October 2013
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue
My Lawn
Bird Box Cleanup
To Do List
Product of the Mont
Where's Mark
Featured Plant
Mystery Flower Contest
New Contest
Fall is for Planting



Gardening Connections

Mark's Choice   
Home Hardware 
Toronto Star 
Ottawa Citizen  
CTV Canada AM 
Join Our Mailing List
Thanksgiving Edition


We are only two weeks away from Canadian Thanksgiving and I have been thinking about all of the wonderful things that we have to be grateful for as gardeners in this amazing country. Here are some of them:
In Ontario and Quebec the apple crop was devastated last year due to early flowering and a late frost that collided on the third week of April. The result was a 90% reduction in the crop.
This year all of the apple trees got together and decided that this was going to be a gang-buster year for flowers and fruit (can't have one without the other). My 7 year old orchard of 70 trees was amazing. Truly. One tree was so laden with Concord apples that Mary stood in one place and I stood in another and we picked a bushel of ripe apples without moving our feet. Can't beat that.
Want an apple? If you didn't grow any, buy them: inexpensive, plentiful, good for you and local. Wow.

My life has been ruled by tomatoes for the last couple of weeks. I grow 200 plants and give the produce away, other than the meager bit that we keep for ourselves.  


The crop has been a record due to regular rain falls, cool evening temperatures during the evening (well, not stifling hot anyway) and good luck. I did apply Bordo mixture every 2 weeks to battle early blight (natural fungicide) and I mulched with generous quantities of straw in June. Want a tomato?

I am in love with hummingbirds and so happy that they have found a temporary home in my yard. Right now they are sparring like snoopy and the red baron - soaring nose to nose high in the air and parting company on their way down to stake their claim in the garden.

Funny. Entertaining. Fast. Amazing. Their head is much smaller than ours but I wonder who is smarter, after all, they go to Costa Rica for the winter and are sipping margaritas while we shovel snow.  


They are amazing this year. They are amazing every year. They never let me down. I sow them from seed in late may/early June and spend, oh, I don't know, maybe $20 for enough seed to spread over a half acre or so (well, maybe not that much, but a lot!)


Cut them and bring indoors, let the hummers enjoy them or enjoy them from afar. In the sun: foolproof.

My lawn
I like my lawn. I am not in love with it, especially when it turns brown mid summer and looks like the butt end of a cow. But this year was different. Regular rain, cool temps and 3 applications of Golfgreen kept it healthy and green. Now when people drive in to my property my lawn is a source of pride. We grow great grass in Canada. We should grow more of it.


Compost. I do love compost. Not like I love my children, but almost. My kids grew up strong and healthy due to the great eating habits that my wife instilled (and in spite of the bad habits that I instilled).


My garden has grown up due to the diet of pure, unadulterated mushroom/horse/cattle/garden compost that I feed it every spring. It is my favourite job - spreading 4 cm of compost over the whole garden. Not because it is a lot of fun in and of itself but for what it represents: better health.


Healthy soil = better plants. No pesticides. No need for fertilizers. No problem digging root veggies like carrots and beets. No worries. With compost life is good.


When the leaves are raked, the lawn fertilized (with Golfgreen fall lawn food) the roses hilled and when the Toronto Maple Leafs have won a game or two, I enjoy nothing more than battening down the hatches on the garden. Winter is the reward every Canadian gardener gets for working their butt off from April through October.


It is our time to read, visit gardening friends, look at and organize the pictures that we took of our garden in the summer and watch hockey. Good hockey, bad hockey. Whatever. I am a Leafs fan. I was born at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, only 2 blocks from Maple Leaf Gardens. It is genetic so don't blame me.


The Leafs look pretty good this year, no? I am grateful for the only professional sports club named after a native tree.


And that is my list of things to be grateful for this gardening season.


What does yours look like?

