Getting Your Garden Ready For Spring

Gardens ready for spring

Spring is just around the corner, and that is good news for garden enthusiasts who want to see beautiful flowers and plants in their backyards instead of snow. But before you jump into the gardening, there are some things you need to do in order to make the most of your garden.

Take Stock of Your Tools and Supplies

Make sure that you have adequate supplies for gardening: shovel, hoe, gloves, wheelbarrow and anything else that you know you use or might use to cultivate your garden. Inspect the tools that you do have for any signs of decay or damage. Check metal tools for rust and for wooden tools check for splits and cracks.

Inspect the Garden Bed

The harsh winter weather could easily damage your garden bed, so it is a good idea to repair or replace any damage to the frame. Also check for weeds that might have grown. Weeds can be your garden?s biggest enemy so make sure they are fully uprooted before you begin sowing.

Break up the Ground

The ground would have been frozen solid by the cold winter so you need to loosen it up. This can be hard work but it is important to make sure that your garden has the best environment to grow in. A rototiller would be a good tool for this. Alternatively you can use a hoe, shovel or pick.

Fertilize the Soil

Make sure that your soil is adequately fertilized. You can use commercial fertilizer or compost you might have accumulated. Just spread the compost over the top of the soil.

Shift around Perennials

Spring is a good opportunity to put some variety into your garden by trading plants. Just make sure that whatever plants you trade in are healthy, you don?t want to take the risk of cultivating unhealthy plants as they can ruin your entire garden.

Plant Vegetables Early

Some seeds actually germinate better in cooler weather so make sure you take advantage of the favourable spring conditions. After you sow, prune away any foliage to ensure that the seeds grow successfully.

Protect Your Plants

Spring can still bring on late spates of frost and snow. Prepare your plants for this by covering them in plastic and cloth. Check the weather forecast for any freezing weather and take action early.

Sometimes you might find yourself short of supplies or in need of some advice. If you have a local garden supplier, you can ask them about any new tools or information that can be useful. Our team at Infinity Gardens is available to offer their assistance, guidance and insight.

8 Ideas For An Outdoor Kitchen

ideas for an outdoor kitchen in your  back yard

The only thing better than sharing an amazing homemade meal with your family and friends is preparing it outdoors under the summer sky. Whether you live in a climate that is warm or a little on the cooler side, you can still enjoy the luxury of an outdoor kitchen.

Being stuck inside on a warm evening while your guests socialize outside is not fun. There is often discussion about bringing the outdoors inside, so why not try bringing the indoors outside? An outdoor kitchen might be exactly the project you have been wanting to accomplish this summer.

Functional Layout and Storage

Functionality is an essential component for building a successful outdoor kitchen. Just as you would design your ideal indoor kitchen in a way to increase flow and productivity, with cupboards and appliances in locations where they make the most sense, you can do the same with your outdoor kitchen. Depending on space, create a U-shaped, L-shaped or rectangular kitchen that will best serve your cooking style.

Work with a designer and/or architect to come up with a layout with both functionality and storage capabilities ? you don?t want to run inside every time you need a pot or pan. Think of an outdoor kitchen as a completely separate entity for your indoor one, in need of both cooking and dining ware.

Lighting

A dark kitchen is never easy for a chef to work in and you don?t want to limit your outdoor cooking and entertaining possibilities to daylight hours. Make sure to consider lighting in your new outdoor space. Be creative with it ? try fixtures and shapes you would not try indoors. Although your outdoor space is an extension of your indoor design, with open air comes a more flexible aesthetic. What may not work indoors might be a perfect fit in your outdoor kitchen.

Pair Alongside Garden or Pool

If you have a garden or pool in your backyard, consider installing your outdoor kitchen beside them. This will create tasteful cohesion in your yard as well as allow family members and guests to enjoy both spaces simultaneously. Swim in the morning and then prepare lunch at noon without even having to go indoors. Summer is for outdoor living and this is how you capitalize on its warm weather and cloudless, storm-free days ? and nights.

Fireplace

Consider installing a fireplace in your outdoor kitchen or adjacent dining area. An outdoor fireplace, whether wood-burning or electric, will provide needed warmth and comfort for cool summer nights. Spark up your fireplace to dine outside with your guests, long into the late hours of the night.

