Mark Cullen e-newsletter
April 2012 
 Gardening with Mark
In This Issue:
Where to Find Mark
Mark's Gardening Connections

Join our mailing list!

Life's little Mysteries

There a lot of things that I do not understand.

I was driving up the Don Valley Parkway one day this week, on my way home from a full day at Canada Blooms, and was being tailgated aggressively while merging into the left lane of traffic.

I was keeping up nicely but this guy had ants in his pants, scooted to the right, then around me and then in front of me -obviously annoyed even though I could not move right without causing trouble for the two cars in that lane.
He went nowhere except up the butt of the car in front of me.
The mystery? There was a yellow sign hanging in his back window that read, "Baby on Board".

What is that?

Another mystery is the weather that we have experienced across much of the country (though, not all of it, thanks to reminders from readers in Invermere, BC and St Johns, Newfoundland!) over this winter and early spring.

I do not expect you to solve these mysteries; I merely point them out as a matter of curiosity and interest.
Where the garden is concerned it is my job to draw to your attention the rather interesting situation that we find ourselves in and the jobs that move up the ladder of our 'to-do' list. Where we have experienced early spring temperatures there is a sense of urgency about certain things in the garden that generally is lacking the first week of April.

 Dormant Spray

Dormant Spray Kit An application of dormant spray when evening temperatures rise reliably above 0 C and stay there through the night would normally place in zone 6 gardens (Toronto and Halifax) the second and third weeks of April, zone 5 (Barrie and Kingston) a few days later and zone 4 (Ottawa and Montreal) the third and fourth weeks. The Prairies a little later still (Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton zones 2 and 3).

Alas, the season has been thrown out of whack and you should be thinking about this application sooner rather than later, considering the criteria for application above (frost free nights/closed buds on roses, fruit trees and flowering trees like crabapples).
Dormant spray smothers overwintering insects and disease thereby saving you a ton of work later on in the season.

It also gives your ornamental plants a much better appearance: minimizing, for example, black spot on roses.

As one Toronto gardener pointed out to me last week, it is actually too late for dormant spray for many shrubs that have broken bud and are in flower, like forsythia. True.



Lawn care A reminder to rake your lawn lightly to remove loose winter debris using a fan rake (have you checked out the 'world's best rake' at Home Hardware? It is about $30 but it is the last rake that you will ever buy. A Mark's Choice product).

Apply Golfgreen fertilizer as soon as you can.
Nitrogen is the element that your lawn craves the most come spring and Golfgreen has the most sophisticated slow release nitrogen formula on the market. Nitrogen is released as temperatures rise, rain falls and microbial activity increases in the soil.



Echinacea in full bloom I have cut down the long stems of Echinacea, monarda (bee balm), rudebeckia and all of my ornamental grasses. Do this before the new plants emerge from the earth to avoid damaging the new growth as you perform your clean up.

Resist the temptation to sanitize your garden by raking up fallen leaves and light, loose winter debris. All of this stuff is good for your garden and the worms will do the job of making it disappear later in the season.


 Early Sowing of Veggies

Sow veggie seeds In the soil: as soon as the ground is dry enough to work, sow some (but not all) of your carrots, leeks, peas, onion sets and plant pre-started transplants (from your local retailer) of cabbage, broccoli, kale and all of the 'gassy' veggies.

Indoors sow peppers, eggplant, mesclun salad mix and lettuce.

Pot up dahlias - either ones that you have held over the winter in storage or new ones that you buy.


 Globe & Mail Social Studies

Spinach An article in the Globe last week that should be of interest to all gardeners:

"Want to be more creative? You might want to take a stroll through the park, eat a spinach salad or (ed.) take some time in your garden. According to newly published research, innovative thinking seems to be stimulated by the colour green.
A research team led by University of Munich psychologist Stephanie Lichtenfeld reports that the colour of lime and leaves 'has implications beyond aesthetics.'
Specifically a glimpse of green appears to activate 'the type of pure, open (mental) processing required to do well on creativity tasks.'
The researcher found this effect with different groups of people, different tests of creativity and differently designed experiments'.

The lesson? More time in the garden = more creativity.

Noodle that while you weed and plant.

