Thursday, 10 October 2013

Mulch vs. Decorative Rock

Why use groundcover?

Groundcover is used as a means of weed control, because whether or not you like it there will always be weeds. Among other uses, it serves as a substitute for lawn in areas where it is hard to grow.  From an aesthetic point of view groundcover will also add a decorative touch to any landscape. No matter what the reason for using groundcover, it is important to understand the pros and cons of the material you choose.

In this article we will deal with the two most common forms of groundcover: mulch vs. decorative rock.


A covering, as of straw, compost, wood by-product, spread on the ground around plants to prevent excessive evaporation or erosion, enrich the soil, inhibit weed growth, etc.
For landscaping purposes when we refer to mulch, we generally mean: natural, organic, wood by-product which we use as a ground cover. As noted in the definition, mulch has several purposes including weed inhibition and moisture control.


  • lightweight
  • economical
  • re-purposing of wood industry waste
  • easy to apply
  •  moisture control


  • Poor control of weeds already in the ground
  • Can wash away with water, or blow away with strong winds
  • Must be replenished as it breaks down over time
  • Will fade from original colour over time

Decorative Rock

 A covering, generally applied over a weed barrier material, as of crushed or aggregated stones. Generally a by-product of the quarry industry, also harvested from river and creek beds as well as gravel deposits.

Decorative rock can be used as a groundcover to create an alpine feel, or just to add interest and beauty to any landscape. There is a large variety of decorative rock ranging in style, size, and colour. Some popular "Rainbow" rocks are harvested from mountain creeks and rivers, and are rounded and incorporate a range of colours. There is also a good selection of broken, or crushed rock, which tends to be more angular and rustic, and contributes to an alpine theme.

  • Long lasting, fade proof (tends not to break down, with the exception of some shales,)
  • Large variety of colours, styles, and sizes
  • Regular and larger sized rock will not easily wash or blow away
  • Good for water features and dry creeks
  • High quality weed barrier underneath is very effective at weed control
  • More expensive (price ranges vary significantly)
  •  Can present opportunity for vandalism
  • More difficult and cumbersome to install
  • Maintenance required to remove leaves and organic debris from surface
  • Poorly suited underneath spruce and other needle bearing trees

Stay informed!

No matter what your choice in ground cover, understanding the pros and cons will help you effectively plan your landscape. Keep in mind that no landscape is maintenance free, but the right groundcover, used in the right way, will keep maintenance to a minimum and enhance your landscape.

Happy Landscaping!

Lot Grading & Final Grade Tips

Why are rough & final grade so important?

Water is essential to life, but it can also be one of the most destructive forces nature can throw at us. Rough & Final grades exists to help prevent water damage in buildings.

Water damage in a residential building generally occurs in several ways, one of which is overground flooding

Lot grading addresses overground flooding. It is the engineering and implementation of elevations, slopes, and swales, to manage surface water by directing it to a controlled drainage system.

Rough Grade & Final Grade Explained

The rough grade is the of shaping the ground (clay, in Edmonton) to prepare for the final grade. Important points on the lot are marked with survey stakes. The rough grade survey is done to ensure the lot meets the City's drainage plan.

The final grade complements the rough grade by finishing with topsoil or ground cover. This must also be done to meet key survey points on the lot. If the final grade conforms with the lot grading plan the result is that all surface water will freely flow away from the building to a controlled drainage system.

Final Grading Tips

Slope away from the house

It is important to remember that a minimum 10% slope is usually required within the first 2 meters of the building. This translates into at least 8" away from  the building within the first 6'6". This slope helps deal with the inevitability that your back-fill will settle.

The basement of your home was probably made by digging a deep hole in the clay, and then pouring concrete foundation. After the concrete cures, loose clay back-fills the void surrounding it. So if the final grade requirements for slope away from the house seems a bit drastic, think of how you be glad of it when the back-fill starts to settle.

NOTE: Don't forget about those tough to reach areas like under then deck. We have seen many well executed final grades fail because the slope under the deck was not adequate.

Continuous slope

The final grade stakes are generally placed when the rough grade survey is completed. It is important to make sure these remain undisturbed so the final grade can be accurately matched to the marks on them.

While it is critical that the height of the soil is within tolerance of the marked final grade, it is also important to remember the principle of continuous slope:
  • Except in the case of a mid-yard high point, the swale on the property line should slope continuously without changing direction.
The overaching principle here is that if your yard is designed to drain from front to back, you have to make sure that there are no low spots where water can pool (even if your grade matches the lines on the final grade stakes).

One of the common tricks to ensure your slope is continuous is by using a string line. A string line can be stretched taught between two grade stakes. Provided there is no sag in the line,  you can use it as a guide to ensure your slope stays continuous. It is very easy to see low or high spots when you have the string line as a reference.

Free-draining ground cover

If you choose to complete your landscaping before getting your final grade surveyed, it is important to consider what constitutes free-draining. The final grade survey will verify the ground height, ignoring free draining material.

This means that if you are putting decorative rock on your side yard, and you have to come up 4" to meet your final grade, you must install 4" of topsoil or clay and then put your rock on top. The reason for this is that rock is free-draining, ie: water will not run on top of it, but it will fall through. If the surface below is too low you will end up with pooling, settling, and potentially water damage issues.

Happy Grading!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

"Maintenance-Free" Landscaping

To dispel the myth: There is no such thing as maintenance-free landscaping!

