Sometimes husbands and wives find faults with little things.  These teeny foibles are both tough to find in my wife and tough to talk about with her.  Occasionally there is a lovely blush of spring in her cheeks and an “oops a daisy” in the end.  This is my favourite look of hers.

Last spring among the cute baby plants from the nursery was a “Jack O Lantern”.  ”Do not put that in my bed” I say in my best still in control deep bass voice.  

I expect her to trust and listen to me; to care about how I feel.  This did not happen.  She already knows I feel nothing and have no idea what goes on in either my head or heart and that my voice is cracking.  In they go.  

There is no revenge taken. I ignore for the season and move on. The best I manage to express myself is a stupid haiku.  

toe nails                                                                                         and coarse bone meal                                                                    in her bed


So.  Anyway.  It is next spring now.  I had to strip this bed and clean things up.  Let me quantify without feelings or judgements, as if you were a customer who needed a quote.  It took 2 plus hours to ferret out the roots.  One cedar shrub was infected.  The roots needed to be burned at 1300 degrees. (kiddimg about the fire)  This is only the first round.  A new shrub will have to be picked up, delivered and installed.  It will likely not match the existing one.

Nothing can grow there while I wait a couple of weeks to certify there are no roots left. I had to dig deep besides so it will take that long for the soil to settle back down anyway.  The edge of the deck will need to be monitored closely.  Some boards may have to be lifted to get underneath if we find a little pumpkin patch hiding there.

I really liked the job.  (not kidding)  Often I wonder if my calling was not an archeologist.  This work is very soothing to me and even Sandra recognizes this.  “That’s why I did it.  You can thank me later”

lol.  “Thanks dear”

Seeds germinating in bag


If you are importing amendments or soil into your yard it is unreasonable to expect them to be weed free.  A wise gardener with an established bed of perennials will hold their breath for two weeks after they have top dressed a lawn or filled their garden. There would be a daily weed patrol, sometimes even at night with a miner’s helmet. This gardener will know to nick out any unwanted growth immediately.

This gardener will also know that even perfect diligence can miss one…there under the Hosta leaf is that bit of green gout that has now grown into the plant.  Now the poor guy will either have to pull the weed for the rest of his life or get rid of the Hosta. If he is a nice gardener he will not gift this plant to a friend.

If you do not think this is important than the point of this article is to get you to see.  In fairness you may not have had to deal with Bishop’s Weed, Mare’s Tail or Creeping Charlie before, your naivete is pardoned but be warned.  It is not even possible to rationalize the cost of an infestation, how long the sentence is in hours or the cost in plants.  

The ideal way to make using soil for top dressing and amending garden beds safe is to create a “soil nursery” garden or an annual bed. The logic of this is simple.  Monitor the soil for a year before using it in an established garden.  Use this garden for gifted plants like split Hostas and Irises etc. These gifts can prove very expensive if they have weeds growing in them.

Practicalities.  A bag of dirt (a yard) would create a garden 15’ by 3’ x 6” deep.  You could fill about 17 four foot window boxes. The following spring you can use this soil to top dress lawns or add to established gardens.  Get a new bag of dirt and replenish your “soil nursery”.  On small city lots this is hardly feasible but you could work through a half yard of soil and buy 10 smaller bags.  

Many people will buy baskets and at the end of the year throw them out with the dirt still in them.  Why not dump them on the lawn and rake it in. The soil has no best before date after all and every little bit helps.

Pause before reacting to your garden. Spring is crazy explosive and full of energy but you are the parent of that two year old, you do not have to have the same energy. Just enjoy it.  

Why exactly are you buying dirt and do you really need it?  I have been consulting for years and it amazes me how people in the spring do too much and do not understand garden techniques, think “helicopter parenting”. Garden tips are not difficult and by becoming gardener you ironically become more relaxed.


Some Useless Info


Bagged dirt is amended dirt. It is not magical. Consider amending your own. This could save time. If your dirt is clay sand is needed.

Bagged dirt is good dirt and is more consistent, it is not a “pig in a poke”.  If you order from another local supplier look into what he has to offer and talk with people.

Cheap top dirt?  You get what you pay for.

Part of the unseen costs of the large bags is it takes longer to shovel out.  It takes a solid hour to unpack a bag using muscles you never knew you had. (use a shorter spade) To unload a truck would take 20 minutes, to pick up from drive and clean up 35 minutes. (all using muscles that are practiced)

See point above. Price in a massage therapist if you do not shovel often.

Returning the bag to supplier takes time and makes a mess in your car.

Consider that about 17 bags (2 cu feet) has the same volume of soil.  Price out getting these delivered and do a cost comparison. (The large bags we unpack generally have more than a yard for those who are doing the math) (the same thinking about weeds is needed for any soil)

For some reason I think of Fanny Mae and how she changed recipes by defining a pinch and dash, changing them to teaspoons and cups.  Here are some conversions for you.

A bag will top dress a lawn 40’ by 20’

There are 11 wheelbarrow loads in a bag (4 cu ft barrow two thirds full)) (plus 3 shovel loads)

It takes 55 minutes to unpack and move 180’

the last three barrow loads are the most difficult on one’s back.  Consider throwing a child to the bottom with a bucket to niggle out corners.

