Mark Cullen e-newsletter
April 2011 
 Gardening with Mark
In This Issue:
Where to Find Mark
Mark's Gardening Connections

Join our mailing list!

No need to remind you that April is the month of new beginnings: fresh growth on the pussy willows and Easter and all of that stuff. This month I would like to launch my newsletter with some personal news about 'new beginnings'.

 Lynn or MaryLynn?

Lynn First, my daughter Lynn, who works with my wife Mary at Mary's Yarns seems to have launched a career in broadcasting - almost by accident! For years I have advised her that she has her mother's natural gift for writing (check out her blog at and that she should nurture it. Sure enough she writes regularly for the Mary's Yarns newsletter, blog and the signs around the store are a hoot.

However one day a few weeks ago a 'talent scout' for an advertising agency came into the store seeking a willing and capable participant in a television commercial. All you had to do was to eat a new Kellogg's cereal and comment on it while on camera. Lynn lined up a couple of friends, including a regular customer at the shop and one of the hired knitting-guns named Lynn Melluso. The result was funny and - Well - Fun! Check it out for yourself at this You Tube connection.
Once you have seen this 60 second piece be sure to look for the tv ad that is currently running and if you are quick you will see a short clip of the same video.

As Lynn would say, "Autographs anyone?"

Lynn's YouTube video 

 Baby, oh baby!

Haylee Next in the big news category is the arrival of my nephews' new daughter Hayley Jane Cullen who was born early in the morning March 11. Dad Trevor and Mom Becky are well and baby brother Tyler, well, he doesn't know what hit him.

My brother Peter and wife Gwen are grandparents 5 times now. And Trevor: well, he runs the family landscaping business in Kanata, Ontario and is just getting into the spring season as we speak. That means that he will be up and out of the house early and back late each day for quite a few months: that being the nature of the business. God bless you Becky! And have a great spring all the way 'round.

A great pic of Grandpa Peter and Hayley.


 First Bulb Up.

First bulb This morning I got all excited as the 'first bulb of spring' poked its reluctant little head up in the garden at Mary's Yarns. She has this wonderful south facing wall where the crocus and narcissus come out earlier than anywhere else in town. And sure enough, there is still snow on the ground on the north side of the house and low and behold, blossoms on the south side!

With the thaw underway, however slowly in some parts of the country, and Easter around the corner, let's get started on the gardening stuff.



Lawn As soon as you can get on the lawn without leaving the impression of your shoe sole on it, get out there and give it a gentle rake. Take it easy - no need to tear the roots out of the ground. All that you are trying to do is to get the grass blades to stand up on end to allow the air to move through the crowns of the grass plants. This will encourage early growth and discourage snow mold as the lawn continues to dry out.

Next, apply Golfgreen lawn fertilizer. This is the only fertilizer that I use on my lawn as it has the most sophisticated form of slow release nitrogen in it of any product on the market. That means that it provides the most needed nutrient to your lawn as it needs it: as the temperatures rise and rain falls the nitrogen is released. You will get a greener lawn for a longer period of time. Word has it that Home Hardware is running a special on Golfgreen this month: look for the flyer in your mail box or newspaper.

If you have a female dog that kills the lawn in patches, April is a good month to clean them up and repair them with a 2 to 3 cm layer of Mark's Choice Lawn Soil, a thin layer of Golfgreen grass seed, raked smooth, then rolled or step on it to bring the seed in firm contact with the soil. Water well.
Details below.

You can over seed and then fertilize or vice versa.


 Spray organic now:
 Save time and money later.

Dormant Spray Kit So you do not like the idea of spraying 'anything' on your plants but you like the idea of saving time later in the season and picking disease-free fruit and flowers. Dormant Spray from Green Earth is your answer. Apply the two liquids that come in the box (Dormant Oil and Lime Sulphur) to kill overwintering insect casings and disease spores. The results will be that you have a lot fewer disease and/or insects to deal with later on this season.
Apply Dormant Spray when evening temperatures are reliably above freezing while you sleep. Like Lionel Richie would say; "all night long".


