Mark Cullen's newsletter
common garden spider
I walked out the front door of the house this morning, in my usual pre-coffee stupor, to feed the chickens and pick up the newspaper at the end of the lane, when I stepped through a spider's web, full-face on. 
Bless the spiders. 

It is a peculiar time of year, with so much activity going on in the garden, that we really could use a play book.  The hummingbirds took a speedy exit last Friday.  Really, I know that to the day, as they were here in great numbers on Thursday and then it became cold at night and bingo: gone. 
I hear the Canada geese coming from a few kilometres away as they honk their arrival while flying.  I stare in wonder and question why we love to hate them so much.  I know it has something to do with goose droppings.  It's easy to forget this as I stare skyward at two large V formations intersecting 1,200 feet in the air.  For a brief moment in time - about 6 weeks - I love them.  
Fresh from the Tree

Before sitting down to my computer, to tap out this important message, I took a walk to my orchard and picked a bucket of fresh apples.  Cortlands.  I ate one while I picked about 40 more.  The honking geese reminded me that this won't last much longer and I will be hunkered down in wait for the Grey Cup game.  Or for the Leafs to win a game (joke). 
Walking back to my home-office, I take a double step to avoid crunching a chipmunk who was being chased by his brother with such fury that I really have to wonder where their energy comes from.  Oh yea, I forgot that too.  My birdfeeder.
When we live with wildlife like geese, chipmunks and skunks, it pays to have a short memory.  Or a selective one: I try my best to think of each of them favourably.  A hungry chipmunk has to live after all.  And spiders have to trap prey.  Sometimes big prey.  
Insect Hotel
A close inspection of my two year old insect hotel tells that it is finally starting to do its job.  The article in The Garden magazine, that inspired this project, warned me that it would take up to three years to attract insects, mason bees, garden toads and snakes.  Rot and decay are your friends, when you are enhancing the biodiversity in your yard and garden.

The Insanity of Sanitizing

And that is my message for you today:  as you prepare your garden for winter this month, don't sanitize it.  Remember that we are not washing our dishes in the garden pond or sleeping in the garden beds.  We are providing habitat for the living world around us.  The one that we don't want living inside our home. 
For a few generations, we were really quite confused about all of this.  We clipped, raked, wrapped and cut down plants in the autumn in an effort to make our garden reminiscent of our living rooms. 
I say, don't put away your power-leaf blower just don't get it out in the first place. 

If you really must rake leaves, then RAKE your leaves off the lawn and on to your garden where earthworms move up to the surface of the soil, pull them down into it and convert them into nitrogen-rich earthworm poop (aka. Castings).  I can sell you the best rake in the business for about $100 less than you pay for a cheap power blower.  It is easy to listen to, as you sweep it across your lawn and it is great exercise to boot.  It is about $22 at Home Hardware.  Item #5062-302.  It is so good that it will be the last leaf rake that you buy.  Ever.  Even if you are only 10 years old. 
Later this month is an excellent time to spread the most important application of lawn fertilizer.  I use Golfgreen Fall Lawn Fertilizer as it is the best in the business.  The right amount of nitrogen and a slow form of it too.  Plus potassium to build up roots before Old Man Winter gets here.  A strong lawn in the fall performs markedly better come spring.  That is a fact.
When Halloween comes and goes, do yourself a favour and don't put the spent pumpkin out to the garbage or for 'green waste' pick up.  Place it in your garden or your compost.  Chop it into pieces with a sharp shovel or kitchen knife and let Mother Nature work her magic.  You will see your pumpkin parts slowly melt into the soil or compost, leaving nothing behind.  That's because there was precious little there in the first place.  A pumpkin is 99% water.  Would you put a bucket of water out to the garbage? 
On that note, I have only one more thing to suggest: reflect.  Is there a better month in the calendar to reflect on what we have here in Canada?  Not just the material things that everybody talks about like healthcare and beer.  But the things that have no monetary value at all. 
Fresh air.  The drama of changing seasons. Clean water. And even Canada geese. 
You get the point.  If ever there was a time of year to be mindful of the best things in life, it is now.  And they are free.
Things To Do in Your Garden this Month:  

Dig and divide.  It is not too late to dig up mature perennials and divide them into smaller portions to replant around your garden, or give to some unsuspecting recipients.  Do this sooner rather than later.


spiral guard

Wrap fruit trees.  Wrap the trunk of fruit trees with a plastic spiral guard to prevent rodent damage in winter.  Mice and rabbits can wreak havoc on young, tender bark. 