…and yes I know how many spade fulls of dirt there are.  How many do you think?


Plants like dew drops, drops will do.

water drop


During this extremely dry summer we all have had to water our plants. This is a time consuming job and, if done improperly, a waste of water. Following are some tips that can help not only save you time and water but will make what you do more effective.

In other posts I have encouraged putting water in the hole as you plant out your annuals and vegetables. When this is done the plants will not wilt and they will not need water for three days at least. The amount of water needed to sustain a new plant for this long, if done this way, is about a cup per plant (likely less). IF we watered these gardens AFTER planting it would take more water than I can imagine and hours of time. A guess at 10 gallons per plant during this transplant stage is not unreasonable. There are several reasons for this.

  • The soil is not compacted and much of the water is working at bringing the soil back to its naturally healthy state. (by putting water in the hole when planting the soil is compacted properly when hole is filled)
  • The water is being applied to the whole of the garden instead of the plants in need.
  • The water is evaporating off the leaves and the top of the dirt
  • The water is running off and not soaking in.
  • Enough water, over the whole garden, has to be applied to soak the soil at least 3 inches. (THIS IS A LOT OF WATER)

There are other methods of doing what I am suggesting. The main point is to get water slowly to the plant so it soaks in over time. One method is to fill a two litre plastic pop bottle and turn it upside down in the dirt by the plant. I have never tried this and do not know how long the bottle stays filled or how often this needs to be done. If you use this method or have another idea please engage in the comment section where you have seen this post. The idea of course must conserve water.

What I do is turn the hose on until it barely drips. (hardly noticeable) Place the hose at the base of a tomato or your favourite shrub/flower and leave it there for a couple of hours. (overnight with grapes and shrubs) I set mine so slow that IF I forget it does no harm. Setting the hose at a fine dribble, slow enough that there is no run-off, is appropriate but only if you are there monitoring. It does not take long. There is no water wasted and I have to schedule watering less as I end up with more than enough water for each plant to do well for several days.

110628 nancy


A properly designed garden means that where and how it is edged is well thought out. It cannot be stressed enough that it is here, where your garden meets the lawn or the neighbours’ fence, that you can have the most impact. Improper design means that your garden will become labour intensive and the investments made in the plants could be lost.

This post is self serving in that it is encouraging you to book a consult. Yes this is one of many topics that will be discussed. Type of tools, placement of plants, plants to avoid and such things as available light will be also be gone over. The reason for this specific post is because of a quote we just sent in. If the garden was edged with Schepers Property Maintenance’s “hidden edge” there would be a saving of close to $500.00 yearly on labour costs. It would take 3 to 3.5 years to retrieve the costs of getting it installed. The plants would be healthier and safer. If you are one who does the work yourself a consult may not save you money but it will give you more time to enjoy you yard.

The raised dirt garden edge is not the best edge for your plants. The soil dries out faster, the mulch sloughs off and the rhizomes from the grass still get in your garden. These grasses tend to be trimmed down and beaten into hiding but they are still there. If ever the garden is not maintained this grass will soon take over. It is the most labour intensive task in the garden. There are other ways to properly edge a garden that look great and save the property owner time and money. We can help.

Our goal is to promote gardening and to make it as enjoyable as it should be. Learning techniques refined from 30 years experience and talking over plans will make that possible. When we arrive for a consult we are not quoting the work. This is not a fancy way to make you a customer; though that is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

When planning the edges here are some key points to consider.

  • Never plant too close to the edge. This is a costly mistake and will give a very messy appearance.
    • The perennials and shrubs in the garden, fully grown, should just kiss the hem of the lawn or walk. Annuals can be forgiven if they start to crowd and edge into the lawn.
  • Never let an edge go. Choose type of edge and then diligently maintain.
  • Fence lines are the hardest to weed and trim. Resolve these issues first with design changes and maintenance techniques. (and our hidden edge)
  • Do not be afraid of a larger garden. A shrub/ perennial garden 100 by 100, properly mulched that has but a 10 foot edge takes less time to maintain than a 30 by 30 garden with a 60 foot edge. Always consider the edge.
  • Plastic edging is not the best and takes maintenance. It is also more labour intensive to install too as it should not have any kinks. Do not instal around a tree as it will pop out sooner than you think. Check often and repair and reset as needed.
  • Stone edging, especially round ones are the worst. Every gap is a nursery for grass. ASK US FIRST!

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Hardscaping: Thoughts on Interlock

When hardscaping your property it is important to know what you can expect from the different materials available. We are gardeners and view the world of your yard through a lens that judges the maintenance requirements and how the materials work to help create the effect you want from your property. We know that in the end it is in the plant choices, the garden design and the the location and size of the hardscape that effect the atmosphere of your yard the most; not the material choice. This post deals with the maintenance expectations of the interlock only.

