April 2015
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
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A Wild Ride


When Mary and I moved to the 'country' 10 years ago I had a dream of creating a 10 acre garden of colour.  Over-the-top, overflowing and eye popping colour.  Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds would visit in numbers that would make me stop in my tracks, look up and take notice of the natural world around me to a greater degree than I had ever experienced before.


I would start my garden plan with a simple notion: I would plant 2,000 daffodil bulbs each autumn until I was 'done'.  With no idea of what that meant (exactly) I began in the fall of 2004 with my first tronch of bulbs.  I had seen similar displays of flowering daffodils and their cousins the narcissus in London, England.  While visiting in early spring, I saw masses of them planted in Green Park in front of Buckingham palace and I thought to myself, "If they can do it, I can do it too."  

Naturalizing Daffodils 

Many varieties of daffodils and narcissus come back year after year.  They can actually improve in flower count each season as existing bulbs become stronger.  This is what we call 'naturalizing' and it works like a charm in every part of Canada up to zone 2 (way north of Edmonton). 


I am now in my 10th year of my bulb planting and I am delighted to report that this is one plan that has exceeded my expectations.  I can't say that is true for all of my garden schemes, but that is another story.  As you can see by this picture, I have lots of daffodils and narcissus in my 10 acre garden.  The count is up to 20,000 original bulbs, many of which have multiplied.  So I lost count of the actual number of flowers a long time ago.  

Perhaps it is a coincidence that the daffodil is the symbol used by the Canadian Cancer Society to launch their annual fund raising and awareness campaign.  A 'coincidence' as I had no idea the day that I hatched my daffodil planting scheme that my father would pass away 2 years later of pancreatic cancer. 


Or that I would have my own experience with prostate cancer in 2013. 


Or that my very good friend Hugh Beaty would be diagnosed with lung cancer. Hugh is the 97 year old D Day War vet with whom I shared a trip to Juno Beach in 2013 on the 69th anniversary of D Day.  Our trip inspired a book that we wrote together about his life entitled 'Extra Ordinary'.


As I reflect on the symbolic importance of the April daffodil and the impact that cancer has had on my life in recent years, I think about you and all of my readers who have been impacted by cancer in one way or another.  I am sure that just about all of us have known individuals whose lives have been affected by this disease. 

Cancer is big.


And it is a disease that we have learned to both live with and live in hope that we will one day live without it.  Our hope for a cancer-free future springs from the many inroads that the medical community have made against cancer in recent years. 


Which brings me nicely to my decision to roll up my pant leg and do my part.  On June 13 and 14, I am riding in the Toronto to Niagara bike ride to conquer cancer to benefit the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  Not only that, but I am joining three of my kids and my son in law (whose mother is currently battling cancer) on the ride. 


The ride is a two day event, covers about 200 km and involves camping out in a tent and sleeping on the ground.  Don't worry about me, I will be all right.  I have, after all, missed a few nights sleep for less worthy causes. 


Would you consider sponsoring me?  Tell you what, if you donate $25 or more I will send you a 'thank you'.  I will put a copy of my gardening book in the mail to you, 'Canadian Lawn & Garden Secrets'

Lawn & Garden Secrets

OR a copy of the book that I wrote about Hugh, 'Extra Ordinary'.  

Click here to make a donation and then send your  mailing address to my assistant Brenda by email ([email protected]) and she will put the book of your choice in the mail at no additional cost to you.  

If you donate $50 or more I will send you four packets of my garden seeds along with the book of your choice. 


Please note that you will only receive the books/seeds if you email Brenda, after you have made your donation online on my page To Conquer Cancer


This is my way of saying 'thank you' for your commitment to conquer cancer.  And a reminder to give some fresh cut daffodils to someone that you love and care about this month.  

Things To Do in your Garden in April:


1. Sow your tomato seeds.  Many other veggie and flower seeds should be sown in the month of April.  What a great way to save money and enjoy the experience of 'sow-to-grow' in your own garden.  Go to http://markcullen.com/library/a-seedy-pastime/ for a detailed list of seeds and when to start them indoors.

2. Look for the Mark's Choice seed selection of 8 premium vegetables at Home Hardware.  I have tested every one of them extensively in my own garden and I can vouch for the tremendous garden performance of each.  And flavour!

3. Look for my mid-April food-newsletter in your inbox.  April 15th. 

4. Sow directly into your garden as soon as the soil can be worked: carrots, lettuce, radishes, all 'cole' crops (gassy vegetables like broccoli and cabbage), peas, arugula, beets, and Swiss Chard.


