Archive for January, 2010

Soil tests

January 7th, 2010

With limits being placed on the availability and selection of pesticides for turf, the health of your lawn becomes of utmost importance. However, it is very difficult to diagnose problems in your lawn without an evaluation of the soil conditions beneath it. Nutrient shortages, such as nitrogen or magnesium, can have significant impacts on the health of your lawn, but can be easily treated once discovered. The easiest way to determine nutrient deficiencies and other soil problems is with a soil test. Internet soil tests are available, but to simplify the process, RHPL is offering spring soil tests for our existing clientele. For only $39.95 + GST, we will come to your property, take multiple soil samples, and submit them to a lab for testing. You will have results within two weeks which will provide further information on any soil deficiencies which could be leading to poor turf health. You will also have the option to select turf treatment and amendments which applied through the year, will remedy any problems. For more information or to sign up for a spring soil test, contact us at

How to ‘break the ice’

January 7th, 2010

For anyone living on the south side of their street, the existence of an icy front walkway can be a daily frustration. Ice from freezing rain of the melt and refreeze of snow can make your front walkway and steps treacherous. Here is a bit of the science of the most common cure to ice: rock salt.

Rock salt, known scientifically as sodium chloride or halite, is the most commonly used ice melter in North America due to its prevalent availability and low cost. It provides adequate economical performance at temperature close to freezing, but as temperatures drop below freezing, its performance slows substantially. Below temperatures of -8 degrees Celsius, rock salt has little to no ice melting abilities.

One surprising fact that very few people know is that salt does NOT melt ice! The way the salt has ice melting abilities is by mixing with available moisture in the air and from snow to create a salt water mixture called brine. This brine forms between the ice and the pavement (or walkway/concrete) and initially breaks the bond between the ice and the pavement allowing the ice to be more easily removed by plowing or shoveling. Over time, the brine will continues to melt the ice from the bottom until either the ice is gone or the concentration of salt in the brine is too low to be effective at the current temperature. When the concentration of the brine gets too low, there is also a tendency to experience re-freeze, where the brine itself will turn to ice. Along with the dangerous effects that re-freeze can have (sometimes resulting in glare ice or conditions similar to freezing rain), rock salt also has toxic effects on plants and can cause damage to uncured or low strength concrete. On a larger scale, the road salt used in plazas, on municipal roads and on provincial highways has huge impacts on ground water and lake salinity. This is a huge environmental issue but due to the liability of not using salt (auto accidents, slip-and-fall accidents) its use will continue until a suitable replacement is found.

There are many alternatives to rock salt that can be considered. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride on their own, or mixed with rock salt are excellent de-icers that melt ice faster and at lower temperatures and are readily available at all the home stores. Many ‘enviro’ de-icing products exist that are less toxic to plant material (and the environment) than rock salt, but some only marginally. One of the most environmentally friendly options to deal with ice (aside from wearing skates) is to spread pickled sand on the area to provide traction and some minor melting. Pickled sand is sand that has been treated with a small amount of deicing agent (sometimes salt) to keep it from freezing in the winter. You will have a bit of a sandy mess to clean up in the spring, but at least your walkway/driveway/parking lot will be safer.

The best way to reduce the buildup of ice is to remove snow promptly after a snowfall. Also, spreading a small amount of de-icer before a large snowfall will make it easier to shovel/clear/plow right down to the bare pavement/concrete.

For questions about residential or commercial snow and ice management please contact us at

Landscape Lighting

January 7th, 2010

With the holiday season sadly behind us, many of us are packing up decorations and putting our large pine scented ornament to the curb for pickup. The last thing many of us are thinking about is our landscaping. It’s often hard this time of year to even see much of our property since it may be dark when we leave our house in the morning as well as in the evening when we return. This time of year, it would certainly be much easier to appreciate the landscaping on your property (as well as increase the safety around your home) with the addition of a landscape lighting system. Landscape lighting is great in the summer, providing a warm glow and extending the use of your outdoor spaces later into the evening, but it can also be quite beautiful in the winter, illuminating the snow covered branches of an ornamental tree. Even if you are unsure of the potential benefits of having a lighting system installed, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free lighting demonstration on your property.

We are happy to offer free lighting demonstration for all our existing customers. A lighting demo involves a temporary installation of a transformer and light fixtures. All wires are left exposed and fixtures are installed in the ground or temporarily hung where needed. The demonstration will included different types of fixtures such as up lights, down lights, path lights and wall washes. In some situations we will also setup different style fixtures such as copper, stainless and black path light fixtures. You decide on the area you are most interested in lighting (front yard, side yard, and backyard) and we setup a demonstration using the appropriate fixtures to create different lighting effects. You will have the opportunity to see the lights in action for at least 2 nights before we come to take the demonstration down. You will realize very quickly that certain fixtures and certain effects will be very functional in your space and bring out the beauty of your landscape at night.

Most of the fixtures we install are solid metal fixtures made of copper, bronze or stainless steel and come with 10 year warrantees. Depending on the lamp used in each fixture, low voltage will typically use about a quarter of the energy that a typical hardwired fixture would. Also, low voltage installations are much safer than hardwired installations because the elimination of any chance of electrocution. Functionally and esthetically, low voltage fixtures reduce or eliminate the problems associated with the glare caused by larger hardwired installations since the lamps are hidden and generally provide indirect light that doesn’t washout the entire landscape.

From your preferences we can prepare a quote giving you the Good/Better/Best options based on your needs. The lighting demonstration is a no obligation, free service we offer to our clients. But be warned, once you and your family live with the benefits of landscape lighting for a few days, you’ll wonder how you got by without it.