Landscape Contractor – You must choose, but choose wisely

who to choose?

So you have made the decision to create the landscape of your dreams! There are a lot of choices to make before the shovel goes into the ground. Such as who to pick for a landscape contractor?

What plants to choose?
Where to put the focus?
How will the sun affect the look and feel?
Do we include structures? Seating?
Will it be an extension of the indoors? Or a separate space all together?

All good questions and things to consider…but who will be doing the work?

In a world of glitz and glam we often gravitate to the pretty things, but there is more to a landscape contractor than a fancy truck and new equipment. “Perception is everything” it is a great quote landscape contractorand holds weight, but a snake in the grass is still beautiful to look at. There are people in the world that know how to act, look and talk to get your hard earned dollars. Too many times I have heard the horror stories about contractors walking away with people’s money and have nothing to show for it besides a ripped up landscape (if they even got that far).

So how can you trust someone you don’t know with your money and your home? That is a hard one, but you can narrow down your choices by asking some good questions.

Landscape Contractor

Top 9 questions to ask a landscape contractor

  1. How long have you been in business? Its good to hear their back story and how they got to where they are today. But don’t base your decision on this question.  There are a lot of talented startups out there.
  2. Are you insured? Everyone that steps onto your property needs to be insured. It covers them and you!
  3. Do you have samples of your work? Ask to see photos, websites or other marketing materials they may have.
  4. Can you make a design plan? Whether it is to scale or not, having a plan and working out the details before the shovel goes in the ground is important. And if they can’t make a design perhaps have a landscape designer create one.
  5. Can you provide references? All good landscape companies will have references lined up, ask for them and call them!
  6. Can we see some of your work? Ask to see a recent landscape they installed. Most happy clients will be proud to have you walk through a beautiful landscape.
  7. When can you start and what is your timeline? On large jobs if the contractor can start ‘tomorrow’ it is usually a sign they are not busy. If they are good they should be booked up. One or two day jobs are good fillers for contractors and may be able to start right away. Also, making sure they have a detailed timeline on what is happening and when shows organization.
  8. What is the payment process? Normally contractors will ask for 30-50% upfront. This will cover the material costs; it protects the contractor…there are deadbeat clients out there too! After the initial payment 2-3 draws are normal, with the remainder upon completion. Always hold back a little until you are happy with the results. All too many times clients will pay upfront before work is even done.
  9. Do you warranty your work? A good contractor will warranty their work for at least one year. This shows care and quality and gives you peace of mind.

I am sure you will have many more questions to ask your contractor, but this is a good start to protect yourself and your landscape dreams.  If your prospective contractor cannot answer these questions honestly then it is probably a good idea to move on.

Contact Blue Mountain Four Season for your landscape needs.

Richard Murphy
BM4S Operations

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Winter Blues? Don’t Procrastinate, Propagate!

Propagate-Succulents

This article will be a good primer for anyone that wants to propagate plants over the winter…in fact winter propagation is one of the best times for woody plants.  Are you a business that wants to double their stock?  A savvy homeowner that wants to maintain their frugal ways?  Or are you just bored and need something to do over the winter?  Then keep on reading.

Hardwood Cuttings are by far the best way to start most deciduous plants; althea (rose of sharon), chaenomeles (quince), crepe myrtle, currant, fig, forsythia, gooseberry, grape, honeysuckle, ligustrum (privet), mulberry, multiflora rose, philadelphus (mock orange), pomegranate, spiraea and wisteria.

Let’s get ready to Propagate

The first step of the process is to find a healthy host / stock plant that you can multiply and multiply and multiply and eventually take over the world….muhahahaha!  Ahem, anyways, it is very felco_pruners_propagateimportant to find a healthy host plant, free from disease, insects, or any other ailing problems.  We are going to need a healthy gene pool here.

Choose your cuttings after the leaves have fallen and all of the energy has been stored in the plant.  Say away from old wood and frail new wood.  You want something in the middle, good and sturdy.  Harvest 6-12 good stalks taking note of the top and the bottom.  Easy way to keep track is to cut the tops at an angle and the bottoms flat.  Make sure to use sharp clean pruners and not to crush the cuts.  When you have your harvest material tie them together (jute twine will work) making sure the bottoms are all even with each other.

Now there are two options here…depends on your climate (and of course, what you want to propagate).

Our winters are cool like dat (not much snow if any, but a definite season change)

The most important part of this method of propagation is to create calluses development.  To do this, dig a hole 12-to-18 inches deep in sandy or well-drained soil in a sunny location and place the bundles of hardwood cuttings into this pit. Place them top end down, so that the bases of the cuttings are about four inches below the soil surface. This promotes root initiation at the cuttings base and inhibits bud formation at the top. Fill in the pit, leaving a shallow basin over the ends of the cutting to channel water and keep the cuttings moist (important).

