Mark Cullen's FREE monthly newsletter.
Singing My Song
I found the perfect method of escaping the scorching mid day sunshine while doing something useful: I stood at the end of a hose in the shade of a row of apple trees, hand watering my tomato plants.  I had convinced myself that this was for the better: keep the foliage dry while watering the root zone to minimize the spread of blight while keeping the poor darlings alive. 
Who knows, I might even get some ripe tomatoes soon.
When we are forced to stop moving around the garden, as we are when we apply water by hand, strange things happen.  A world of sights and sounds slowly emerges, simply through the powers of observation.  

Take this singing warbler for instance.  
I watched it land on the highest point in my garden, an old watering can that I had mounted on a 9 ft obelisk.  I had painted the spout bright blue so that your eye would be drawn to it.
I remember the day that I proudly finished this project.  I took a picture of it and sent it to my daughter Heather, the landscape architect, knowing that she - of all people -would appreciate the talent, effort and artistry of the thing.   It took her about 2 minutes to respond with, "Are you kidding me?  This is a joke right?  0x" 
There are reasons why I am not a landscape architect.  Mostly this has to do with good taste, or more accurately, a lack of good taste.  Some people possess a natural sensibility about what looks good, what fits aesthetically in a place.  My obelisk mounted watering can did not cut it, evidently. 
They say that kids don't listen to their parents.  Funny how the reverse isn't true.  Parents just don't listen to each other.  If my wife Mary had told me that my watering can/obelisk was out of place I would have thought that funny and moved on.
My mom once told me that the passage of time has an interesting way of changing our focus when we are parents.  We start out advising and guiding our kids until one day we wake up to discover that we are learning more from them than they are from us.   
Back to the Bird
The bird on the spout was chortling a tune that required his all.   His beak opened and a chorus spilled out, his head wobbled and the tops of his wings vibrated to the rhythm of the sound.  As a verse concluded, his tiny body shook like a dog shaking itself after a swim: this bird vibrated to his very tail feathers.  This song bird sang like Burton Cummings belting out, "I'm SCARED, I'm SCARrarED and petrified!!  Never cared much for religion but.." while sweating all over the keyboard.
Whatever this bird was announcing it was very important to him, or her.  It was a brown bird so I wouldn't know.  Did someone in the family just give birth? Was he looking for a female to fly off with?  Was the day THAT fine that he had to announce it to anyone who would listen, including the dorky guy in the sun hat standing under the apple trees? 
The simple act of sustaining life through a garden hose can produce a moment of truth. 
This one was for me.  A private moment of awakening in the vegetable garden.
Who says that gardening is too dirty, too much work, too this and too that?  Only people who have not taken the time to slow down and smell the lilies. 
It is almost August, the very best time of the year to sharpen your powers of observation.  To listen, look and learn.  You have planted, weeded and nurtured your garden.  You have done your bit: now, as my mom would remind you, it is time for the garden to give back.

Killing Trees Slowly...
I don't like to beef.  And I really don't like to use my monthly newsletter to beef.  But I think that we can help each other with a situation here: we are killing our trees slowly and it can SO easily be stopped. 
It has been dry where I live in Southern Ontario for a couple of months now, so I notice when grass is green, as there is only one way that can be: someone is watering it.  And usually this involves an in ground watering system that is set on a timer to go on and off each evening while the world sleeps. 
Problem is, the amount of water needed to keep grass green during the heat of summer is way in excess of the amount of water needed by a grown tree to live and thrive.  A tree NEEDS to dry out between watering.  If you add enough water to the lawn under and around a tree you will kill the tree.  I have seen this happen at my health club, where I pass by several dying trees every time I go for a spin class. 
It takes a few years for the excess water to take effect, but in time the damage can be so bad that there is no going back.  The tree is destined for the wood pile.  I mentioned this to management at my home club and they listened politely.  About 2 weeks later, I received a nice note saying that the in-ground watering system experts could not turn off the water. 
Really?  I say that it is time for a new consultant...
I was at a condo in town the other day and voila, another row of stressed out trees surrounded by the nicest carpet of living green you can imagine.
If the choice is between a tree that lives and grass that goes brown and dormant, I will take the living tree.  The grass, for the most part, will come back when August evening temperatures drop in the evening, dew increases and rain arrives (fingers crossed).
I am not against in-ground watering systems, just the way that they are often managed.
And now you know.
Things To Do in your garden this month:
Veggies: pick, dig, harvest.  My beets are perfect.  In two weeks they will be the size of a hard ball and nearly as hard.  My peppers are ready.  If I don't pick them they will rot.  
My zucchinis are producing like Lucy's chocolate factory (ask your mom if you don't understand this reference).  
I either pick my zuch's now or wait a few days, pick them, cut them in half and feed them to the chickens.  
Which is not a bad idea.  Harvest so that you can harvest some more.

