September 2015
Mark Cullen e-newsletter
Gardening with Mark
In This Issue



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GMO or What?
Welcome to 'harvest month'.  September is a month of dramatic change in the garden.  The hummingbirds that move like shooting stars around my house will be gone in 30 days.  
My tropical plants will be tucked into the greenhouse.  And the sweet corn? We will be on the home stretch (those of us lucky enough to enjoy it grown locally).  
Which brings me to two frequently asked questions that I often have trouble with: What is a GMO plant?  What is a hybrid?  
These questions are difficult to answer, largely because the answer is complex and rooted in science.  When it is your job to filter out the fluff and the language that gets in the way of common understanding, as is mine, my filter gets clogged on this one.
Along comes Guy Farintosh, owner of a fresh food and pick-your-own market Farintosh Farms near Markham,  Ontario.  He writes a wonderful blog and this one caught my eye.  Guy is my brother-in-law.  We have always said that his 2nd calling could have been as an English professor, his knowledge and use of the language is that good.  
Guy's Blog

"I grew my first crop of sweet corn in 1972; a variety called "Golden Bantam", that had been around since 1903.
Discovered by a farmer in Massachusetts, it was the first yellow sweet corn variety that bridged the gap between feed corn for animals and something that would be enjoyed by people.
Golden Bantam was (and is; it's still available from some seed suppliers) an open pollinated variety, meaning that it reproduces true from seed year after year.
Although many of our older customers suggest that Golden Bantam was the best sweet corn ever, I would suggest that their misty water-coloured memories are flawed. The variety has neither the tenderness nor the sweetness of modern day sweet corn offerings. It displays a chewiness and flavour that was enjoyed by many back in the day, but again, doesn't compare favourably to present day hybrids.
So what is a hybrid?
In its simplest form, a hybrid is developed by crossing two parents with individual desired qualities to create a new variety with both of the desired characteristics present.
When a female horse is crossed with a male donkey, a mule is created, combining the hardiness of a donkey with the size and strength of a horse.
Similarly, when sweet corn breeders wanted increased tenderness and sweetness, they crossed two sweet corn parents with these qualities present. When a yellow variety and a white variety of sweet corn are crossed with each other, a bicolour variety may very well be the result (Peaches and Cream is but one of many bicolour varieties).
This is a gross over-simplification, and yet this is textbook classical plant or animal breeding. It has gone on for centuries; however the hybrid concept really came to the fore in the 1930's, especially in field corn breeding.
This is where the confusion creeps in for a lot of people, who figure that any new, improved variety has been genetically modified.
Genetic modification involves insertion or deletion of genes in a lab between organisms that could not be conventionally bred in the field. The reason this is done is to create resistance to certain herbicides or insect pests. Field corn, soybeans and cotton are the most widely grown G.M. crops. 
They are often referred to as "Frankenfoods" for obvious reasons.
As most of you know, the practice is highly controversial. Europe has an outright ban on all G.M. crops. A large part of the problem, as myself and many other farmers see it, is that consumers were never made aware of the benefits of G.M. crops before they were introduced. Many highly toxic pesticides that were widely used by most farmers are no longer needed, due to the introduction of rootworm resistant field corn, for instance.
That said, rest assured that we grow absolutely no genetically modified vegetables on our farm.
There is a G.M. sweet corn that is resistant to corn earworms, but we don't grow it. There are also G.M. tomatoes and peppers; again, we don't grow them.
Any new variety of vegetable that we grow has been created the old-fashioned way: through classical plant breeding, because that is what you want and that is what we would prefer to grow.
Un-modified near Markham,
National Tree Day
September 23 (a Wednesday) is National Tree Day.  Provide an enhanced life for future generations and plant a tree.  You will clean the air, produce oxygen, filter toxins out of rain water and have some living woody tissue that your grand children can hang a rope and a tire on. 

If you don't plant a tree be sure to hug one.
Visit this website for a list of activities.
Things To Do in your Garden: 

Remember last month when I said that August was YOUR month to sit, absorb the beauty of your efforts and enjoy the peek month for colour in your garden?  Well that was then. 
Welcome to September.   It is time to harvest, prune, compost and more.....
- Prune This is the best month to prune cedar hedges (though any month will do) as one last surge of growth will occur about mid month that will soften the look and fill in bare patches.  Prune all summer flowering shrubs, boxwood, yews and junipers.

