August 2015
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
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I Never Water...


I am doing something right now that I very seldom do: watering the garden.

As I write this my trusty Mark's Choice sprinkler is rattling away outside of my office window, soaking down some pretty dry plant specimens which will rise tomorrow morning looking like a million bucks.


I am not an advocate of applying water to the garden generally.  It must be pretty hot and dry before I resort to this.  But today is one of those days: the first in more than two years.  It has been over two weeks since we received a measurable amount of rain and therein is my defense.  

I am not watering my lawn and I don't plan to, regardless of how dry it might get.  

Canada is one of the best places in the world to grow grass: that is one reason why we have so many golf courses and great looking parks. 

Truth is, your lawn is made up of a combination of grass varieties that are designed to withstand mild drought. 


Today my lawn is slowly yawning its way into dormancy: it is a 'cool crop' as they say in the business.  It thrives in cool, damp weather. This explains the remarkable surge of growth each spring.  When it gets hot and dry its defence is to slow down and go to sleep.  Sometimes, if a drought is long enough, grass does not bounce back.  I deploy some lawn soil and quality grass seed come mid August in that case and off we go to the races once again.


The heavy dew of August and the cooler evening temperatures are perfect for grass seed germination.  Just about every golf course and sod grower in the country sows the majority of their grass seed between mid August and late September.  I recommend Golfgreen grass seed with Surestart Xtreme.  Look for the package with my ugly mug on it, only at Home Hardware (other stores use paid models).  

Get Thirsty

Back to the garden for a moment: there are markers in my garden that tell me when the soil is deeply dry.  

The cimicifuga, dogwoods and dahlias hang their leaves and branches in a pout when they are dry to the bottom of their feeding roots.  This is my cue to start watering. And when I do, I leave the sprinkler on for a couple of hours to make sure that the water percolates deep into the soil.  Then I leave them alone for a couple more weeks and if there is no rain I water once again. 


The reason why I need to water very seldom is deep roots.  The less that I water and the more deeply that I water the deeper the roots.  Truth is, you can train your garden plants to need water by applying it too often. Plants can become water-holics.  The more that you water them, the more that they need it.  Short blasts of water every few days causes roots to get lazy: why go deep looking for moisture when all the water you need is up near the surface?  Your garden can be a trained flea circus and you the ring leader.


Me?  I would rather swing in the hammock and let my plants drive deep roots looking for moisture.  I will add water when things are looking pretty thirsty but I resist the temptation until then. 


One more thing: deeply rooted plants are better equipped to survive our long Canadian winter.  One other more thing: during a drought is not a good time to fertilize your lawn.  Save that until it is growing actively in August and use Golfgreen Iron plus... amazing results, I guarantee!  Only at Home Hardware.  "It is all that I use on my lawn" End of commercial.  But I would not say it if it were not true.  

Lost my Buddy Hugh


I am sorry to report that my buddy (and yours, if you knew him or read his book) passed away on July 20th.  Hugh Beaty was the WW II vet, D Day vet and a founder of SHARE Agricultural Foundation  that I wrote a biography for just last year.  

He was a very special guy.  With over 250 people at his funeral on a hot July Saturday it was clear that he had a wide circle of influence.  He sure knew how to spread love around and was one of the most deeply caring people that I have ever met. 

Read his obituary here.

And to donate in his memory, he asked us to donate to his pet charity,

Things To Do in your garden in August:


The peak of garden performance is the first week of August.  That is to say, that most gardens look their best right now.


Within a month flowers go to seed, seed attracts foraging birds, days shorten, temperatures drop and all in all the hectic 'growth period' comes to a close while the 'harvest' takes over. 


It is all so predictable and just the way that Mother Nature planned it.  We just have to go with the flow and follow her lead. 


- Stop fertilizing permanent plants.  Perennials, shrubs, roses, trees and the like cannot make practical use of fertilizer that is applied after early August.  If you are inclined to fertilize these plants, better do it this weekend. 

- Keep fertilizing.... Tomatoes, annuals.  All of the plants that will die this fall benefit from regular feeding through the balance of the season.  I use Plant Prod 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer on my container plants every couple of weeks. I use rain water from my barrels, when they are full (which is certainly not today).


- Weed.  If you followed my advice and kept on top of your weeding in June and early July you will have noticed that they are slowing down.  So can you!  Weed when they raise their ugly heads but otherwise read a good book and enjoy a cool drink.