Bugs there are many bugs in the garden right now.  August is the month of insect hyper-activity.  They are eating, laying eggs, mating and you name it.....  and there is this temptation to destroy them as soon as we see them munching on our garden plants. 
Resist.  I don't mean that you should ignore them altogether, but ask yourself this question: if I let this cycle of aphids work itself through, will another 'control' insect or bird take care of the problem for me?  If I kill the caterpillars that are on my monarda, am I depriving some other beneficial creature a meal? 
99% of all insects in our gardens are beneficial and essential to the web of life that exists in your yard.
I urge you to think about that.
If the answer is, yes, I want to control those ants in my pantry, or whatever, I encourage you to go to your nearest Home Hardware and ask the experts there for some environmentally responsible advice.  Home Owners helping home owners, you know. 
Water.  If you are in a part of the country that is enjoying an extended drought, as I am, be sure to water infrequently but deeply.  Remember: Plants like to get on the dry side between water applications.  
Prune.  This is a good time of year to prune a hedge or shape evergreens.  There is no rush to do this, as fall works well too.
No fertilizer.  If you have been fertilizing your garden regularly this summer now is the time to stop feeding winter hardy plants like evergreens, trees, shrubs and roses.  
They need to harden off before winter comes (can't believe that I just said that).
Enjoy.  Birds are singing your song.  Slow down and listen.  
I love August

I love August, but not as much as September when temperatures moderate.  Maybe it is my inherited Irish temperament and fair skin.

However, the garden never looks as good as it does in August.  Invite friends over to see your work.
A reminder that August is a great 'book reading' month and I highly recommend the New Canadian Garden to you.  I wrote it with Marette Sharp, a 20 something millennial with a passion for bugs and garden-bound wildlife.  You will hear her voice in the chapters on biodiversity and community gardens.
You will hear both of our voices: you might even hear your own voice informing you that it is a new day in the Canadian garden.  

There is much that we don't do here, like use gas powered leaf blowers, clip evergreens into shapes of animals and grow row on row of monocultured annual flowering hybrid impatiens. 

What we DO do in The New Canadian Garden is attract bees, other pollinators, feed ourselves quality home-grown food, introduce children to nature in the backyard and more stuff along those lines. 
You will enjoy it.  Available everywhere that books are sold.  Unless they are out of stock in which case they will gladly order one for you.  $20.  Try Home Hardware.  They are so helpful.  
Winner. Second Year in a Row!

Guess what, you are reading a winner. 

This newsletter won the silver medal in the Garden Writers Association annual competition.  

It is the highest honour in the 'e-newsletter' category.

We won it last year too!  

I am very proud of this, as there is some very good competition out there.  With thanks to you for reading, supporting and encouraging your family and friends to sign up.  And to my assistant Brenda who puts it all together.
Have a great month,
Merchant of Beauty
Birding Update 

A new feature for my newsletter readers: Birding Update.
I have always felt that gardeners are birders (at some level!) and vice versa.

Several years ago, I was introduced to the good people at Bird Studies Canada. I soon learned that this is a most sophisticated national organization, deep with knowledge and 100% commitment to advancing the understanding, appreciation, and conservation of Canada's birds.

Each month, the President of Bird Studies Canada will provide a short 'Birding Update', with a great looking bird picture. One for 'east' and another for 'west'. Here is his first installment.
I am keen to know what you think of this new addition to my newsletter.... Please let me know at [email protected].

I recommend that you check out their website at, consider making a donation and joining this fine group. Membership starts at $35 and carries many benefits. Thank you Steven!
Bird Studies Canada 
Blue Jay

East of the Rockies, Blue Jays are familiar to most gardeners, cottagers, and backyard bird enthusiasts. (And major league baseball fans, too!) Jays store food for future use, so you may see them filling up frequently at bird feeders. 

Photo Credit: Ron Ridout
When cleaning my eavestroughs each fall, I usually find several unshelled peanuts! A squawky jay-jay call boldly announces their arrival, but listen too for a rusty-hinge squeak. More than once I've heard the loud keyeer shriek of a Red-tailed Hawk, only to look up and see a Blue Jay, perhaps mimicking the hawk to clear the feeder of other birds before gorging. Larger seeds and peanuts will attract Blue Jays, as will an oak tree laden with acorns.

