November: A Busy Month For Gardeners

Just because the year is slowly starting to wind down that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in the yard. In fact November can be a very busy month for the avid Greenthumb. In the fall gardening tends to focus on preparing the yard for its long winter’s nap. Before the snows fall plants need to be tended and tucked cozily into their beds to ensure they’ll return healthy and vibrant in the spring.

For many gardening in the autumn is also an exercise in delayed gratification – as new plants will barely put down roots before going dormant, cleaned and amended beds won’t show their gratitude for months and bulbs disappear underground, making a person wonder if they’ll ever reappear.

Across the country, even with Vancouver Island’s benign climate, November is normally the time when the first real frosts and hard freezes start to occur – as a prelude to the dormancy of the winter. Until snow actually blankets the ground any of the chores you would normally undertake in September or October as still valid this month, at least until the soil actually freezes.

Here are a few things you can do around the yard while the weather remains fairly mild:

Shrubs and Trees

  • After the leaves have fallen, carefully prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Vancouver Island typically experiences a short warming period referred to as an Indian Summer, so it’s best to hold off serious pruning until the plants are fully dormant to not negatively impact future new growth.
  • While working in the yard remain on the lookout for berry-covered branches for potential use in indoor holiday season decorations.
  • Continue planting container-grown ornamental trees and shrubs until the ground freezes.
  • Water evergreens until freezing weather, but make sure they don’t get waterlogged.
  • When actively pruning keep some of the cuttings handy to root indoors if interested in adding to your deciduous inventory.
  • Winterize roses after the first frost, but before the ground freezes. Prune canes back to 3’- 4’ or tie up climbers. Then mound soil at least 12” deep and 12” wide around the stem and crown.

Perennials and Bulbs

  • After the leaves turn yellow, gardeners can divide and transplant fall-blooming bulbs such as autumn crocus, colchicum, and sternbergia.
  • Continue planting winter and spring-flowering bulbs.
  • Check on stored tender bulbs to make sure they’re kept in a cool, dry place – always ensure they are labeled for identification before planting in the spring.
  • In frost-free areas, you can keep on planting bulbs that don’t require a winter’s chill, such as anemone, amaryllis, calla lilies, freesia, lilies, and garlic

Annuals and Containers

  • Empty and clean out spent annual containers.
  • Store clay pots indoors, since they can break in freezing weather.
  • Smash up cracked or broken pots to use as drainage in next year’s containers.

These are just a few possible suggestions, each yard and situation is as individual as the gardener who tends them. Whatever the scale and nature of the property, November is a great time to prepare the yard for winter and for the bounty that will emerge in the springtime.

Remembrance Day 2018: A Wartime Centennial

Always somber and meaningful this year’s staging of Remembrance Day is especially significant as it represents the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War. Precisely at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918 the guns fell silent on the Western Front ending what had been up until that point in time the deadliest conflict in human history.

By some estimates there were more than 40 million casualties (killed and wounded) during World War I including nearly 10 million soldiers of all nations. Canada, then a small and under populated part of the British Empire, heroically answered the call and sent more than 600,000 of its best and brightest to the front, with nearly 60,000 to fall through illness and enemy action.

To honor that sacrifice Remembrance Day (originally known as Armistice Day) was introduced in 1919, and is today commemorated throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations. While today held annually on November 11th that wasn’t always the case. In the years after the end of the First War (up until 1930) Armistice Day was held on the Monday of the week in which November 11 fell.

It took a Member of Parliament (MP) from Vancouver Island (Comox – Alberni MP Alan Neil) to create the commemoration we recognize today. He introduced a bill in Parliament to observe Armistice Day only on November 11. The wording of the bill also changed the name to today’s Remembrance Day. The House of Commons passed the bill, with the very first Remembrance Day being observed on November 11, 1931.

Each year on Remembrance Day Canadians across the nation pause for a moment to honor the men and women who have served, and who continue to serve to protect the country and its way of life. Since its inception more than 2.3 million Canadians have served in the Armed Forces in times of both peace and war – with more than 118,000 having made the ultimate sacrifice.