 Check List:

Spring image - Dig up and divide most perennials (that need it) like hostas, day lilies etc.
- Cut down the growth from last year on mature perennials and add this to the compost. Speaking of pruning; be sure to check out the new Mark's Choice hand pruners at Home Hardware. They are incredible. The double hinge is the secret. As you close the blade it draws the wood into the blade, using less effort. Teflon-coated, high carbon steel blade and a sharpener to boot. Not to mention an oiler that works like a wonder.
- Cut down and compost ornamental grasses.
- Prune early flowering clematis by ½.
- Fertilize/rake/over seed your lawn (see above).
- Put out your outdoor furniture: clean it.
- Get out your lawn mower at least 2 weeks before you plan to use it: clean it, change oil if needed and get it started. If it won't start you know what to do. Get it fixed or buy a new one. Check out the Mark's Choice walk behind manual mower at Home Hardware.

- Check out the Home Gardener Mule at Home Hardware. Everyone is talking about it and they are selling like hot sausages. Perhaps you have seen the garden Mule ad on TV. This is me pitching a wonderful garden 'wheel barrow' that is the ultimate multi tool. Yes, it really is a great product. Retail is $149.97 (seems to answer the most asked question) and no those are not my clothes. The agency gave them to me. My wife Mary is surprised by all of the fuss. She thought that she was the only person who knew that I am a mule.
You can view the full 'mule video' by following the link below. Click on Video under the image of the mule.

I am really excited about the special event that is planned in Markham, Ontario on Friday, April 15th at Angus Glen golf Course. This is the same golf course that hosted the Canadian Open a few years back.
Great facility!
I will be there as 'key note' to talk about gardening trends, colour in your garden and some exciting before and after shots of my own 10 acre, 5 year old garden.
See details below.

Also: International Home Show this weekend, Mississauga Home Show April 16 and a really neat event in Nipissing (about 20 minutes west of North Bay) April 30th.

See hot links below for details.

It is all good -especially spring.
Live it, breathe it, love it!!

And I will see you 'round.

Keep your knees dirty,

Merchant of Beauty.

View the Home Gardener Mule video 

 Where is Mark this Month?

Mark * Saturday, April 2
International Home & Garden Show
International Centre, Toronto, Ontario

* Friday, April 15
Proven Winners Outdoor Living Extravaganza
Angus Glen Golf Course, Markham, Ontario

* Saturday, April 16
The Mississauga Lifestyle Home Show
Hershey Centre, Mississauga, Ontario

* Saturday, April 30
The West Nipissing Garden Show
West Nipissing, Ontario


 Mark's Choice Product Feature
 Double Hinged Hand Pruners with Sharpener

Pruner kit This 8 3/4" drop forged aluminum pruner features high carbon steel blades with a non-stick coating, and a unique cutting action that draws the branch into the blades. The sharpener is 4 3/4" long with a tungsten carbide blade and has an oil reservoir for sharpening at one end.
(Home Hardware item#5067-220)


 How to Grow a Healthy Lawn

Aerator 1. Rake the lawn lightly with a fan rake - the goal is to get the grass blades to stand upright and to remove the winter debris.

2. Aerate if necessary. I only aerate my lawn where foot traffic occurs as this is where the soil is compacted and most in need of the fresh air that you introduce when aerating. Use a power aerator if you are going your whole lawn or buy an inexpensive manual 'foot' aerator at the hardware store for small areas.

3. Overseed where your lawn is thin and where weeds are a problem. Use a good quality grass seed (I recommend Golfgreen) and remember that the ultimate pedigree of your lawn is in the bag. Lay down 2 to 3 cm of Mark's Choice Lawn Soil. Rake smooth. Spread the grass seed thinly at one pound per 400 sq. ft. (1/2 kg per 40 sq. metres). Rake that smooth. Water. You will thicken your lawn nicely and compete most weeds out of existence - before they even get a start.