Gourmet Grill

The grill, the mecca of summer cooking and entertaining, should be the focal point of any outdoor kitchen. Although this might seem obvious, allot for an adequate amount of your appliance budget for a grill. A grill is not an afterthought ? it is a way of life for outdoor chefs. If possible, find a professional grade one that heats up quickly, like this gas and charcoal grill from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. You will be happy you went the extra mile in this department when you start cooking in your outdoor kitchen.

Pizza Oven

Fire it up! To all the pizza lovers out there, what is better than a freshly grilled wood-oven pizza? Well, maybe, delicious wood-oven pizza cooked and enjoyed in the comfort of your outdoor kitchen? If you like a good pie, consider designing your outdoor kitchen to include a pizza oven. Not only are they lovely to look at, but they will create endless summer fun for you and your family.

Wine and Beer Fridge

Cool drinks are essential on hot summer days. Make sure your outdoor kitchen is equipped with proper refrigeration for both food and beverages. This will save you time from having to run back and forth between your indoor fridge, as well as make beverages easily accessible while entertaining. Also, consider installing a built-in cooler specifically for beer, water and other bottled drinks.

Sink and Dishwasher

Make cleaning up simple with an outdoor sink and dishwasher. Lugging all your dirty pots, pans, glasses and dinnerware inside is a total drag. Reduce cleaning time and hassle by having everything you need to prepare, eat and clean up a meal in your outdoor kitchen. Cooking outdoors becomes a hassle when you have to dirty your indoor kitchen as well just to wash dishes.

If you are interested in the possibilities of equipping your homes with an outdoor kitchen, call Infinity Gardens today at 403-938-5512 or send us an email at info@infinitygardens.ca for more information.

The pandemic “get away” in your new landscaped backyard oasis.

Backyard landscape with water feature
Peace and quiet in your own yard

With cities being locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the family requirement for a safe space and a backyard to ?get away? without leaving home has never been more important.  Extending the family living space to the outdoors can give you the feeling of a ?get away? without leaving your own yard.

We are all hearing phrases like ?locked in your home? which well defines the typical family unit today.? With schools being shut down, parents have added a new role as curriculum builders, time schedulers and full time teachers in their own homes.? Jobs, whether you have one or not have added completely new level of stress to the family unit. Basically the feeling of being “locked in” is stress from not having a chance to step away from everything new that has come up from the health issues surrounding us today.? Family members have had to adapt work and school spaces within the house and depending on the size of your indoor living space, there may not be proper spaces to have a ?get away? from others. Going beyond the new day to day schedule, let?s add the question whether or not we will be able to safely take our families on holidays or camping for an actual get away. .?

We all can imagine the feeling of snuggling outdoors by an outdoor fireplace, making s?mores, golfing, sipping wine on a patio , reading a good book in the sun or having a nap in a lounger with the sound of trickling water from a nearby creek or pond.? These dreams can all be attained within our own yards with a beautiful landscape design and construction. ?

Landscaping companies that offer full service landscape design and construction are your best choice to ensure you create properly functioning yards with sturdy retaining walls, water drainage issues solved, creative designed areas with design flow, privacy, low maintenance and the added features that will bring you peace and happiness.? ?

Whether your goals are to make new family memories resembling weekend getaways or to create new private spaces for a peaceful mental break, there might not be a better time to create these new outdoor living spaces in your own yard.   

All You Need To Know About Retaining Walls

Calgary Retaining Wall
See more photos of this landscape design project by Infinity Gardens

Retaining walls are much more than a decorative feature of your yard, they serve a very practical purpose: to prevent soil from moving downhill by the force of gravity. Nevertheless, you can certainly turn them into a decorative aspect of your home. A retainer can be practical, as well as aesthetically pleasing?you just need to appreciate all the functions it serves and consider how you can enhance it. Here are a few reasons why you might need a retainer, and what you can do to maintain and improve it.

Your Home is Close to a Fault line

If your home is located close to a soil fault line, you are at risk of being adversely affected by soil erosion. In the event of an earthquake, the soil will move away from the fault line and and create instability over the ground where your home is. A retainer can stabilize the soil?s movements in your yard. You might not think that an earthquake is likely, but it is always better to be safe than to be sorry.

Minimizes Soil Erosion

If erosion is already a problem for you, then a retaining wall can certainly minimize the damage. A retaining wall holds keeps the soil at bay and reduces the level of descent. The flatter the surface the less damage soil erosion can do.

