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

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Ted's Sauce

The door swung open ever so slowly. The next door too. It is hard balancing 50 pounds of tomatoes on your knee while you open two doors in close proximity to each other, but I managed.

Inside was a grinning, happy, apron-clad professional deli operator walking briskly towards me, "It is THAT time of year again! Oh my God, let me help you! I love this, Mark, I love this!"

The jolly man is Ted the owner of Mother's Deli & Bakery in Unionville, Ontario. He is my hero because no one consumes tomatoes from my 200 plants like he does. He puts them to good use too. He owns the largest pot made in history and he fills it with carrots, onions, a bit of garlic and of course tomatoes that he has strained the seeds and skins out of by hand. The result is a sauce that is rich, all his and in such demand that if you order more than a case he will give you one of his famously hearty laughs.

There is no way that he can keep up to the demand.

I love this guy for his enthusiasm and I'll tell you something else. There are few people that work as hard as he does (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. plus clean up Monday to Saturday - every week). And perhaps fewer people still who enjoy what they do as much as he does.

Visit Mother's Deli & Bakery at 100 Carlton Road, Unionville. 905-474-9162

 Mark's Tomatoes

Tomato sign The sign that he puts in his window gives me far more credit than I deserve. Sure, the tomatoes that I deliver to him every couple of days this time of year are mine, but they are also Zac's. He, after all, planted, staked and mulched them. He posted a time table in the shop of a spray schedule for the sulphur and bordo (yes, they are organic but they are also disease and insect free).

Zac is a missionary of vegetables. He hauls every visitor to the garden out to the acre of food to view his masterpiece and preach about the benefits of growing your own. Who needs me, the communicator, around when you have a 20 year old with a genuine Italian heritage of veggie growing coursing through his pedigree on hand to say it all?


 Back to Ted

Ted You know why else I love this guy Ted? He wants nothing in return but an honest opinion. Get out, you say. Yes. "Ted", I said when he told me that he is turning customers away, "Ted, I sure hope that you are making money on this."

He saves his heartiest laugh for this one. "Are YOU KIDDING!! I just love doing this Mark. I don't want any money. I just want to hear a customer come in and say 'you know Ted, this is the best tomato sauce that I have every tasted!' That's it."

He means it too.
Every fall after the tomato harvest has finished and the big pot has been put away Ted hands me a cheque for the local food bank. "Here. This is what we made this year for the local food bank."

Geeeeez. I grew these tomatoes for fun, had the best crop ever (thanks to Zac) and this guy won't keep any of the money for his trouble?

Life, as they say, is way too short.

When you have people holding the door for you that are this generous, I just don't want it to stop.

Enjoy the September harvest from your garden and from local farmers.


 Things To Do in September

Lawn care Lawns.

I know I have said this before, but it is SO worth repeating. Sow grass seed and lay sod in September for a fool proof, low maintenance start to a great looking lawn. Plus, it is so much easier and the results so much better to do this now than in spring. Follow the directions on the package or watch my new video.


Generally I like to leave my perennials standing in the garden all winter long. But there are some that are just 'finished' come early fall. They not only flowered but the seed heads have been picked apart by song birds (which was part of the plan anyhow) and now the finished plant just stands there looking forlorn. Cut it down and toss the stems and stuff in the compost. I will do this with hollyhocks, veronica, Shasta daisies and the like.
The perennials that I leave standing all winter are the late flowering ones that are going to seed next month and flowering as we speak: rudebeckia, asters, mums, rodgersia and the like.


The plants that are famous for dying with the frost may still have a lot of gas in their tank before they die from frost damage. Take snapdragons, dusty miller and salvia for example. I don't know what happened to my impatiens but I have pulled them already. Brian, the gardener over at Meadowbrook Golf Course told me that 'something hit the impatiens this year; a disease.' This is the first that I have heard of a disease in impatiens but the news made me feel much better about my own failure.
September may be the month that you rip out your annuals: if they look awful I advise pulling them. There are way too many nice fall flowering plants that you can put in the ground to take their place.
Like bulbs.


