Mark Cullen's newsletter
Time to reflect.  
The gardening season is in its last act and no one is more loath to admit it than me. 

I derive a living from our collective Canadian gardening experience and I have the next 5 months to look forward to the opening act of our next season.

Truth is, I love November almost as much as I enjoy the smell of the spring thaw in April.  Why?  Finally, I get to slow it down.  

I can look out my favourite window, located next to my favourite chair and imagine what next year's garden will look like.  And I can do it without seeing more work that needs tending to. 
Can you relate?  If so, I urge you to read on.  If not, read on anyway. 
The long, wet and often cold, Canadian winter provides your best opportunity to imagine your best garden.  Ever.  And without imagining it you will never achieve it.  Perhaps this is why this is such a great country.  When our founding fathers got together to shape our nation in 1864 in Charlottetown PEI, it was summer.  They had the entire winter to contemplate what a free and democratic Canada might look like.  Three years later, Queen Victoria gave them permission to forge it.  The country was born in July 1867: summer.  
Photo Time

I urge you to pour over the photos that you have hanging out in your cell phone.   You know the ones: peonies at their peak of bloom, apples when they hung heavy on the branches of your backyard tree, the heron that dipped its toes in the pond in the local park.  You get the idea.  These memories are fresh in your mind.  Imprint them there with a thorough visual review of your recent horticultural history. 
While taking time to remember it almost goes without saying that November is the best time of year to remember something else: our freedom.  More to the point, the cost of our freedom.  The 11th is Remembrance Day.  November is remembrance month.  Wear a poppy and contemplate the price of peace.
Hugh Beaty
Say what?  The price of peace.  My late friend Hugh Beaty talked extensively about it.  He was a veteran of WWII and he lived to promote his cause every day of his adult life.  At the age of 58 he sold everything on his family farm and took off for Brazil to teach hungry people how to feed themselves by sharing knowledge that he had acquired as a lifelong dairy farmer in Ontario.   
Giving up the creature comforts of home and the certainties of a well established career was only natural for Hugh and his wife Melba.  They knew themselves and had clear priorities.  In his words, "I saw the waste of war.  The utter and complete waste of the thing and I wanted to do something to make the world a better place."  
Acknowledge the cost of Freedom
Hugh inspired me to join a group of committed environmentalists and proud Canadians to acknowledge the cost of freedom by planting trees on the Highway of Heroes, 117,000, one for each of Canada's war dead.   
It's called the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute and you can learn more about it at
Become a Champion
By clicking here you will learn how you can celebrate Canada's 150th birthday by buying her a tree.  A tree for a Canadian hero.   
For $150 you will receive a tax deductible receipt, a certificate worthy of framing, a limited edition t-shirt and, in the spring, we will send you a tree of your own, to plant where you please, in memory of someone or all of the people who gave us everything so that we can enjoy most anything.  Including next year's garden.  
What To Do in November:

This month, more than any, I have to be mindful of the weather patterns across the nation.  Easy for me to say 'fertilize your lawn with a fall lawn food late in the month' when Prairie readers have a metre of snow in the yard.  But let me give it a shot:

Winterize your roses.  Hybrid teas, floribundas, grandifloras and miniatures all need to be mounded up with fresh triple mix or quality Mark's Choice garden soil (a Home Hardware exclusive) about 60 to 80 cm high.  A rose collar helps to mound the soil high enough to do the job very well.  

No need to mound winter hardy shrub roses and climbers that are planted next to the wall of your home.  Climbers growing against a fence should be mounded to be on the safe side.  I leave this job until hard frost has hit the ground and before it pushes deep.


spiral guard

Spiral wrap around fruit tree trunks.  Prevent rodent damage and sun scald.  Non- fruiting fruit trees like purple leafed plum, crabapples and flowering cherry fall into this category too. 


Wrap burlap around cedars, yews, boxwood and all broadleaf evergreens.  Two layers is best: one to buffer wind and the other to insulate from the drying and burning effects of the sun, reflecting off snow.


Empty your compost.  Spread the finished 'good' stuff on your garden. No need to turn it under, though you can if you want to.  Earthworms will do the job come spring. 