The poppy, made famous in Canadian Army surgeon John McCrae’s famous wartime poem In Flanders Fields has become the principal symbol of Remembrance Day. The Royal British Legion first introduced a ‘Poppy Appeal’ in 1921 with the practice quickly being adopted throughout the Commonwealth. Today the Royal Canadian Legion continues that proud legacy having sold millions of replica flowers over the decades.

In Canada Remembrance Day is a federal statutory holiday across the nation and is also a statutory holiday in three territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) and in six provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador).

While Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia observe the tradition of Remembrance Day on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month other nations observe a similar solemn day but on different dates. ANZAC Day for example is observed in New Zealand on April 25. In South Africa, Poppy Day is marked on the Sunday that falls closest to November 11.

Many nations that are not members of the Commonwealth also observe Remembrance Day on November 11, including France, Belgium and Poland. In the United States Armistice Day had been recognized on November 11 but in 1954 the US Congress changed the name to Veterans Day.

Regardless of the name Remembrance Day is a time to pause, remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, and to give thanks for the peace that continues to exist. Nanaimo’s celebrations, held at the city’s cenotaph across from the Federal Government building, always attract a large and heart-felt crowd so it is advisable to come early to find a good spot before the services begin.

Island Housing Sales and Prices Continue to Rise

According to information released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB) more homes were sold across Vancouver Island last month than the month before – but far fewer than were sold during the same month last year. The VIREB stats show that during October 385 single family homes were sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System – up 11 percent over September’s totals.

However in October 2017 458 single family homes changed hands, 16 percent more than were sold last month. The year-to-year slump in sales weren’t restricted to single family homes alone as fewer apartments and townhomes were also sold in October – eight and 21 percent respectively.

A bright spot for those in the market for real estate is a steady increase in the Island’s inventory of available properties. VIREB reports that the inventory of single family homes rose slightly last month from a year ago to 1,175 homes. In October 2017 there were 1,138 homes on the market. Interestingly October’s inventory levels were actually down eight percent from those recorded in September. In addition, last month there were 322 apartments for sale across Vancouver Island, an increase of seven percent from October 2017. The inventory of available townhouses was even larger, up a full 28 percent when compared to a year ago.

VIREB’s stats show that home prices all across Vancouver Island continued to rise last month. The real estate board uses ‘benchmark pricing’ to track the value of typical homes in each of its coverage areas, which extends from northern Vancouver Island to the Malahat. The board-wide benchmark price of a single-family home increased 11 percent last month to $508,200. The benchmark price of apartments sold on Vancouver Island in October increased 16 percent year-over-year to reach $313,500, while townhouse prices climbed 13 percent to $411,800.

Looking at the individual areas, in Nanaimo the benchmark price of homes sold last month was up nine percent year-over-year to $548,000. In the Parksville / Qualicum Beach area the benchmark price also rose nine percent last month to $570,200, while in the Duncan area the benchmark price climbed 12 percent from October 2017 to reach $475,700.

Elsewhere across Vancouver Island last month, in the Comox Valley the benchmark price was up nine percent to $501,400, while in Campbell River the benchmark price climbed 14 percent to $408,100 when compared to October 2017. In Port Alberni the benchmark price of a single family home increased by a full 18 percent from a year ago to close at $300,300.

What does it all mean? As more homes are now available for sale on the Island buyers have a greater selection of properties to choose from, while sellers are receiving better prices for their properties – a win / win for everyone. If interested in learning more about the real estate marketplace or wanting to place your home on the market give Peter and Kathy a call today.

Halloween Has an Ancient Origin

Halloween as we celebrate it today is an eerie but fun-filled night noteworthy for its costumes, candy, fireworks and hordes of delighted children. But this annual celebration of the macabre has origins that are ancient and with a much more religious focus.

Celebrated this year on Wednesday, October 31, Halloween can trace its roots back to a pagan festival, the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain. This was an annual event that routinely saw people light bonfires and wear exotic costumes to ward off ghosts and other evil spirits.

The Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) was celebrated throughout Britain and Ireland and parts of northern France more than 2,000 years ago. The festival was held to mark the end of summer and to show appreciated for a bountiful autumn harvest. As the Celts linked the coming of winter to a time of death they celebrated Samhain as a time when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth –providing the origins of the modern Halloween’s fascination with all things spooky.

