May: Planting Month. Are you up for it?
The swallows arrived on our property last week and I am delighted. When I cleaned out my 27 nesting boxes this winter I found a nest in every one of them, including a nest from a red squirrel in one. Oh well.
I was inspired to make some more and so; I have added 16 more bluebird boxes in the west meadow. I use the term 'bluebird' box loosely as I have never had a bluebird in any of my 27 boxes in 10 years (that is 270 tries!!) Surely this is a strike-out.
However, I have provided lots of habitat and baby-making for tree swallows and a lesser number of house sparrows. For that effort, I get immense satisfaction. Just imagine the elation of attracting bluebirds. I live in hope.
Got your soil prepped for planting yet?
Remember that you would not build a house in Canada without a foundation: neither should you build a garden without prepping the soil.
For years I have known the value of earthworm castings: they are naturally rich in organic microbes, beneficial bacteria and mycorrhyza.
Basically, all of the good stuff that gives soil life. When you add earthworm castings to your soil, regardless of what you are planting, at the rate of 10 parts soil to 1 part castings, you are fortifying the planting soil with the very best ingredients that money can buy.
The problem was that most of us could not afford to buy earthworm castings. But last year I met Chris Pagonis, who raises dew worms for commercial purposes in Burlington, Ontario and guess what, he produces this stuff in such massive quantities that he is able to offer his fine product for sale at about half the cost.
This spring, you will find my name on a large (20L) of earthworm castings for about $16. It was offered for sale in limited quantities for more than $30 just a year or two ago. Amazing!
With 1,100 Home Hardware stores across Canada there is no reason for any Canadian gardener to go without. Seriously.
(item#5025-710 5L, 5025-712 20L)
People frequently ask me why I offer an upside-down suet feeder (5453-649) in my Mark's Choice line and the answer is simple: black birds, including crackles, can't hang upside down and eat but woodpeckers prefer it.
The result is a more efficient use of suet and an increase in population of woodpeckers. There is one outside of my office window right now, a red-bellied woodpecker with the most brilliant red head (and belly, of course). He arrived to remind me to tell you this.
For $15 a feeder, you will soon enough save that amount in suet 'not eaten' by grackles and their like. AND you will be thoroughly entertained by colourful woodpeckers.
6 Things that you should consider doing now in the garden (my May To-Do list):
1. Veggies. It might surprise you that this is an excellent time of year to start a vegetable garden. Don't wait until the May 24 weekend to get started. By then you will have missed the best time to sow many of your favourite crops including: peas, carrots, onions, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and garlic (though fall is better for garlic).
This is a great time of year to prep the soil of your garden by spreading 3 to 4 cm of Bio Max composted manure (or reliably high-quality compost). You can turn this under the soil or plant right in it.
2. Start from seed indoors. Sow tomatoes, cucumbers, leeks, zinnias, asters and the like now. With 5 to 6 weeks until our last frost date, your timing will be perfect. Come late May/early June, you will be ready to plant in warm soil and your transplants will take off. You will save a small fortune too, as you won't buy transplants at your garden retailer.
Use a quality seed starting mix (I use 10 parts Pro Mix with one part worm castings - see my note above. Magic!) All seedlings need plenty of light to grow properly: sunlight or fluorescent lights work best.
3. Lawn. My recipe for the best lawn on the block:
a. Rake with a fan rake to remove winter debris.
b. Fertilize with Golfgreen Iron Plus. It is the best product of its kind on the market. Chelated iron for a fast green-up. Slow release nitrogen for a long lasting green.
c. Where weeds occur or thin spots exist, spread lawn soil 4 cm thick and rake smooth. Broadcast quality Golfgreen grass seed at the rate of one kg per 100 sq. meters. Rake this smooth (again), step on it with flat soled shoes and water until germination. Keep reasonably well watered until new roots are established (about 4 to 6 weeks). Look for the new Pro-Mix Ultimate Condition grass seed, using mycoactive technology. It germinates in temperatures as low as 4 degrees C.
d. When you are ready to cut your lawn, set your mower at 6 to 8 cm high. Any lower allows weeds to establish and weakens your lawn. Use a mulching mower.
