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

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June = Romance

Weddings, peonies, roses, birds busy building a home. Is all of this a coincidence? No. If a June evening could talk it would claim to have invented romance, said Bern Williams.

 Chick Magnet

Mark.  The chick magnet. Me? I'm such a chick magnet this time of year that I picked up 50 of them just last week. Yes, even this guy in his 5th decade. I am surprised that my 20 year old son does not ask me more questions on the subject as I have likely forgotten more about relations with the opposite sex than he has learned. Alas, I change the subject. Last week's haul came in a box about the size of a � bushel and now we are the proud owners of 53 (to be exact) baby chicks. They live in my shop for now, in a kiddy swimming pool, under a heat lamp. I am new at this, but I am told by my trusted chicken advisory board of one, by the name of Rudy, that they will out grow their pool within about 2 weeks and then will need to be moved into larger quarters inside the barn. I will build an outdoor run for them so that they can peck the grass and enjoy the sunshine. Makes for better birds.

In 15 weeks or so they will be taken to the meat master down the road and their dear souls will meet the Great Chicken in the sky. Bodily, they will be placed with love in our freezer.

That is our chicken adventure.

Add that to the 24 'layers' that are out in the coop, our pet duck Clark (Super Duck, actually - get it?), our dog Zac and Harvey the cat and there you have some happy acres.


 How Bout You?

Your This is the natural order of things. Canadians have endured a long cold winter and now, for most of us, a long wet spring. In fact some people are asking if there ever was a spring; farmers chief among them. I would prefer to look to June for the long days that provide incentive for early morning rising and extended evenings on the porch or patio.

This reminds me of an article that I wrote for the Star on 'nightscaping' that I think you will enjoy. Go to for the article and take your time with this one.

And how about you? Been out in the garden yet this spring? How are things growing? How about bugs and disease and such?


 In the Garden

lettuce The veggie garden has been too wet to plant as the soil has been too wet to turn over. Compost is compost-mud. I did manage to get my peas, garlic and onions in, but I await the heat and dryness that is appropriate for planting. If you find yourself in a similar situation no worries: planting warm season crops right up to Father's Day weekend is not a problem and while you may not get quite the yield that you would have in a 'normal' year you will get a decent one.

Lettuce, carrots, onions, all of the gassy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are happy with cool and wet so go for it.

One of the leading trends of the season is the planting of containers with food plants. Loblaws is selling a 'salad bowl' of greens. Just place it in front of your dinner guests with a pair of scissors and a salad plate and tell them to go nuts. Be sure to provide dressing, raisins and other accoutrements.

Our local Sheridan Nurseries carries a 'pizza' garden that includes a mid season tomato, sweet basil and oregano all in one pot. What a cool idea for kids to get involved with!


 Planting Flowering Plants

container mix There is lots of time to get your annuals in. Take your time and do it right, remembering that 90% of your success hinges on proper soil preparation: use lots of compost or Mark's Choice Flower and Vegetable soil .

Containers can be planted any time of course and when you do be sure to remove the spent soil of last year by spreading it over your garden or compost and replacing it with good quality new stuff. You will eliminate weed seeds by doing this and provide nutrition to the newly planted flowering plants, if you use good quality soil (notice the 'good quality' theme where soil is concerned). Try the new Mark's Choice Container mix - a bit heavier than the peat based mixes, but I assure you that the results will speak for themselves.


 Special Note

Mark in Petrolia June is a busy month for me and one that I look forward to.
Thanks to my friends at Home Hardware I get to tour Alberta and the Maritimes in the first two weeks of the month. See details below for Rocky Mountain House, Rimbey, Pincher Creek (who won the National Award at Communities in Bloom last year!) in Alberta. In Nova Scotia I visit the newest member of the Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centre family in Barrington Passage and my old friend Jeff Redden of Windsor Home Hardware. All fun.

Please come out and join us - lots of free advice, refreshments and door prizes etc.


 Ron Sexsmith and Toronto Trees

Toronto Parks and Trees My favourite green charity in Toronto is the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. Together we are going to double the tree canopy from 20% cover to 40% cover (where it was about 50 years ago). Ron Sexsmith is going to help us do it by providing the rhythm and beat to get the planting party started. Join us Monday evening June 13th. I emcee and he is the entertainment. It is going to be fun and intimate. For $100 you can't buy an experience like this, you have to donate it to the Foundation.