5. Rake your lawn lightly with a fan rake.   Get the grass blades to stand up but don't wreck your back doing this.   (watch the video)

6. Fertilize your lawn with Golfgreen Iron Plus.  I am very excited about this new Canadian-made product.  I believe that it is the most sophisticated lawn food on the consumer market.  This year we put ten times the amount of iron in each bag.  

We made sure that the iron (in chelated form) would be absorbed readily and quickly by your lawn to green it up fast.  In fact, Golfgreen Iron Plus is guaranteed to provide a visibly greener lawn in 72 hours or your money back. Wow!  And it still contains the famous slow-release nitrogen formula. Available at Home Hardware.


7. Plant trees, shrubs, evergreens and roses (later in the month).  Fact is, if the plant is winter hardy and has not just come out of a greenhouse, where it became soft and frost sensitive, all dormant plant material will survive and thrive in April planting, even if there is frost in your area.

8. Don't work the soil over or even walk on it until it has dried to the extent that you do not leave the impression of your boot when you walk on it.  Let it thaw and heal before you put your heel on it (see how I did that?)


9. Clean out bird nesting boxes.  I cleaned mine out last weekend and found this wonderful surprise!  Can you identify these? 


10. Clean bird feeders and get ready late in April to feed the hummingbirds. You can track their appearance in your area by visiting www.hummingbirds.net/map.


Celebrate the official arrival of spring and the 'new life' that it represents by sponsoring my Ride to Conquer Cancer.


Talk to you in 2 weeks....



Merchant of Beauty



p.s. Be sure to join me in Wasaga Beach April 8th for a very special day.  I will be at Beach Builders Supplies Home Hardware Building Centre at 4pm for a Meet & Greet.  

I will also be at the Lighthouse Church from 7-8pm, for my presentation 'Mark's Secrets to the Best Lawn & Garden'.  This great gardening event is hosted by the Wasaga Beach Garden Club.  Come and meet gardeners and learn.  Lots of prizes and money raised for local charity.  More info. 


p.s.s. I'm happy to report that my 'Spring Gardening' videos series for the Toronto Star will be available online this month.  Check out www.thestar.com on April 13 to view the videos.


p.s.s. Have you checked out my new balanced, 7 cu. ft. wheelbarrow?  

Amazing.  The best ever.


Available exclusively at Home Hardware, of course.



Harrowsmith's Gardening Digest 

The Harrowsmith Gardening Digest is hot off the press and I am delighted with it!  


192 pages of gardening info is packed into this handy tome.  As the 'gardening editor' I am pleased to see it here just in time for the spring gardening season.  


Look for it on magazine book racks, Home Hardware and on line.  Only $4.95 a copy.  Good investment in this year's garden!


Click here to subscribe to Harrowsmith's Almanac and Harrowsmith's Gardening Digest, and you'll receive digital versions of these two issues FREE!


I'm giving away 10 copies of the 2015 Harrowsmith's Gardening Digest.

I'm also giving away 5 other prizes of 4 packets of Mark's Choice garden seeds each. 

($8 value)


(photo by: Kathleen Hamstra)


Let's call this the '2nd Annual 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 6, 2015

Product of the Month
Golfgreen Iron Plus

The new Golfgreen Iron Plus is an exclusive formula to Home Hardware.

With 10 times the amount of iron in our previous formula the greening effect on your lawn is extraordinarily fast. 


The chelated 'form' of iron in the new Golfgreen is such that your lawn will take it up efficiently and effectively.  Not all forms of iron are so easily 'ingested' by grass plants!  And my new iron formula does not stain patios, decks or any hard surfaces as other forms of iron can. 


The addition of trace minerals, such as magnesium, allows for increased nutrient uptake.  These trace minerals are often deficient in many lawns.

The new Golfgreen Iron Plus still contains a slow release nitrogen formula for a greener lawn, longer.  The sulphur coated urea in the new Golfgreen releases nitrogen for up to an 8 week period as temperatures rise, rain falls and microbial activity in the soil increases.


It is my view that Golfgreen Iron Plus is the most sophisticated lawn fertilizer formula on the consumer market in Canada.

The new Golfgreen Iron plus is the only fertilizer that I use.  And for several good reasons! 

It is made in Canada too. 

(HH item# 5024-512)

Birding with Kids 

Kids love birds - or at least I did when I was a kid. I think it's safe to say, though, that most kids have some sort of interest and as parents, now is your time to take advantage of their curious minds.