Moving into the eighth century Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints so shortly after All Saints Day was created by Papal decree. All Saints Day was created as a Christian event that successfully incorporated some of the traditions of the ancient Samhain celebration. The evening prior to All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, later adjusted to the Halloween we know today.

The observance of Halloween came to North America with its earliest settlers, first in the fledgling New England colonies before slowly spreading across the continent. As the beliefs and customs of the different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing.

During colonial times Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere across the continent.

As more immigrants from Great Britain arrived in North America during the middle of the 19th Century the celebration continued to evolve by borrowing from long standing Irish and English traditions. North Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually evolved into today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

By the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes.

By the early decades of the 20th Century the structures of the Halloween we know today had been established. Today Halloween is celebrated across the continent with North Americans spending an estimated $6 billion annually on the event, making it among the largest commercial holidays after Christmas.

Over the years Halloween has evolved from a religious observance into a day of fun-focussed activities such as trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and of course eating sweet treats. So when you’re roaming the darkened streets on Halloween night give a thought to the ancient origins that led to your getting dressed up and having fun – it will add an element of history to your evening’s entertainment.

Gabriola Island: Unique and Distinctive Destination

Minutes away by ferry, but a world away in attitude, Gabriola Island is a distinctive and beautiful part of the greater Nanaimo region. Encompassing just over 22 square miles (57.6 square kilometers) Gabriola Island has a full time resident population of approximately 4,000, but plays host to thousands of visitors throughout the year who visit the picturesque island to unwind, take in its legendary natural beauty and to sample the exceptional products of its many skilled artisans and farmers.

Readily accessible via a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo (with more than a dozen sailings per day) Gabriola Island is an integral part of the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, with archeological evidence showing the local first peoples had been regularly visiting the island since at least 1,500 BC.

It is believed that the first Europeans to visit Gabriola Island were a Spanish expedition under the command of José María Narváez in 1791. Aboard the schooner Santa Saturnina, Narváez is alleged to have given the southeastern end of the Island the name Punta de Gaviola. While lost in the mists of time, the name Gaviola may have been corrupted into the present name Gabriola, with the title being applied to the entire island rather than a single promontory.

Other schools of historic thought have suggested that it was the famed Spanish navigator Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (the overall commander of Spanish exploration in the region) rather than Narváez who had bestowed the name. In either case it was the efforts of those early Spanish seafarers that first brought information about the island to the attention of the European powers of the day.

A second Spanish expedition under the joint command of Galiano and Valdés occurred in 1792 when the pair remained for several days at what is known today as Pilot Bay. The early explorers used their time to make shipboard repairs and to carry out a brief reconnaissance of the Island and of the area around present day Nanaimo. It is believed that British explorer Captain George Vancouver also made a brief visit to the Island in 1792, but left no tangible record or evidence behind.

By the early 19th Century British dominance, thanks to the efforts of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) had effectively replaced the Spanish as developers of the west coast of the continent. By 1827 the HBC had established a fledgling trading post at present day Fort Langley on the Fraser River, with the first European setters coming to the Nanaimo area in early 1850’s following the discovery of coal.

That time frame also corresponds to the initial development of Gabriola Island when a number of intrepid coal miners and other entrepreneurially minded individuals began to break ground for some of the Island’s first farms – launched to supply the needs of the expanding population of Nanaimo. By 1874 there were believed to be less than 20 settlers living and working on the Island – the Genesis of the thriving population the Island enjoys today.

Present day Gabriola Island serves in part as a distinctive bedroom community for Nanaimo, as well as a prized retreat from the stresses of modern life. While the concept of a fixed link connecting the Island to Nanaimo has been discussed repeatedly in the past the likelihood of such a permanent structure taking shape remains unlikely for the foreseeable future. Most Gabriola residents enjoy their independence far too much to ever support the construction of a permanent bridge.

Unique, beautiful and in many ways a world of its own, Gabriola Island is a local treasure that everyone, visitors and residents alike, find hard to resist. Why not go explore it for yourself?

Island Housing Sales Declined In September

Fewer homes of all types changed hands last month across Vancouver Island – even though the average prices continued to rise – according to the most recent statistics released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB).