Sow your last carrots, leaf lettuce, mesclun mix, radishes, bush beans and beets for a late fall harvest.

- Put some stakes on.  Support your tall growing perennials like the giant rudbeckias, coneflowers, hydrangea (with their heavy flowering heads), etc.  I recommend 'link stakes' (a Mark's Choice product at Home Hardware) to make the job easy, invisible and re-useable for many years.


- Plant.  Yes, you can plant in the heat of summer: perennials, shrubs, evergreens... virtually all of the plants that you plant in spring are available now (though the selection is not the same) but you do need to water more frequently.  I found a great deal on perennials that had reached their peak at a local Home Hardware garden centre (a Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centre!)   Chances are good that you will find discounted plants at your local garden retailer right now.


- Relax.  I am not going to make anything up just so you have a long list of stuff to do. Truth is you have worked hard for this break.  August is the month that gardeners take extra time to relax, sit back, read, enjoy a drink and a visit with your favourite family and friends.....and observe the changes taking place right before your eyes.


My hummingbirds are back, the butterflies are hatching from cocoons, fireflies light up the evening air and bats are swooshing overhead gobbling up mosquitoes.  

Enjoy the Half Time Show 

If ever there is a month when all is right with the world, August must be it.  Soak it in. 


Your garden will never look better: plants are blossoming, bugs are mating, birds are singing.  Frogs are croaking (in a good way) and crickets will very soon be cricking. 


As Hugh would often say, "What a wonderful world."    


I look forward to connecting with you August 15th when I send my Food Gardening newsletter.


Keep your knees dirty,



Merchant of Beauty  

You will 'Like' this Contest 

This month, I'm inviting you to submit a photo of your favourite flower in your garden.

I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.

5 winners will receive a pair of Mark's Choice hand pruners and a copy of the Harrowsmith Gardening Digest.


Email one photo to  


Winners will be determined by the number of 'likes' a photo receives on my facebook page.


Encourage your friends and family to 'vote' for your photo to increase your chance of winning.


(deadline for entry is August 7, 2015.  Voting closes August 10, 2015)

Contest Winners

Last month we gave away 10 pairs of Mark's Choice hand pruners.

Congratulations to the 10 winners who were chosen randomly from all photo entries.


Thank you to everyone who shared a photo.  I really enjoyed peaking into your private gardens.

You can view the photos here.
Product of the Month 

Mark's Choice Knee Pads


I often say 'keep your knees dirty', and I mean it partly in jest.  I can't count the number of blue jeans that I have worn through at the knees.


I've tried many knee pads without satisfaction, generally because they are too big and bulky, and they allow dirt in from the top.


The Mark's Choice nylon knee pads have been torture tested on my own knees for many hours.  I recommend them for people who want to protect their knees from injury and their pants from wearing out prematurely.


The pads don't have any excess padding because there is enough natural padding from the soil and the lawn.  And, as requested, the top of the pad seals out dirt.  They are light, easy to put on and take off while wearing gloves and they are washable!

Exclusive to Home Hardware. (item# 1010-270)

Bumblebee Watch


A collaborative effort to track and conserve North America's bumble bees.

Register today at to:

-  Upload your photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection

-  Identify the bumble bees in your photos and have your identifications verified by experts

-  Help determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees

-  Help locate rare and endangered populations

-  Learn about bumble bees, their ecology, and ongoing conservation efforts, and

-  Connect with other citizen scientists.

More info.

What is a Rain Garden? 


A rain garden is a garden designed specifically to collect rain water from a roof, driveway or patio and help divert it away from the storm sewer system.


Rain gardens look just like regular gardens but have unique design features and contain specific native plants suited to our weather and climate.


The Benefits of Rain Gardens:

-          They help protect against flooding

-          They work to keep our water clean

-          They make an attractive landscape feature

-          They require very little maintenance.


Why install a rain garden? Stormwater run-off is a major source of water pollution entering creeks, streams and lakes from cities and towns.  Rain gardens help mimic the natural water cycle and minimize the amount of water entering traditional stormwater sewers.


(source: Lake Simcoe Region conservation authority)

More info.

Stay in Touch 


Check out Mark Cullen Gardening on YouTube for 'How To videos to help with your lawn & garden.


