April 2014
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue
Food Gardens
Pass On Principle
Pumps for Food
In Africa
Plant and Dream
Things To Do
Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centres
Product of the Month
100 Red Poppies
Year of the Cucumber
Stay in Touch



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Ottawa Citizen  
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Food Gardens 


As I write this monthly message my son in Halifax is house bound: the university is shut down as is his local Sobeys.  
He can't feed his mind or his stomach, unless he squeezes his 'at home' resources [studying might be an idea, you think?]  Such is the ongoing dilemma of a memorable Canadian winter.


The forecast is for sunnier and warmer days ahead, right across the country [with apologies to friends on the B.C. coast who have been basking in it for a while.  Wait a minute, why did I just apologize?  Oh, forget it.]


Sharing SHARE

This past month I had an adventure that I wish to share with you: I flew to El Salvador on a 5 day monitoring trip with S.H.A.R.E. Agriculture Foundation.  It was my 4th such trip and 2nd to El Salvador in 10 years.  


The goal of these trips is to witness the results of the work that is being done 'on the ground' with hard earned Canadian dollars.  For every dollar raised from private sources [like you and me] C.I.D.A. [Ottawa] match with 3 more dollars [tax dollars, like yours and mine].  So it behooves me to see what gives where the rubber meets the road. 


I am happy to report that this organization is doing a masterful job of opening doors of prosperity to a great number of people in Central and South America.  SHARE supports landless people and subsistence farmers with the tools and resources that they need to get a start. The slogan 'A Hand Up not a Hand Out' originated with this organization 35 years ago. 


When I talk about 'opening doors of prosperity' I mean it as a relative thing. None of the people that I visited in the remote mountains villages of El Salvador would even dream of the kind of material wealth that we enjoy here in Canada.  For them a definition of great wealth would be a cow.  One cow per family.  A female that gives milk, can be bred for more cows and at the end of the day can be consumed: that is the ultimate gift.  

Pass On Principle

One of the key rules that guides the SHARE strategy is the 'Pass On' principle.  This is a rule that, for every gift of resources provided, the fruits of it must be passed on to other needy people.  A cow has calves, which are given away to cow-less families.  The wealth is therefore spread around to people who can really use it. 


The Canadians who volunteer to lead the monitoring trips have been doing so for many years and know their stuff.  In my case, the trip was led by Les and Marg Frayne of Fergus, Ontario.  Volunteers they may be but amateurs they are not.  


Have a look at these pictures and you will see that we are doing some great work with their valuable assistance.  


Pumps for Food 

While in El Salvador I travelled with my good friend Dr. James Clubine.  He is the minister at Central United Church in Unionville, Ontario.  


This was his first 'SHARE' monitoring trip and he was quite overwhelmed by the experience.  So much so that he suggested that we come home and raise some money to help supply 30 water pumps to Salvadorian and Honduran farmers.


The pumps provide water through a cistern system that 'dribbles' water very efficiently down to a 2 or 3 acre 'garden'.  We witnessed a couple of these 'Pumps for Food' projects and were impressed by the incredible productivity for only a $1,200 [Canadian] investment per pump/system.  They can generate up to 3 crops a year from the same land using these pump systems and they make otherwise marginally productive land VERY productive. 



So we are now on the hook to raise $40,000 for SHARE over the next 2 years. 

Would you help us?  If you possibly can, a tax receipt is in it for you AND the satisfaction that your money is being invested in places where it is desperately needed AND being monitored by volunteers, at their own expense [there is no admin charge on donated money].  Please donate today, or you will forget.  


In Africa

And speaking of food, a friend who was following me on face book sent me this message about another worthy organization:


Camille DePutter wrote:

Nutritional gardens can be a powerful food security tool. As an example, let's look to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). As an international NGO focused on preventing and treating malnutrition, Action Against Hunger has been expanding our efforts in this vulnerable country in response to increasing needs. 


Due to civil war, malnutrition in CAR has increased exponentially in recent months. In February, we found that over 7 percent of children screened are suffering from severe acute malnutrition - the kind that kills. It's considered an emergency when that rate is 2 percent or higher.


You can read her full article by clicking on this link.