Our winters are so cold my pug needs to wear booties (too much snow and too cold to care about anything or anyone)

In area’s with severely cold winters, wrap the cuttings in moist burlap and store them in a cellar or cold frame at 0°C to 4°C (32°F-to-40°F). After winter storage, when you see that there is callus formation, lift the bundles and wash and untie them. (Protect cuttings with moist burlap so that the callus tissue does not dry). Then, set the callused cuttings (top end up) directly in a propagation bed or container so that half or two to three buds of each cutting are above the soil surface. Firm the soil around the cuttings and water to eliminate air pockets and assure good contact between the cuttings and the soil.

In warm winter climates, callus may develop in four to eight weeks. In fact, some species won’t need to be stored to develop callus. Cut leafless stems of rose, abelia, bridal wreath, privet and other plants into 8-to-10-inch lengths and set them directly in the propagation bed or container.

So there ya go, just a taste of what you can try out.  Tell us your propagation stories (legal ones) and how they worked out for you.  Did you find this article useful?  Please comment.

Do you need gardening in the Collingwood and Blue Mountain Area? Please Contact Us.

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Green Earth Safety Salt

This is Green Earth Safety Salt and it is a premium ice melter that we have for sale by the bag or by the skid.

The most exciting aspects of our Premium Ice Melter product are as follows:

  • lighter weight than leading brands
  • 20-30% more coverage per 50 lb bag than the leading brand of ice melter or safety salt
  • effective down to -31°C
  • gentle on concrete and vegetation
  • low price point – keeps more profit in your pocket

Green Earth Safety Salt.

Green Earth Safety SaltIf you are interested in ordering larger quantities, we do have volume discounts available for truckload purchasing, which can reduce the cost per bag significantly. Truckload pricing starts at 18 skids, and the best price point is offered on orders of 38 skids, shipped direct from the manufacturer in Wallaceburg.

This is a Ontario made product.

Call today 705-445-1497 to place your order.

www.icemeltingproducts.ca

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We are locally owned and awesome!

Locally Owned and Awesome Blue Mountain Four SeasonBlue Mountain Four Season is this week’s Locally Owned and Awesome Business of the Week! Thanks Baked and Pickled and Centre For Business and Economic Development for joining us to meet the folks at this great local success story! ~John Eaton and Meghan Harwood

More details: http://www.thepeakfm.com/business-of-the-week-2/

Posted by 95.1 The Peak FM on Thursday, November 10, 2016

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Lets talk about Bulbs!

110544-267x400-Spring_Bulbs

From our spring articles, but still a good read for the fall.

Ask a non-gardener about bulbs and they will likely roll their eyes and talk about the last time they were force to change a light bulb. Ask a gardener about bulbs and their face will light up and they will happily talk your ear off for hours about their garden and all the amazing colors and blooms they have!

Bulbs are a staple in every gardeners arsenal

From spring bulbs to summer bulbs to those used in planter displays we use a ton of bulbs! Bulbs provide us with one of our first hints of life as we head towards spring when the Snowdrops peek through to amazing displays of color and foliage with Cana Lilies in the summer that can stand over six feet high! Spring may not seem like the right time of year to be write about bulbs, especially as I look out my window here in Central Ontario and my gardens are still covered in snow, however, despite fall being the “typical bulb time” there are some great bulb lessons to be learned in the spring too! As we watch the Tulips and Daffodils quickly emerge from the garden, it is tempting to want to cut back the foliage once the blooms are finished. I am here to tell you this is a bad idea. By cutting back the foliage you reduce the strength of the bulb and therefore affect the quantity and quality of the blooms for the following year. While it may be hard to do, you are best to let the foliage die back naturally – cutting it back or removing it once it has completely died off/yellowed. A good way to avoid the unsightly “mess” this may cause is to companion plant. By planting perennials and/grasses close to your bulbs, they will help to hide the foliage as it is dying back. Spring is also the perfect time to plant your summer bulbs and replant any bulbs that you have “lifted and stored” from the previous year. This includes: Dahlias, Lilies, Cana Lilies, Calla Lilies and Crocosmia. While the bulbs we plant in the fall need that cold period to get ready to bloom, these bulbs need warmer temperatures, so once the soils warm up pop these in the ground and you will be amazed by the splashes of color! As with of all bulbs you can be formal in your planting approach (straight lines) or very random and naturalized (what I like to call “toss and plant”). Bulbs can add lots of color and interest to your garden. Give them a try this season. You will find displays of bulbs at your local garden centers now. If you are unsure of how to incorporate bulbs into your garden, consult with Blue Mountain Four Season!
* Bulb Trivia * It’s said that during the war the wounded Roman solders ate bulbs allowing them a painless death.

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Fall Cleanup – Tips and Best Practices

collingwood fall cleanup

collingwood fall cleanupThe nights are getting cooler and the air has that refreshing crisp in it. It is the time for sweaters and light jackets to keep you warm. Once again the seasons are changing and trees are showing their beautiful array of fall colors. Autumn never ceases to amaze me with it spectacular colors that seem to go beyond an artistic pallet. It is a time of harvest and coming together to share the years hard work from our crops and gardens.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year and we should all enjoy it. However, there is still work to be done! A good fall cleanup is perhaps one of the most important steps in preparing your lawn and garden for the spring. In this article we will pass on some very important musts and some time saving tips so you can use and share with others.