Watch my weekly segment on CTV Canada AM with Jeff.  Every Wednesday, between 8:30 and 9:00am.  If you miss a segment, watch them online.


My weekly newspaper column can be found online at The Toronto Star.


Follow my daily Tweets on Twitter (@MarkCullen4)


Listen to my weekly gardening tip 'The Green File'.  I post a new audio clip every Wednesday.


Follow my daily postings on my Facebook page.


I encourage you to visit My Library to search for great gardening information.

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 with the subject line 'Newsletter Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.


Events from West Coast to East Coast :

The Butchart Gardens
Brentwood Bay, BC

Warm days make for perfect picnics and warm nights are entertaining in The Gardens. 

Gourmet Picks are presented in our wicker basket with a checkered tablecloth, white linen napkins and stainless steel cutlery. You are welcome to sit at a table, or on the lawn.   Reservations are strongly recommended.

Dates: Saturdays in August

Time: 4:30-9:00pm

More info. 
Garden Party & Tour
Langley, BC

Date: August 8

Time: 11am-4pm

Location: Michaud Heritage House, 5202-204th St. Langley, BC

Tea and scones, Live entertainment, Healthy Gardening display


More info. 
Victoria Dahlia Society
Victoria, BC

69th Annual Show

Date: August 29-30

Location: West Shore Town Centre, 2945 Jacklin Road, Victoria


Hundreds of blooms will be on display at the peak of the dahlia growing season.  The show features the entire gamut of dahlia forms including rare and exclusive varieties, ranging from two inch miniatures to giant blooms over twelve inches in diameter.

More info. 

Muttart Conservatory

Edmonton, AB


Muttart Conservatory

Concerts at the Conservatory: Summer Roots

Date: August 27

Time: 6-8pm

Enjoy the pyramids in a tranquil atmosphere before taking in the music of local musician Anna Beamont and her Choir at Center Court inside the Muttart Conservatory.

More info.

Giant Flower and Edible Show

Nepean, ON

Hosted by Ottawa Valley Rock Garden and Horticultural Society (OVRGHS) and Nepean Horticultural Society (NHS).


Date: August 15

Time: 1-4pm

Location: City View United Church, 6 Epworth Avenue, Nepean

We encourage members of the public to come and see the results of local gardeners at this major flower show.  There are always surprising and beautiful flowers, plants, designs and vegetables in the carefully arranged presentation of a flower show.

More info. 
Saugeen Stone Festival
Southampton, Ontario

Dates: August 15, 16 & 17, 2015

Location: 6418 Highway 21 Chippewa Hill (Saugeen First Nation)


Witness the creation of an iron age stone roundhouse built by the Saugeen Amphitheatre Drystone Crew and their international walling guests. It will be a celebration of stone, arts, crafts, the environment and community.


Festival activities will include

Live music. Local artisans, presentations and workshops, children's activities, Food Vendors.

The second Canadian National Drystone Walling Competition.

Two Day Dry Stone Walling Course, August 15 - 16 taught by certified DSWA GB Instructors.

Two Day Stone Carving Course, August 15 - 16, Taught by Master Stone Carver Nicholas Fairplay.

$300.00 for either course which includes lunch and a shirt. ($250 for Landscape Ontario & First Nation Members)

More info.
Old Markham Village Edible Tree Tour
Markham, ON 

Date: August 16

Time: 2-4pm

Location: Maple Street & Markham Street, Markham, ON

Meet by the shed in the community garden, just east of Franklin Public School.

Join us as we uncover delectable treats in unexpected places on this stroll through Old Markham Village.  We'll visit a community garden with a fascinating past, taste some urban forest edibles and learn about food-related programs you can get involved with across the Region.

Registration recommended.

More info.

Montreal Botanical Garden 



All About Trees - A Guided Tour

Dates: every day in August

Time: 1-5pm

Take time to connect with nature slowly, with eyes closed, wide open or glued to a magnifying glass, let yourself be guidd by a nature interpreter in a tete-a-tete with the trees.

More info.

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens

Nova Scotia  

Historic Gardens

Acadian Kitchen Party

Date: August 4

Time: 5-8pm

Plan to visit the Historic Gardens on August 4 for the the fourth annual Acadian Kitchen Party, held in the shady surroundings of the Acadian House.

Tickets: $25 (Children 7-12 pay half price, and under 6, free.

The Acadian Kitchen Party is a wonderful cultural event that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

More info.