Plant and Dream  

It is April: soon it will be time to prepare your garden for planting.  If you are sowing some early peas, carrots, lettuce and the like I hope that you will think for a bit about the wonderful gifts of food that spring from the soil, with a little tending. 


Here in Canada there is some great work being done in our urban centres where growing food and making it accessible to all is concerned.  I wrote a 2 part series of articles for my syndicated newspaper column this month that you might be interested in reading.  Using 'The Stop' in Toronto as a model, Community Food Centres Canada are gaining traction in Dartmouth, Winnipeg, Perth and elsewhere.  It is pretty exciting stuff.   
View the articles:







'Things To Do in your garden' this month:


Start seeds indoors.  Virtually all transplants that you wish to plant out come mid to late May should be started this month.  Some now [peppers, leeks, snapdragons, alyssum] and others in a couple of weeks [tomatoes, zinnias, asters etc.]  a more detailed list is available on my website at Seedy Pastime.


When frost is out of the ground, sow your first crop of peas, carrots, onions, lettuce, radishes and mesclun mix.  These are somewhat frost hardy and can take the light frost of late April and early May. 


Apply dormant spray.  Control overwintering diseases and insects on all fruit trees, roses, most shrubs and deciduous trees with an application of dormant spray.  You will buy two bottles [likely in one box] one is Dormant Oil and the other is Lime Sulphur.  Mix according to directions and apply when night temperatures are reliably above zero Celsius and BEFORE the blossom or leaf buds open.



  • Rake gently to raise grass blades and open up the root zone to oxygen. 
  • Fertilize with Golfgreen [it is the only fertilizer that I use on my lawn] which contains slow release nitrogen and DDP Iron for a deeper, richer green.  Lasts up to 10 weeks.  
  • Thin patches are best thickened with 2 to 4 cm of Mark's Choice Lawn soil or triple mix spread over the area, Golfgreen grass seed broadcast over the area by hand, rake smooth [gently] and step in the works to bring soil/seed together.  Water until germination occurs.
  • Aerate if the soil is compacted, while there is plenty of winter moisture in the ground.

Prune apple trees now [not when the buds are swelling].


Prune cedar hedges for shape.


Apply a layer of 2 to 4 centimeters of triple mix or 70% compost/30% sharp sand to your entire garden.  Do not turn it under: let the earth worms do this for you. 


Remove the spent soil from last year's containers: spread this on the garden. It is good stuff, just not good enough to use again in your containers. 


Replace used container mix with Pro-Mix or Mark's Choice Container Soil available at Home Hardware  [made by the same people as Pro-Mix]. 


Hang out your hummingbird feeders late this month and track their arrival on http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html


Relax, enjoy and breathe deep.  You have earned this spring!


Keep your knees dirty,



Merchant of Beauty.


p.s. be sure to visit your nearest Mark Cullen Approved Home Hardware Garden Centre [listed below] for the very best in service and selection.  We now have 20 locations in the family!  I am very proud of them all.....




I'm giving away 1 copy of Steven Biggs' new book: Grow Figs Where you Think You Can't


"Here's all you need to know to grow exotic fresh figs, even if you're in a tempestuous temperate climate.  In this book, a Fig Pig living in a coldish climate shares his passion for figs so that others in fig-unfriendly places can see that it's not rocket science growing this fabulous fruit."


I'm also giving away 5 other prizes of 4 packets of Mark's Choice garden seeds each.  [$8 value]


Let's call this the 'Searching for Spring' contest.  Take a photo in your yard that shows a 'Sign of Spring'.  Send the photo to [email protected].  


I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.  The winners will be selected randomly from all entries.


Deadline for entry: April 15.  Winners will be announced April 16.


Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centres


This spring I am delighted to announce that we are adding 3 new members to the 'Mark Cullen Approved' family of quality Home Hardware retailers.


These dealers have met the stringent standards for product selection, their staff have passed the exclusive Home Hardware 'Lawn and Garden' seasonal training program (delivered by my good friend Denis Flanagan!) and they maintain all plant inventory at exceptional quality levels.


I urge you to shop at these Home Hardware locations for your best selection of fresh Canadian grown plants, expert advice and wide selection of gardening supplies and tools.  Including over 80 Mark's Choice products! 