Bird Box Cleanup
I was cleaning out my blue bird boxes, of which I have 22, when it occurred to me that I should really contact my new best friend Jody Allair at Birds Studies Canada to see if this is the right time of year to do it. Here is what he said:


1. Clean out bird nests in fall, if the birds are finished nesting.

2. Make sure to use gloves

3. Be careful not to inhale any of the dust as it will contain dried up feces.

4. Place the nest material in a garbage bag, seal it and dispose of it fairly quickly (note: I would throw it in the compost. Mark)

5. Don't use any bleach or other chemical cleaner on the inside of the nest box.

6. Consider registering for the Project Nest Watch next spring and help us monitor nesting birds across Canada. www.birdstudiescanada.org


Thanks Jody!

Here is what you should consider doing in your garden during the month of October:


  1. As the annual flowers fade, plant spring flowering Holland bulbs. Tulips, daffodils and the like.
  2. While you are out there 'filling in holes' where your tired petunias once stood plant some fall, frost hardy colour with asters, mums, rudbeckia, butterfly bush. Check out the selection at your local garden retailer.
  3. Fertilize your lawn with Golfgreen Fall lawn food late in October - don't be too anxious to do this early. Grass roots benefit most from a late application.
  4. Cut down floppy perennials. The strong stemmed ones -like Echinacea and rudbeckia - I leave standing all winter long. As well as my ornamental grasses, which serve their highest purpose when they are dressed in a light shroud of puffy white snow. Birds eat their seeds all winter too. The soft perennials that are finished come late October are best cleaned up and the spent foliage thrown in the compost.
  5. Compost. Dig out the finished compost that is in your bin or pile and put it on the surface of your garden where the earth worms will pull it down. Fill your bin with fallen leaves mixed with spent annual plants and tomato plants. Make a new pile. Use Green Earth Compost accelerator to kick start it.
  6. Leaves. When they start to fall rake them off your lawn, run them over with your lawn mower and rake them on to your garden. See the worm comment above. You will be amazed at how the worms consume leaves in tremendous quantities next spring.
  7. Harvest everything that is ready and go to local farmers markets for fresh food and a Halloween pumpkin.
  8. Wait until late October or early November (depending on where you live in this vast country) for the following 'winterizing' jobs: wrapping evergreens in burlap, applying Wilt-Pruf to rhododendrons and broad leafed evergreens, applying Golfgreen fall lawn food and hilling up your roses with 80 cm of fresh soil (the last job of the season).
  9. With the time that you save by waiting to do many of the aforementioned jobs swing in a hammock. Wrap yourself in your favourite blankie and dream of next year's perfect garden.

Talk in a couple of weeks!!


Keep your knees dirty,



Mark's Choice Product of the Month
Spring Flowering Bulb Collections  
Deer & Squirrel Resistant Bulb Collection
- 50 premium quality top sized Holland bulbs

- 4 varieties selected for Canadian gardens

10 Narcissus Tete a Tete

- 5 Hyacinths Pink Pearl

- 20 Glory of the Snow

- 15 Grape Hyacinth

Home Hardware item# 5029-174.


Canadian Tulip Garden Bulb Garden

- 28 premium quality top sized Holland bulbs

- 4 exceptional varieties selected for Canadian gardens

- 7 Vancouver tulips

- 7 Quebec tulips

- 7 The Mounties tulips

- 7 Toronto tulips

Home Hardware item# 5029-172


Naturalizing Daffodil & Crocus Bulb Collection

- 40 premium quality top sized Holland bulbs

- 4 exceptional varieties selected for Canadian gardens

- 6 Carlton

- 6 Slim Whitman

- 6 Ice King

- 22 Crocus Tom Ruby Giant

Home Hardware item# 5029-175

Where is Mark this Month

Markham Fall Home Show

Date: Friday, October 18

Time: 4pm

Location: Markham Fairgrounds, Markham, ON

More info. http://www.markhamhomeshow.com/fall-show

Featured Plant of the Month
Sugar Baby Forsythia
Forsythia Show Off 'Sugar Baby'

Now even the smallest garden can have outstanding spring colour! This compact, dwarf plant delivers more flowers per inch to provide lots of vibrant spring colour in a small space.

Bright yellow flowers arrive in early spring.

Grows 45cm-75cm high and wide.

Hardy to zone 4a.

Prefers full sun and well-drained soil.

