepare them in the fall for the coming spring next year. It’s tempting to leave those fallen, dead and spent plants on the ground and just let them decompose because it seems like a lot of work but that’s not a good idea for the health of your garden come next planting season. This is because insects that eat your plants as food during the summer months may lay eggs. These eggs can stay dormant over the winter and hatch in the spring to wreak havoc on your new plants. Besides that, parasites that have infected your plants from the previous year can also lay dormant over the winter and infect your new plants as well. Dispose of them the next time your neighborhood does a lawn waste pick-up
3. Winterize your shrubs and trees during the fall
Deciduous plants are those plants you have in your lawn that have their leaves fall off during the autumn months. These plants go dormant during the winter and regrow their foliage during the spring. To keep these plants looking as healthy as possible next year, you can prepare for their winter dormancy in a number of ways. For deciduous shrubs, you can cover the shrubs with a light tarp to preserve their shape. For your evergreen and deciduous trees, you can prevent winter damage to them by giving your trees a deep watering right before winter hits, when all the leaves have fallen but before the ground has frozen over. This will provide the trees with enough water to survive the winter, where the leading cause of damage is the trees’ inability to draw water from frozen ground.
If you’re hoping to prepare your landscape for the winter feel free to call M.E. Contracting at (416) 238-6700 for assistance with your landscaping problems. Our expert team of landscapers and designers will be up to ask helping you improve your landscape and turn it into marvelous space all year ‘round.