During September 348 single family homes were reported sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System within the VIREB coverage area, a drop of 28 percent from the 467 homes that were purchased in August. In a year-over-year comparison September’s sales were down a full 32 percent when compared to the 511 homes sold during September 2017.

Similar housing sales declines were reported last month in the apartment and townhouse categories as well. During September VIREB reported that 26 percent fewer apartments and 41 percent fewer townhomes were sold when compared to last September.

Despite a weakening in sales the number of homes currently on the market rose slightly last month when compared to September 2017. Last month there were four percent more single family homes listed for sale than there were a year ago, while three percent more townhomes had been placed on the market in a year over year comparison. Interestingly the available inventory of apartments actually shrank six percent in September when compared to a year ago.

No one cause for the decline has been identified, but the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) does suggest that changing mortgage rules could be playing a role in the apparent drop in sales reported across the province.

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board uses ‘benchmark pricing’ to track the value of typical homes sold in each of its individual regions, which extends from the Malahat in the south to the Island’s northernmost tip. The board-wide benchmark price of a single-family home climbed 12 percent last month to $508,800 when compared to last year. Similarly the benchmark price of apartments sold climbed 18 percent last month to $319,600, while the townhouse benchmark price had risen 14 percent to $414,300 when compared to September 2017.

Similar price hikes were reported all across Vancouver Island last month. In Nanaimo for example the benchmark price rose 10 percent to $554,000, while in the Parksville – Qualicum Beach area the benchmark price climbed 11 percent to $575,100.

In the Cowichan Valley the benchmark price of a home sold in Duncan last month increased 11 percent year over year to $470,400, while in the Comox Valley the benchmark price was up nine percent to $495,700. Further north in Campbell River the benchmark price increased 12 percent to $402,700 while in the Alberni Valley the benchmark price of homes sold was up a full 19 percent to $303,900 when compared to last September.

In times of climbing prices and increasing inventory it’s more important than ever to have the assistance of an experienced REALTOR® to help guide you through the challenges of the regional real estate marketplace. Call Peter and Kathy Koch today to help find your perfect home at exactly the right price.

Vancouver Island’s Many World Class Vineyards

Blessed with a benign climate, ample rains, suitable soils and an entrepreneurial spirit that extends from one end to the other Vancouver Island’s agricultural community has in recent decades developed a solid and enviable reputation for creating products of exceptional quality and value – goods and products the equal of those produced anywhere in the world. Nowhere is that success more in evidence than with the many industry leading vineyards that dot the Island – including right here in the Nanaimo area.

Today the Vancouver Island wine industry (and its companion cider segment) is producing a vast range of delectable and innovative potables that are being enjoyed by consumers across the country and around the world. While the primary wine growing regions of the Island are located in the Comox Valley, the Cowichan Valley and on the Saanich Peninsula near Victoria, the Central Island region has nearly half a dozen successful vineyards of its own, enterprises that well worth the effort to explore and sample.

The task of creating an exacting list of Island vineyards is beyond the scope of a single blog, but it’s hoped this item will inspire the reader to do some personal research that in turn will see them hit the road in the coming weeks to see for themselves just how important an agricultural segment wine and cider has become to Vancouver Island.

The industry website Wines of British Columbia reports that at present there are 32 licensed wineries in operation on Vancouver Island, businesses with more than 430 acres in active cultivation producing a wide range of distinctive wines.

According to the organization the principle wines produced on the Island include: Pinot Noir, Maréchal Foch, Pinot Gris and Ortega. But a variety of other types of wines are also being regularly produced, such as berry wines using local blackberries and other distinctively Vancouver Island materials.

As the website states: Vancouver Island is home to a dedicated community of family grapegrowers and winemakers. A tour through the natural beauty of lush green valleys, dense forested mountains, and ocean landscapes provides the opportunity to meet friendly, passionate people crafting products they are proud of and that you will delight in. “The Island” also offers some exceptional food festivals and culinary experiences to pair with your winery visits.

If not into self-directed touring there are a number of regional tour companies that specialize in organizing vineyard and cidery tours, often linked to restaurants and other food offerings that combine to create an exceptional taste experience. Vancouver Island’s agricultural footprint might be relatively small compared to other regions of the country, but what it lacks in production numbers it more than makes up for in quality.

