What do these three things have in common?
- Days and nights are about the same length.
- My Christmas cactus sets buds.
- My cold frame is full of veggies.
Mid March and mid September provide the same conditions for all of the above. September 21st is the autumnal equinox and March 21st the spring equinox.
I love September in the garden. It is my second favourite month (after May: planting month). I can relax a bit in September knowing that there are 10 to 12 weeks before the first serious snow fall (hopefully, 'cause this is Canada and who really knows?) I really enjoy the temperature in September as the hot edge of summer has burned away and morning dew cools the atmosphere in the most effective way.
I have much to offer by way of gardening advice in this newsletter, so don't go away. But first I have an important and urgent message about a pet project, the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute. 117,000 trees to be planted on the Highway of Heroes between Keele St (the coroner's office) in Toronto and CFB Trenton along the 401. One tree for every one of Canada's war dead.
An Exciting Time
It has been some time since I brought the topic up in this newsletter and much has happened.
It is an exciting time in our campaign.
This spring we planted our first 3,000 trees in four separate locations: Toronto, Oshawa, Trenton and Port Hope.
It was a marvelous start.
Our goal, this fall, is to plant 9,000 more trees. (10% of our total goal)
This is where you come in.
Some of our planting sites are still being worked out, but for now, here is what we have confirmed:
September 25th - Toronto, Downsview Park
2. October 1st - Whitby, St. John's Anglican Church
3. October 2nd - Toronto, Downsview Park
4. November 4th - Toronto, Centennial College
We are looking for volunteers who will help us plant, mulch and water trees on these dates and locations. Register to volunteer at
We need your donations!
Right now there is an urgent need for cash donations in order for us to meet our goals. If you would consider donating (go to
) here is what I can promise you:
a. Tax deductible receipt for all donations over $25.
b. No administration fees: these have been covered by private donors.
c. Matching funds. All cash received is matched with 'in kind' services and donations of trees by Landscape Ontario members. This spring we achieved a $3 'in kind' to $1 cash ratio, with special thanks to our L.O. supporters.
If you donate this month we will send you:
A Highway of Heroes Living Tribute poster and a 'Trees For Life' native tree guide. For a $100 minimum donation.
For $250 minimum donation, we will send you a signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden.
Post Your Story
And for every donation, we offer to post a story about an individual whom you wish to dedicate your donation to. We will post all stories and names on a rolling scroll on our website.
Note that all trees planted on the highway are native. Some of the trees are 2 year old 'whips' and others are much bigger. We are selecting trees according to planting conditions and the limitations of our budget.
Some other good news
. We have received a $75,000 grant through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. Vineland Centre for Research and Innovation is responsible for a study which calls for the planting of trees on the highway right of way using state of the art techniques. Under the guidance of Dr. Darby McGrath, Vineland, we will determine the 'best practices' for soil remediation and planting procedures to ensure optimum success as our campaign progresses.
After all, we want every tree that is planted to thrive and live. Vineland will help us achieve this.
In cooperation with The Ontario Ministry of Transportation, this fall we are planting 1,800 trees on the right of way of the Highway of Heroes with our campaign partners Forests Ontario. We are excited about the potential of transforming the highway into a living legacy that will be clearly visible for all who travel this 170 kilometre stretch of highway.
It is important to acknowledge the efforts and generosity of many individuals and organisations that have helped to kick start our campaign. There is a detailed list on our website, but I must mention that the Garden Club of Toronto has surprised us with their generosity (a $20,000 cash donation) and their physical and planning efforts to transform the grounds around the Coroner's office at Keele St and the 401.
Maple Leaves Forever
have stepped to the plate with a $25,000 cash donation. Ken Jewett, the founder, is an inspiring and thoughtful Canadian who is not afraid to put his effort and money where his heart is. Thank you Ken!
The Ontario Horticultural Association went out on a limb (pardon the pun) and raised over $28,000 through various fund raising efforts this past season. They remain committed to the campaign and we are forever grateful for their ongoing work.
The list, of course, goes on but I will stop here and urge you to visit www.hohtribute.ca.
Please sign up for our monthly newsletter (we will not fill your Inbox!) and consider volunteering this fall and/or making a donation.
We need your support now more than ever.
With thanks in advance.
Now... to your garden:
Dig and Divide. September is the perfect month to dig and divide perennials that are big, out of hand or just ready for division.
Peonies divide best this month. Hostas, day lilies, monarda (Bee Balm), rudbeckia, Echinacea: virtually all perennials with a dense fibrous roots or fleshy roots (like a hosta).
Dig up the entire clump and divide it with my new Garden Knife (Mark's Choice). It is ideal for sawing through thick roots or contouring sod. Water divisions (and sod) well after transplanting.
Sow or sod. Your choice. My late father said that you can lay sod upside-down in September and it will still grow. It is true, but I don't recommend it. Lay sod on quality soil at least 5 cm thick and water well. It will grow like stink (but can smell quite nice, in an earthy way).
This is the best month to sow grass seed to thicken your lawn or start a new one. Look for Golfgreen grass seed, as it is Canadian, blended for Canadian conditions. Top quality too. Start grass seed in quality Marks Choice lawn soil. Or a quality alternative (though, you will have trouble matching the quality of Mark's Choice, exclusive to Home Hardware product #5053-686).
Fertilize. I apply Golfgreen Iron Plus now and Golfgreen Fall Lawn Fertilizer in 8 weeks. Try it and you will be amazed by the results. Note that only Golfgreen Iron Plus is guaranteed to produce a visibly greener lawn in 72 hours or your money back.