They are in retailers now. Or, they will be very shortly. Holland bulbs are a bargain and I am planting another 2,000 narcissus in my 10 acre garden to add to the 12,000 that are already there. I love these things -first to bloom, attract bees and other pollinators and announce the arrival of spring. I swear that if you could get that spring time feeling from planting bulbs on cold, autumn days more people would do it. Alas, it is like buying an annuity: invest today and clip the coupons come spring.

You just have to be patient if you want to be a gardener.

Plant! I have written an article for the Toronto Star about fall planting that will appear Saturday, September 10th. I strongly urge you to read it IF you are even thinking of planting this fall. In my opinion this is by far the best time of year to plant trees shrubs and evergreens. All of the reasons are in the article. Go to and follow the link to the Toronto Star for the article.

In addition to all of the above:
- Compost
- Add 5 cm of new soil to garden beds if you did not do this in the spring.
- Cut and enjoy roses indoors as this is the 2nd best show of the year.
- Cut your lawn at 2 � inches. Use a mulching mower. Fertilize in October.
- Trim your cedar hedge and evergreens.
- Sit, relax and enjoy. Winter comes fast enough.
- Go to Home Hardware for many new Mark's Choice products including a compostable burlap bag [item #4440-036], a fabulous hand pruner with sharpener [item #5067-220], the world's best rake [item #5062-302] and any of the cutting tools in my line up. I am immensely proud to put my name on all of them.

And remember:
"Life is not measured by how many breaths you take
But by the number of occasions that take your breath away."

Author unknown.

Keep your knees dirty,
Merchant of Beauty


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 2-Wheeled Wheelbarrow

wheelbarrow This is a 'light weight work horse' of a wheelbarrow!!

As with all Mark's Choice products, this one is built for the home gardener to professional standards. In other words we build the features and benefits of a professional product into a light weight product that is easy to use, maintain and above all is made to last and last.

(Home Hardware item#5160-254)

Check out the full line of Mark's Choice products 

 Where is Mark this Month?

Fall Home Show Friday, September 23, 2011
Toronto Fall Home Show
Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto
I will be on stage at noon followed by a Meet & Greet in the Toronto Star booth.

For more info. 

 CTV Canada AM

CTV This week, watch Part 2 of my 3-part special on the Battle against the Emerald Ash Borer, replanting urban trees and the importance of maintaining our urban tree canopies.
My segments air every Wednesday at 8:45 am EST. If you missed Part 1 of this special you can view it online at:


 Podcasts on
 What to Expect this Month

Podcasts � September 7 - Handy Insect Traps for wasps, slugs, beetles and fruit flies

� September 14 - The New Canadian Lawn - how to maintain a carpet of green

� September 21 - Why FALL is for Planting

My weekly podcasts are posted every Wednesday morning. Visit


 Your Lawn

Lawn care A reminder that September is the best month of the year to either sow fresh grass seed or lay fresh sod. As my Dad used to say, 'You can lay sod upside down in September and it will still grow!" I've done this, though not on purpose.
I don't recommend it. Lay YOUR sod green side up.

As for growing the best lawn on your block - "buy the best quality grass seed available", is my advice. After all, the pedigree of your lawn is in the bag. I recommend Golfgreen grass seed because it is virtually weed free and they put good quality grass seed in the bag.
This is a good time to feed your lawn (or in October) with a quality lawn fertilizer. Give your lawn a boost now to thicken its roots leading up to the late fall - when you really should make the most important fertilizer application of the year. (More on that next month.)


 Grub Control for Your Lawn

Grub Busters One of the most frequently asked questions that I get each fall involves controlling grubs in the lawn.
Grubs feed on grass roots causing the lawn to die. Patches of dead grass will lift up easily if pulled by hand. Skunks, raccoons and moles will also dig in the lawn to feed on grubs. The fall is the best time to control grub populations. Larvae hatch in the fall and can be killed quickly due to their small size.

I recommend applying beneficial nematodes. These are microscopic worms that infest the grub larvae in the soil. Applying beneficial nematodes in the fall is a proactive approach to controlling lawn damage next spring. Visit for more information on Grub Busters Nematodes.

A healthy lawn will often hide the symptoms of grub damage. A thick lawn which is watered and fed properly will grow new roots quickly. This helps mask grub damage and keep brown patches to a minimum.