4. Plant trees, shrubs, evergreens and roses. All of the 'winter hardy' stock that you find at garden retailers this time of year can be planted in the garden, unless it has already flushed new, soft growth: an indication that it was forced in a greenhouse and is now frost-tender.
All woody plants that are dormant at the time you purchase them are ready to plant this weekend.
5. Dig and divide. This is a great time of year to dig up perennials and divide them into sections to replant around your yard or give away to friends and neighbours. Hosta, monarda, daylilies: you name it.
6. Soil prep. Note that 'quality' soil is the key. Don't use 'black earth' (basically peat-muck) or cheap manures which are often not manure at all. Producers have been known to cut corners in production to keep costs low. The results are never good. Quality soil and compost is alive with nutrients, is safe (teeming with beneficial bacteria) and is high octane fuel for everything that grows. Look for composted manure that is certified by the Compost Quality Alliance. I spread 4 cm of well-composted manure over my entire garden each spring. Yes, I use over 40 yards of the stuff.
And finally, after you have returned your garden furniture to its summertime place, be sure to sit on it. Enjoy the bird song (put out feeders and nesting boxes), the wind and the sunshine. It may not have been the longest, coldest winter on record but you have none the less earned a break from the indoors.
Couple more things:
I am travelling a lot this month: be sure to check out where I am going and when, as I would LOVE to meet you and see you at any of these events. Tell me that you receive my newsletter and I will reach into my pocket for a packet of Marks Choice seeds for you.
Remember the 'how green is your grass?' contest that we launched mid April? We received some great entries, but we were too early for gardeners in Central and western Canada - so we are doing it again! Your chance to win neat prizes.
My book: much of my travel hinges on the launch of my new book The New Canadian Garden.
I am SO pleased with the reception of this new book and welcome you to give it a go: let me know what you think of it. I am always pleased to hear from readers. Available wherever books are sold (pretty much).
Stay in touch.... Facebook/twitter/weekly newspaper column/Canada AM, CTV/weekly blog... all of the hot links are on my homepage. www.markcullen.com 10,000 gardening questions. answered. I say this for a reason....
It is May... enjoy it and if you don't want to keep your knees dirty then try out my new (last year) gardening knee pads. They have a gusset to avoid dirt getting down the back of them, they are light and waterproof, they breathe and they cost less than the ones sold for roofing and carpet laying... which are not nearly as good for the gardener anyway!
Yours, as ever,
Merchant of Beauty
Mothers Day gift suggestions in the Mark's Choice line
(at Home Hardware exclusively):
- Terracotta garden jute holder dispenses twine for easy and convenient use
- Comes with twine scissors that can easily be stored in the slot on the terracotta holder
- Jute holder can be hung on the wall or stood freestanding on a shelf
- item #5462-211
The world's oldest and best manufacturer of watering cans is located in the United Kingdom and this year they offered to make their most popular watering can available under the Mark's Choice brand. Voila! The most amazing watering can in the world at the best possible price. $45 buys you the last watering can that you will ever own.
I don't care how old you are, this one will out last you (if you don't abuse it, like drive over it). Guaranteed for 5 years. It features a 6 ft 'throw' - the distance the water travels from the end of the spout, directly to your plants, even the ones in the corner of your patio or balcony. A solid brass breaker, for water as soft as rain. A 45 degree extension to total control and it is balanced for 'one hand' use when it is full or empty.
The truth? When I agree to put my name on a product I generally ask for modifications to the original prototype. Not with this one: Haws have been making watering cans for almost 150 years: I just could not think of a way to improve the design.
- Stainless steel head with ashwood handle
- Blade is heat treated
- Pointed head allows for easy ground penetration
- Wide teeth allow for even dispersal of material
- Holes on the side allow for material to pass through
- Item# 5036-415. Watch the new video.