In fact, their fondness for burying acorns is thought to have helped oaks spread after glaciation - a bright blue reminder that species are key parts of larger ecosystems supporting all life on Earth.

Steller's Jay 

Steller's Jays are found in British Columbia and occasionally Alberta, from the Canadian Rockies westward. I've often noticed them high up in trees or been surprised by them swooping by. 

Steller_s Jay
Photo Credit: May Haga
These jays are at home in mountain evergreen forests, but frequently visit backyards, farms, parks, and campgrounds. Be alert - they can be swift, silent thieves of unattended picnics! Like many jays and their cousins the crows and ravens, Steller's Jays expertly imitate the sounds of other birds, and even cats and dogs. They eat what's available, including a wide range of wild fruits, seeds, nuts, insects, and most offerings at bird feeders.

They'll happily raid your feeder of considerable bounty, hiding it around the landscape and showing a pretty impressive memory of where they've cached food. Other bird and mammal scavengers also benefit from this food disperser. The beautiful and intelligent Steller's Jay is the provincial bird of British Columbia - in my view, a great winged choice to represent the province.

Steven Price
Special Event - a Night at WindReach Farm 

Date: September 17, 2016

In support of WindReach Farm Horseshoes for Hope.  WindReach Farm strives to enrich the lives of persons of all ages with disabilities and/or special needs by providing opportunities to enjoy experiences in farming, nature, outdoor recreation and other activities and to share those experiences with family and friends.

Join us for an evening of culinary delights and fabulous entertainment in support of the programs and services provided by WindReach Farm. 

A Night at WindReach Farm with the Next Generation Leahy is a night not to be missed! Set in our state of the art stable and arena - The Alexander J Mitchell Equestrian Centre - this is not your typical gala evening!

In addition to the amazing entertainment, there will be prizes, games, silent and live auctions, and a few surprises along the way!  

Sponsored by Mark's Choice and Home Hardware.
Tickets: $125
Tables of 10: $1,250
5:00pm - arrival, stroll or wagon rides to the stables
5:30pm - meet & greet
6:30pm - dinner & program
7:30pm - Leahy performances
Register here
Participation House, Markham - Golf Tournament

24th Annual Charity Golf Tournament in support of Participation House, Markham. 

Participation House strives to provide an environment where each individual is encouraged to achieve as independent a lifestyle as is possible.

Date: September 15, 2016
Location: Sleepy Hollow Country Club, Whitchurch-Stouffville 

Enjoy a great day of golf, BBQ lunch, shotgun start at 12:30 p.m., Clubhouse reception and dinner to follow 

Funds support the physio therapy and gym programs.

I 'Like' this Contest Idea 

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 [email protected]

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.
And HAVE FUN doing this!

(deadline for entry is August 7, 2016.  Voting closes August 11, 2015)
Contest - Winners

In the mid-July issue of my newsletter I invited you to share a photo of your pollinator-friendly garden.  I received many inspiring photos.  I thank all of you who entered.  I selected these 5 winners randomly from all entries.


Congratulations to: Judith Rogers, Deborah Mc Ghee, Lesleigh Campbell, Sandra, and Pat Saarela, who each won a signed copy of my new book
The New Canadian Garden.
Product of the Month - Birdseed Storage Bin

This is the handiest way to keep birdseed clean, dry and mouse free!  I have one in my garage and another in my tool shed, which helps me keep my 14 bird feeders full year round and the bird seed stored therein free of chipmunks and squirrels. 

And yes, we do have a LOT of wild birds (and chipmunks. I think that this is the year of the chipmunk)!

-25 inch high handle for easy lifting
-Handle locks lid to prevent accidental spilling
-Extra grip under base for easy tipping
-Sturdy enough for bird seed, pet food, ice melt and more

Exclusive to Home Hardware. Item#5453-005
Harrowsmith Summer 2016

I am happy to offer this special bonus to my newsletter subscribers.  
You can view the digital Summer issue of Harrowsmith magazine by following this link.  

This digital issue explores summer pastimes in communities across the country. 

Click here to view the digital Summer issue.

Stay in Touch 
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Event Schedule

My monthly Event Listings are so popular we were running out of room in the newsletter.  All event listings have moved to
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.