Fill your compost.  (Does this sound like the job that never ends?  Empty, fill, empty, fill... this is why gardeners live longer: our work never stops).  Dump your fallen leaves and spent annuals and tomato plants in the compost bin.


Harvest.  Many veggies taste best after some frost.  I just pulled my first leeks this week in my zone 5 garden.  Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and the like are ready for harvest.  Carrots are sweetest now: dig what is left in your garden and store them in buckets of dry sand in your garage.


Fertilize your lawn with a CIL Golfgreen Fall Lawn Food You knew I was going there, right?  When people ask me when to fertilize their lawn in the fall (the most important application of the year) I say, "As late as possible".  For me, that is the Grey Cup weekend.  Judge according to local weather patterns. 


Feed the birds.  I recommend Bird Feast, a Mark's Choice product exclusive to Home Hardware.  Some skeptical readers will say, "Sure, why not pitch your own product Mark?" and I respond with this.  

If this is not the best bird seed that you have ever used, if it does not attract song birds to your garden more effectively than any bird seed mix you have ever used, tell me.  And I will send you a copy of my latest book The New Canadian Garden ($20 retail).  Deal?  Just for the record: my birds LOVE Bird Feast and don't seem to care whose name is on the bag. 

And remember to review your photos of this year's garden.  Organize them in files if that suits you.
And take time to reflect and remember.
Until December, I am yours faithfully,
Mark Cullen
Merchant of Beauty 
Bird Studies Canada

Red-Tailed Hawk
One of the most likely hawks for Canadians to see from their garden is the Red-tailed Hawk, even if you live in a city.  And it's hard to take a drive in farm country or along a freeway without seeing at least one, if not several, soaring over fields or perched on telephone poles and lamp posts.  Red-tails are large hawks, with long, rounded wings, a broad tail, and a few to many brown streaks on the belly.  Adults usually have a reddish-brown tail, while tails of juveniles are brown-striped.  

Red-tailed Hawk
Photo credit: Ron Ridout
Red-tailed Hawk
Photo credit: Ron Ridout

Red-tails eat mostly mammals, usually rabbits or rodents, but are not considered a threat to your dog in the backyard.  These exciting birds can be seen in three seasons across most of Canada, and even during winter in southern, warmer reaches of the country.  Scan the skies frequently from your backyard or farm, and soon you will be familiar with this impressive hawk - I never tire of seeing one soar over!  And listen for its raspy kee-yeer call, which Blue Jays will sometimes imitate, perhaps to scare other birds from your feeder!

Steven Price

This message brought to you by 
Marks Choice Bird Feast bird food, exclusively at Home Hardware.  
Proud supporters of Bird Studies Canada.  

Meaningful Contest - on Facebook!

This month's contest is different.  I would like to know 'what your garden means to you'.  
Post your answer, in 2 paragraphs or less, on my Facebook page.

The 5 comments with the most 'likes' will win a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith Almanac.  

The comment with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize: a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith Almanac + a $50 Home Hardware gift card

Deadline for entry is November 4, 2016.
Voting deadline is November 7, 2016.
Contest Winners

Photo credit: Marion Collins
In the October issue of Gardening with Mark, I invited you to share your 'favourite sign of Fall'. 

Thank you to all who entered their photos.  It is a treat to see beautiful pics from across the country.
The 5 photos with the most 'likes' each won a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith Almanac.

Congratulations to these Winners: Marion Collins, Deb Sanderson, Liz Rogers, Lesleigh Campbell, Marilyn Hartwick

View the winning photos here.
Product of the Month - Golfgreen Fall Lawn Fertilizer

The most important application that you will make all year. And later is better.

Golfgreen is formulated to build up the natural sugars at the root zone of grass plants. You will get a faster green up come spring, less snow mold and a stronger, healthier lawn.

The later that you apply this in fall, the better. So the timing of application varies from region to region. Wait for a few 'killing frosts' which will slow down the metabolism of grass plants, creating the perfect conditions for application.

Golfgreen, for the record, is all that I use on my lawn. Why? It contains the most sophisticated form of slow release nitrogen in the business. It is safe ('apply and play'), lasts a long time and is great value for the money.

Available at Home Hardware # 5024-160 (6kg), 5024-170 (12kg)
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 with the subject line 'Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.