In fact, sometimes in their quest for maintenance-free landscaping, people create unmanageable yards that can end up far worse than imagined.

We can definitely identify with ideal of the "no-maintenance landscape" because we understand how time is precious, and no one wants to waste it on something they'll might only see on the weekend or the odd summer evening.

Even so, we believe that what you get from your landscape depends on what you put into it. We are not implying that you need an overflowing flower garden, weeded thrice a day, but we are saying that the effort of planning and executing a beautifully formed landscape will make you feel better, allow you to spend more time in it, and be more enticing to maintain.

In the following paragraphs we will go over some of the main elements of landscaping, how they can work for you, ways to maintain them, and tips on things to avoid.

Trees, Shrubs, & Perennials

Any living thing in  your landscape will need some love and attention. Luckily, half of this battle can be won by choosing the appropriate plants based on mature size, site-location, and hardiness zone. When these factors are well considered, much of the special care that would otherwise be needed can be eliminated. Furthermore, healthy plants, growing where they should, can provide you with fragrance, colour, and sense of stability and well-being.


AKA: turf, grass, lawn, pelouse. Whether you know it or not, one mowing and inch of water per week is the formula for maintaining healthy sod. This is one of the easiest ways to keep an area beautiful and free of weeds while creating a usable, resilient, kid friendly space. But remember that consistency is the key, and it will pay big dividends when it comes to your lawn.

We would recommend that you think twice before completely eliminating sod from your yard. Mowing the lawn is a much easier pill to swallow than painstakingly picking weeds from the yard you filled entirely with river rock.

Decorative Rock

Whether river rock, some other regional mountain stone, or anything in between, decorative rock has become a staple in the landscaping industry. It can add colour, style, and drastically affect the feel of a landscape all while lasting a very long time.

In order to use it effectively, rock should be laid on the proper base of high-grade weed barrier. We see too many instances where cheap, almost see-through, fabric has succumbed to the power of nature and her many plants and weeds. But don't fall into a false sense of security once the weed barrier goes down, it is only as effective as far as it provides seamless coverage, and only as long as it is kept clean.

Make sure that each fall and spring the rock has leaves and debris blown out so as to eliminate a place for weeds to grow. If sand, dirt, or leaves accumulate on top of the fabric, there is little you can do to stop weeds from finding this fertile spot and sprouting up.

Maintainable Landscapes

Instead of limiting your search to maintenance-free landscaping options, a more appropriate approach may be to examine how much care and effort you can give, and then effectively plan a way to maximize the features you choose.

You may need help in making these decisions, and you may need help in maintaining what you choose for your landscape, but that's what you your local landscaping experts are for. We believe that when you succeed at striking a balance between beauty and maintainability, you will feel at home in your landscaped space.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

New Sod - Care Instructions

There is nothing like coming home from work to a new green lawn instead of a dry and dusty lot! One of the things we love about landscaping is seeing the look on your face at that instant.

A new lawn is great, but once the sod has been installed there is more to the story if you want to keep that green feeling and look. There are primarily just 3 steps:
  1. Water
  2. Don't Water
  3. Mow
The most crucial time for new sod is the first few hours after it is laid. Where possible, we try to purchase and lay the sod all in the same day. In most cases, this means the sod was growing in a field mere hours before it is installed. Naturally, getting water to the new sod is crucial within the first few hours of being unrolled. Since we use Manderly Sod, we recommend that you follow their lawn-care instructions when watering your new lawn.

Basically it boils down to this 7 day schedule for the first week in the life of your new sod:
  1. Water
  2. Water
  3. Water
  4. Water
  5. Don't Water
  6. Don't Water
  7. Mow then Water
Manderley suggests that starting in the third week you reduce watering to 25mm or 1inch of water per week, but what about the first couple of weeks? From our experience it is hard to over-water sod when it is first down. In fact, we'd rather see that excessive water than have it shrink and expose the seams.

As a rule of thumb we prefer that the first day of watering soaks the sod well enough that the soil underneath gets completely wet. To quickly check this, grab the corner of one of the pieces of sod and peel it back to see. Once the soil under the sod is nice and moist, it will stay that way for a long time, this will draw the roots down into the ground. One of the drawbacks of this initial period is how soft it makes the soil; so, we encourage you to tread lightly on fresh new sod by using plywood, or some other method of weight dispersal, so as not to leave unsightly and annoying depressions from walking on the soft lawn.

NOTE: Once you are satisfied that the soil beneath the sod is completely wet, there is no need to keep pulling the sod back to check, this will just prevent the roots from taking hold where you peel it back. Simply sticking to the schedule will ensure your success.

 A healthy and happy lawn doesn't require much more than water, don't water, mow; but it does require all these things. It would be good to understand that day five and six are also important steps in the process of creating your healthy lawn. In taking two days off, after the roots have just started to set, you are encouraging the roots to chase the water downward. This promotes deeper root growth and a healthier lawn.

Happy lawn care!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Start a blog - Give back!

Over the past few years we feel like we have been given much by way of doing business with great clients on a variety of projects in this crazy part of the world that we love (except sometimes in the winter).

We decided to create the Timeless Landscaping Blog as one way to give back to the Edmonton and Area community in a fashion that we hope is useful, interesting and inspiring.

Please enjoy the pictures, how-to articles and the other various information that we will post in the future, and see the about page to learn a little more about us and this blog. Please visit our website to get in touch with us regarding our services.