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Soil Amendments and Garden Mulch

In most cases, the difference between a soil amendment and a garden mulch is how you use it. Amendments are worked into the soil and mulches are placed on top of the soil. Some soil amendments are compost and natural mulches.

Generally, a soil amendment is used to enrich the soil and to help build up the soils structure. Many people in Ontario have either a clay base soil or a sandy soil. With Clay soils, the main concern is compaction. With sandy soils, a major concern is moisture retention. Any of our amendments will assist with either of these issues.

Using compost in soil or as a potting media is beneficial in many ways.

Compost contains a full spectrum of plant nutrients. You can test the nutrient levels in your compost and soils to find out what other supplements it may need for specific plant growth and nourishment.

  • Compost contains macro and micro nutrients that are often absent in synthetic fertilizers.
  • Compost releases nutrients slowly – over months and years, unlike synthetic fertilizers.
  • Compost enriched soils retain fertilizers better. Less fertilizer runs off to pollute waterways
  • Compost buffers the soils, neutralizes both acid and alkaline soils, bringing pH levels to the optimum range for nutrient availability to plants.

Compost helps bind clusters of soil particles, called aggregates, which provide good soil structure. Such soil is full of tiny air channels and pores that hold air, moisture and nutrients.

  • Compost helps sandy soils hold moisture and nutrients
  • Compost loosens tightly bound particles in clay or silt soil so roots can spread, water drain and air penetrate.
  • Compost alters soil structure, making it less likely to erode and prevents soil spattering on plants – spreading disease.
  • Compost can hold nutrients tight enough that is cannot wash away but loosely enough for plants to take them up when they need the nourishment.
  • Compost makes any soil easier to work with.

Compost brings and feeds all diverse life in the soils. These bacteria, fungi, insects, worms and more support strong, healthy plant growth.

  • Compost bacteria break down organics into plant available nutrients. Some bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into a plant available nutrient.
  • Compost enriched soils have lots of beneficial insects, worms and other organisms that burrow through soils to keep them aerated.
  • Compost aids is suppressing diseases and harmful pests that could overrun poor, lifeless soil.

Healthy soil is an important factor in protecting our waters. Compost increases the soils ability to retain water and decrease water runoff. Runoff pollutes water by carrying soil, fertilizers and pesticides into nearby streams.

  • Compost encourages root systems which aid in runoff
  • Compost can reduce or even eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Composts can reduce the use of chemical pesticides since it retains beneficial microorganisms that may protect plants from diseases and pests.
  • Only adding 5% of organic material quadruples soils water holding capacity.

When the compost is ready to spread, congratulate yourself for all your efforts because you are ecologically minded, and know that the organic materials that are recycled into the soil instead of being placed into a garbage can. By recycling the organic materials, valuable nutrients and organic matter are recycled. You have helped to alleviate the solid waste problem.

Mulch is also most beneficial. It helps to keep weeds in check by covering the soil enough so that the sunlight can’t penetrate and weed seeds do not germinate. If new seeds happen to blow in, they will germinate on this nice rich ground surface and removing them will be much easier because of how light and fluffy most mulches are.

Mulch also helps the soils to retain moisture and therefore is helping control water bill costs. The additional loosens nutrient rich soil allows water to penetrate easily. The soil below the mulch will stay hydrated longer because the mulch is sheltered in from the sun, hence keeping it cooler and slowing evaporation. Approximately 3-4 inches of mulch is adequate for the above purposes.

A Homeowners Guide to Topdressing Lawns

Many ask when the right time to top-dress your lawn. It’s a simple answer and a simple do it yourself project. Spring and fall are the definitely the best times of the season for topdressing. This is when the nights are cooler and you get that fresh dew cover to assist with germination of the grass seed. Getting outside and adding the finishing touches to your lawn in preparation for winter is key in aiding of pests, winter mold and ensuring readiness for a healthy lawn for the early spring. Remember when taking on this project being prepared is a key element to your lawns success. 

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Here are some tools and materials you may want to consider when preparing to top-dress your turf areas. 

  • Aerator (Not 100% required) 
  • Wheelbarrow  
  • Shovel 
  • Hard and Soft Rake 
  • Hose and Sprinkler 
  • Topdressing Blend (Compost and Coarse Sand Mix) 
  • Grass Seed 
  • Turf Fertilizer 

Once you have all these materials ready to go your all set. Here is a step by step process to help assist in the DIY project.  