After five years of great success with the high-quality line of Mark's Choice garden seeds, I have added some new varieties that are guaranteed to perform well in your garden. I selected these vegetables and one herb for the flavour, production qualities, and for their suitability for Canadian gardens. Sow, nurture, harvest, and enjoy!
Hummingbird Feeder with Perch $20
Big, red roof attracts hummingbirds and acts as a rain guard, sunshade, and ant moat all in one.
Full ring removable perch.
Hang from any wall bracket, ceiling hook or eyehook.
Disassembles for easy cleaning.
20 oz. nectar capacity.
- Create an indoor garden that fits on a tabletop
- Terrariums provide a perfect tropical escape for plants and herbs
- Can be used for miniature house plants such as ferns, succulents, English ivy or violets
- INCLUDES: Clay pot and saucer with recycled glass cover
- Item# 5055-269
- Used to accent your perfect patio setting hanging or as a tabletop accessory
- Great in the kitchen window with your plants and herbs
- Ideal for vertical gardening in tight spaces
- Can be used for herbs and trailing garden plants
- Item# 5055-271
- Watch the video
'How Green is your Lawn' Contest - Take 2
Take a photo of your lawn to show 'how green is your lawn' today.
The photo with the most 'likes' will win the
Grand Prize ($50 value):
A Mark's Choice watering can + 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.
The next 10 photos to receive the most 'likes' will win:
a copy of the 2016 Harrowsmith Gardening Digest + 4 packs of Mark's Choice Vegetable seeds ($13 value).
Deadline for entry: May 4, 2016. Deadline for voting is May 9, 2016.
'Signs of Spring' Contest - Winners
Last month I asked you to share 'Signs of Spring'.
The Grand Prize winner received: a signed copy of my new book The Canadian Garden + a $50 gift card for Home Hardware + 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds. ($78 value)
10 second-place winners received a copy of the 2016 Harrowsmith Gardening Digest + 4 packs of Mark's Choice Vegetable seeds ($13 value).
Congratulations to the winners:
Darryl (grand prize)
Winning photos can be seen here.
All photos entered can be seen here.
Where is Mark?
May and June are my busiest travel months with Home Hardware.
This year I am happy to add my book tour to this busy schedule.
I look forward to this time and I invite you to join me wherever I happen to be.
Where to find me:
Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centres
Congratulations to our 5 new members.
ALL of these Mark Cullen Approved Home Hardware stores carry Canadian grown, quality garden plants and offer an extraordinary level of customer service.
I am proud to have my name on each of these stores!
Look for Mark Cullen Approved Home Hardware Garden Centres across the country. 28 in all!
Fulton's Home Hardware Building Centre, Airdrie, Alberta
Wallaceburg Home Hardware, Wallaceburg, Ontario
Fort St. John Home Hardware Building Centre, Fort St. John, British Columbia
Kitchener Home Hardware, Kitchener, Ontario
Fenelon Falls Home Hardware, Fenelon Falls, Ontario
Visit a Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centre near you.
Kids' Run for Nature
Mark's Choice is proud to be a national sponsor and supporter of the Kids' Run for Nature.
The Kids' Run for Nature is a 1K and 5K non-competitive "Fun Run" designed to raise funds for the World Wildlife Fund Canada in support of endangered animals in Canada.
It was created by two Toronto 10-year old girls, who wanted to get kids and their families involved in our great natural community by supporting the environment, while getting their bodies active and healthy.
Working with team leaders in various communities, the Kids' Run for Nature is taking place at 7 different locations across the province and country this spring. I encourage you to get your kids, grandkids and friends and get out to a park or green space to run for fun in nature!
Mark's Gardening Connections
My monthly Event Listings are so popular we were running out of room in the newsletter. All event listings have moved to www.markcullen.com.
Event lists are organized by Province and accessible through these links:
Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote? I would be happy to include your event listing on my website.
Send your info to [email protected]
with the subject line 'Event Listing
'. Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.