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Geoscape Contracting
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Developing Common Ground
Developing Common Ground

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Stormwater Management Pond – Lemon or Lemonade?

Geoscape provides expertise in pond development, helping turn regular ponds into sustainable water features that sometimes become the heart of a community. In this post, we consider the benefits of creating an eye-catching water feature with stormwater management ponds. With proper attention to design, landscaping can turn these features from lemons into lemonade throughout Markham and the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).

Starting Early on Stormwater Management Pond Design

Geoscape recommends an early start when designing a stormwater management pond. Ponds often begin as temporary sediment basins during construction and then are converted to their final design once the site is constructed. Unless requested otherwise, contractors tend to use a rectangular shape for these basins. Rectangular shaped ponds look less attractive then ponds with circular or oval shapes. Among the most attractive pond shapes are those that follow the natural contours of the land. For more information on stormwater management pond design, see the Ontario Ministry of Environment Stormwater Management Planning and Design Manual. These considerations apply to many types of stormwater management facilities, including wet ponds, dry ponds, and stormwater wetlands.

Read More, visit http://www.geoscapecontracting.com/stormwater-management-pond-lemon-lemonade/
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Storm Water Management – Landscaping and Pond Planting

Where storm water contributes to environmental challenges, carefully planned landscaping and pond planting provides an effective means of reducing local water pollution and flooding. Storm water runoff comes from snow, rainwater, and domestic and commercial activity on rooftops, roads, driveways, sidewalks, and even mowed lawns. Sandra Kok, of Environment Canada's Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, in the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada, explained that in the Great Lakes Region, “Municipal wastewater includes sewage and wet-weather related discharges, primarily combined with sewer overflows and storm water runoff.”

Such runoff, research has shown, contributes to local and even regional water pollution. For example, the State of New York's Department of Environmental Conservation reported that storm water runoff, figuring out uncontrollable atmospheric and legacy pollution, contributed to impaired water quality in 75% of all waters and, in 61% of them, was a major contributor.

Well designed storm water management ponds can help manage runoff water volume, flow, and quality.


Storm water management ponds sometimes occur naturally, but most result from carefully planned landscape development of commercial, residential, or public properties. They may, if properly designed, built, and maintained, offer an effective solution to the problems associated with urban surface waters, and they provide a number of other benefits to property owners and local communities.

By slowing and reducing runoff flow rates, well-designed ponds decrease local soil erosion and flooding that could lead to unsightly gullying and soil loss. Storm water management pond landscapes help store excess water and encourage local infiltration.
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Sustain and Play

Common areas require special attention in the fun department. The most enjoyable, well-used parks and playgrounds are designed with people in mind. Once you have a space that people can enjoy, these spaces provide many opportunities for other benefits. In fact, parks and playgrounds are among the best opportunities for sustainable practices. Below, we explore these opportunities and highlight some of our favourites.

Nature Play
Natural playgrounds provide families an alternative to traditional playground structures. Within the spectrum of natural playgrounds, there are many choices. A natural design could be as simple as incorporating appropriate tree species, preserving existing trees, and incorporating natural areas where families can learn and interact with nature.
Playgrounds built with natural materials add to the feeling of playing in nature. Playground structure can be built with logs – smoothed and safe for little hands. Water features add fun and sensory experiences for hot days. Slides built into hills incorporate play into the existing landscape and add to the fun.

Many early educators have focused on play spaces with nature in mind. Open space encourages imaginative play, and children often need very little substance to allow their imaginations to run wild. If imaginative play is a focus, a good start to a natural playground would include fallen tree trunks, buried tree stumps, small boulders, and other natural objects that can be explored safely. Slices of tree trunks laid out in a line or in patterns can turn into hours of play for high-energy toddlers.

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Native Trees and Shrubs in Southern Ontario – A Great Choice

We love using native planting in our landscape projects because native plants add both beauty and value. They also help protect ecosystems and water quality. Today we’re taking a closer look at why native trees and shrubs are a great choice regardless of the project: street trees, landscape stormwater management ponds, parks and playgrounds, etc.

Native Ontario trees and shrubs give us endless combinations of colour, shape, and character.

You can find natives that bloom during different seasons and give striking fall colours. Evergreen native species offer year-round beauty, privacy, and other benefits shared with non-native species.