  1. Measure your area to determine how much material you will require. Our Miller Compost Website has a soil calculator to assist you with precise amounts for the material you will require.   
  1. Determine soil type. Dig a small hole and take a handful of moist soil. If the soil forms a firm ball and will not break apart, your soil is clay. If the soil breaks apart easily and feels gritty, you have sand. 
  1. Determine type of topdressing best suited for your lawn.  
  • Field Topdressing for clay soils  
  • Premium Compost for sandy soils 
  1. Determine what type of grass seed for your growing conditions (sun, part-shade, low maintenance etc.)  
  1. Dethatch the lawn with a rake or dethatching machine. This will remove dead grass that forms a mat at the soil layer. Dethatching will bring the material to the top and will need to be removed before mowing and/or topdressing. 
  1. Mow the lawn as low as possible, remember not so short you burn it. This will improve better seed germination and soil contact with the topdressing material. 
  1. Remove any debris left on the lawn from dethatching and mowing.  
  1. Core-aerate the lawn. If the soil is poor, consider removing the cores. If the soil is good quality, leave them on top of the lawn to rot down naturally. 
  1. Spread the topdressing around the lawn. You should try and achieve a layer between one-quarter inch to one-half inch across the lawn. 
  1. Using the backside of the rake, work the topdressing so it makes contact with the top of the soil. If you already core-aerated, try and work as much topdressing into the holes as possible. 
  1. If you are planning on over-seeding the lawn, use Canada #1 grade seed. This will ensure you get the best seed, with the fewest amount of weed seeds. If you purchase grass seed without Canada #1, you could be introducing unknown amounts of weeds to your lawn. After you apply the recommended amount of grass seed over the area. Lightly rake the lawn again to help distribute the seed evenly and to make contact with the soil. 
  1. Compost contains plant nutrients; they are in the form of slow-release fertilizer and will be made available to the grass over time through microorganisms. It is recommended that a quality turf starter fertilizer be used at the time of establishment. 
  2. Giving your lawn a good deep watering will help settle the new topdressing into the root-zone and help the topdressing into the core holes. If you over seeded, you will also need to keep watering your lawn well into the fall to prevent water stress.

Managing our lawn is any easy practice for homeowners to participate in. Hard to believe, but pound for pound we use to use more pesticides and herbicides per acre on our lawns than big agriculture does on food crops. Instead of synthetic fertilizers that cause water-polluting nutrient runoff, harm beneficial soil life, and introduce unnecessary chemicals into your yard’s ecosystem, turn to compost instead. As you now know, the benefits are many and you can feel great about letting your kids and pets roll around in the lawn without worry. 

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Planting for Pollinators

Pollinators transfer pollen between flowers while visiting a plant for food, mates, shelter, and nest-building materials. Pollination is vital because it helps create a diverse plant population, which means: food and shelter for people and wildlife, fuel and biomass, a moderate temperature and oxygen. Canada has over 700 species of bees, which makes them the most common pollinator. Other pollinators include: moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, flies, and some beetles. Without pollinators, much of the food we eat would not be available. Helping the pollinators will also help our environment and economy. There are many ways to help out our small pollinator friends there are many tips and tricks for creating a pollinator-friendly garden. If you’d like to learn more, check out

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Choose native plants to attract native pollinators to your garden. Here’s a list of native Canadian plants that will help out our pollinator friends (be sure to also check what works best in your local area): For bees: aster, borage, chives, dahlia, foxglove, lavender, and goldenrod.
For butterflies: lilacs, bee balm, cosmos, zinnia, thistle, hollyhock, black-eyed Susan, bergamot, and milkweed.
For hummingbirds: try to grow red plants for the hummingbirds – they’re guided by their eyes and red-colored flowers are a great source of nectar. You can plant: red coral bells, red or purple hollyhock, sage, geranium, hibiscus, and petunias.

Help out the local pollinators by planting in clusters instead of only doing single plants. It will help them find their favorites and keep your gardens lush. You can create a pollinator-friendly garden by eliminating the use of pesticides. Keeping a tidy garden is a natural way of avoiding having pests – weeds near your plants can harbor unwanted pests, as well as overripe produce. If you harvest produce right when it ripens, you’ll be sure to have a healthier garden without the need for pesticides.

Try to fill your garden with plants that bloom at different times between spring and fall so that the pollinators have food and shelter throughout the different seasons. Keep in mind that flowers bred to be pleasing to the human eye can sometimes be sterile and unhelpful to pollinators. Planting heirloom seeds and native plants through the different seasons will help out our pollinator friends the most

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Leave some mulch-free space in your garden for ground-nesting bees. These bees dig burrows in the ground and prefer dry soil bare of vegetation. Make sure to leave some spots in your garden exposed, so the bees can access the dry, undisturbed soil and begin building their nests.

Plant milkweed, monarch butterflies love it! Did you know monarchs can’t survive without milkweed plants? Their caterpillars only eat milkweed and it’s also where they lay their eggs. However, once a monarch has reached adulthood, it will drink the nectar of many plants. There are many species of milkweed, be sure to check which variety is native to your area

Monarch Butterfly Milkweed

A great way to protecting our local pollinators is to make a bee bath. You can easily make a bee bath by filling a bowl with large rocks and shallow water.