Be sure to tell them that I sent you and that you receive my monthly newsletter.


The 3 new Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centres can be found at:

Proudfoots Home Hardware Building Centre

Stellarton, Nova Scotia


Drayton Valley Home Hardware Building Centre

Drayton Valley, Alberta


Annapolis Home Hardware Building Center

Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia


Congratulations to our new members who join this list of Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centres:


Handyman Home Hardware

Conception Bay South, Newfoundland


Stratford Home Hardware Building Centre

Stratford, Prince Edward Island


Sissiboo Home Building CentreWeymouth, Nova Scotia


Windsor Home Hardware, Windsor, Nova Scotia


Wilson's Home Hardware Building Centre

Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia


Sussex Home Hardware Building Centre

Sussex, New Brunswick


Iroquois Falls Home Hardware Building Centre

Iroquois Falls, Ontario


Brockville Home Hardware Building Centre

Brockville, Ontario


Orillia Home Hardware Building Centre, Orillia, Ontario


Alexandria Home Hardware Building Centre

Alexandria, Ontario


Gravenhurst Home Hardware, Gravenhurst, Ontario


Napanee Home Hardware Building Centre

Napanee, Ontario


Perth Home Hardware Building Centre, Perth, Ontario


Three Hills Home Hardware Building Centre

Three Hills, Alberta


Valleyview Home Hardware, Valleyview, Alberta


Lloydminster Home Hardware Building Center

Lloydminster, Alberta


Invermere Home Hardware Building Centre

Invermere, British Columbia


Dunlops Home Hardware Building Centre

Port Hardy, British Columbia


Mark's Choice Product of the Month
All-in-one Sharpener

I used to think of the accident that could happen should I slip and cut myself when I turn my garden knife upside-down to sharpen it, but not with the Mark's Choice All-in-one sharpener.  


This is the best sharpener I have ever used, and not just because it works like a charm and creates a razor sharp edge, but because it's safe.  The high impact plastic wrist wrap prevents cuts when you use a down stroke to get the sharpness that you want.


The high carbon steel sharpener puts a fine edge on hand pruners knives, loppers, and garden shears.  Keep one in the garage and another in the tool shed!


Exclusive to Home Hardware (item# 1074-627)

100 Red Poppies 

I received this email from Teresa Glover this week.


"On 28 July 2014 it will be 100 years since the start of WW1. To remember the men and women that fought in that war I thought it would be a lovely idea if the Towns & Cities across Canada planted 100 red poppies in their public gardens to mark this occasion. 


The poppy tradition came from WW1 and given that John McCrae author of 'In Flanders Field" was a Canadian it would be a great tribute to him also. I began writing to mayors all across Canada and so far 40 have responded enthusiastically stating that they will indeed plant the 100 red poppies in public gardens.


I am hoping that my friends and neighbours will join my campaign by planting some red poppies this Spring to mark this important centenary. I am also asking Garden Clubs if they could encourage their members to also plant some poppies this Spring and wonder if you could mention this to your listeners and on your website. Most towns are planting the Flanders Field poppy Papaver Rhoeas.  Many thanks, Teresa Glover Cobourg, ON."


I am happy to share Teresa's wonderful idea with my newsletter subscribers.  I encourage you all to join in.


For more information on poppies visit http://markcullen.com/library/the-poppy-is-a-survivor/


2014 is the Year of the Cucumber


Every year, National Garden Bureau names one edible, one annual and one perennial as featured crops for a year.  2014 is the Year of the Cucumber.


The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables.  Cucumbers are very easy to grow from seed.  They like to bask in the sun, so choosing a site in full sun is of prime consideration.  


Soil should be light, fertile and well-drained.  Amending the soil with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure will ensure good yields.  Check soil drainage before planting, as a soggy garden will promote disease and cut down production.


How much space is allotted to the cucumber patch depends on the variety chosen.  Standard types may spread 4 to 6 feet; grow them 4 to 5 feet apart.  The restricted vines of dwarf and bush varieties require much less space; some as little as 2 square feet.


Seeds should be sown when the soil has warmed up to 70 F.  Sow a seed every 6 inches pushing it into the soil to a depth of 1 inch.  Cover with light soil or sand, firm well and keep moist.  Seedlings should emerge in about a week.  When the plants are 2 inches high, thin them to 1 foot apart. 