Improves Water Runoff

When it rains heavily, water spills onto the streets and from there to nearby rivers. Wall retainers can help slow the flow of rainwater. Retaining walls are particularly useful in areas that are prone to flooding.

Critical for Houses Located on Slopes

If your home is located on a downhill slope, a retaining wall might be necessary. A sliding hill is the last thing you need for your home, as it can threaten its very foundation. A retaining wall is a good buffer against soil that is moving downwards.

Provides Arable Land

Retaining walls have been used for farmers by centuries. They provide good soil for them to plant crops and provide a level area to operate on. While you won?t be engaging in any large-scale agricultural production, a retaining wall can create the conditions for a garden.

Building and Maintaining Your Retaining Walls

Your retaining wall requires some degree of maintenance to keep it functioning; it also requires a bit of thought if you want it to be a well designed addition to your home. Rather than having it straight, try experimenting with curves. The materials can also be designed for better appearance. How much you want to put into aesthetics depends on your personal taste and budget. If you are planning to build a wall for the first time, the first thing you should do is check the city office for the appropriate building codes-especially if you are planning to build a tall retaining wall. Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Proper Terracing Retainer walls can be terraced for design and extra strength. The task is best performed in increments so that adjustments can be easily made if necessary.
  • Work with Standard Blocks It is much easier to work with a set of standard manufactured blocks when building a retaining wall. It also provides the wall with a more unified look.
  • Prepare a Solid Foundation The wall will be no good without a solid foundation. Dig the base a few inches below grade and fill it with gravel (or appropriate filler).
  • Plan for Drainage A retaining wall should have drainage at the base as it will be collecting a lot of water, in addition to stopping the soil. A fabric-covered drainage pipe is ideal since it prevents clogging.
  • Materials to Use The most common materials for building blocks tend to be timber, concrete and stone. These materials have varying levels of durability, with timber being the least durable. Stone is the most expensive, but is the most durable material and has the best design. If you are willing to spend a little extra, the stone retainer is well worth it in terms of both practicality and style.
Conclusion

Retainer walls can be both protective and stylish with some forethought and investment. If you live on a hill or in an area prone to flooding, it makes sense to build a retaining wall. If you are building one for the first time, or you are looking to refurbish your current retaining wall, then it might be a good idea to consult with a professional who can give you advice on appropriate materials, methods, and cost appropriate to your budget. Get in touch with us today and see how we can help you make a better choice for your garden and outdoor needs.

Tips For A Drought-Tolerant Landscape Design

Landscape designed for low water

With the climate constantly shifting, droughts are becoming more and more prevalent. Preparing for a drought isn?t easy, especially if you are looking to?maintain a beautiful landscape. You don?t know exactly when a drought will occur, leaving you with a shriveled landscape that looks like a desert wasteland has taken up residence on your property. In order to create a drought-tolerant garden and greenspace for your property, any decent landscape design company will recommend xeriscaping. This is a special technique that involves meticulous insight, but yields incredible results. Below you?ll find important tips for a drought-tolerant landscape design that will ensure that your plants and greenery flourish even when rainfall and water sources are scarce.

Planning Your Landscape

Take a look at your yard. Identify the shady spots and any existing vegetation that cannot be removed. When you understand the space you?re working with, it?s easier to come up with drought-tolerant landscape ideas. Keep an eye out for areas where the ground naturally slopes because these areas will play a key role in the natural drainage system of your landscape. Furthermore, determine the purpose of the entire area. Determine where the most foot traffic will be, and if it?s necessary to create a path for people to walk on. Stone paths can compliment any landscape and don?t need to be watered.

Analyze the Soil

Most custom landscape services involve soil analysis. This gives you an idea of the type of soil you?re working with, so you know how much improvement is necessary. A soil analysis also helps determine which types of plants will flourish in your space and which ones won?t grow at all.

Go Native

Once you have an idea of the type of soil you?re working with, you can select plants. A good rule for creating a drought-resistant landscape is to stick with native plants. Any plant that naturally grows in the region will require less watering and be well adapted to the local climate. When you bring in seeds from other places you?re looking at more watering and maintenance to help them grow.

Learn to Strategize

Group plants together based on how often they need watering. You should also come up with a watering strategy. For example, only water plants in the morning when the weather is cool, so that when the sun comes out, the water doesn?t evaporate. Moreover, avoid watering plants at night, because it can result in the growth of mould and fungus which are hard to get rid of during a drought. Finally, water your plants at their base, so there is less chance of evaporation.