Keep your knees dirty,


I am booked for several exciting public events this month (listed below) - please join me and if you live in Newfoundland please note that I am in St. Johns Saturday, April 28 at the Landscape & Garden Show. On the Friday night I plan on attending the Home Hardware store for an event in Conception Bay South.


 Mark's Choice Product of the Month
 Double-hinged Hand Pruner Kit

Pruner kit I have been looking for great hand pruners that reduce wrist fatique and have found them.
The unique double hinged blade is the secret.
The Teflon coating helps to reduce drag and frequency of sharpening.
The grip offers a nice fit to the hand.
Fabulous - for $24.99! exclusive to Home Hardware.

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)


 Where is Mark this Month?

Mark Saturday, March 31 - Burlington Home Show.

Tuesday, April 3 - Richmond Hill Garden & Horticultural Society.

Saturday, April 7 - Oakville Home Show.

Saturday, April 14 - Milton Home Show.

Monday, April 15 - Ottawa Botanical Garden Society.

Friday, April 27 - Handyman Home Hardware, Conception Bay South, NFLD

Saturday, April 28 - Landscape & Garden Show. NFLD


 Green Living Show. April 13-15, 2012
 Direct Energy Centre, Toronto

Green Living Show As a 'Gardening With Mark' newsletter subscriber you are eligible for a complimentary ticket to the Green Living Show.

You have 3 options to receive your complimentary admission.
Option 1: You can email [email protected] and request the PDF to print your own ticket at home.
Option 2: You can register for tickets online and can pick them up at the Will-Call ticket booth, that way you won't have to print anything.
Option 3: You can bring an electronic that needs recycling to the show for free entry. The following link has a list of accepted e-waste.

* Experience an amazing interactive marine exhibit brought to us by the ROM, showcasing endangered underwater life
* Be among the first to behold Ontario's biggest ever wall map of green spaces and industrial ambition
* Explore five University breakthrough (possibly world beating) sustainable technology research projects.
* "Ride & Drive" Electric Vehicles, cars, bikes, cycles, wagons, and find out from the manufacturers why they are optimistic.
* Taste the produce from local farmers and producers, and learn about the huge continuing growth in organic, natural, healthy, and regional foods.
* Sample the latest green fashion trends, from organic t-shirts to hemp handbags!
* Test and taste the very best of Ontario wines and beers in The Beer Experience
* You can visit several major presentations on how we can rescue Birds in Peril at our popular bird exhibit, and even see a real snowy owl, just one of the species of bird that need your help.
* You can breathe in the benefits of our tree exhibit, and discover how trees play a vital role in your health and your environment
* You can learn something new about the rapidly expanding and evolving environment job opportunities at our Green Jobs Forum


 Garden Variety
 Monthly Podcasts

Monthly podcast Subscribe to my free monthly 'Garden Variety' podcasts on FOCALPOINT e-NEWS!

Follow this link to listen to the current podcast.


 Golfgreen Lawn Fertilizer

CIL Golfgreen If you are watching TV this month chances are pretty good that you will see yours truly plugging Golfgreen lawn Fertilizer. I do not take this - or any other - endorsement lightly. I have been working with this great Canadian brand for 20 years and this year I am delighted that they came up with a unique formula for Home Hardware.

This new Golfgreen contains more of the slow release nitrogen that has made this brand famous and the #1 brand in many parts of the country.

For a greener lawn, longer - look for it. When you buy a large 12 kg bag at Home Hardware or 2 small bags you will receive a copy of my newest book "Canadian Lawn and Garden Secrets" a $12.99 value. It is great bed time or just 'pick me up' reading for tips and ideas to help you achieve the garden of your dreams right in your own yard.

Now there is a deal!

As always, I am interested in knowing what you think of the product and the value for money. You can leave your comments at and click on the product feedback button on the bottom. I read and respond to every one!

Thanks again, Mark

Golfgreen at Home Hardware 

 Emerald Ash Borer
 You Do Have a Choice

TreeAzin treated tree in background The Emerald Ash Borer is devastating our entire population of ash trees in southern Ontario.

Within 3 to 5 years it is predicted, by people who know about these things, that all of our ash trees will be gone. Dead. Ready to be cut down and disposed of.