4. Fertilize. Use a good quality fertilizer that is relatively high in nitrogen which is represented by the first # in the 3 number analysis. And make sure that is contains a slow-release nitrogen ingredient. This produces a greener lawn over a longer period (8 to 10 weeks).

5. Cut 2 ½ to 3 inches high. Often we cut our lawns much too short. Remember this: the taller the grass blades, the longer the roots. The longer the roots, the greater the resistance to drought, disease and insect problems. AND most lawn weeds are 'shaded' out by long grass.

6. Mulch. Use a mulching mower and return the nitrogen-rich grass clippings to the root zone of your lawn.


 680 NEWS
 Weekend Features

680 NEWS Catch my gardening tips on 680 NEWS

Saturday, 11:19 am, 4:19 pm, 7:19 pm
Sunday, 3:19 am, 8:19 am, 3:19 pm, 6:19 pm and 11:19 pm


 National Tree Day

Tree Canada Canada finally has its own official day to celebrate trees. Starting this fall, each Wednesday of National Forest Week in September will be known as National Tree Day. The first National Tree Day will be September 21, 2011.

The motion to declare National Tree Day received consent from the House of Commons on March 2, 2011 with Tree Canada in attendance.

"By passing this motion, the House will ask Canadians to spend just one day reflecting on the link between their lives and that of the tree," said Royal Galipeau, M.P. Ottawa-Orléans who presented the motion. "Canadians will dedicate trees, plant trees, learn about trees and appreciate the historical impact the tree has had on Canada's economic success as a nation."

"I am proud to congratulate my former colleagues in the House of Commons for passing Motion 575 to set aside a day where Canadians can commemorate trees. It is wonderful the way that trees have of being able to bring people together in mutual celebration of a shared heritage," said Dorothy Dobbie, Tree Canada Chair and a former M.P. "With over 80% of Canadians living in cities and towns, our urban forests are vital to our quality of life and this recognition will go a long way toward ensuring that they continue to be planted and cared for in urban locations," she said.

Tree Canada and many of its partners have openly supported the motion and will work to engage Canadians in recognizing the importance of trees in our lives.


 Outdoor Living Extravaganza
 A retreat and seminar with Proven Winners

Proven Winners April 15, 2011
8:30am to 4:00pm
Tickets: $80 per person
Location: Angus Glen Golf Club, 10080 Kennedy Road, Markham
Registration includes the seminar, a catered lunch, snacks throughout the day, raffle prizes, and a gift bag filled with fun and useful gardening items.

To register, go to or call 877-865-5818.

To register 

 Celebrate Earth Day at Toronto Botanical Garden
 Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day More than 500 million people in over 180 countries participate in Earth Day activities. It's an excellent time to stop and take stock of what we are all doing to help protect the environment. At the TBG, every day is Earth Day. Staff, volunteers, supporters and community networks work together year-round to help bring to life the TBG's green practices, environmental initiatives and educational efforts. Visit the Toronto Botanical Garden on Thursday, April 21 and celebrate Earth Day!

TBG Earth Day activities:
· The TBG Rain Barrel Design competition! In partnership with Toronto Master Gardeners, the TBG is selling rain barrels for just $55. They are challenging Toronto celebrities to decorate a Plain Jane rain barrel to help raise funds for the TBG's gardens. Every drop counts! Decorated rain barrels will be on display and auctioned off to the highest bidders on Earth Day!
· Spread the Love! The TBG is giving out free compost for your garden - only on Earth Day! Help spread compost onto the TBG's new Woodland Walk and Bird Habitat and take some home for your garden, too. Bring your own container.
· Have the first opportunity to purchase freshly dug divisions of choice perennials from the TBG garden! As selected by head gardener, Sandra Pella. Bring your own containers.
· The Great Potato Challenge! TBG is teaching school kids about growing and giving back to their community. Students will be given potatoes to bring home and shown how easily they multiply when grown in simple recycling bins. Can you beat the TBG's yearly average of 700 lbs of fresh produce donated to the food bank? All potatoes will be donated to the North York Harvest Food Bank.

For more information... 