Attract birds to your site with natives.
Serviceberry (Amelanchier species) produces white flowers in the spring and edible berries in the summer. This native grows in a variety of conditions as a large shrub or small tree. Species native to southwestern Ontario include downy serviceberry (A. arborea) and smooth serviceberry (A. laevis).

Native trees and shrubs help save maintenance costs, protect water quality, and support local ecosystems.

Planting native trees adds a great deal of value since they generally require less fertilizer than non-native planting. Often, all that you need is organic-rich soil, and some natives grow well in poor soil. Using less fertilizer saves on costs and also helps protect water quality. Some native plantings are also resistant to common pests and diseases, requiring minimal care throughout their lifespan.

Many native plants tolerate drought conditions. Choosing these plants helps conserve water and reduce irrigation costs. For example, Eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) is a drought tolerant tree native to southern Ontario. This attractive evergreen produces bluish-white berry-shaped cones. Eastern redcedar can grow in dry to average moisture conditions and tolerates rocky soils.

Native planting also helps threatened and endangered species in our community
While native trees and shrubs beautify your site and reduce costs, native planting also helps threatened and endangered species. Kentucky coffeetree (genus species), for example, is classified as threatened under the 2007 Endangered Species Act. This tree adds character to landscaping with its small, graceful leaflets and dark brown seed pods. These trees are popular for native planting along streets in urban areas.

Choosing native trees and shrubs helps us avoid using invasive species. The Norway maple (Acer platanoides) is an example of a non-native species that harms surrounding plants and can spread quickly, taking over forests and other natural areas. This tree species also has shallow roots and prevents grass from growing underneath its canopy.

You may be surprised at how many common trees and shrubs are native to Southern Ontario. The Ontario Tree Atlas provides an interactive map with information on native tree species. Select your location, and the website produces a list of native trees for that region linked to fact sheets on tree characteristics, including drought tolerance (tolerates dry soil).

If you’re considering planting for a new project, let Geoscape Contracting help you determine which native trees and shrubs that are best for your specific site. We’ll help you select native trees and shrubs that are drought tolerant and disease and pest resistant. Native Ontario trees and shrubs have a lot to offer your landscape. Geoscape Contracting operates an onsite native tree and shrub nursery which allows us to offer you native planting at affordable prices. For more information, visit our nursery page or contact us by phone or email.
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Achieving Success with Environmental Restoration

Development and nature really can work together. Whether you need to mitigate for a protected area or wish to add habitat features to your site, environmental restoration techniques can help your plans succeed.

What is Environmental Restoration?
Environmental restoration involves re-constructing a natural area. This could include many different types of landscape features and wildlife habitats. For example, a bog is a type of wetland that often exists where water collects and has nowhere else to go. Many plants and animals – including rare, protected species – use bogs as habitat for food and shelter. Historically, bogs were filled and drained for farming. Wetlands restoration can re-create a historic bog, or create a new one. Depending on site conditions, wetlands restoration may involve earthwork to restore the natural depression, structures to ensure safe water inflow and outflow, and a variety of vegetation species adapted to wetland ecosystems.

A bog is just one example of the many habitats that can be restored through environmental restoration and environmental landscaping. Environmental restoration can re-construct forests, creeks, wetlands, streams and ponds. Within the category of wetlands, you will find many different types. Marsh restoration is an important consideration along the shorelines of Lake Ontario. Conservation Halton’s website provides details on local stream and wetland habitat concerns for the Halton region, many of which are applicable to surrounding regions like Peel and York.

Sometimes restoring an ecosystem involves re-creating several different habitats to ensure long-term success. Stream restoration projects often involve the restoration of the stream channel itself as well as a forest buffer on both sides of the stream and wetlands along its banks. With a goal of restoring a functioning ecosystem, stream restoration combined with wetlands and buffer restoration can ensure that a project provides habitat benefits over the long-term.

Why Environmental Restoration?
Our customers seek environmental restoration for many reasons. Some wish to attract birds and other wildlife, adding interest and beauty to the landscape. Conservation design involves planning a development to preserve and enhance natural landscape features, and environmental restoration is a great way to add more benefits to a conservation design.

