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  • Writer's picturePat Browne

Gardening for curb appeal

There’s nothing that lifts the spirit more than seeing new buds appear on trees or witnessing the first shoots of spring flowers peeking their heads through the soil. Spring is a special time for everyone. It’s especially important in this time of covid. It’s a time of renewal and hope for the summer.

When we discuss outdoor spaces, we usually think of our private areas at the back of the house. This is where we focus our attention. Rightfully so, it’s where we will spend most of our time during the hotter months. But that’s only part of our outdoor space. Each townhouse has a small area that homeowners are responsible for. How you keep this area not only defines your space, it also affects the overall enjoyment and even value of the neighbourhood. (According to a study done by Michigan State University, a home with landscaping and effort put into curb appeal can increase perceived home value by 5 to 11%. Curb appeal can also sell a home faster.)

Planning your outdoor space doesn’t have to be difficult, but there is a need to keep up with your garden throughout the seasons. Working in the garden, even our small plots, is proven to be good for our mental health.

Some thoughtful ideas for the garden


Remember that trees require a lot of water during the hot summer months. New trees require about 20 gallons of water weekly. That works out to leaving a hose or sprinkler on your tree for between 30 minutes to 2 hours once a week.

Mature trees need water too. According to Davey Tree, The best time to hydrate your trees is in the morning. This is the time that water is most easily absorbed into the soil. Watering should be done once or twice a week, allowing saturation of the upper 12 inches of soil.

To water deeply, set your sprinkler beneath the tree directly away from the trunk concentrating on the areas directly beneath the foliage known as the “drip zone.” This allows for the soil to absorb the moisture it needs.

Trees should be watered as slowly as possible. To gauge the correct amount of watering time, place an empty can of soup in the drip zone. The tree will be sufficiently watered when two inches of water have filled the can.

Wondering if your tree is getting enough water? The answer is in the soil. To test your soil, poke a long screwdriver into the dirt—if it’s hard to push in, the water may not be reaching the roots.

Alternate watering methods include using a drip hose or just applying a slow trickle from a standard garden hose. To monitor how much water you’re using, take a 5-gallon bucket and puncture two to three small holes in the bottom. Place the bucket directly on top of the soil, fill it with water and wait until the bucket slowly empties into the soil. Move the bucket all the around the root zone, repeating this watering process.

Colour – flowers: perennial or annual?

All flowering plants follow the same basic steps in their life cycle .

Annuals complete that cycle in one growing season, whereas perennials live on for three years or longer. Neither is superior to the other. Integrating both types into your garden designs (along with shrubs and trees) gives you the best of both worlds and unlimited options in color, texture, form, and bloom time.

Pruning and shaping:

In our small spaces we need to pay special attention to pruning or shaping. Many of the small front garden plots are right by the sidewalk. If the shrubs or plants you’ve placed are not cared for, they will quickly take over the public walkway.

Although the task of trimming beautiful foliage is sometimes hard for gardeners to swallow, regular pruning keeps most plants healthy and encourages new growth. But when and what to prune depends on the type of plant and the climate you live in. For instance, flowering and fruiting plants prefer to be cut back in late winter or early spring to spur a hearty crop. Trees and shrubs that bloom in the spring start setting new buds as soon as the old flowers have fallen, so it's crucial to prune before those new buds come in. And many other plants need continual trimming to remain vigorous.

Keep up with the weeding

Once you've planted your garden some ongoing maintenance is required. Weeds seem to grow even faster than your plants. Simple strategies for minimizing weed growth include using mulch. Mulch benefits plants by keeping the soil cool and moist and deprives weeds of light.

If you have to pull weeds, do it when the soil is damp - its just easier. Even easier, plant your plants close together. Close plant spacing chokes out emerging weeds by shading the soil between plants.

City Lands – who’s responsible?

Don’t blame the city – mowing and maintaining the boulevard is a homeowner’s job.

End units in the English Lane townhouse development come with the benefit of more light, but they also bring extra responsibility. Section 743-36 of the Toronto Municipal Code says, “the owner or occupier of land adjoining the street shall maintain the boulevard at their expense,” which includes maintain(ing) the grassed portion of the boulevard at a height not exceeding 20 centimetres,” or about 7.8 inches, at most.

It goes on to say that “where the owner or occupier fails to undertake the work required under this section, the (city) may undertake it … and recover the costs which can include a fine of $200 plus the cost of the city works crew to do the job,” by adding it to the property tax bill. Global News noted that Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton are municipalities that actively enforce the rule. So, in this case, the homeowner is on the hook for trimming the boulevard.

Last word: Parking on the boulevard

A quick definition: the boulevard is the property between the sidewalk and the road. In many parts of the subdivision this space is large enough to park a car on. This is where it gets complicated. Technically this is city property and you are not allowed to park on this area. Many people do park there – just be aware that if there are complaints about restricted sight lines, etc. (usually happens if you are parking a truck or SUV that is higher than the average car), the city can (and does) come and ticket you.

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