Fall Cleanup

Don’t leave the leaves

The leaves are a sight to see on the trees during their color change. But watching them fall to the ground may leave property owners feeling that there is a long road of work ahead of them. Not many people enjoy spending hours and hours of raking leaves and bagging them. But it is an important step in the fall cleanup process because once the snow flies, an unraked layer of leaves will get matted down over your lawn and smother it all winter long. This will result in dead patches and give rodents a cozy home to live in.

*Tip* Instead of waiting for all of the leaves to drop off your trees try mulching small amounts using your mulching lawn mower when you mow your lawn. Doing this weekly will make the work seem lighter when it is time to rake. Plus small amounts of mulched leaves will add nutrients to your soil making your lawn healthier.

Feed the Green

Your lawn is still using energy during the cool nights before winter. And what better way to show your lawn your appreciation for looking its best during the grueling summer then to feed it. Apply a slow release fertilizer to build back up its nutrients and prepare it for the long and cold winter. This is also a very good time to remove all weeds from your lawn as well to give a better start in the spring. Don’t add commercial fertilizer to any other garden plants (except bulbs) or you may spur growth too late in the season.

Compacted? Aerate!

Heavy traffic throughout the summer can cause soil to become compacted. Perforating your lawn with small holes helps reduce compaction and lets water, air and fertilizer get down to the soil, which strengthens the turfs root structure.

*Tip* For smaller yards, a manual aerating tool that removes plugs from the turf while you step should be just fine. If you’ve got a larger yard, consider renting a power aerator or calling Blue Mountain Four Season for help.

Compost and Re-Use

Don’t get rid of all of your fallen leaves they make for attractive mulch in your garden. Collect leaves and put them through a mulching machine (if you don’t have one you can find them at most hardware stores for about $100 – $200) and add them to your garden. You can also use your push lawnmower by running over the leaves and bagging them. Not only does this provide a beautiful mulch but adds vital nutrients to your soil making your plants more vibrant.

*Tip* One way to turn autumn leaves into nutritious compost is to gather them in a big pile surrounded by chicken wire in a corner of yard where they can be left for a year or two to break down into rich crumbly goodness. Don’t compost any plants or leaves that look diseased. Throw them out. You will only contaminate next year’s gardens.

Water your trees?

Water any trees and shrubs that still have their leaves because they are more than likely dry from the past several months of drought. This is especially true of young trees planted less than three years ago and street trees, which endure extra punishment from traffic, pollution, and paving. Though your town may plant street trees in front of your house, it’s up to you to water them when rain is lacking. Leave a hose dripping by the trunk for several hours so the moisture can sink in.

Also, water your evergreens each week that there’s no rain. Rhododendrons and pine trees will continue to lose moisture from their leaves and needles all winter. So help the roots stock up on water now. Wrapping small evergreens with burlap will especially serve to protect them from browsing deer and from harsh winter winds. However, if your trees are near salted winter roads avoid wrapping your trees in burlap. The salt will soak into the burlap causing direct exposure to the host plant. In this case try making burlap screens instead.

*Tip* Don’t plant evergreens this late in the year, but feel free to plant deciduous trees and shrubs once they’ve dropped their leaves and gone dormant. Take advantage of late season sales at your local garden center.

Mushy Annuals

Once the frost hits, it is usually the end of the road for annuals. They can easily be removed by pulling them by the base of the stem. This is also a good opportunity to remove any weeds from your garden and cultivate the soil. You can compost all of the annuals you pulled out…but make sure to watch for diseased plants, just toss them into the trash.

Veggie Garden

Clean out your vegetable garden. Fruits and vegetables left in the garden can decompose all winter long, and provide comfy living for insect eggs. Gross? Not as gross as they’ll be in the spring…well at least you won’t have to mash your potatoes. Now’s the time to get rid of diseased plants, too, but keep them out of the compost pile so the problem doesn’t spread to the rest of your garden next year.

Spring is just around the Corner

Fall is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips. But pay attention to the weather in your area; planting too early can cause bulbs to sprout before winter, and planting them too late can mean their roots don’t have enough time to develop before the ground freezes.

*Tip* Make sure to plant the bulb 2 – 2 1/2 times deeper than the size of the bulb. So if your bulb is a small 1 inch bulb, you would plant the bulb 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep. If your bulb is a larger 3 inch bulb, you will want to plant the bulb 6 to 7 1/2 inches deep.

Get ready for next spring

Give your tools and equipment some love. When it comes time to put away the backyard tools for the season, don’t just shove them into the corner. Spend a few minutes wiping them down and removing debris and dirt, then apply a light layer of oil to keep them from rusting over the winter. That way they’ll be all set to go again come spring. And as for your lawnmower, if you are not going to drain the fuel from the tank and carburetor make sure to add some fuel stabilizer to the gas. Doing this will prevent your gas from going bad and keep the carburetor in good working order.

Fall is here and by applying some of these best practices you’ll be in great shape for the spring…just as long as we make it through the winter.

From our lawn to yours,

Blue Mountain Four Season

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