Apply Golfgreen Fall Lawn fertilizer. Leave this until late in the month or early November.  The later the better.  Fall Lawn Fertilizer builds strong lawns in numerous ways, but mostly at the root zone where they need it most this time of year.



Plant garlic cloves.  One clove about 4 cm deep and 10 cm apart.  Use loose, open, sandy soil as they like water to drain away from them.  You garlic crop will be ready to harvest next August.


Plant tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths and the like.  The Dutch produce these in prodigious quantities and varieties so that our Canadian spring is worth waiting for. 


Wrap evergreens with two layers of burlap (again, late in October or early November, depending on where you live).  One layer to protect against the burning sun as it reflects off snow and another to protect evergreens from wind.  This is especially true for cedars, junipers and like, that are on the east side of a road, where they catch the prevailing west wind with salt spray.


After the first serious frost, dig up your dahlias and lay the 'bulbs' (tubers) in the sun to dry for a day or two.  Store in a large, craft paper leaf bag with dry peat moss or shredded newspaper in a cool but DRY place.   Plan to plant them up in March for a repeat performance next season.


Do not cut back fall flowering ornamental grasses, coneflower, rudebeckia and all of the autumn flowering plants that produce a seed head.  The birds will forage the seeds well past the first snow fall.


Feed the birds. See the special birding segment below.  Steven Price, President of Bird Studies Canada wrote this fantastic feature about Nuthatches.  Steven is brilliant about birds - we can all learn so much from him!

Keep reading, especially for my contest details.
And look for the new edition of Harrowsmith Almanac.  Amazingly packed with essential information.
Talk in a month,
Mark Cullen
Merchant of Beauty 
(look for more than 150 Mark's Choice products at Home Hardware!)
Bird Studies Canada

Nuthatches have always been a bird-feeder favourite of mine. Two species - Red-breasted and White-breasted - range across most of the country. (A third species, Pygmy Nuthatch, is limited in Canada to B.C.'s southern Interior.) The Red-breasted likes coniferous woods, while the White-breasted prefers deciduous, and both can be found in mixed woods. Helpfully, the names are the best way to distinguish them. But don't be fooled - the Red-breasted has a bit of white near the throat, and the White-breasted has a rusty patch under its tail. The White-breasted is noticeably bigger, too.

Red-breasted Nuthatch
Photo credit: May Haga
White-breasted Nuthatch
Photo credit: Ron Ridout

If you've been feeding birds for some time, you've probably seen both, very deliberately taking one seed at a time and retreating to a branch or tree trunk, where they tuck food in cracks and under bark for later use - provided jays, woodpeckers, or squirrels don't discover it first! Nuthatches are fascinating birds to watch, as they saunter upside-down on a tree or straight along the underside of a branch. In winters of fewer pine and spruce cones, Red-breasted Nuthatches will migrate in large numbers - east, west, or south - in search of productive trees. Or your garden's well-stocked 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.  

Fall Photo Contest

This is a wonderful time of year to take photos in the garden.  Every Friday I share my garden photos on my Facebook page

I encourage you to keep a photo record of your garden throughout the growing season.  This will help you plan next year's projects and give you some inspiration once the snow falls.

If you have a photo of your 'favourite' sign of Fall, I would like to see it. Submit one photo to I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.

The 5 photos to receive the most 'Likes' will win a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith Almanac.  
Deadline for entry is October 6, 2016. Voting closes October 9, 2016
Product of the Month - Pre-planted Bulb Collections

I have worked with the good people in the Netherlands to create a pre-planted container of spring flowering bulbs in an 'egg crate'.
They work amazing well.  You buy the selection of bulbs that suit you, including a fragrant theme, a Canadian theme and a naturalizing theme.  Take them home, dig a hole and fill to the appropriate depth with quality Mark's Choice flower and vegetable soil, place the 'egg crate' full of bulbs in the hole, cover it up with more soil and water it in.
Voila.  Next spring your garden looks amazing.
Exclusive to Home Hardware. Item#5029-228, -229, -230
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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.