Mulch Organically

Use organic mulch to help cool the plants? roots and slow down the water evaporation process. Organic mulch is compatible with any soil and retains moisture efficiently, so if there is a drought, you can rest assured that your landscape won?t suffer.

Limit the Turf

Unless you are landscaping a soccer field, you should limit the use of high-input turf grass. This is only ideal for sports fields and not particularly drought-resistant. Although high-input turf may always seems to be a sparkling emerald green, it is difficult to maintain, and cannot stand up to a drought.

Collect Water Where You Can

Because a drought can hit without warning, you need to collect water when you can. This involves installing a rain barrel to capture rainwater, and taking advantage of downspouts. You can also collect water from basement dehumidifiers and pools. However, if there is a drought, you probably won?t be filling up your pool.

Weather Controlled Irrigation Systems

Weather controlled irrigation is the ideal solution for areas that experience frequent dry periods ? and a strong investment for your property. These systems are programmed to irrigate at certain times per day when the soil will use the water most efficiently. The most advanced of these systems are connected to weather reports and will not turn on when it is predicted to rain.

Custom Landscape Services to the Rescue

The most effective way to design a drought-tolerant landscape is to take advantage of custom landscape services. Hiring a professional landscape design company will help you get the garden and foliage that you want, without sacrifices. Any reputable landscape design company will create the perfect drought-tolerant set-up for your property, whether it?s for a commercial space or your home.

Maintenance is Key

A little maintenance goes a long way. If you are trying to maintain a large property, you will probably want to hire a professional landscaper to handle upkeep. Even if you?re not dealing with a commercial space, custom landscape services are probably the best way to maintain your greenery. The better maintained your landscape is, the more drought-tolerant it will be.

5 Landscaping Ideas For Spring

Landscaping ideas for Spring

With the cold, snow, and ice out of the way, it is time to reclaim your outdoor space with some spring gardening and?residential landscaping?as you prepare your home for summer or resale. In fact, reports suggest that landscape design can increase the resale value of your home by as much as 20 percent, provide an ROI of over 50 percent, and make your home sell faster.

If you are looking to sell your home, experts argue that you should invest about 10 percent of the total value of your home in landscaping. Even if you have no intention of selling your home, you can still?add a dose of charm to your yard?with these simple spring landscaping ideas.

  1. Planting Shrubs or Trees. You can plant one tree or shrub or as many as your yard can handle, taking into consideration the correct spacing for a mature tree. Planting a single tree can provide you with a nice shaded area that you can enjoy in the years to come.Taking care of several trees is not very involved, as long as you provide basic care, which includes watering, trimming, mulching, leaf and branch removal, and for fruit trees, fertilizing. However, you should make sure to choose shrubs or trees that offers the greatest aesthetic value, in terms of shape, colour, and even texture. A good choice for nearly all climates is the Japanese maple, which can enliven any landscape with its colour and form. Other common options include eastern red cedar, northern red oak, and Colorado blue spruce.
  2. Colourful Mulch. Since most yards already have a few trees, plants and a lush lawn, you can easily add colour and texture by applying mulch. For instance, mulch in a dark, roasted coffee bean colour can offer a beautiful contrast to a green lawn. For a landscape featuring flat lawns and well trimmed low shrubs, you may consider introducing some pine cones to add texture.Other interesting mulch colours for giving life to your bland landscape include cedar, gold, red and even black. It?s easy and cheap to add mulch to your landscape. Simply choose a colour and texture, dump it on your garden, spread it evenly, and leave it. However, mulching should be done away from the house and other structures, as it can hide insects and trap moisture that rots wooden surfaces.
  3. Clear Garden Pathways and Fencing. A neat yard can make a huge difference for the beauty of your landscape. If you have overgrown shrubs or flowers that seem to be spilling over from the garden beds and onto the walkways, then edging could help to perk up the landscape. You could also do some pruning and cutting just to restore order.You could go a step further to mark the boundaries of your garden and walkways in a creative way. You can use large rocks, bottles planted neck down, or some other item that is readily available, provided they go the entire path. Alternatively, you can plant low-maintenance groundcovers, such as vinca, pachysandra, lamb?s ears, or lily of the valley to add colour and texture to the walkways.
  4. Outdoor Lighting. Installing fancy outdoor lighting can dramatically enhance the appeal of your landscape without breaking the bank. Proper outdoor lighting will allow you extend your outside activities even after the sun sets. Lighting can also increase the security of your home, help to accent the beauty of your garden and lawn, and make your home more marketable and attractive to prospective buyers.
  5. Creating a Focal Point. Residential landscaping ideas can be inspired by your own passions and desires. You can discuss your design ideas with a skilled and experienced contractor to find ways to bring your vision to life, and create a focal point that is meaningful to you.For instance, you can choose to install a statue, fountain, pond, patio, or anything else that will give you pleasure every time you look at your lawn. Water features such as hot tubs and swimming pools can also blend into the natural landscape. Decks and patios are the most common landscape installations because they increase the value of your home by about 12 percent. These projects are quite expensive, so it is important that you hire a skilled contractor who will maximize the comfort and beauty of your outdoor space and ensure that everything harmonizes with the landscape.