More info 

 Mark's Choice Feedback Button

Feedback This spring we celebrate the 6th anniversary launch of the Mark's Choice line up of gardening products and supplies at Home Hardware. This has been the most exciting journey of my retailing experience. We now have over 150 different products in various sizes and permutations.
This spring our new offerings include bio degradable corn starch pots, a fabulous new hand pruner that features a double hinged mechanism to ease up on wrist-stress and a sharpener/oil dabber, a folding yard cart on wheels, an upside-down tomato planter, heavy duty hose reel, women's gloves with the ever popular reinforced finger tips and 2 new suet feeders.

Our goal is to provide Canadian gardeners with a choice of superior quality products that will out perform and outlast competitive products in your garden.

In our ongoing efforts to add to and enhance the quality and value of the line I invite you to provide your feedback on Mark's Choice products by simply clicking on the 'Feedback' link on my home page at or just click here
Thank you in advance for the valuable information. I guarantee that I will read each entry.


 Moncton, New Brunswick is for Dahlias!
 What's New for Spring 2011

dahlias The most enthusiastic 'amateur' dahlia growers/collectors and networkers that I have ever met are in Moncton. Just today I learned that I will be receiving some fresh stock from buddy Merle in a week or so. Can't wait! Want to learn more? E mail president Merle at [email protected] for more information. I recommend their work.


 Harvest Ontario

Harvest Ontario Those of you that live in Ontario are lucky. You have access to the most complete guide to farmers markets, pick your own farms and farm B&B's anywhere in the country, and it is free. Look for the 'Harvest Ontario' at all Home Hardware locations beginning the second week of June.

More Info. 

 Thanks Warkworth!

Warkworth My early spring schedule has been busy and I am grateful for that. Anyone in the gardening business that is not busy this time of year has a problem. My schedule began to fill up in mid March with the launch of Canada Blooms and continues throughout June.

Just last week I had the pleasure of meeting the organisers of the first annual Warkworth Lilac Festival in Northumberland County. It was great! I really enjoyed the introduction to this wonderful town from the B&B overnight at The Gallery with hosts Peter and Janie (a MUST if you are a golfer, for reasons that will make sense when you get there, to Catherine and Dr. Bob my hosts, David the prime organiser and Carole with an 'e' for the guided walk along the river and fabulous lunch in her century home, complete with dream garden and the first oriole that I have spotted this season.

Next year, just for fun, I recommend that you go.

(Thank you to Sue Dickens, EMC Community Newspaper, for the fabulous photo!)


 A Reminder Check out my weekly blog, podcast, Toronto Star gardening column online (, my new segments that are streamed online with Jeff Hutcheson on Canada AM and listen to my 60 second 'Green File' segments on 680 News - all from the home page of

I look forward to hearing from you when you have a minute - and please - if you're using a Mark's Choice product this spring, please let me know what you think of it.

Have a romantic June.

Keep your knees dirty,

Merchant of Beauty


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Upside-Down Tomato Planter

tomato planter I have appreciated all of the benefits of growing tomatoes upside down for some time. The first time that I saw this done was about 15 years ago in a private American garden where the gardener had fashioned a planter out of wood. Since then I have been looking for a sturdy and practical planter that has the water capacity that makes sense.
Finally I found one.
The new Marks Choice upside down tomato planter has a unique wicking system that provides water to the root zone of the plant as it requires it. You will not have to water every day even in the heat of summer and as the plant matures. Also, there is a high capacity for the container mix (I recommend Mark's Choice container mix). And finally this product is made right here in Canada - another bonus!

Of course I put my name on it - but only after I tested it in my own 10 acre garden. Just like all Mark's Choice product.

Try it and I hope that you get more tomatoes than you can eat! My favourite variety for this purpose is the ever popular Sweet One Million Cherry tomato.

For more info. 

 Where is Mark this Month

Mark * Monday, May 30, 2011
Rocky Mountain House Home Hardware Building Centre
Rocky Mountain House, Alberta

* Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Rimbey Home Hardware
Rimbey, Aberta

* Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Boytinck Home Hardware
Pincher Creek, Alberta

* Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Brockville Home Hardware
Brockville, Ontario

* Friday, June 10, 2011
Windsor Home Hardware
Windsor, Nova Scotia

* Saturday, June 11, 2011
Wilson's Home Hardware Building Centre
Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia

* Monday, June 13, 2011
gTO4 - Green Tie Event hosted by Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation
Stop33 - Sutton Place Hotel, Toronto

* Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tools, Pizza and Beer at the TBG
Mark and Denis Flanagan share their expert advice for your lawn & garden.
Visit for more info.