Let me give you an example. The quaintness of interlock, that feel of being more natural, is lost if there is no garden to help with the effect. Inversely a concrete walk can easily be softened and made to belong by good garden design. It is the garden design that makes the difference every time. Some more examples? The biggest mistake in walkway designs is making the shrub bed it borders too small. It looks right when initially installed but it does not take into account the growth of the shrubs. The walk becomes crowded and obscured, uncomfortable to walk on. To compensate the shrubs are pruned too close. They loose their natural softness and begin to brown. The perennials encroach. Had this walk had been properly placed there would have been a temporary loss of proportions but in time it would naturally fit; saving you time and money. Placement is more important that material.

Yes the point is to plan the garden first and to consult with experts. Yes we are expert. In fact we mostly use other companies to do the hardscape work for us as our capacity is limited. They are good. We may install a walk in the back yard, edge a garden with concrete or make repairs to hardscapes but we do not install a large project like drive or entrance way. We will get quotes, schedule work and over see the job.

In heavily trafficked areas we would shy away from interlock. The reason for this is simply that it is the hardest to maintain. It is in severe weather conditions that this becomes most evident. Interlock freezes first every time and the very nature of it makes it the most difficult to clear. The applied salt, when used, does not sit on the surface as well and as it dissolves and does its job it will sit in all those little cracks. Interlock is the hardest to shovel, at least when the weather is severe. The choice of equipment used is limited if one does not want it chipped or flawed in anyway. During the last freezing rain event we had to do the interlock areas first and, on several properties where all else was clear, there was still a need to schedule return visits. The thing about interlock, because of its density, is that it does not transmit heat from the sun well and it does not retain heat well. This includes transmitting the warmer ground temperature in the early winter, meaning snow accumulates on it first. The one joy of interlock for maintenance is the sound the shovel makes as it clears a light snow, the soft little percussions at each joint that, cobbled together, have a very unique effect on serenity.

Interlock is not a BAD choice despite all that. It does mean that of all drive materials it would be a good idea to have sand on hand to deal with ice. I was considering interlock in fact for our drive despite all these “fails” and the reason in the end I eliminated it as an option was not to do with winter maintenance. Interlock was not chosen because it is nearly impossible to make it safe with people with handicaps. It would work well in the drive or on a straight run of walk but at all the transitions in grade it is extremely difficult to eliminate trip hazards. I have yet to see a raised interlock/ retaining wall front stoop that does not have areas that sink and create little trip hazards over time. These occur at the edges where the joint between the retaining blocks and filler bricks meet. This happens to be the place where handicapped people rely on a smooth consistent walk, right at the railing.

Interlock is not a bad choice despite all that. Interlock can still work and I know companies that could do it right, even in my drive. The worst thing about interlock is not the fault of the material but the conceptions we have of it. The first one I will deal with is the connotation of easier. It is not easier to install…properly. Like with all hardscapes it is in the end the base material and the site preparation that matter more than what goes on top. Proper preparation is critical and though I am loath to say it, it is even more important with interlock. There is less forgiveness in details with interlock and any mistake matters. To be honest one of the reasons I was considering interlock for our home is that “it was something I could do well” This reasoning is flawed when you consider I would still need a back hoe to properly remove the existing drive and old base materials. It is no small task to bring in the right material either. Proper packing techniques are critical. Yes the actual laying of the bricks and perhaps the cost saving of supplying them would be something I could do but it will still take a different capacity than I offer to properly prepare the area. So, the flaw of interlock? Simply that it seems like a good DIY project but in fact it is not. It should not be seen as cheaper and easier.

The last flaw with interlock? The connotation of quaint. I have attached a link to a post about my aunts house in Holland. I have also included pictures of cobbled streets. North Americans do not get quaint is the end conclusion. It is ironic that a cobbled drive has a million cracks and all of those cracks are a petri dish for something. Moss and weeds. In my aunts house the “weeds” were Columbine growing up, they had a name and they were welcome. Likely she actually sowed them. If one truly understands quaint and unique they would take walks and be on the lookout for different mosses to propagate in the cracks. They would create a mosaic and, by propagating the moss, they would smother out dandelions and their ilk. We have a customer that is doing this. We have made a moss garden. (it is harder than laying the drive…just beware)

Stones and bricks put down as interlock are meant to tell a story. They discolour and weeds grow. If you do not want weeds and moss in your drive it will take more maintenance and perhaps concrete or asphalt is the better choice. In the end a perfect drive is a beautiful thing and I enjoy the look but a perfect faded interlock drive looks the same as asphalt or concrete. The bright colours or contrasting tones you chose will fade and that initial contrast and freshness will wane. Which brings us back to the first point about design and the ‘fit’ of your drive in the yard.

I always encourage people about a final consideration. It is in the lingering guests that a home truly pops. You know the feel. The long good byes on the front stoop. A porch light left on to help visitors see. I have yet to see hardscape or gardens make difference in a good conversation or the warmth of a hug. Interlock or any change in your yard should be to make relationships happen better. Relationships by the way mean spilled wine and sometimes even puddling oil and recognizing this truth may also help influence what clothes you put on your house when guests arrive.

We are always on the lookout for garden makeovers. Yes we will undertake the whole yard and yes we are very good.