Mark Cullen e-newsletter
November 2010 
 Gardening with Mark
In This Issue:
Where to Find Mark
Mark's Gardening Connections

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"Thank heavens the sun has gone in
And I don't have to go out and enjoy it!"
~ Logan Pearsall Smith

Preparing For Spring.
Some will say that this is the best month of the year to prepare your garden for winter: I beg to differ. It is spring that we are preparing for, as it is the garden in spring that we look forward to returning AFTER the long cold Canadian winter.

Let's not get hung up on semantics. I spend a lot of time in November prepping the garden for my rest from it... and at the end of it all the Grey Cup (to be played in Edmonton November 28th) is my reward.

So let's get started: the 'wall of winter' is near and nearer still for readers up north and on the great Canadian Prairies...!!

 Spring Prep Checklist

  1. Lawn. Cut at normal height (2 1/2 inches or so) and after your last cut, clean the cutting deck (a Mark's Choice mower scraper works well at this...), apply a coating of oil, run the gas dry, change the oil in the crankcase and sharpen the mower blade. There, night night - see you next spring mower! Still time to apply CIL Fall Lawn Fertilizer.

  2. Roses. The only roses that need 'winterizing' are the hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras and miniatures. Hardy shrub roses are, well, hardy. Forget about them. Climbers for the most part will be fine nested as they are against the wall of your home or your fence. All of the aforementioned roses need to be hilled up with soil or triple mix about 60 cm high. A rose 'collar' works well for this. Mark's Choice Flower & Vegetable Soil (item # 5053-695) will do the job best of all due to its' porosity and natural goodness.

  3. Apply Wilt-Pruf to all broad leafed evergreens like boxwood, taxus (yews), rhododendrons and the like. This is an 'anti-desiccant' that will hold moisture in the leaves over the extremely dry days of mid winter. (Question: how dry is it? About 10 to 12% moisture on a minus 10 day. The Sahara desert is about 22% humidity any day of the year.) If you have any Wilt-Pruf left over apply it to your cut Christmas tree to help hold the needles in place and reduce the fire hazard.

  4. Finish planting all of your spring flowering Holland bulbs.

  5. Prevent mice, rabbits and rats from eating the bark on your young fruit trees by applying a spiral shaped plastic protector to the main stem of the tree. Same goes for non-fruiting trees like crabapples and flowering plums. When your trees have matured with a diameter of about 8 cm or so there is no longer need to protect them over winter in this way.

  6. Water all of the evergreens around the foundation of your home. The ice that forms there is great insulation for their roots. Then put away your garden hose.

  7. Leaves? Put them on the garden and in your compost. See last month's newsletter.

  8. Finished tomato and annual plants: pull them and put in your compost.


 Looking Forward to 2011

Mark's garden As I begin to migrate indoors I begin to organize my thoughts around next year's garden. I like to do this when the thoughts of this gardening season are still fresh in myhead. Take a good look at your photographs - the ones of your own garden and others. Print the really good ones and start an 'ideas bulletin board' where you post them and reflect on them... You will find yourself coming up with all kinds of ideas of how you can change your garden next year for the better.

Besides, the images of colour in your garden will stimulate your mind in a very positive way all winter long: I put my 'Garden Ideas bulletin board' where I see it every day.

Label and title your pictures.

Consider buying a calendar or 'gardeners journal'. There is one published for Toronto area gardens call The Toronto Gardeners' Journal and Source Book. It is a great guide for developing your own thoughts about the garden in your future and is full of contact info on virtually every horticultural group and club in the GTA. If you do not live in the Toronto area ask your local Horticultural club if they know of a similar journal that applies to your area.

Toronto Parks and Trees Calendar.

Another great calendar is now available for gift giving, or whatever, from my friends at the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. See below for more details.

Students Helping Students.

Mary and I are supporters of Participation House in Markham. It is an excellent charity that is putting on a very special event Friday, November 12 at the Markham Theatre. It will be a wonderful evening, as it was last year. If you love classical or band music, played live by the best youth talent in the Region of York, you will enjoy this. Worth every penny. More details below.


 Parting thought as we wind the garden down:

final thought "Gladness after sorrow,
Sunshine after rain.
Harvest after seed time,
Comfort after pain.
Blossom after pruning,
Victory after strife.
As the way of nature,
So the way of life."

~ Author unknown

Talk to you next month.
Keep your knees dirty.