- Sow grass seed and fertilize I applied Golfgreen Iron Plus to my lawn last Sunday (8 bags of the stuff).  I am expecting 60 Home Hardware dealers for a party mid month and guess what - my lawn is going to look FABULOUS.  If you want a fabulous looking lawn too, go apply Golfgreen Iron Plus now (a Home Hardware exclusive).  Fall application of Fall lawn fertilizer is for mid October through November. 
  • Sow grass seed now.  The cool evening temperatures (have you noticed?  I am wearing my flannels to bed these nights...) and heavy morning dew makes for the very very([two 'very's in case you miss the point the first time) best time of year to grow new grass.  This is why ALL Canadian golf courses and sod farmers sow grass seed this time of year.  The earlier in September the better.
- Harvest.  Pick tomatoes, peppers, squash - you name it - as they become ripe and enjoy.  Consider pickling your cucumbers or cozying up to someone  who is a good pickler, as I do.  I grow it: Mary prepares it for the table.  This is a deal that works for us. 

- Compost.  As you begin pulling out spent annuals and cutting down some straggly perennials etc. be sure to put all of that good raw material in your compost bin or pile.  Natural, soft plant parts (and whole plants for that matter) rot down in the nicest way to become the best possible addition to your garden soil.  Start now, if you don't compost, as fallen leaves will come soon enough (can't believe that I just said that).  Fallen leaves are, of course, your #1 resource for great compost.

- Plant fall flowering.... Mums, asters, sedums and rudbeckias.  All of these wonderful plants produce fabulous fall colour. 
 Today would be a good day to plant some. 

- Protect pollinators.  Don't clean up your garden too much.  Remember that a little bit of messiness, rot and decay are the friends of beneficial insects, frogs, toads, snakes (good snakes) and the like.  You want these creatures for healthy biodiversity in your garden. 

- Spring Bulbs are planted now.  Tulips, daffodils, narcissus... all of the colourful plants that you associate with spring are now in at your garden retailer.  Holland has had a great tulip harvest and the selection is second to none... right now.  As the weeks pass, not so much.  Buy while the selection is best.
Relax, enjoy the kids being at school, slow down on the roads, spend more time outside, drink plenty of fluids and take a trip to Home Hardware to check out the new line of fall gardening products including my fabulous bulbs collections.  Really, it is most exciting. 
Keep your knees dirty,
Merchant of Beauty
A New 'Like-able' Contest 

This is a photo of my favourite part of my garden.  (Watch the video to learn why.)

This month, I'm inviting you to submit a photo of your favourite part of your garden.  Email one photo to [email protected] 
and tell me why it is the favourite part of your garden.

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

The 5 winners, who get the most 'likes' will receive a 2016 Harrowsmith Almanac AND a Mark's Choice gardening pocket knife.

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

(deadline for entry is September 3, 2015.  Voting closes September 8, 2015)
Contest Winners
Last month 5 winners received a pair of Mark's Choice hand pruners and a copy of the Harrowsmith Gardening Digest.

I asked you to submit a photo of your favourite flower in your garden. 
Congratulations to these winners whose photos received the most 'likes' on my Facebook page:

Eileen Fisher
Lori O'Brien
Lory Johnston
Shawn McGregor
Thank you to everyone who shared a photo.  This contest was fun and I enjoyed seeing all your favourite flowers.

You can view the winning photos here.
You can view all photos entered in the contest here
Why Mark's Choice garden gloves can last more than 5 times longer than other gloves. 

Check out the finger tips on these babies.  The glove on the right has been digging and scratching in the soil for several seasons and the one on the left is barely broken in.  See how the newer glove has black neoprene finger tips?  That is my secret to longevity where gloves are concerned.  For only $16 or so, they are a great investment in a terrific looking garden.   Soft, flexible, tough and nice to work with: my gloves.  Like some of my favourite people.   ~Mark
Exclusive to Home Hardware. (item#5525-838,-839,-840)
The New Canadian Garden 
By Mark Cullen

Yes! I am so excited.  I have been working with Marette Sharp on this new book for over 2 years and finally... we are on the home stretch with it.  

This new gardening book is now available for pre-order (available February, 2016). 