The good news is that your Ash trees can be saved.
Ash trees can be treated with a biological insect control called TreeAzin. It must be administered by a certified professional, not because it is toxic to humans or pets, but it does require some training to administer the liquid by drilling into the tree trunk and injecting it with a rather sophisticated syringe.

Step 1: Confirm your tree is a True Ash
- EAB only attacks and kills True Ash trees
- Mountain Ash trees are not True Ash trees
- True Ash: medium to large trees, compound leaves typically having 7 to 9 leaflets, paddle-shaped seeds
- Mountain Ash: small trees or bushes, compound leaves typically having 13 to 17 leaflets, clusters of red berries in Fall

Step 2: Ash trees may already be infested, even if EAB signs and symptoms are not evident. For details on the product and a list of certified applicators go to

For more details on the Emerald Ash Borer check out my recent Toronto Star column 

 Break Free of Frost Dates with The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener
 By Niki Jabbour

Year Round Vegetable Gardener A Maritime gardening friend hits the big time!

Vegetable gardening continues to increase in popularity, and in these tough economic times, many gardeners are looking for ways to increase production and feed their families through the cold season. For passionate food gardeners wanting to eat fresh-from-the-garden twelve months of the year, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour is a comprehensive guide to successful techniques for nonstop vegetable production in the home garden, no matter what the climate.

Aimed at gardeners of all levels who want to extend the growing season and increase yields in all months of the year, The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener provides the information needed to extend the harvest well past the first frost. From picking the best varieties to succession planting, interplanting, and using simple season extenders (row covers, cloches, cold frames, hoop tunnels, and unheated greenhouses), readers will discover all of the key techniques for maintaining a productive vegetable garden 365 days a year.

Gardeners who treasure their homegrown harvest and dread the loss of fresh produce during the winter absolutely need to have this book. With this indispensible resource at hand, foodies everywhere will be pulling carrots fresh from their snow-covered cold frames for dinner.


 Watching My Garden Grow
 By Those Dame Gardeners

Garden Journal This is a simplified two-year gardening journal.

It's bright, fun and easy to use. It has pockets for plant tags, receipts and lots of room for notes, photos, and garden plans.

A place for everything and everything in its place. 

 Niagara-on-the-Lake Shaw Garden Tour
 Saturday, June 9, 2012 from 10am to 4pm

Garden tour Once again this annual tour has 8 magnificent gardens to unveil for public viewing. Varying from small and neat, to large acreages divided into room-like settings, every one of these gardens is unique.

You will see many varieties of mature trees, unusual perennials, creative planters, life-size garden statuary, relaxing pool and pond areas, and even artificial turf that looks so real you'd never know it wasn't grass.

Master Gardeners are on site in every garden to give advice and answer questions. Don't miss out! Tickets are $20.00 and available now by calling the Shaw Festival Box Office at 1-800-511-7429.

More details 

 The Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society

Rose Society THE HAMILTON & BURLINGTON ROSE SOCIETY invites everyone to attend on Sunday, April 22nd. 2012, at 2:00 p.m. at The Royal Botanical Gardens Centre, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, ON. in Rooms # 3 & 4 to listen to Lindsay Wilcox on his journey on: "Growth of a Rose gardener and his Garden".

Lindsay is an active member of the Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society, after working in local medical laboratories and, most recently, specializing in research and training of Medical residents in medical microbiology. He was appointed a part-time Associate Professor at Mc Master University Medical School.

Using his research techniques and extensive Rose book collection, he looked for the best-hardiest, healthiest, most beautiful and fragrant - roses available.

Lindsay lets them grow as naturally as possible (no spraying) in his garden. He specially loves: Canadian Explorers and Old Garden Roses for their hardiness and health. And the Austin roses for their beauty and fragrance.

We welcome everyone to attend the meeting where we will share sweet treats and some hot tea.
There is no Entrance Fee.

For more information please contact: [email protected]



Vegetable Seed Collection 'Like' my Facebook page (link) for a weekly chance to win $8 in Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.

Encourage your gardening friends to sign up for my free e-newsletter. Starting April 1st we will draw from our list of subscribers daily for a chance to win $8 in Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.