 Recipe for the Best Tomatoes on the Block

tomato 1. Buy short, stocky plants with dark green foliage.

2. Plant in the ground once the temperatures are a minimum of 20�C.

3. Dig a hole about the size of a half bushel, or 3 shovels full. Dig existing soil into another part of your garden.

4. Fill the hole with triple mix (one third top soil, one third peat moss and one third compost or composted cattle/steer manure).

5. Plant the tomato up to the second set of real leaves - deeply. And push the soil firmly around the main stem of the tomato to give the soil and plant contact. New roots will develop along the stem, producing a stronger plant.

6. I use straw as mulch around my tomatoes. Spread the straw about 25 cm deep per plant. Straw mulch helps to retain needed moisture during the hot, dry spells of summer and reduces weeds dramatically.

7. Water using a compost tea solution (take an old pillow case half filled with compost, drop it in your rail barrel and leave it there for 24 hours or a week - but no longer or it will begin to stink). OR Fertilize with your favourite tomato food. I use Green Earth organic 4-6-8 for tomatoes and vegetables. Keep in mind that tomatoes are heavy feeders. Follow directions on the fertilizer package or continue to water with compost tea. You really can't go wrong with the stuff.

8. Stake in mid June using a spiral aluminum stake. No tying, no fuss. Timing is everything - get to this job before the tomatoes begin to bloom as you will double your crop as a result of getting them off the ground. Staking your tomatoes reduces the risk of diseases and insects.

9. Apply Green Earth Bordo Copper Spray in July to prevent the #1 enemy of healthy tomatoes - early blight. Bordo Copper Spray is a copper fungicide which is mixed with water. Use it on fruit trees, ornamentals and vegetable crops to control leaf spots, blights, anthracnose, downy and powdery mildew and black spot.

Tomatoes like plenty of sun - a full eight hours a day, in fact. They also like heat and shelter from the wind. They are heavy feeders so the soil should be rich with organic material at planting time. Water at least twice a week for the first 6 weeks or so, more frequently if the weather is hot and dry.
Harvest often - do not allow fruit to rot on the plants. This will slow fruit production and is an invitation to insects and diseases.


 Harvest Ontario Guide

Harvest Guide � Coming early June to all Home Hardware, Home Building Centre and Home Furniture locations is this year's edition of the Harvest Ontario guide.
� The guide is Ontario's most comprehensive publication pertaining to all things local when it comes to food and its source. It provides all the information you need on: local farms, farmers' markets, wineries, you-pick farms, fairs, honey and much more.
� The guide's information is also available online at if you are not able to pick one up at your local Home Hardware store. On the user friendly site you can perform a variety of searches by subject or area for example to find your local food sources.
� It covers an area from Thunder Bay to Toronto and from Windsor to the Ottawa Valley.
� Not only are you buying local and helping out your local economy and environment but you are also doing something sustainable which is important for the future in addition to enjoying the bounty of your local area. More often than not the quality of the food is much better than what's available at the local supermarket.
� Produced in collaboration with Home Hardware, a proud supporter of Canadian agriculture, since its conception 11 years ago this guide is progressively becoming more in-depth every year as new local sources and attractions appear.

More info. 

 Strawberry Pots

strawberry pot Growing strawberries in terracotta pots is not a new idea and has been around for a quite a while. It is especially popular with people who are short on growing space and in the cooler parts of Canada like Alberta where the springs can be unpredictable.

Growing strawberries with this method is simple, clean and promises to produce a bumper crop of berries. It's easy to get started:

1. Buy the terracotta pot, if available try to select one that is glazed (to reduce moisture loss) and frost resistant. If it's not frost resistant you will have to store it indoors over the winter to prevent cracking.

2. Prepare the pot. Lay down a geotextile filter cloth, cut to the same size as the bottom of the pot and layer on top of that a couple handfuls of � inch gravel. This will allow for excess water to be drained from the bottom of the pot while keeping the soil inside where it belongs.

3. Place a water wick on top of the stone and fill the pot with good quality container soil, leaving one to two inches at the top free.

4. Lightly water and shake the pot gently in order to settle the soil.

5. Select what type of strawberries to plant. There are three main types of strawberries that you can choose from and some that can even be grown down to zone 2. The first is known as Summer Fruiting (June bearing) which produces a single large crop over two weeks in mid June. The second type, known as Ever-bearing produces two smaller crops, the first in summer and second in autumn.
And finally, Day-neutral which produces fruit throughout the summer except during very hot weather.
For this particular growing method, that is growing strawberries like annuals in containers, it's best to choose Ever-bearing or Day-neutral varieties like "Ozark Beauty" and "Tristar" respectively. This way you can get a crop from June until the first hard frost.