Why not take the time in the coming weeks to check out some of these hidden treasures for yourself? On your own or part of a formal wine tour, there are some incredible delights out there, and all only a short drive away. Take the time to discover the best the Island has in store, you will be pleasantly surprised.

The Bastion: A Genuine Nanaimo Icon

When you say the word ‘Nanaimo’ what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For many (aside from that sweet and tasty confection) it’s the image of the Bastion, a historic structure that for many is the living symbol of the Harbour City. Constructed to serve a purpose that was never needed, it very nearly didn’t survive to the modern day, but did thanks to the foresight and dedication to history demonstrated by the Nanaimo residents of the time.

The city owes a debt to the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) for creating its most iconic structure. Following the discovery of coal in the region the HBC had the fortification constructed with the intent of defending its coal mining operations against perceived threats, presumably from local First Nation peoples. What’s not often remembered was that a similar structure was also created at Fort Rupert near present day Port Hardy for exactly the same purpose – to defend the company’s coal mining activities in the North Island region.

Lacking the potentials of the Nanaimo area coal resources the Fort Rupert operation did not last long. The North Island bastion was constructed in 1849 under the command of the company’s William Henry McNeill – whose name lives on in today’s Port McNeill, one of the region’s larger communities. The Fort Rupert coal seams were determined to be insufficient for long term development and as a result the entire operation was shut down in 1852, turning all of its energies toward its Nanaimo properties.

In 1889 the Fort Rupert bastion burned to the ground, ending the HBC’s development efforts in the region. An interesting fact was that Robert Dunsmuir, who would go on to become a wealthy coal baron and an individual who played a significant role in developing Nanaimo during its early years, actually began his rise to power as a mere laborer at the Fort Rupert operation

Nanaimo’s bastion, currently situated at 98 Front Street is a three story octagon shaped fortification constructed employing the so-called the pièce-sur-pièce (post-and-plank) building style. Built between 1853 and 1855 the pièce-sur-pièce technique involves the employment of timbers laid across each other horizontally, with tenons cut into the ends that are then inserted into vertical posts. This style of construction requires fewer nails and allows for a more economical building method.

The structure’s original logs were squared using only basic hand tools: a crosscut saw, broadaxe, adze, auger and pit saw, and was constructed on a masonry foundation. The bastion is believed to be the last remaining freestanding tower structure ever built by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Never required for its intended purpose the bastion faced demolition in 1891, but thanks to the vision of the citizens of the day the community purchased it from the HBC for a mere $175 and moved it across the street from its original positon to a site very close to where it currently stands. In 1979 due to road widening efforts the iconic building was gingerly shifted once again to its present location.

Officially designated a local heritage site in 1985, the fortification was extensively renovated in 2010, which included the removal and replacement of ancient and rotting boards, with stabilizing steel beams being added to ensure the long term survival of the structure.

Today managed and operated by the Nanaimo Museum the bastion continues to serve a pivotal role in the city, not as a defender against imaged threats, but as a living link to the colorful and ever changing history.

August Sales & Housing Inventory Up From July

Despite being more active than July, both housing sales activity and Vancouver Island’s inventory of available properties were down last month when compared to a year ago – according to the latest statistics released by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board (VIREB).

The most current stats show that in August a total of 467 single family homes were sold on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) System, seven percent higher than the number sold in July when only 438 changed hands. However that total is a full 14 percent less than the number of properties sold during August 2017 when 540 homes were reported sold on the MLS® System. The dip wasn’t restricted to detached single family homes alone as apartment sales dropped 13 percent and townhome sales slid 16 percent when compared to the same month last year.

VIREB also reported that the inventory of available properties for sale was pegged at 1,342 last month, down slightly from August 2017 when 1,352 homes were on the market. The summer totals are still far above the very weak numbers recorded at the beginning of the year.

For example in January 2018 there were only 749 properties available for sale across the entire VIREB coverage area, which extends from the Malahat in the south to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Interestingly the supply of apartments and townhouses on the market last month was down 14 percent and 10 percent from a year ago.

The changing statistics suggest to some real estate sales experts that the Island’s hot seller’s market is slowly evolving into a more balanced state as modest price reductions have been reported in some Vancouver Island market areas.