Leadership Beyond a Title

Laura Weisman

Managing Director ~ Enterprise SaaS Sales ~ Culture Strategist ~ Recognition Expert.

This is a true story that highlights the actions one man has taken to exemplify how leadership goes far beyond a title. For the last two years my son has interacted with an employee at Miller Waste Systems. His name is Rolland. Every Thursday morning at 7am our recycling is picked up in our neighborhood. For those of you who have a four-year-old, I am sure you have seen the passion and excitement that goes along with the garbage truck. It is a weekly occurrence that our son Landon looks forward to.

Each week Rolland and his team collect our recycling, but his actions go far beyond just that. Rolland and Landon have developed a friendship. Each week Rolland ensures that he takes the time to stop and wave to Landon, give a quick honk of the horn and continues with his day. That simple gesture starts my child’s day on the right foot, with a smile on his face.

Over the last few months Landon has made chalk signs for Rolland, ensured that “garbage men” were on his signs to recognize essential workers, provided waters during the heat wave and most recently, on the request of Rolland, Landon made him a picture that he promised to keep in his truck. 

This past week, we were not home for our regular recycling pick up. Little did we know Rolland had a surprise for Landon. On our neighbor’s steps, he left the following note and hat. 

“To: Landon From: Rolland Now ya part of the team. Miller Boyz 😊

Landon was officially part of the Miller Boyz. The joy that Landon had when he got home to this surprise gift is one that I will remember for a long time. His friend had made him part of this exclusive club. If you ask Landon what he wants to do when he grows up, it is to become a garbage man.

You see, to Landon, a garbage man (or in this case a recycle man) is a leader and someone he aspires to be. Rolland has exemplified what leadership looks like and is a good reminder for us all.


A leader should be passionate about what they do. Rolland always has a smile on his face while doing what some would consider a “dirty job”. We back onto a school and each Thursday morning we see Rolland preparing for his day. He looks over the truck to ensure mirrors are lined up. Does a few stretches to get the body loose.  He is prepared for his day and I have no doubt that he gives it his all. As leaders, we need to ensure that our teams can sense our passion for what we do. Whether it is collecting garbage, selling software, teaching children or any other role, it is important that we love what we do as our employees will pick up on that passion.


Rolland could have taken Landon’s picture and brought it home or left it at work, but instead he followed through and proudly displayed Landon’s artwork in his truck. As leaders, we need to have our teams trust us. Following through with our commitments is just one way that we can do that. 


Rolland showed appreciation for the little things that Landon did to brighten his day. He ensured that Landon knew how much the little gestures that he did, meant to him. Showing appreciation for our teams and their work creates a ripple down effect. Leaders that can consistently display gratitude will get a higher return from their employees on multiple levels.

I am a huge fan of the John Quincy Adams quote:

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, to do more and become more, then you are a leader.” 

For many of you reading this, you might not have the title behind your name, but what you do have is the ability to influence. Every person has that ability and it is your choice how you rise to become a leader. Rolland has influenced a young man’s life as well as my own. Miller Waste Systems should be proud of him and the culture that they have created to allow him to lead in this way.

Published by

Laura Weisman

Managing Director ~ Enterprise SaaS Sales ~ Culture Strategist ~ Recognition Expert.

Leadership is within all of us. It is our interactions on a day to day basis with people and the influence we have with them. An amazing employee at Miller Waste Systems Inc. has blown me away over the last two years, as he has gone the extra mile to lead by example. His leadership style focuses on Passion, Integrity and Gratitude. He may not have a title in the traditional sense but his leadership delivers an incredible customer experience. As leaders, are we creating an environment and providing the resources to allow our employees to lead without a title? #customerexperience #culture #employeeexperience #leadership

Compost is Heating Up

For more than 20 years Miller Compost has been manufacturing garden ready compost. What better way to add nutrients, organics, humus and water retention to your garden with a premium compost. The benefits of compost is truly remarkable and it all starts with us.

Keeping organic waste out of landfills is one of the most important ways to recycle with many added benefits.

When adding compost to heavy clay soils it improves drainage and porosity. Thus making soils friable and easily workable to minimize compaction; helping roots to penetrate the soil and flourish. Compost improves water retention and improves the overall stability of the soil and aids in erosion control. Compost acts as a buffer to the soil’s pH, modifying and stabilizing it while providing micro and macro nutrients. Compost helps soil hold nutrients in the root zone and prevents leaching. It increases the soils capacity for retaining soluble forms of plant nutrients and improves the effectiveness of other fertilizers; both organic and chemical. When compost is added to your garden, you create a healthy soil that provides a healthy habitat for all sorts of soil organisms.

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Healthy soils lead to healthy gardens, healthy gardens lead to healthy plants, healthy plants lead to healthy foods and healthy foods lead to healthy people. People…..Compost On!!!

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