Monthly Archives

September 2023

Noise isolating earmuffs from TZumi rock!

By | health and safety, Reviews | No Comments

Home depot discovery

As a landscape professional I have to protect my hearing as the seasons and years pile on. I have plugs and several Peltor earmuffs which run in the $50 range. And I also used to know several pairs of earphones so I could listen to audiobooks at work. But given the nature of my work-non-stop movement outdoors-I would thrash my earphones weekly.

Then, one lucky day I found myself inside a Home Depot store and I noticed a cardboard showcase at the end of an aisle. TZumi bluetooth headset that cost less than my trusty Peltors!? What? Really? I immediately jumped on it because I knew this blog post would eventually get written, once I tested the headset in the field.

Red Seal test

The price at roughly $50 is great when you consider that my regular Peltor headset costs slightly more. So, for the same price you get the TZumi sound guard bluetooth earmuffs and your work life improves as soon as you leave the store.

With price out of the way, let’s talk about comfort. The TZumi headset really is comfortable. I can wear it for hours without any discomfort. Of course, after eight or nine hours on the job, any headset will annoy you.

The bluetooth connection to my iPhone 10 works really well. This allows me to receive phone and message alerts while I listen to audiobooks or techno music. And all of the headset buttons work well, from on/off to volume and call accept/decline.

Since I go through several audiobooks every week, this is a game changer. I no longer waste money on earphones that snag and break or get wet and filthy. I tried to go cheap but the sound quality was awful. So, now I’m saving money with my new bluetooth TZumi headset.

The headset comes with a charger cable and the unit can go 50 hours on one charge.

The magic button

The best button is the transparency mode button. It allows you to go from noise-cancelling to conversation mode with one button. This is important because as a manager I have to be available for junior staff and I can do that without taking my headset off. Now, to be honest, this takes getting used to because the microphone is strong. In the beginning the transparency button freaked me out but now I’m used to it.


If you don’t mind wearing bluetooth headsets on your head, this TZumi unit is a game changer. It’s comfortable, it lasts for many hours on one charge, and the transparency button allows you to switch from noise-cancelling to conversation mode with the flick of one button.

I love this headset!

“The joy of Gardening” book review

By | Books, gardening | No Comments

Worth your time!

I picked up Ellen Mary’s book “The joy of gardening” in audio format on And I’m glad I did. It was a nice listen while I worked outside in the landscape. I actually listened to it again today while weeding a residential garden for a client.

The book is written for people new to gardening and it covers every angle but it doesn’t mean that more experienced gardeners can’t learn something. I know I did. For example, I had never heard of bulb lasagnas until I listened to this book. You can read my blog post about it on my West Coast Landscape Pro blog. Briefly, it involves planting different kinds of bulbs in one pot. The top layer flowers first, and so on down the pot.

Mental health

Ellen Mary’s background is, among other things, plant therapy and it shows. While this is a book about gardening, she does bring in mental health issues. And it’s done well. It doesn’t distract you from gardening issues; and if you need help with your mental health, then it will help you.

For example, when Mary explains how to thin out seedlings she suggests letting go of negative issues in your life with every seedling you eliminate. She also describes how she mows her lawn by concentrating on the physical task of mowing without thinking about anything else.

She also touches on the Japanese concept of “shinrin-yoku” or forest bathing. By now it’s a well-known topic covered in many books. The main idea is that a walk in the woods is good for people and the Japanese have study data to back it up. For example, blood pressure drops nicely once people enter the forest.


Now, I know you’re focused on your own garden, whatever its size. However, Mary’s book reminds you that we are all connected. Even if your garden is very humble, it will provide homes for insects, birds and small animals. Weeds might cause panic for you but pollinators might still enjoy them.

Also, your garden gives back through beauty and contact with soil. You’re encouraged to relax in your garden and observe what’s going on.


Ellen Mary’s book is a nice gardening primer for beginners. She covers all angles so you can relax and learn as you read or listen. There are lessons hidden in the book that even experienced gardeners will appreciate.

The narrator does a great job, too. If you’re looking for a new book on gardening, you can’t go wrong with this one. Yes, Ellen Mary is from the UK but everything in the book applies to Canada. Don’t worry.

Happy gardening!