Source: Garden Inspiration magazine, 2013

September 'Mystery Flower' Contest

ContestLast month's mystery flower is a begonia. We received hundreds of correct answers to the contest.


The Grand Prize Winner, Melanie M., received a Mark's Choice Garden Knife.


We also selected 5 runner-up winners who received a signed copy of my gardening book, The Canadian Garden Primer. (Loretta, Annelle, Therese, Beth and Paula) 

New Contest
I enjoy taking photos in my garden at least once a week. This gives me a great record of the changing beauty in the garden throughout the entire growing season. When the snow flies this winter I will have these photos to inspire my plans for 2014.


If you have a 'favourite' photo of your garden from this year, I would like to see it. Submit one photo to [email protected]. I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.


I will select 3 winners randomly from all entries. Each winner will receive a signed copy of my gardening book, The Canadian Garden Primer. (Deadline for entry is October 15, 2013)


Fall is for Planting
Fall is the ideal time for planting trees, shrubs and perennials. Cooler air temperatures mean plants are not stressed by heat and humidity. Garden soil is still warm which allows the root system to continue growing.


Finish planting at least 6 weeks prior to the ground freezing to allow plants the opportunity to establish a healthy root system.



- Plant perennials at the same depth as they are in containers.

- Spread a layer of shredded cedar bark mulch to insulate root systems and conserve moisture.

- Water new plants deeply to reach the entire root ball.

- Apply a transplant fertilizer to encourage root growth. Do not use fertilizers with a high concentration of nitrogen as this will encourage plant growth instead of root growth. I recommend a 5-15-5 liquid transplanter for quick feeding. 

Do-It-Yourself Forest
New Seedling Rebate Program helps landowners save on tree purchases & make an environmental difference.


Interested in making a difference for the environment but unsure of where to begin? Start with your own yard and participate in Trees Ontario's new annual DIY Forest program, which helps landowners save money on seedling purchases.


DIY Forest is a tree rebate program that offers landowners the chance to save $0.10 on each seedling purchased in quantities of 50 to 500.


For a limited time (until March 31, 2014) and based on available quantities, landowners simply complete a quiz on the Trees Ontario website (www.treesontario.ca/rebate) and download a coupon (one per person per calendar year) to use at participating nurseries: Ferguson Forest Centre, Pineneedle Farms and Somerville Seedlings.


For more information, visit www.treesontario.ca/rebate.


Submit Your Local Events
EventsDo you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote" I would be happy to include your event listing in my monthly e-newsletter.


Deadline for submitting event info is the 15th of the month before publication.

Send your info to [email protected] with the subject line 'Newsletter Event listing'. Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.

Bobcaygeon & District Horticultural Society
Bobcaygeon Date: October 17

Time: 7pm

Event: Orchids. An Addiction to Share.

Speaker: Terry Kennedy

Location: Knox Presbyterian Church Hall, Bobcaygeon, ON 

Butchart Gardens, BC

Autumn in the Gardens 
Sunken Garden"As warm days transition to crisp nights, a stunning parade of red, russet and golden maples make their mark at The Gardens. It's the best time to visit the tranquility of the Japanese Garden before winter arrives." ~www.ButchartGardens.com

The Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society
Rose SocietyDate: October 20

Time: 12:00 noon

Event: Members Luncheon and Annual Meeting

Location: Scottish Rite, Hamilton, ON

North American Native Plant Society

Talk at TBG  

Date: October 22

Time: 7-9pm

Topic: Creating a Prairie Garden

Speaker: John Oyston

Location: Toronto Botanical Garden, Toronto, ON

More info: www.nanps.org

Historic Gardens - Annapolis Royal, NS

Ghostly GardensHistoric Gardens  

"A spook-tacular array of activities await you, including a Haunted House at the Sinclair Inn Museum, Hidden Hauntings at O'Dell House Museum, and Ghostly Gardens at the Historic Gardens. Alan Melanson will lead his renowned Candlelight Graveyard Tours, and the Annapolis Region Community Arts Council will lead some Hallowe'en inspired workshops." - exploreghosttown.com


For more info. http://exploreghosttown.com/