Feeders filled with seed are a great way to bring birds close enough to watch but don't forget the orioles.  You can attract orioles throughout the summer using oranges and just as I was putting this little blurb together, an email came through that I thought would be an excellent project for you and/or the kids.  It's easy, fun, and sure to bring 'round the orioles.  


Check out Audubon's kid-friendly Oriole feeder and be sure to scroll through the comments for a few more ideas. 

Stay in Touch 

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 

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.


The Butchart Gardens
British Columbia

Spring is an exciting time at The Gardens. Come witness thousands of flowering bulbs, shrubs and trees bursting forth. It's the perfect time to take in fresh colours and to breathe refreshing scents.


More info. www.butchartgardens.com

Montreal Botanical Garden


Butterflies Go Free


Step into the Main Exhibition Greenhouse, where a veritable ballet of softly shimmering colours awaits you. As you stroll through the space you can admire these splendid creatures - if you're lucky, one might even land on you. 


Youngsters are sure to have stars in their eyes as they follow the butterflies' aerial ballet, while their parents will enjoy observing them up close and admiring the intricate details of their scales. (until April 26, 2015)


More info.

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Nova Scotia
Historic Gardens Winter Farmers Market

Dates: Saturday mornings Until May 9, 2015

Time: 9am-12noon

Join us at the Historic Gardens every Saturday morning for the Annapolis Royal Winter Farmers Market season.

Coffee, baked goods, fish, meat, produce, preserves, and the list goes on!

More info.

Peterborough Garden Show


Peterborough Garden Show

Date: April 2-4

Location: Evinrude Centre. 911 Monaghan Road, Peterborough


The Peterborough Horticultural Society and the Peterborough and Northumberland Master Gardeners are "not-for-profit" organizations of passionate volunteers who host the garden show to raise money so we can gladly give it back to our community.


More info.

VanDusen Botanical Garden

Vancouver, BC


Great A-Mazing Egg Hunt 2015


Date:April 4 and 5


Bring your family to our 7th annual Easter egg hunt.

Hunt for eggs in the garden with special areas for children ages 2 to 4, 5 to 8, and 9 to 12 years. Interact with animals at the CinemaZoo exhibit, decorate a clay pot, and plant carrots to take home. Meet the Easter Bunny, enjoy chocolate treats, and much more! The event runs rain or shine. Buy your tickets online today 

Muttart Conservatory

Edmonton, AB



Easter Egg-stravaganza

Date: April 5

Time: noon-4pm

Cost: Regular Admission

Celebrate Easter Sunday at the Muttart conservatory!  Get your face painted, jump over to an Easter craft and hop through the pyramids for an Easter scavenger hunt!

More info.
Fifth Annual Barker Lecture

Climate and your Garden


Date: April 7

Location: McConaghy Senior's Centre. 10100 Yonge St., Richmond Hill

Time: 8:00pm

Gardeners have an avid interest in forecasts of weather conditions, particularly those proffered by the friendly Spokesperson for Environment Canada's Meteorological Services.

David Phillips will be speaking at the Richmond Hill Garden and Horticultural Society's monthly meeting. David predicts that the weather in our future is not going to look like the past, and he will recommend we plan accordingly. For example, in a warmer future, we can anticipate new cultivars here in Southern Ontario!

More info.

Join Me in Wasaga Beach

Date: April 8

Time: 4-6pm

Location: Beach Builders Supplies Home Hardware Building Centre


Time: 6:30-8pm

Location: Lighthouse Church

Presentation: Mark's Secrets to the Best Lawn & Garden


More info.

Plant Paradise Country Gardens - Workshops   


Dividing Perennials Workshop & "A Taste of Maple"

Date: Saturday April 11, 2015

Time: 10:00am

Cost: $10.00

As part of the Hills of Headwaters Tourism Association's 'Taste of Maple' event series, Plant Paradise Country Gardens presents a Dividing Perennials Workshop with coffee, tea and maple inspired desserts available afterwards. Then join Lorraine Roberts for a hike through the trails of the Sugar Maple forest at Plant Paradise Country Gardens.


Sensational Shade Perennials Workshop

Date: Saturday April 18, 2015 

Time: 10:00am

Cost: $10.00

Horticulturist, Lorraine Roberts, will demonstrate how to create a sensational shade garden with great plant selections.


Pruning - How, Why & When with Frank Kershaw

Date: Saturday April 25, 2015 

Time: 10:00am

Cost: $10.00


More Info

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

Registration is required for all workshops. Come out and be inspired!