How clover saved grass in a fire lane

By | Lawn Care | No Comments

A tough spot

Imagine grass growing on a fire lane made with bricks and very little soil on top; and towering above are mature Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) which limit the amount of sunlight the grass gets. These conditions, limited light and soil volume, make it difficult for the grass to thrive. Now, add lack of irrigation and foot traffic and no wonder the entire fire lane has a patchy look.

If you want a great lawn, you need regular watering, fertilizers and proper cutting heights.

Some years ago, we top dressed the fire lane with quality, weed-free, lawn and garden mix soil. Then we put down quality – and expensive- shade seed mix; and for a while everything looked great. Then the same poor conditions took over. Shade from the trees above, lack of regular watering and relentless foot traffic from adults, kids, and pets.


In 2023 the strata council became more active in their landscape. They organized weekend work parties and planted their own plants like English laurels. This allowed them to build a community and save money. Incidentally, this strata complex is where my favorite fern lady lives. She’s the one who bought a native sword fern (Polystichum munitum) at a native plant nursery with after-tax dollars. If she had taken a shovel and traveled maybe ten metres into her forest buffer zone, she could have dug up massive specimens for free.

So, this same strata group decided to plant clover in their fire lane. Clover mixes nicely with grass, when it matures and flowers, it attracts insects, it grows fast, and it’s not as demanding as grass. It’s also disliked by European chafer beetles. Of course, since this lawn has limited soil volume, it’s unlikely the female chafers would lay their eggs in it. Clover is also cheap to buy and available.

Months after planting the clover is noticeable and there are fewer bare patches in the fire lane lawn.

One look and I would call the whole clover project a success; and it didn’t break the budget. It also fits nicely in a forest setting.

Success: clover and grass mix and fewer patches

Mowing tips for the fall

By | Lawn Care | No Comments

Fall recovery

Last fall was extremely dry and it was the first time I saw turfgrasses not recover completely. Normally, our lawns go dormant in summer and then they green up when rains return in the fall. Except last year the rains were delayed. We’ll see what 2023 brings. But this also gives us a chance to consider mowing tips from the Guelph Turfgrass Institute.

The golden rule

One-third rule: never remove more than one third the height of the plant.

Mowing heights depend on grass species and lawn uses. If you cut your lawn higher, you won’t have to cut as often. I know a dude who cuts his grass very short and twice a week. He loves his lawns and has the time. Others don’t care as much. I visit their homes every two weeks and the grass is fine.

Best tips

  • Water deeply and infrequently as this encourages deep root formation and thus better drought tolerance
  • Overseed with drought tolerant species. Check your home region for the best seed mixes.
  • Don’t remove grass clippings. The clippings are natural fertilizer. I love this as a landscape professional because it speeds up my lawn care work: no stopping to empty my mower bag and now green waste to remove. I always do this in summer.
  • Encourage dense grass stands to out-compete weeds: overseed in spring and fall. This issue comes up a lot. Homeowners are always asking about weeds in their lawns. While their lawns will never be weed-free, dense grass stands will make it hard for weeds to establish and thrive.
  • Speaking of weeds, hand pick them and overseed the bare patches you create with seed.
  • In the fall, mulch your fallen leaves into your turf.

Brand new sod

Learn from Red Seal Vas

I find that landscapers and homeowners make the same basic mistakes over and over. It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve taken the worst five mistakes people make and developed them into a stunning online course called “Lawn Care Mastery 101: the top 5 mistakes“. Now you too can mow like a professional. Click the link above or button below and change your life! Your lawns will thank you for it. If you’re reading this blog post to the end and inflation is making your life difficult, contact me for a discount code.

Take good care of your lawns!

Is #NoMowMay a good idea?

By | Lawn Care | No Comments

PlantLife did it!

The PlantLife conservation group from the United Kingdom started #NoMowMay in 2019; and it’s a great idea because it makes us think about pollinators and how to help them thrive. We need pollinators for their free services and getting people to talk about them. The key idea is to stop mowing in May so dandelions can feed pollinators early in the season.

I first heard about #NoMowMay from a buddy who was totally frustrated about his strata council telling him to stop mowing in May. His work days start with lawn care all year so now he had to adjust his service. He was basically down to finesse and pruning work for all of May and it threw him off. I would be lying if I told you that my buddy was deeply concerned about dandelions and pollinators.