Other customers need to restore a feature that was removed during construction. In the latter situation, the government may have required a permit for constructing on a wetland or other protected area, and the developer is required to compensate for that lost habitat, also called “mitigation.”

While every effort is made to avoid disturbing this land, occasionally developers must apply for a permit to develop a protected area. They are granted a permit if the disturbance can be mitigated in some way. In-kind mitigation involves restoring the same or similar type of habitat at another location. Geoscape can fulfill a developer’s mitigation needs through our environmental restoration services.

What does Environmental Restoration involve?
Environmental restoration is not as simple as digging a hole and throwing in some seeds. Sadly, restoration projects have failed due poor design and construction. Restoring a natural habitat requires careful attention to the native plant species appropriate for the climate, hydrology, and soils of a site. Vegetation placement is critical for plant survival. Especially in wetland environments, plants are adapted to a specific water regime. Restoration projects are more vulnerable to invasive species encroachment than established natural areas, and important measures during design and maintenance can help ensure survival of native plants and prevent invasive species from encroaching. Geoscape understands these concepts and can help you design, construct, and maintain a successful environmental restoration site.

How can Geoscape help?
So many options exist within the scope of environmental restoration, and Geoscape can help guide businesses and municipalities through these options. We can incorporate habitat features into an environmental landscape on-site, or develop a plan for off-site environmental restoration. For more information, visit our environmental restoration page or contact us by phone or email.
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Landscaping for Condominiums

Grass and trees make a place feel like “home.” When landscaping a condo site, the key is to balance the look and the cost. Planting costs add up fast on newly constructed sites. Geoscape knows how to green your site beautifully and cost-effectively.

We offer a full range of landscaping and site work services for condominiums and other multi-family residential projects. We specialize in hardscape installation, plant installation, sodding, terraseed applications. Our on-site nursery ensures the quality and affordability of our plant material. By covering every step, we can provide your condo site with efficient and affordable green space.

The Magic of Green
The greening begins with the turf. Sod transforms a construction site into a green living space. To ensure instant and long-lasting “green,” Geoscape waters the turf immediately and at regular intervals after application. We recommend sod for parks, along boulevards and sidewalks, and other areas where a green look is desired immediately. Our sod is locally sourced and grown – well-adapted to local climate and other conditions.

Once sod is placed in key areas, Geoscape “terraseeding” provides an affordable alternative to sod. Geoscape uses the latest technology, including a computerized machine that seeds in record time, about one acre of land can be seeded per day, producing growth in 7 days. We use a precise blend of screened composted soil to ensure optimal growth. Any variety of grass or wild flower seed can be applied with our terraseeding method.

Making a Site Feel Like Home
Turf is just the beginning when creating a livable landscape. Site greening continues with plant installation. The key to successful condo landscaping is healthy nursery stock, precise soil amendments, and proper care at every stage of the process. Plants are an investment. If handled poorly during transit or while stored, they may not successfully establish on-site. Geoscape cares for our plants from the nursery, through transport and installation, and beyond. Our soils and mulches are expertly mixed and meet all municipal and environmental standards.

Hardscapes are important for any multi-family development. Enhance your public space with inviting features like walking paths, gathering spaces, and play structures. Geoscape provides decorative features, such as entryways, as well as more structural components, like retaining walls. We can install planting beds throughout the site and within parking lots and medians. Geoscape plans and executes site paving and the installation of any park furnishings.

Go Native
Through our quality services, Geoscape is committed to fostering care for the natural environment and local ecosystems. We offer expertise in the use of native plants for large site landscaping. We believe that native plants are a valuable component to any landscaping plan. We select native species that grow well in our climate and are resilient to disease, weather variations, and other hazards. With strong root systems and healthy growth, our native plants hit the ground running. As they beautify your site, natives are also support wildlife and help control the spread of invasive species. See our May 13 blog for more details on the benefits of native plants.

Our environmental restoration services can help you promote your condominium site as environmentally sustainable. Eco-friendly landscaping can provide the final points needed towards earning a green building certification as offered through the Canada Green Building Council. So many possibilities exist for adding green features to condo landscaping. Rain gardens add unique features while treating stormwater and conserving water; permeable pavers enhance parking areas and reduce runoff; pollinator gardens attract butterflies and help support healthy ecosystems and farm productivity. The possibilities continue to grow with the public’s interest in green-built developments.