Streetsville Horticultural Society


Date: April 14

Time: 7-9:30pm

Location: 2630 Inlake Court, Community Center

Speaker: Marshall Rodgers

Topic: Battling the Emerald Ash Borer

Plus refreshments and draw prizes

More info.

Sarnia Horticultural Society



Date: April 15

Time: 7pm

Location: DeGroot's Nurseries Green Room

Guest Speaker: Jenn Plaus

Topic: The Exciting World of Plant Propagation

Free admission.  Everyone welcome.

More info. Contact Barb Toye 519-332-5837

Low-Maintenance Gardening Presentations


Dan Cooper

Speaker: Dan Cooper

London Fanshawe Horticultural Society

Date: April 16

Time: 7-9pm

Location: Siloam United Church. 1240 Fanshawe Road East

Contact: Ann Larkin, 519-433-6261


East Gwillimbury Gardeners

Date: April 21

Time: 7-9pm

Location: Mount Albert Community Centre, Main Street

Contact: Anne Hill, 905-478-8450


Region of Waterloo's Water Efficiency Program

Date: April 26

Time: 2:30pm

Location: Evergreen Centre, 683 Woolwick St., Guelph

Contact: Aileen Barclay, 905-686-8706

The Nepean Horticultural Society



Date: April 19

Time: 7:30pm

Location: City View United Church, 6 Epworth Avenue

Guest Speaker: Diane McClymont-Peace

Topic: Annuals from A-Z

Everyone welcome.  Non-members $4.  Light Refreshments.

More info. 613-721-2048

Ontario Rock Garden & Hardy Plant Society


Plant Sale

Date: April 19

Time: 12:30-4:00pm

Location: Toronto Botanical Garden.

April meeting featuring Marion Jarvie and Members' Plant Sale.

More info.

The Blenheim-Harwich Horticultural Society



Date: April 20

Time: 7:30pm

Guest Speaker: Marilou Demaeyer.  A specialist on butterflies, especially the monarchs.

Come and learn all about one of the most intricate members of our gardens.

Location: 69 Ellen Street, Basement meeting room, Trinity Anglican Church. Blenheim, ON

More info. Contact Terri Dent 519-354-8320

Whitby in Bloom and Brooklin Horticultural Society


Whitby In Bloom

Date: April 22

Time: 7:30pm

Location: Brooklin United Church. 19 Cassels Road East

Speaker: Vicki Taylor-Scott

Topic: Containers, breaking the mold

In lieu of a fee, non-perishable food items will be collected for local good banks.

Register in advance to reserve your spot.

Sherwood Public Library  



Date: April 18

Time: 1:30pm

Location: Sherwood Public Library, 467 Upper Ottawa St., Hamilton, ON, 905-546-3249

Topic: "How to" Green Your Garden, Lose the Lawn!

Green Your Garden, Lose the Lawn.  Our gardening expert Janine Bleecker, Rooted Landscape Design Inc. will share her gardening tips, pictures and ideas on how to make your garden thrive!  Bring your friends and your gardening questions to this informative session.


Date: April 21

Time: 10:30

Topic: "How to" be a Lazy Gardener"........ and Have a Beautiful Garden at the same time!

Join us for an informal talk on easy inexpensive ways to cut down on your gardening chores.  We'll give you lots of tips on how you can sit back and admire your Garden this summer!


Date: April 23

Time: 6:30-8pm

Topic: "How to Look after your Orchid"  AND get it to Bloom again!

Learn lots of tips from our expert from the Orchid Society at our information table. 

Location: Sherwood Public Library, 467 Upper Ottawa St., Hamilton, ON. 905-546-3249


More info.

Grand Bend & Area Horticultural Society


Date: April 27

Time: 7pm

Location: Grand Bend Legion

Guest speaker: Cynthia Cook - Forest Glen Herb Farm

Topic: All About Herbs (Sachets, dips and much more)

Please join us at our monthly meeting.  Refreshments and draw prizes.


More info.

The Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society


Rose Society

Date: April 26

Time: 2pm

Location: RBG. 680 Plains Road West, Burlington.  Rooms 3 & 4

Speaker: Lindsay Wilcox (active member, researcher and enthusiast rose grower)

Topic: Old Garden Roses

Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting.  No entrance nor parking fees.

More info.

North York Garden Club


Date: April 27

Time: 7-8pm

Location: 3200 Bayview Avenue. St. Luke's Lutheran Church

Speaker: Dave Naylor

Topic: Winter Hardy Succulents and Cacti

Come and be fascinated and awed by the wonderful hardy plants that can be grown in our backyards.