. Hordes of hummingbirds are moving south into the more densely populated parts of the country. Enjoy them. Plant hummingbird-friendly perennials. Fill your Marks Choice hummingbird feeders (or any feeders that you may have) and sit back. Enjoy. The moment only occurs, quite like this, in September (with apologies to Newfoundlanders who don't generally see hummers.)
. As I have said before, the more you harvest the more you WILL harvest. Fruiting plants like tomatoes and peppers just keep producing when ripe fruit is removed when ready.
I think that we are due for a record harvest of apples in many parts of Canada, especially where irrigation has occurred (in the dry parts of the country). Enjoy. If you don't have an apple tree, go apple picking. I have some apple trees that are loaded and hanging to the ground with their burden of harvest.
. A reminder that there are more Farmers Markets in the country now than ever in our history. Patronize them. As Michael Pollan said in his book In Defense of Real Food, "Shake hands with the farmer who feeds you." Farmers markets provide their very best stock now. Take advantage and plan on storing lots of for this winter. In Ontario, go to Home Hardware and pick up the free Harvest Ontario 2016 hand book. Farmers Markets, pick-your- own, wineries and Country Fairs all listed. Again: Free.
A special thanks to Steven Price, president of Bird Studies Canada, for providing our second edition of 'Birders Corner'.
I really appreciate the feedback that readers gave us last month when Steven launched his first column here. Look for it below.
Brenda has come up with some innovative ways for you to share the best of your garden on Facebook and win some great prizes. Check out our contest for this month and if you don't submit an entry, be sure to check out what has been entered on my Facebook page. You will be blown away by what Canadians can grow and photograph!
. Looking for a quick audio hit of gardening information?
Click here or go to www.markcullen.com to connect with 680 News in Toronto and 6 other Canadian radio stations featuring my 'Green File' gardening tips.
Just trying to keep you up to date....
. The Toronto Star and 28 other Canadian newspapers continue to support my work by providing a vehicle for my weekly column. Each week, I attempt to bring you up to date in the Gardening World: my written work features 'beautiful' and 'practical'... not to mention reflections on the gardening experience.
. I am delighted to report that sales of my new gardening book, The New Canadian Garden continue to be strong. Dundurn Press, my publisher, have reported on several occasions this season that it is among their strongest selling title.
Get up to date on HOW to garden and WHY we garden the way that we do. It is a story book, a practical guide to successful gardening and an inspiration that will encourage you to attempt a different approach to gardening. Available at Home Hardware, Chapters/Indigo and independent book stores.
Merchant of Beauty
Bird Studies Canada
Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers
"Downy and Hairy woodpeckers can be seen in gardens across Canada, north to the tree line. They are similar in appearance, but with practice, you'll distinguish them by overall size and bill length.
Both species are beautifully patterned black and white, with males having a small red patch on the back of the head. The pictures are of a female Downy and a male Hairy. For both species, look for a bold white stripe down the back.
Beware: a woodpecker with a long white stripe on the wing is a sapsucker, and one with a full red hood is a Red-headed Woodpecker. (Misidentifying male Downies or Hairies as 'Red-headed Woodpecker' is a common mistake.)
Other woodpeckers aside, how do we distinguish Downies from Hairies?
Credit: Ron Ridout
Photo Credit: May Haga
Everything about the Downy is smaller and gentler. If it's as big as a robin, it's a Hairy; smaller is a Downy. Hairies have a strong, heavy bill, about as long as the head is deep. Downies have a much smaller bill, just a third of the head depth. Before long, you'll see the difference at a glance!
Downies are one of the most likely woodpeckers to come to feeders, and possibly the only woodpecker you'll attract with seeds alone. In most of Canada, a suet cake of almost any recipe, homemade or purchased, will eventually attract a couple more woodpecker species.
I see more Downies than Hairies in the garden. The Downy will search for insects on smaller branches of trees and even shrubs, or peck at a plant gall, like those spheres you see on goldenrod plants. They also tap on my board-and-batten house, without doing any damage. Hairy Woodpeckers favour larger trees and forested areas, but I see them at my seed and suet feeders occasionally.
Woodpeckers are always fascinating, and a great way to introduce kids and neighbours to birds in your garden, at your cottage, or on the farm."
Proud supporters of Bird Studies Canada.
I 'Like' This Contest Idea
This is a photo of my garden bench - A place where I take the time to think.
This month, I'm inviting you to submit a photo of your 'thinking place' in the garden.
5 winners will receive a copy of my new book
The New Canadian Garden.
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 September 7, 2016. Voting closes September 12, 2016)
Product of the Month - Golfgreen Iron Plus Lawn Fertilizer
Golfgreen Iron Plus is an exclusive formula to Home Hardware.
With 10 times the amount of iron compared to our previous formula, the greening effect on your lawn is extraordinarily fast. The chelated 'form' of iron in the new Golfgreen is such that your lawn will take it up efficiently and effectively. Not all forms of iron are so easily 'ingested' by grass plants!
And this iron formula does not stain patios, decks or any hard surfaces, as other forms of iron can.
Golfgreen Iron plus
still contains a slow release nitrogen formula for a greener lawn, longer. The sulphur coated urea in this Golfgreen releases nitrogen for up to an 8 week period.
It is my view that Golfgreen Iron plus is the most sophisticated lawn fertilizer formula on the consumer market in Canada.
And it is the only fertilizer guaranteed to produce a visibly greener lawn in 72 hours or your money refunded.
It is made in Canada too. Look for my ugly mug on the bag.
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 grandchildren 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.
Shade Matters - The Shade Work Group of Waterloo Region
What is shade and why does it matter?
hade: it is an issue that we generally ignore, but after a long hot summer like the one that is currently winding down, this is a healthy reminder of why we need it. And more urban trees!" ~Mark
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.
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
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
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
'. Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.