And then comes June

#NoMowMay sounds great but not if homeowners and condo landscapers struggle to get their lawns back up to shape in June. One problem with long, meadow-like lawns is that some weed species get easily established and may be difficult to eradicate later. Another problem is suddenly cutting your lawn low in June; back to its normal height. This stresses the lawn as it removes storage.

My buddy clearly struggled with his first regular mow in June. The grass was long and the cut required more effort, time and extra tarps. Don’t even get me started on the long faces his workers had.

Two alternatives

The Guelph Turfgrass Institute proposes two different ideas. One involves moving beyond turfgrass monocultures by adding mowing tolerant flowers such as crocus, creeping buttercup, English daisy or snowdrop.

Another idea is creating naturalized zones close or next to your lawn areas. You can let the naturalized area go wild and grow into a meadow that will support pollinators. As for your lawns, mowing every two weeks is the best way to support pollinators.

The future

We’ll see how the #NoMowMay idea evolves in the future. I love that it gets people talking and thinking about pollinators. We need their services and yet their numbers are declining. But we also have to consider the health of our lawns and their function. When homeowners struggle with their lawns in June, something is wrong. My buddy grumbled about dandelions but he survived the season. And I hope his long lawns helped pollinators get through the early part of the season.

Are you planning to mow your lawn next May?

Let black bears play in your garden

By | gardening | No Comments

“Kids playing”

Two weeks ago I was push mowing in a strata complex when an elderly couple drove up and stopped me to warn me about black bears playing on their back patio. Clearly distressed, they were worried about the well-being of my crew but loud lawn care machines usually repel black bears.

They also bitterly complained about a part of their cedar hedge (Thuja occidentalis) being down. The bears broke off one stem and then sat on it while the owners looked on from the comforts of their over-priced home.

I found it funny because there was nothing to be done. I believe we are extremely lucky to have black bears roaming our neighbourhoods; they’re beautiful animals. Beyond the patio they abused there is a large wild zone and beyond that are long dykes. That’s where the bears find food and hang out. This is their home. So yes, be careful and know what to do when you encounter black bears in the city or on the trails. But don’t worry about any damage they do to your garden. We are fortunate to have these animals.

Easy fix

Later that day I brought over a sharp hand saw, and a rake and tarp. The lady living in this unit is pretty interesting; some would describe her as “high-maintenance”. Often she bikes around on her pricey e-bike and stops by to tell me- in great detail- about invasive plant species that keep her up at night.

My job was to cut and remove the broken cedar stem which was easy with my sharp hand saw. Always use sharp hand saws so you can make quick, sharp cuts. Then, as specified by the homeowner, I had to rake up the drop inside the cedar hedge. Before we left the site, I sent one of our guys there to blow off the grass so it looked like we were never there.

The bears were responsible for the large hole in the hedge. It should grow over eventually. Let the kids play!

Danger: broken branch!

By | Landscaping, Trees | No Comments

Don’t delay

As soon I walked into one ground level strata unit yard last week, I noticed piles of sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) seed cones. You can expect to see some but not piles. Then I looked up and saw the problem: a large branch had broken off and now it was just hanging in the tree. It was suspended in the tree, waiting to claim any unsuspecting victim, which isn’t funny. A child playing on the patio could potentially be killed; and adults would definitely end up concussed, or worse.

Large broken branches must be taken care of immediately. Strata owners should call their garden rep or building manager. A direct call to your landscape contractor like Proper Landscaping would also work.

It happens

You can expect some craziness with trees. Weaknesses develop as the tree matures and with sweetgum trees the weight of their seed pods alone can cause headaches. Here there was some weakness in the branch attachment, as indicated by the black tissues. See the picture below. That’s biology. We just can’t tolerate broken branches stuck in trees for safety, and aesthetic reasons. Our landscapes should be healthy, green and beautiful; and free of hazards.

Note the dark tissues, a clear evidence of weakness


Liquidambar styraciflua trees are an awesome alternative to maple trees. The leaves look similar to maples but the distinctive seed pods give it a unique look. The weight of the seed pods gives the tree a workout. Then, add a bit of wind as in this strata example where the two buildings create a wind a tunnel, and you get trouble.

Sweetgum trees also put on a nice color show in the fall; and they hang on to their leaves for a long time. If you plant one, make sure it has room to grow in the future. It’s not a small garden tree. We see it planted along strata complex streets.