Trust us with your site, and your condominiums will stand out as a beautiful and inviting place to live. For more information, browse our services and portfolio pages or contact us by phone or email.
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Sustainable Subdivision Landscape Development/Streetscaping

Streets Alive
The importance of sustainable subdivision landscape development (Streetscaping)

Streets are the arteries of a neighbourhood. They are the first place that we interact with once we leave our home, and the last place we see before we return. A lush, tree and garden-lined street provides so many more benefits compared to a bare paved street. People enjoy the soft features, the shade from the sun, and seasonal colours. Regardless of whether we are walking or driving, greener streets calm the mind and help us start our day with improved mental health. Street vegetation also improves air quality and provides a suite of other environmental benefits.

Streetscaping – Investing in Quality
Geoscape specializes in restoring a natural look and feel to newly developed streets that comes with these multiple benefits. We work with all levels of sustainable streetscape design. What we find most exciting about this work is how much a little effort goes a long way. Even the simple effort of placing resilient trees along an avenue can revitalize a neighbourhood.

The key to successful streetscaping is designing spaces that promote plant health, minimize maintenance, and ensure long-term viability. The design must provide adequate soil volume, moisture, and oxygen, which can be challenging in an urban environment. Other considerations include soil quality and texture, steep slopes, overhead and underground utilities, pavement and other impervious surfaces, and proximity to structures.

When selecting species for streetscapes, we help our clients find the best balance of tree characteristics, including growth rate, ornamental traits, size, canopy shape, shade potential, and benefits for wildlife. Species diversity is also important to protect against insect and disease outbreaks. We work with our clients on which species will achieve the most reliable long-term growth while achieving many other benefits.

So Many Streetscaping Options
Many innovative streetscaping options exist within the GTA. Let’s review the latest:

Green streets integrate the beauty of tree-lined streets with the environmental benefits of natural spaces. Many stormwater controls can be incorporated seamlessly with landscaping. Vegetated swales convey stormwater along the streets, or bioretention swales help infiltrate stormwater and recharge groundwater using sandy soils and the plants’ natural ability to transpire water. By shading the streets and other pavement, the vegetation reduces the overall temperature of the neighbourhood, improving the residents’ health and saving energy costs.

Green alleys take the concept of green streets to those often forgotten urban spaces. Paving stones interspaced with grass provide low impact travel lanes. These designs integrate planters, rainwater harvesting, and other sustainable practices. The alleys become an inviting, peaceful place while conserving water and improving air quality.

Complete streets, designed for multiple modes and uses, are gaining traction in the GTA. Designing vegetation for complete streets requires awareness of how all the uses fit together in the design. Geoscape’s designs ensure safety, protect views, and offer all users the best experience.

Subdivision landscaping often requires a distributed approach to street trees and other vegetation. Stormwater trees provide a flexible approach for sustainable subdivision landscape design. More than a street tree planter, stormwater trees are designed to maximize the urban benefits of trees and ensure their long-term health. Multiple design options exist including manufactured structures that allow root growth under pavement, sidewalks with support structures that allow for soil and root growth underneath, and structured soils that support pavement while allowing for root growth.

The Benefits – WOW!
Benefits of street trees and urban landscaping are overwhelming. Studies have shown that urban greening can increase property values (Madison and Kovari 2013), reduce heating and cooling costs, and reduce air pollution (Toronto and Region Conservation).

Researchers have found that people with access to green space enjoy better health and lower mortality rates. Even somewhat passive contact with nature, such as viewing it from a window, can lower blood pressure and anxiety levels. In a Toronto study, residents living near a higher density of trees reported much fewer health concerns when controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors (Karden et al. 2015).

Vegetated landscapes invite more people to use them, ensuring more surveillance that can prevent crime in outdoor spaces. The stress reduction effects of trees are likely to also have the effect of reducing road rage and improving the attention of drivers. In a Portland, Oregon study, Donovan and Prestemon (2012) found that larger, canopy trees are associated with reduced crime.

It’s no surprise that we love trees at Geoscape and want our clients to achieve long-term success and multiple benefits in any streetscaping project. For more information, contact us or read more about our Urban Streetscape and Subdivision Landscape Development services.
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