With landscape design being so visual, it can be easier to look at a series of projects or specific landscape design features. Photos of Landscaping Ideas can be found in the gallery at Infinity Gardens Landscaping in Calgary.

Final Note

Spring residential landscaping can mean the difference between selling your home sooner and at a greater profit, and waking up to the same bland landscape through spring and summer. There are many different ways to improve your outdoor space, depending on your design needs and budget. Whatever softscapes and hardscapes you choose to invest in, make sure that you work with a skilled landscape professional who can bring your vision to life within your budget.

Ten Ideas For Better Landscaping Solutions

Landscape design

A great way to improve your home is through landscaping. With so many landscaping option out there what should you choose? Do you go with a new patio or add a swimming pool? What about a colourful garden or space for the kids to play? Are you looking to cook more outdoors or cultivate a relaxing atmosphere? We?ve come up with ten ideas for better landscaping solutions that look great and compliment any home.

  1. Stone Path Dividers Whether it?s your back or front yard you?re looking to improve, stone paths can be used to divide any area. Adding stone paths or walkways to separate certain areas of your yard allow you to keep certain spaces separate from others. For instance, if you have a stone path that divides your yard into two areas, you can have a barbecue station in one and a swing set for your kids in another. Or, you can have stone paths around your home that connect the back and front yards. No matter what you choose, stone paths are proven landscaping solutions.
  2. Outdoor Kitchen Do you host a lot of barbecues? Do you like having people over for meals? Why not try this ultimate landscaping solution: the outdoor kitchen. You don?t have to install a full kitchen but speciality appliances like brick stoves and pizza ovens work great outdoors. It is also a good idea to install an outdoor sink to make cleaning up after barbecues a breeze.
  3. Meditation Garden If you?re looking to create a zen-like atmosphere in your backyard, a meditation garden will do the trick. Meditation gardens don?t necessarily need to be used to meditate. They?re actually stylish and offer a tranquil aspect to your yard.
  4. Swimming Pool The perfect landscaping solution for your home might be a swimming pool. Besides giving your family a place to cool down when the sun?s out for revenge, a pool is like an at-home gym because swimming is a great overall body workout. You don?t have to have an in-ground pool, an above-ground one with a deck built around it is a great landscaping option.
  5. Water Features If having an in-ground or above-ground pool isn?t a good landscaping option for your property there are other water features you can install that take up less space. Ponds, waterfalls, ceramic and stone fountains all make for beautiful landscaping ideas. You can even have fish in your pond to create an idyllic scene. Just remember that the fish will need a home in the winter when your pond freezes over.
  6. Privacy Shrubbery One of the more practical considerations of landscaping is ensuring that you have enough privacy from your neighbours. Traditional fencing is fine but if you?re looking to spruce up your property, try privacy shrubbery instead. Evergreen shrubs, bamboo plants?basically any tall hedge?will work to keep your home separate from your neighbours?. However, some shrubs will lose their greenery in the winter, so keep that in mind when choosing your plants.
  7. Kiddie Corner If you have kids, don?t neglect them when it comes to landscaping. Swing sets and jungle gyms can be incorporated into your backyard but if you really want to keep your kids busy for hours on end go for the fun option with a sandbox. Since you will already be dividing your backyard with beautiful stone paths, you can keep the sandbox separate from the ?adult? areas of the yard like the outdoor kitchen and pool.
  8. Deck and Patio Depending on the size of your property, a deck or patio may be the right landscaping solution for you. You can go with a gorgeous stone patio or try the brick option. On the other hand, a treated-wood deck could look great in your yard. It all depends on the space available and what your tastes dictate.
  9. Theme Garden Another landscaping solution for your home is to add your own spin to a traditional garden. Theme gardens allow you to explore different colours and plant species. Everything from tropical to woodland to beach to rock garden is up for grabs and since this is your property, whatever theme you choose for your garden is perfect. You can match the rest of your yard to your theme garden for a little symmetry.
  10. Fireplace A simple landscaping option would be to add a fireplace or firepit to your yard. Fireplaces and firepits add a cozy feeling to your property and are easy to maintain. Plus, with a firepit or place you can entertain outside all year round.