 Earth: A Celebration
 The Riverwood Conservancy

Riverwood Friday, April 29, 2011
10th Annual Fundraiser
Oasis Convention Centre
1036 Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga
To support a new Special Needs Garden & grow our community programs in education, stewardship, gardening and volunteerism at Riverwood park.
For tickets and event information call The Riverwood Conservancy at 905-279-5878 or email


 Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society's
 3rd Annual Hardy Plant Sale

Logo Sunday, May 1, 2011
12:00 to 4:00 pm
Toronto Botanical Garden Floral Hall
777 Lawrence Avenue East, Toronto
Visit for lists of the plants available for sale.


 Art Takes Root
 Milne House Garden Club Annual Flower Show

logo "Art Takes Root" 2011 flower show
Where: Toronto Botanical Garden. 777 Lawrence Avenue East
Preview Party: Tuesday, May 3rd, 7 pm - 9 pm.
Admission $15
Show Times: Wednesday, May 4th, 10am - 5 pm.
Thursday, May 5th, 10am - 3pm.
Flower Show Admission: Adults $10. Children free
Featuring: floral designs, horticultural exhibits, demonstrations, speakers, silent auction, café.
For tickets call 416-292-4661 or 905-727-2722
Proceeds to the James Boyd Children's Centre, TBG


 North American Native Plant Society
 Wildflower Sale

wildflower Saturday, May 7, 2011
10 am - 3 pm
Markham Civic Centre, Atrium
101 Town Centre Boulevard, Markham
All plants come from NANPS approved ethical growers. Visit for the plant database and to place your advance order.
This annual fundraising event supports NANPS.


 Shaw Garden Tour
 The Secret Gardens of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Garden tour June 11, 2011
10am to 4pm
Garden Tour tickets $20 each
For ticket information call the Shaw Festival Box Office 1-800-511-7429 or visit

This annual Garden Tour allows you to visit eight unique and very special 'secret' gardens in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Some of the highlights of this year's gardens include a century old corkscrew willow and a heritage ginko tree; masses of perennials and roses; whimsical garden sculptures; vine covered arbours and gazebos; outdoor entertainment areas; and an infinity pool that overlooks the Niagara River.

Master gardeners are on site in each garden to answer questions and give advice. A complimentary wine tasting is included in your ticket price along with a special discount on products purchased at Mori Gardens on the date of the tour.
A special addition to this year's tour is the opportunity to purchase unique handcrafted birdhouses, created and donated by artisans and crafters.
All proceeds of this fundraiser are donated to the Shaw Endowment Fund.


 A Great Story
 From Susan Antler, Composting Council of Canada

potatoes A Girl Potato and Boy Potato had eyes for each other.

Finally they got married and had a little sweet potato which they called 'Yam'.

Of course, they wanted the best for Yam.

When it was time, they told her about the Facts of Life.

They warned her about going out and getting half-baked so she wouldn't get accidentally mashed and get a bad name for herself like 'Hot Potato'

and end up with a bunch of Tater Tots.

Yam said not to worry. Nno Spud would get her into the sack and make a rotten potato out of her!

But on the other hand, she wouldn't stay home and become a Couch Potato either.

She would get plenty of exercise so as not to be skinny like her Shoestring Cousins.

When she went off to Europe, Mr. & Mrs. Potato told Yam to watch out for the hard-boiled guys from Ireland.

And the greasy guys from France called the French Fries.

Yam said she would stay on the straight and narrow and wouldn't associate with those high class Yukon Golds or the ones from the other side of the tracks who advertise their trade on all the trucks that say "Frito Lay".

Mr. and Mrs. Potato sent Yam to Idaho P.U. (that's Potato University) so that when she graduated she'd really be in the chips.**

But in spite of all they did for her, one day Yam came home and announced she was going to marry Peter Mansbridge.

Peter Mansbridge!?!!!?!!

Mr. & Mrs. Potato were very upset.

They told Yam she couldn't possibly marry Peter Mansbridge because he's just

............................ =)

........................... =)


Compost Council of Canada 

 Speed Bump Comic
 From the Globe and Mail