In The New Canadian Garden, I explore new trends, horticultural innovations, and the creativity that has been tapped by a generation of younger gardeners. You will learn how to use the significant changes that are redefining today's gardening experiences to your own advantage.  

We explore the boom of online information on gardening, which can be very practical, but also drives a growing need for a focus on understanding new techniques, and the value of the local gardening experience.

The 2016 Edition of Harrowsmith's Almanac 

As Canadians get ready for fall, the 2016 edition of Harrowsmith's Alamanc will be appearing on newsstands across Canada this week, continuing a four decade tradition of providing fun and useful information about country living and treading a little more lightly on the earth.
I am the 'gardening editor' of this excellent publication and I am delighted with my association with it. 

Filled with content that's as diverse as the country it serves, Harrowsmith's Almanac will provide its readers with everything from why goats are awesome to an in-depth look at how Canada is harnessing the wind. Included in the latest edition of Canada's only 100% homegrown almanac you'll also find my tips to have the best lawn ever, plus a feature on water wise gardening.

More info.
Hey Food Gardeners! Plant a Row. Grow a Row
How Your Garden can Help Feed People in Need

How often is it that you can enjoy a favourite hobby and help others in your community at the same time?

Plant a Row - Grow a Row is a fun way to do both.

Established by Food Banks Canada, The Compost Council of Canada and the Garden Writers Association of America, Plant a Row - Grow a Row builds on the long-standing tradition of gardeners loving to share their harvest with others.

The Plant a Row - Grow a Row program invites local gardeners to grow an extra row of vegetables, or donate extra fruit and vegetables, or donate extra fruit and vegetables to their local food bank or soup kitchen.

Which crops are best for donation?
Root vegetables are best... however, any produce that can be easily handles and stored, including broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peas, beans, tomatoes, radishes, parsnips, sweet peppers, summer squash (including zucchini), apples and pears are welcome.

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 or read in more than 20 other papers across the country.  
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 [email protected] 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 - Autumn Season
Brentwood Bay, BC

Date: September 16
The autumn season at The Butchart Gardens begins.
Hours change to: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. (All day)

 More info. 
South Burnaby Garden Club - Annual Fall Fair
Burnaby, BC

Date: September 12 & 13

Time: 1-5pm (Saturday), 11-4pm (Sunday)
Location: Bonsor Community Centre, 6550 Bonsor Avenue, Burnaby

Free admission.  No pre-registration required.  Members of the public are welcome to exhibit.  No entrance fees.

A harvest celebration where amateur gardens are invited to enter and display their harvests of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers for judging.
There will 100s of items on display, including flowers, vegetables, fruits, plats, hanging baskets, baking, canning, wines, crafts potato in a pot contest, children's contests, tea room, bake & produce sale, great draw prizes.
More info.
Peony Root Sale
Regina, SK
Date: September 26
Time: 9:30am-4pm.  Come early for best selection.
Location: Northgate Mall, Regina
Fundraising Root Sale of peonies.
More info. 
Brandon Garden Club
Brandon, MB
Date: September 16 
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Special Guest Speaker: Shea Doherty
From "Our Farm" Greenhouse
Topic: Bees! + How to Put Your Succulents to Bed
Plus our perennial favourite...
PLANT SWAP: Bring a plant, take a plant.
Location: 311 Park Ave East, Brandon MB.

More info.
Beausejour Daylily Gardens
Beausejour, MB
Beausejour Daylily Gardens
Fall Surplus Plant Sale
Date: September 19
Time: 9am-1pm
Location: Beausejour Daylily Gardens. 1st Street North
Huge surplus of perennial plants and shrubs.  Fundraiser for the Beausejour Daylily Gardens. Rain or shine.
More info.
West Carleton Garden Club & Horticulture Society
Carp, ON
Special meeting
Date: September 8
Time: 7pm
Location: Carp Agricultural Hall, Carp Fairgrounds. 3790 Carp Road
An evening with Ed Lawrence.  Proper pruning practices and techniques Plus a special Q & A.
Members: $5, Guests: $10
More info.
The Burlington Horticultural Society
Burlington, ON
Date: September 9
Time: 7:30pm
Location: Burlington Seniors' Centre, 2285 New St. at Drury Lane
Topic: Heinke Thiessen, horticulturalist and educator will speak about "The Gardens of Ireland".
LEAF - Tree Tenders Volunteer Training
Richmond Hill, ON 