If you are planning on undertaking a large landscaping project for your home, seek professional assistance. There are a great many things to consider, not the least of which being that many aspects of landscaping work can be dangerous. Contact the professionalsat Infinity Gardens instead to help you every step of the way.

Landscaping Ideas ? Questions to ask before hiring a landscape designer

Landscaping Ideas ? Questions to ask before hiring a landscape designer

A well-manicured landscape can enhance both the aesthetic and monetary value of a residential or commercial property. A proper landscape design encompasses functionality, aesthetics, symmetry, unity, and harmony. Although there are many landscape design companies out there, not all of them have the experience or skill to create a beautiful landscape that meets your needs.

Therefore, you have to diligently vet the landscaping company that you pick to ensure they have experience and technical know-how to deliver high-quality services. If you are looking for a reliable landscaping company in Calgary, below is a rundown of some questions you should ask potential contractors to avoid undesirable surprises.

What is the scope of your services?
Landscaping contractors can range in the scope of services offered. Those that only deal with landscape designs don?t get involved in installation and maintenance. While there are others who only do installation and maintenance, which means they will cut your lawn and care for your garden once it is already built. Lastly, there are also design-build landscaping companies, which offer full or turnkey landscaping services.

A full service landscaping company will help you with everything from designing your front or back yard, to building retaining wallsoutdoor kitchens and decks, installing irrigation systems, to maintaining your manicured lawn. Depending on how complex your landscape ideas are to realize, they can offer the most comprehensive services as they often have more skilled staff (landscape architects, horticulturists) to ensure your garden is always healthy and blooming.

Therefore, it is imperative to know the scope of services that a contractor offers to avoid getting frustrated down the line.

Can you offer some examples of your work?
Landscaping can be quite an involving and in some cases extensive job that requires a keen eye for detail and meticulous implementation. Otherwise, you can end up with cracked foundations, sunken pavers, shifting stones in your walkway, soil erosion, poor edging, water infiltration and more. Therefore, it is best to ensure that you get a professional with a good track record.

Doing your research prior to hiring a residential landscaper doesn?t need to be daunting. You can start by looking at examples of their complete projects and even the ongoing ones from their website. Once you are relatively familiar with the services they offer, give them a call and ask them for examples of their previous work. Most knowledgeable landscapers would be happy to walk you through their work and even proud to showcase their craftsmanship.

What is the estimated Cost of my Project?
Of course, you don?t want to start a project that will stall halfway due to costs that you couldn?t foresee. You have to ensure that you get rough estimates of how much a given landscaping project is going to cost from beginning to completion. It is also imperative to know how much maintenance will be necessary so that you can take that into account when budgeting your project.

How long will the job take?
When you start working with a landscaping contractor, the time that the entire project takes should not be indefinite. There must be clear timelines for the various stages of the project to help you plan ahead and keep track of the progress. The amount of time it takes to design and finish your home?s landscaping depends on how complex your project is, but any factors that could impact that timeline should be taken into account by your landscaper. Therefore, it is wise to have a clear idea from the beginning of the estimated duration of your landscaping project and to be comfortable relaying your questions and concerns.

The Takeaway
Do your research ? Although time consuming, this is the most important part of your landscaping project. Get to know the landscaping companies you are considering for the job and feel free to ask as many questions as possible.

Plan ahead ? Don?t try to wing it and deal with issues as they arise. Create a plan beforehand and take into account the scope of your project, cost, duration and possible maintenance.

Don?t forget functionality ? Having great curb appeal can increase your property?s value, but other than being aesthetically pleasing, your front and back yard also need to be functional. Think about your lifestyle, what activities you and your family would like to engage in, and how much time you can realistically assign to taking care of your yard.