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Amaryllis Kits

amaryllis When visiting friends during the holiday season it is always appreciated to bring a small gift. During this busy time of year it is very important to say 'thank you' to those who go out of their way to entertain of those who you simply want to acknowledge as being special!

Why not leave them with a gift which will bring colour and beauty to their home in the New Year?

The Mark's Choice Amaryllis Kit comes complete with a decorative planter. My amaryllis bulbs are guaranteed to bloom. Note that the secret is in the size of the bulb. I only use a 32 cm bulb (measured in diameter) which guarantees two large stems and 8 blossoms and often more. The bulbs are 'super-sized' and 28% bigger than most of the amaryllis sold in Canada.
Order yours today before they sell out.
Available exclusively at participating Home Hardware stores across Canada. (Item # 5029-303 red, 5029-304 striped).
Be sure to pick up an extra kit for yourself.


 Students Helping Students

poster I am the emcee at this very special annual evening of entertainment: a wonderful fundraiser for Participation House of Markham.
Participation House provides a very special service to the community: a permanent home for about 75 disabled adults in the Markham area plus day programs for hundreds more. The staff are professional and dedicated. The many volunteers provide their own special gifts.

Students Helping Students is our opportunity to say thank you to both volunteers and staff alike while enjoying a very entertaining evening of live band music featuring the best student talent in the region.

Please plan to join us.


A special evening of music
Friday, November 12, 2010 at 7:30 pm
Markham Theatre for Performing Arts

More Info. 

 Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation
 Toronto Tree Portraits 2011 Calendar

calendar The Toronto Tree Portrait 2011 Calendar, with photographs by Rodrigo Moreno and tree poetry compiled and introduced by Sonia Day is available now.

Similar to past years, the 2011 Toronto Tree Portraits Calendar is conveniently formatted as a self-standing desk calendar. It is square, measuring 7" wide by 7" tall. The proceeds from sale of the Calendar go directly towards preserving, enhancing and increasing Toronto trees and urban forest. The Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization that works with the City of Toronto and community groups to enhance and preserve Toronto's trees and urban forest.

Toronto Tree Portraits is $16.95 plus HST of $2.20 (in Ontario) for a total of $19.15 per calendar. A $3.50 shipping and handling charge (which includes applicable taxes) is applied to orders less than three.

To order:
  • Mail cheque or money order to: Toronto Parks & Trees Foundation, 157 Adelaide Street West, Suite 123, Toronto M5H 4E7.
  • Phone Orders may be placed at: 416-397-5178.
  • E-mail orders:

Visit for more info. 

 Timely Tips
 From subscribers

measuring bulb size "A remedy I have used to stop slugs eating Hostas:
leave several cloves of garlic to go murky in a large jar of water. After 5 or 6 days remove the cloves and spread under Hostas. The liquid makes a great spray against aphids and other insects. Powerful smelling though!"
~ Blytle2

"When planting bulbs at any time, put a few pieces of cedar clippings on top of the bulb, before you fill in the hole. The cedar odour confuses the rodents and it's much easier to work with than chicken wire. Since I've started using the cedar, many years ago, I've never had any bulbs dug up or destroyed."

"I thought you might be interested in my approach to planting bulbs, avoiding squirrel disruption and all in an environmentally friendly way. Many years ago I did my PHD in a school of plant biology in North Wales. At coffee breaks members of the department all talked about plants and gardening. This is where I gained the tip I sent to you in a muddled form.
Include a small piece of garlic with every bulb planted during the fall plant. The piece of garlic always seems to prevent predators. I use a quarter of a piece of garlic with each bulb. I have done this in England, Wales and several provinces in Canada. My bulbs have never been dug up. I always read and use Groundskeeper and thought you might be interested in this idea as I read your recent version. The idea is cheap to use and is environmentally sensitive."


 Green Tomato Recipes
 From subscribers

green tomatoes Green Tomato Relish

1 dozen cucumber
1 dozen green tomato
1 dozen small onions
1 large cabbage
1 large celery
1 sweet large red pepper
1-3C pickling Vinegar
6 cups white sugar
2 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp turmeric
2-4tbsp flour

4 tbsp salt to 1 quart of water

Cut cucumber & tomato fine.
Let stand in brine over night.
Cut other vegetables & add to drained cucumber & tomato.
Add vinegar until you see it cook until tender.
Then add sugar mustard turmeric and flour cook until flour is cooked.
Pack in sterile jars.

~M. Wilson

For more green tomato recipes...