If your house has a cold cellar you can let the plants go dormant in the fall and then move the entire pot into the cellar. In the spring you can bring the pot back out and place it in a sunny location making sure to protect it from spring frosts.

Now that you have prepared the pot and selected a good plant variety you can finally plant.

6. Gently separate each plant and place one in each side opening and one directly in the center on the top. Simply make a hole in the soil large enough to accommodate the roots, place the plant inside and gently press the soil around the roots to get rid of any air pockets. The soil level should come half way up the crown covering all the roots. If the crown is too high or too deep the plant will suffer.

7. Water the pot from all openings, about one cup per plant and monitor it frequently as they tend to dry out quickly. It may require watering once a day, especially during a hot summer.

8. After the plant produces berries watch for runners, these are daughter plants that the main (or mother) plant will send out. Prune them out from the base of the plant and discard them. If you choose to over winter the plants, every four years they will need to be replaced and the soil topped up to maintain productivity.

These terracotta pots make excellent containers to grow strawberries in but they are versatile too! They also make excellent containers to grow herbs in such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil and parsley.

logo Check out a new digital garden publication entitled Soiled and Seeded -

A young not-for-profit organization based in Toronto. It is all free and available only online. Move beyond the "how-to" to explore a diverse and vibrant garden culture.


 Canadian Cancer Society Spring Garden Tour
 Georgetown Dufferin Peel Unit

CCS Sunday, May 29th, 2011 - 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

6th Annual Spring Garden Tour

Homeowners in the prestigious Lorne Park neighbourhood have graciously agreed to open their breath-taking gardens to public view.

Advance ticket price is $15.00
Ticket price on Tour Day is $20.00

All proceeds will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society

For more information 

 St. Marys Horticultural Society
 Garden Fair

St. Marys 14th Annual Garden Fair, hosted by the St. Marys Horticultural Society

Saturday, June 4, 2011

There will be more than 20 vendors from southern Ontario. Featuring a huge assortment of annual and perennial plants including new and unusual varieties, hanging baskets, aquatic plants, alpine and succulents, herbs and grasses, Society-grown Heritage tomato plants, plus fabulous garden accessories.

Location: St. Marys, Ontario - beside the river flats (Milt Dunnell Field)
Time: 8:30 am to 1:00 pm
Free admission, free parking

More info. 

 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 gingko 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.


 Through the Garden Gate
 Swansea Village

TBG Toronto Botanical Garden's 24th annual garden tour.

Saturday and Sunday, June 11 & 12, 2011

Visit 23 spectacular gardens.
One-day pass: public $40 / TBG members $35
Two-day pass: public $50 / TBG members $45
Tickets are limited. Advance purchase recommended.

Ticket locations:
Bill's Garden Centre. 903 Pape Avenue
Plant World. 4000 Eglinton Avenue
Sheridan Nurseries. 784 Sheppard Avenue East, 2827 Yonge Street
Shop TBG. 777 Lawrence Avenue East

Find out more.... 

 gTO4 'Green Tie' Fund-raising Event

gTO4 June 13, 2011 - 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Toronto: Greener & Healthier

Hosted by: Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation
An opportunity to celebrate and help double Toronto's Tree canopy.
Featuring Special Guest Performer Ron Sexsmith
Guest speaker: Mark Cullen
Sutton Place Hotel - 33rd Floor, 955 Bay Street
gTO4 is Toronto's annual 'Green Tie' event hosted by the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. Now in its fourth year, this event provides the Foundation with funds to improve and sustain our public green spaces - the parks and trees that make urban living healthier and add beauty to the place that we live and/or work in.

A beautiful panoramic view of Toronto's Urban Forest canopy can be enjoyed from Stop 33 - Sutton Place Hotel.

Find out more.... 

 Tools, Pizza and Beer at the TBG
 Mark Cullen and Denis Flanagan

TBG Can you say Father's Day gift? How about Boys Night Out? Join Mark and Denis for a night of tool talk, pizza and a pint or two. Get some expert advice about your garden and lawn. All gardeners are welcome. Each participant will receive a signed copy of Mark's book The Canadian Garden Primer.

Wednesday, June 22, 7 to 9 pm.
Public $50; TBG members $45

Find out more....