Communication is key ? Most importantly, you need to have a landscaper you can trust who will continually communicate with you if any changes arise and will keep you in the loop at all times. Your landscaper should provide you with expert advice to help you make informed decisions and find the most efficient and cost effective way to bring your vision to reality.

10 Meals You Can Make With An Outdoor Fireplace

Outdoor kitchen cooking

An?outdoor fireplace is an important feature?that attracts many people to an?outdoor kitchen?landscape design for their home. Backyard fireplaces are a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and can be used to prepare some of your favourite meals. You can also get creative and make gourmet dishes, depending on your outdoor fireplace design. For the most part, all you need are oven mitts and a grilling rack to make a large number of different dishes. If you?re looking for culinary inspiration, here are ten meals you can make with an outdoor fireplace.

  1. Scrambled Eggs All you need is a cast-iron skillet to have a great breakfast outdoors using your fireplace. In addition to eggs, you can cook bacon, sausages, beans, oatmeal and pancakes on your outdoor fireplace. You can make a complete breakfast for your family to enjoy outside, hot off the grill.
  2. T-bone Steak There is no better way to cook a T-bone steak than over an open flame, and it takes under ten minutes to cook. Simply season the meat and place it directly on the grilling rack, turning after five minutes. When those perfect grill marks start to appear, you know the meat is done. You can also place the steak directly on the embers at about four minutes per side. Once removed from heat, brush the meat off to remove any embers that are clinging to it.
  3. Fish This is one of the easiest meals to make on an outdoor fireplace. Simple seasonings like salt, pepper and lemon juice are all you need for delicious fish. Drizzle a cast-iron skillet with olive oil and place it on the heat for about two minutes (or until hot). Then, place the fish of your choice on the the hot, cast-iron skillet. Flip after about three minutes (four minutes for salmon or other thick-cut fish). Cook for another three minutes before serving.
  4. Roasted or Baked Potatoes Whether you use sweet potatoes, white potatoes, yellow ones or red ones, roasted potatoes are easy to make on an outdoor fireplace. In fact, you can bake the potatoes directly on the fireplace embers if you so desire. For roasting, you can leave the potatoes whole if they are small, or cube them, and place them in foil on a grilling rack. You can season your potatoes with salt, pepper, chives, garlic?it?s your call.
  5. Catalan Tomato Bread This is an easy fireplace recipe that takes no time at all. With garlic, ripe tomatoes and the bread of your choice, you have an exciting side dish. All you need is to rub some roasted garlic and halved tomatoes on the bread, getting as much juice out of them as you can. Then drizzle with olive oil and place on the grilling rack for two to four minutes. Remember that bread burns quite quickly so do not take your eyes off the grill.
  6. Onions Onions can be cooked over any open flame, so they work great on any outdoor fireplace. Cooking onions outdoors is easy because they can be placed whole directly on the fire or on a grilling rack. You can also wrap them in foil and cook them with other vegetables like mushrooms and peppers.
  7. String-turned Roasted Chicken Depending on the outdoor fireplace design you have, you should be able to easily set up a truss to roast your chicken. This works best with a whole chicken, and you will need a fireplace-safe pan to catch the drippings that fall as the bird cooks. You can also use the drippings to make a gravy or sauce to accompany your roasted chicken.
  8. Roasted Beef Tenderloin To make this dish, you will need to wrap the tenderloin in a clean towel (you can use a dishtowel if it?s thick enough). The meat needs to be closely wrapped in a towel so that you can place it directly on the fireplace. You will have to dampen the towel first otherwise the meat will stick to it, or it could catch fire. Roasted beef tenderloin on the fireplace takes about thirty minutes. For best results, turn the meat after fifteen minutes.
  9. Pizza To make perfect pizza it will depend on your outdoor fireplace design. If you?re lucky enough to have an outdoor pizza oven then you?re all set. If you have a traditional fireplace, don?t fret, you can still make pizza on it. You will need a grilling rack to place your pizza on and you will want it to be very hot. When removing the pizza from the fireplace you will need to wear oven mitts, otherwise you will burn your hands.
  10. S?moresEveryone?s favourite childhood camping trip treat?is easy to make on your outdoor fireplace. All you need are graham crackers, marshmallows, dark or milk chocolate and foil. Simply build your s?mores, wrap them in foil and place on the the grilling rack for one or two minutes. Alternately, you can skewer the marshmallows and hold them over the flames for about two minutes. Remove the marshmallows from the skewers and build your s?mores from there. If you have young children they will probably get a kick out of being able to roast their own marshmallows.