Read the full story here


Source: National Garden Bureau


Stay in Touch


You can stay in touch with my gardening tips by visiting my:


Weekly blog post - From the Garden Shed - every Wednesday


Weekly audio tip - The Green File - every Wednesday


Daily Facebook page updates


Daily Tweets


And Weekly Canada AM segments, on Wednesdays


Submit Your Event Listings 


Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote, I would be happy to include your event listing in my monthly e-newsletter.


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.


Benefits of the Urban Forest, Ontario




Date: April 3

Time: 2-3pm

Location: Downsview Library. 

2793 Keele St., Toronto


What is the urban forest and why does it matter?  Join us to learn about Toronto's urban forest and the benefits it provides our city.  Find out how you can help it thrive by getting involved in LEAF's planting, education and stewardship programs.

More info.


Date: April 14

Time: 7-8pm

Location: Parliament Library. 269 Gerrard St. E. Toronto

More info.


Friends of the Central Experiment Farm (FCEF)

Ottawa, Ontario


Date: April 5

Time: 10 to 11:30am

Help us make a difference! FCEF needs new volunteer gardeners for the Ornamental Gardens, Arboretum and Merivale Shelterbelt, weekday morning Monday through Friday.

Meet team leaders at a Volunteer Recruitment Orientation 

Location: CEF Building 72 Arboreturm just east of Prince of Wales roundabout.


More info.


Orangeville & District Horticultural Society


Blush rose

Guest Speaker: Roland Craig

Date: April 8

Time: 7-9pm

Topic: Roses

Location: Orangeville Seniors Centre, 26 Bythia Street, Orangeville, ON

More info.


Master Gardener Lecture Series

Friends of the Farm, Ottawa Ontario


April 8 - Vegetable growing possibilities in the urban landscape


April 29 - Practical pruning techniques

Location: CEF Building 72 Arboretum, Ottawa, ON


Info on all lectures


Charleswood Garden Club

Winnipeg, Manitoba



Date: April 9

Time: 7:30pm

Location: 5006 Roblin Blvd (beside the fire hall), Winnipeg, MB

Those Beautiful City of Winnipeg Planters. Have you ever wondered what is involved in the planning, execution and maintenance of those incredible boulevard planters that we have been enjoying over the past years? Please join Jan Tyler, head gardener for north Winnipeg, as she shares experiences and photos.


Brantford Garden Club - Monthly Meeting



Date: April 10

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Brantford Civic Centre Auditorium, Market Street South

Guest speaker: Paul Zammit, Director of Horticulture at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

Everyone welcome.  We have refreshments available along with a flower show competition, library, raffle and some plants for sale.


Annapolis Royal Historic Garden

Nova Scotia


Ian Christie presents: Snowdrops & Best Plants throughout the Year

Date: April 11

Time: 7:00pm

The is the first in a Spring Speaker Series here at the Gardens. The next will be June 4.

Ian Christie is a past president of the Scottish Rock Garden Club. A renowned nurseryman, he is an expert on snowdrops, Tibetan blue poppies, and so on. This presentation will show you lots of great plants and how to grow them.

$10 per person. (Free for Gardens Members)

More info. 


Peterborough Garden Show



Date: April 11-13

Location: Evinrude Centre, 911 Monaghan Road, Peterborough


150 Vendors & exhibitors, garden displays & floral arrangements, prestigious garden lecturers, informative demonstrations, children's garden.


More info.


Plant Paradise Country Gardens Workshops



April 12: Dividing Perennials with Lorraine Roberts

Time: 10am

Hands-on demonstrations of various techniques for dividing plants.


April 19: All About Pruning with Sid Baller

Time: 10am

Hands-on demonstrations on how to prune a variety of flowering shrubs & evergreens.


April 26: Drought Tolerant Gardening with Janet Allin

Time: 10am

Learn to create a low maintenance, drought tolerant garden.

Must pre-register for all workshops.


Location: Plant Paradise Country Gardens, 16258 Humber Station, Caledon, ON


More info. 


Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society



Rose Society

Date: April 13

Time: 2pm

Location: The Royal Botanical Gardens Centre, Room #3, Hamilton, ON

Speaker: Carol Warkentin

Topic: How to grow roses under lights.


Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society



Plant Sale

Date: April 13

Time: 1-4pm

Panayoti Kelaidis - "Great Gardens of Northern and Central Europe"

After the break, Diana Pooke will present the Members' Showcase: "Thugs in the Garden".

Location: Floral Hall at the Toronto Botanical Garden, 777 Lawrence Ave. East. Toronto


Low-Maintenance Gardening by Dan Cooper



Dan Cooper

Guest Speaker: Dan Cooper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'

Everyone welcome.


Date: April 14

Time: 7:30-9:30pm

Location: 43 Pelham Town Square, Fonthill Branch of Pelham Library, Fonthill, Ontario



Date: April 18

Time: 7:30-9:00pm

Location: Chedoke Presbyterian Church, Hamilton, Ontario




Date: April 21

Time: 1:15-3pm

Location: Albert McCormick Arena, 500 Parkside Drive, Waterloo, Ontario



Date: April 23

Time: 8:00-9:30pm

Location: Royal Canadian Legion, 105 Industrial Pkwy North, Aurora, Ontario



Brandon Garden Club



Date: April 16

Time: 7pm

Location: Don Glen Hall, 311 Park Ave. E., Brandon, MB

"Naturescaping" growing a garden from the ground up - Kelly Liebseit

More info.


Butchart Gardens

Vancouver Island, BC 


Easter Bunny Hunt

Date: April 18-21

Times: 9am-5pm

Kids can pick up a handout at the admission gate. Find all the ceramic bunnies throughout the gardens, mark them on your sheet and redeem your completed map for an Easter treat at the Information Centre.

More info.


MacLeans Home Hardware Presents

Exeter, Ontario  


Latest & Greatest for your Garden with Mark Cullen


Join me at this great event.


Date: Tuesday, April 22

Time: Doors open at 6:30pm

Location: South Huron Recreation Centre


Tickets are $12 in advance at South Huron Welcome Centre, MacLeans Home Hardware and any Communities in Bloom member.

$15 at the door


More info. 


Bobcaygeon & District Horticultural Society



Date: April 22

Location: Bobcaygeon and Surroundings

Event: Earth Day Celebrations


More info. 


North Bay Horticultural Society meeting



Date: April 22

Time: 7pm

Location: Christ Church, 890 Vimy Street

Please join our general meeting.  After our meeting and social, our guest speakers from Board's Honey Farm will speak about "The Importance of Bees in Our Gardens".


More info.


African Violet Society of Canada

2014 Convention, Ontario  


Date: April 23 -26

Location: Westlin Prince Hotel, 900 York Mills Rd. Toronto


See and purchase beautiful African violets and Gesneriads grown by experts from across Canada and the world.

Open to the public April 25: 2-5pm and April 26: 9-noon and 1-4pm

To register for the convention, visit www.avsc.ca


Utopia Gristmill Restoration Fund



Join me at this great event. 


All proceeds go directly to the restoration of the old Mill.


Date: April 24

Time: 7pm reception

Ticket price: $20

Location: Utopia Hall, 8396 6th Line, Utopia, ON


Join us for a Bloomin' Great Evening with Mark Cullen.


Book your tickets early for this very special evening or gardening and community.


Order by calling 877-499-HALL or visit www.utopiahall.ca


Green Living Show

Toronto, Ontario    


Date: April 25-27

Location: Direct Energy Centre, Toronto


Over 400 exhibitors with thousands of products, services, food, innovation and more - all designed to help promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle year-round.


More info.


Royal Botanical Garden Member's Mulch Day

Hamilton, Ontario    


Date: April 26


Time: 8am-3pm


Members! Help yourselves to our mulch - a small donation offsets the cost of providing this opportunity.  Bring your own containers, shovel or scoop and your membership card as this event is exclusive to RBG members.

More info.


Nifty Nag Derby & Dinner

Beausejour, Manitoba   


Beausejour Daylily Gardens

Date: April 26


300 Veterans lane, Beausejeour, Manitoba

Fun filled evening for the whole family. Advanced seating sales only.

Fundraiser for the Beausejour Daylily Gardens

More info.