Trees lose branches all the time, in wind storms, through disease and decay; or vandalism, and even self-pruning. The key is to quickly identify dangerous broken branches and remove them, especially inside strata complexes where there are targets like kids, pets and pregnant women. Barbecues and glass plates are also targets.

Call your landscape contractor, building manager, strata manager or council member and remove the danger as soon as possible. I pulled down the branch pictured above with my hands and it landed heavily on the sidewalk. Give trees lots of love, water and respect!

Great news for Red Seal journeyman horticulturist candidates

By | Education | No Comments

The wait is over

Finally, as of September 2023, you can access the Red Seal journeyman horticulturist exam preparation workshop online. Simply buy your study manual ($30 plus tax) online and get free access to on-demand one hour video recording. In the video, Egan Davis covers the crucial material people mess up on the Red Seal exam. This is absolute gold, especially for people challenging the exam. Apprentices who go through all four levels are in better shape but I still recommend this course to anyone planning to sit the Red Seal exam.

Old style

In 2014 I did it the old way, in the classroom. The preparation workshop took place at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and it took all day. It was also nice to see the group discussions which is one thing you can’t do with online, on-demand recordings. Some of the people in class were teachers from Kwantlen Polytechnic University; and I got to see them absolutely “smoke” the test in record time. In contrast, I stayed for the full four hours and left the exam room hungry and dehydrated.

The session cost $100 and the manual covered material that people mess up on the test. I thought it was gold for someone challenging the exam. I’m one hundred percent convinced I wouldn’t have passed without this course. For one, it showed me what exactly was on the test; and two, it gave me more confidence. I still have my notes from that day.

My mentor, Egan Davis

The teacher, Egan Davis, is a plantsman and overall a great guy. Just Google him and see. He ran the UBC horticulture program and then moved to a municipal job. I’ve also attended many of his presentations. I distinctly remember the last lecture I saw him deliver because it was just as the pandemic was hitting. Some of the attendees in the small lecture hall were already fist-bumping which confused me. But not for long. Soon my day-job employer would face pressure online to shut down his business; he didn’t!

Davis knows a lot about plants and his overall great knowledge shows in the exam preparation workshop. He’s knowledgeable and confident. Once you grab his email address, you have a mentor for life.

Just do it!

If you want to challenge or take the Red Seal exam, this workshop is for you. And now you can do it from the comforts of your home. Buy the study manual and watch the one-hour video anytime you want. I highly recommend it because the study manual covers material people mess up. It obviously can’t cover in one hour what apprentices learn in four levels.

I recommend this workshop to everyone: challengers with work experience and apprentices who have gone through all four levels. Good luck!

Pruning: don’t be so formal

By | gardening, Pruning | No Comments

Check before pruning

Before you start pruning, stop to assess everything. Ask yourself why you are pruning and then decide how you will do it. In my nightmares, dudes indiscriminately gun down every shrub in sight with power shears.

It also helps when the clients give you a hint, like this past weekend in White Rock. The lady took me for a walk around her back garden and showed me what work she wanted me to get done soon. One obvious target was a shaggy Euonymus.

Gardens vs Strata complexes

Now, I know that most strata landscapers would grab power shears and prune it into a ball, leaving behind tons of debris on the ground and on top of the shrub. It looks fast but it’s a mirage. We’ll get to that soon.

Luckily, I knew the lady’s garden well and nothing in her garden is sheared into formal shapes: balls, squares, rectangles, etc. She has a nice garden and my monthly visits involve a lot of bitch work. I weed, remove leafiness and cultivate the beds. And I also prune so let’s get back to our euonymus shrub. I grabbed my Felco hand snips and, always minding the location of my pretty fingers, carefully grabbed a few stems before snipping them off. And I held on to the debris which was then disposed of in my garden bag. Power shears seem to be faster but not if you include clean-up time. I had almost zero debris on the ground and on top of the shrub.

Good result

Hand snipping gives the shrub a more natural look since the pruning cuts are slightly staggered. And in this garden setting it totally fits. Tight round balls would only make sense if we had some formal shapes in the garden already, either plants or fixed elements. That isn’t the case in this garden and I love it! I openly confess to happily leaving loud, polluting power shears in the truck and enjoying quiet hand snipping on a sunny day in a quiet-and also white and rich-neighbourhood. It feels like therapy.