VIREB uses benchmark pricing to track the value of typical homes in each of its coverage areas, with the benchmark price of a single-family home for the overall board area indicating its first significant drop in a long time last month. VIREB’s board-wide benchmark price of a single family home reached $505,800 in August, a price that is a 12 percent rise over last year, but down when compared to both June and July’s benchmark price ($510,300 and $510,700 respectively).

Single family homes weren’t the only segment of the market to report price hikes year to year. The apartment benchmark price hit $317,700 last month, a 20 percent spike from last year, while in the townhouse category the benchmark price climbed 15 percent to $413,600 when compared to last August.

Price hikes were reported in all regions of Vancouver Island last month. For example in Nanaimo the benchmark price of a home sold on the MLS® System reached $546,200 during August, 10 percent higher than it was a year ago. In the Parksville – Qualicum Beach area the benchmark price rose 13 percent to $574,200.

In the Cowichan Valley the benchmark price was up eight percent year over year to $455,100, while in the Comox Valley the price climbed 13 percent to $509,200 during August. Further north in Campbell River the benchmark price rose 12 percent year over year to $404,300, while in the Alberni Valley the benchmark price of a home sold in Port Alberni reached $303,600, up a substantial 22 percent when compared to August 2017.

A solid inventory and buyer friendly pricing fluctuations are combining to keep the Island’s real estate market active and appealing. In such a dynamic marketplace it’s more important than ever to have the help of professionals when dealing with the largest purchase you’re ever likely to make in your lives. Whether interested in buying or selling, call Peter and Kathy today to help answer any of your real estate related questions.

Gardening During The Heat of Summer

Okay, maybe it is summer, and you’re on summer vacation, but for your yard and garden August is just another month and it still needs your attention. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your garden even during the hot ‘Dog Days’ of the season.

Watering: Be alert to the city’s rules regarding watering, but be diligent in providing water for your lawn and garden to ensure they can endure the heat of summer. Gardening experts say it’s very important during the summer to be truly water-wise, using the precious liquid as sparingly as possible. One way to do this is to mulch plant and flower beds with organic matter to suppress weeds and help retain moisture.

If possible use a drip irrigation system and ideally limiter your watering activities to the early morning or dusk to help reduce evaporation which would occur during the heat of the day

Cool it: Healthy plants are cool plants, so it’s important to find ways to keep the yard cool. By design plants are Nature’s own air conditioner; areas under trees can be up to 20 degrees cooler than adjacent sunny spots. So to allow for this natural cooling try to plant a tree to shade the patio or deck, and for your own enjoyment locate benches and chairs underneath existing trees to take advantage of cool shade on a hot day.

If possible locate a fountain, pool or small portable water feature near your patio for a cooling evaporation effect, and the soothing sound of moving water. Build an arbor and plant quick-growing vines at the base, or install a shade cloth.

A natural mixture: A monoculture is less appealing than a variety when it comes to gardening to don’t be afraid to change it up when it comes to your planting plants. For example combine edibles with ornamentals makes for an interesting display as well as a tasty addition for your table.

By planting different colored lettuces you can create an attractive edging along a pathway for example. Plants such as Nasturtiums placed alongside of edible flowers can liven up green salads and can also be used as a distinctive accent in a container garden, in a raised bed or a climbing trellis.

Edible as accents: Many varieties of fruits and vegetables have been bred to perform well in containers, making them a great choice for small decks or patios. Different varieties of raspberries or blueberries for example are attractive on their own, but can also be planted in colorful ceramic pots for ease of maintenance and to provide for an extra splash of color

Spruce up the deck: As the summer focal point of a property, the back sundeck or patio area is an important part of any home – so take the steps to look after it. For example don’t forget to hose it down occasionally to remove dust, leaves and other debris. Look after your patio furniture by randomly wiping them free of dust with a damp cloth.

If you have them switch out pillows or cushions, and move containers around for an updated look. Cut fresh flowers from the garden and arrange them in vases around your patio for an extra pop of color, and to add variety to the display.

These are just a few ideas, each yard and situation is different, but by taking a few steps you can maximize your summer gardening experience, making it better for both your family and your plants.