Date: September 12, 16 & 19
If you ever wanted to learn more about trees and how to properly care for them, this course if for you!  Gain knowledge and skills that you can put to use in your own yard and community.
Our expert instructors deliver engaging indoor and outdoor sessions.  We even plant a tree together!
More info.
The Hamilton & Burlington Rose Society 
Rose Society
Date: September 13
Time: 2pm
Location: Royal Botanical Gardens Centre. 680 Plains Road W., Burlington
Speaker: Roger Tschanz on "Rough and Ready Roses".
Everyone welcome to attend.  No entrance/parking fees.
More info.
Georgetown Horticultural Society
Georgetown, ON  

Gardening from a hammock
Date: September 16
Time: 7:30-9:00pm
Location: St. George Anglican Church, Guelph St., Georgetown
Guest Speaker: Dan Cooper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'
Topic: Low-maintenance gardening

Contact: Diana Pooke 
Toronto Botanical Garden - Fall in Love
Toronto, ON  
Date: September 16
Time: 7-9:30pm
Location: Toronto Botanical Garden, 777 Lawrence Avenue
Marjorie Mason, of Mason House Gardens, has a roster of tips and tricks for everyday gardening that you may have forgotten, or never known.  Learn why fall is the BEST time to be working in the garden and get the scoop on spring bulbs, shuffling plants into new spaces and even xeriscaping.
More info.
Nepean Horticultural Society
Nepean, ON  
Date: September 17
Time: 7:30pm
Location: City View United Church, 6 Epworth Avenue, Napean
Guest Speaker: Suzanne Patry
Topic: Whitehouse Perennials: "Designing for Sun and Shade with Hostas and Companion Plants"
Followed by the NHS Harvest Show.
Everyone welcome.  Non-members $4.  Light refreshments.
More info. 613-721-2048
Port Perry Town and Country House Tour
Date: September 19
Time: 10am-4pm
Tickets: $25 per person
This year 6 stately century homes (including one home made famous by the movie "Welcome to Mooseport") and 2 glorious gardens have been graciously donated for the tour. Each home demonstrates the varied and interesting architecture and gardens found within and around our community, with lots of pleasant surprises for tour visitors.
Each ticket includes a stop at the church where the House Tour Caf´┐Ż will be serving complimentary light refreshments and homemade baked goods throughout the day with an added opportunity to purchase homemade jams and relishes.
More info.
Aurora Garden and Horticultural Society
Aurora, ON  
Date: September 23
Time: 8pm
Location: Royal Canadian Legion, 105 Industrial Parkway North
"We live in a Colourful World - An Exhibit of Butterflies and Moths"
Join John Bedford as he talks about butterflies and moths.  John's talk will be based on his 15 display cases of butterflies and moths.  Please bring a flashlight for better viewing on the details and patterns on the exhibited specimens.
More info.
Parry Sound Garden Club
Dan Cooper
Date: September 23
Time: 7:30-9:00pm
Location: Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, Parry Sound
Guest Speaker: Dan Cooper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'
Topic: Low-maintenance gardening

Contact: Judy Keown 
Urban Trees: Putting Down Roots
Ottawa, ON  
Date: September 23
Time: 6-8pm
Location: Horticulture Building, Lansdowne Park. 1525 Princess Patricia Way, Ottawa
This year, on National Tree Day, the City of Ottawa is excited to launch our Urban Forest Management Plan project. Please join us for an evening event celebrating urban trees and to discuss the importance and the challenges of urban forest management. 
Register before September 14.
More info.
King City / Nobleton Garden Club
Nobleton, ON  
Dan Cooper
Date: September 28
Time: 8-9pm
Location: Women's Institute Community Hall, Nobleton
Guest Speaker: Dan Cooper, from 'Gardening from a Hammock'
Topic: Low-maintenance gardening

Contact: Susan Beharriell 905-859-6961
Montreal Botanical Garden
Explore the beauty of the Garden through its 10 greenhouses and some thirty thematic gardens!
Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens
Nova Scotia  
Historic Gardens
The world class Historic Gardens is a 17 acre horticultural paradise located in historic Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, the first permanent European settlement in North America (1605).
Historically themed areas tell the story of Nova Scotia settlement from an agricultural and horticultural perspective, showcasing gardening methods, designs and materials representing more than four hundred years of local history.
More info.