If you have an outdoor fireplace and you?ve wondering what to do with it, now is the time to unleash your inner chef and get to grilling! If you?re looking for outdoor kitchen landscape ideas,?contact us. We can convert any outdoor fireplace design into a reality.


How Residential Landscaping Offers A High ROI

Residential Landscaping

It is well known that quality,?professional residential landscaping?can offer a much higher return on investment (ROI) compared to other home improvements. In a recent Society of Real Estate survey of appraisers, 99 per cent of the respondents agreed that landscaping enhances the curb appeal of residential real estate, making it likely to sell faster. Ninety-five per cent of the respondents also agreed that buyers had no problem paying 10 to 20 per cent more than the original value of the home before landscaping.

The home improvement that keeps improving

Residential landscaping not only increases your property?s value and selling price, but also keeps the price going up as the landscape matures. It is extremely satisfying to know that your investment will continue to increase the value of one of your biggest assets over time. And when you decide to sell, purchasers will pay a premium for mature and well maintained landscape.

This is because well-tended landscapes ? that are not overgrown ? give potential homebuyers the impression that the sellers are responsible, and that the inside is also likely to be well cared for. Real estate agents agree that most homebuyers get more excited when visiting homes that look inviting than those that seem dreary, with the exception of flippers.

It extends your living space

Transforming your yard into an attractive space gives you extra square footage you can enjoy instantly and for years to come. Hardscaping, which includes adding firepits, seats, fireplaces, and patio pavers, among other things, allows you to do anything that you would do inside your home outside and in the comfort of your compound.

To continue enjoying your landscape without detracting from it, consider:

  • Keeping the garden tidy: Trimming shrubs, pruning trees, and keeping the yard weed-free are all inexpensive ways to keep your landscape looking neat. You can manage weeds by using pre-emergent herbicides (dependent on what province you?re in) that kill weed seeds before they grow, or by applying mulch and raking it periodically to maintain a fresh, earthy look.
  • Planting many trees: The value of trees increases over time. In fact, landscape appraisers claim that a $10 sapling can be worth between $1,000 and $10,000 when mature. This is a huge return on investment, and the more trees you have the greater your ROI. If you plan on staying in your current home for more than five years, plant small trees. But if you plan on selling sooner, buying larger trees will be better so they mature just before selling.
  • Adding an outdoor entertainment area: Among the most desired outdoor elements among homebuyers are firepits and permeable paving, along with low-maintenance landscaping, which add the most value to your landscape. You can make your own firepit as a DIY project, or purchase one for a few dollars. Permeable paving is also quite affordable at about $600 per 100-sq.-ft.-area.
  • Drought preparedness: Installing an automated sprinkler system promises potential homebuyers a virtually maintenance-free yard. But with longer drought spells, you can have an even bigger impact on potential buyers if you landscape with drought-tolerant plants. Considering that nearly one-third of household water goes to landscaping, opting for environmentally friendly plants can mean a huge reduction in your water bills. Xeriscaping ? low-water-use-renovations ? is a worthwhile investment that will reduce your water costs in the short term, and pay off with higher home value when you decide to sell.
  • Add some seasonal plants for beauty: Although low-maintenance landscape offers the best ROI, you can take advantage of perennial flowering plants to act as a backdrop. Most flowers are annuals, but opting for more perennials will reduce the workload for replanting (redoing the landscape) each spring as they can survive for years. Options for perennials include lavender, rosemary, catmint, and sage, which add colour, scent, and can be used in recipes. Other less thirsty landscaping plant options include succulents, such as aloes and agaves, and vines, such as wisteria, grapes, and honeysuckles.
Safeguard your investment: Hire professional landscape contractors

Quality, low-maintenance residential landscaping projects typically cost about 10 per cent of the home?s value. Assuming that the improvements increase the value of your home by 15 per cent, it means that you get back 1.5 times your investment, or a 150 percent ROI. Seek professional help to identify responsible landscaping choices that will increase your ROI, such as those that add beauty and comfort, require minimal maintenance, and are economical.

When done right, investing in landscaping can make you feel good even in tough economic times. But this requires coherent, sophisticated design that can only be achieved with a skilled and experienced contractor. So, homeowners looking to increase their property?s value should protect their investment by working with the right licensed, professional residential landscape contractors. Otherwise you risk ending up with a disorganized space that detracts from your home?s curb appeal.