If you are a food gardener, with more than a small patch to plant, sow and grow, you are likely taking a break at this very moment from a busy time.
Perhaps you poured yourself a cup of coffee, or whatever, and said to yourself, "Let's see what is going on with Mark's garden" and carved a little time out of your schedule for a brief read.
If you did this: thank you. You have just paid me the highest possible compliment by giving me a moment of your time.
Now, to make it worth your while.
I have been travelling a lot lately: last week Saskatchewan, Alberta. Before that, around Ontario and 10 days in the UK for my daughter's wedding in Richmond Hill (yes, I believe that they named the Canadian Richmond Hill after this place).
The original Richmond Hill is located on the Thames River, about 20 kilometres from Hampton Court Palace. Seems that King Henry the eighth (is there another King Henry?) traveled down the river to shoot deer in Richmond.
Today there is a 2,000-acre park dedicated to open and free public use and indeed, the progeny of the original deer still wander around the place. Without fear of being shot.
Who knew? I talk to some Brits who aren't aware of this interesting place.
While there, I took in the Chelsea Flower Show (a 'must see' for any gardener), the Chelsea Physic Garden (1678 -one of the oldest pharmacy-based gardens in the world) the Grand Opening of the newly renovated London Garden Museum (I saw what $14 million will buy) and I stumbled upon a public tour of 15 private gardens right in Richmond, within blocks of our hotel.
I was in heaven.
I have this observation about many Canadian gardeners: we think that we have it hard. That others, like the Brits, grow much better gardens than we do. But I am here to kill the monster myth that we are second rate to any others from a horticultural point of view.
Take the Prairie Gardener
No one has more confidence in a seed than a Prairie gardener. Why? They have been surrounded by seeds and experienced the marvel of their development for their entire lives.
Chances are very good that they witnessed seeds germinating into vast fields of wheat, corn and canola just outside of their kindergarten window in Marwayne. Or Elbow.
Or even Good Soil. (There is such a place and I met two people in Meadow Lake who grew up there!)
When you live up north, in a place like Cold Lake Alberta, you wake up at 4:30 this time of year if you get up with the sun. You don't go to bed until 11 or later still. Plants are wired to wake up and rest according to circadian rhythm.
Right now everything up north is growing gangbusters, including the veggies that were sowed and planted long after folks in warmer climes did the same thing. Northern gardens catch up to southern gardens thanks to the tilt of the earth on it's axis.
We produce great compost in Canada BECAUSE of the frost, not in spite of it. The deeper the freeze, the more the leaf tissue of your discarded lettuce disintegrates come spring. People who love to make compost should also love deep frost.
Take bad Bugs
I travel to Ottawa and complain about my Japanese beetles and they look at me like I am a member of the rock group by the same name. Turns out, it gets just cold enough in Ottawa (and Montreal, for the most part) to kill off Japanese beetles each winter. Be happy.
The lowly possum (or is it 'o-possum'?) is the same story. Toronto has them, up north not (yet).
We grow great tulips most everywhere in Canada and assume, for the most part, that everyone else can too. Nope, you have to give tulips at least 6 weeks of 'cold' treatment before they will bloom. Ever been to Texas to a tulip festival? Or Pasadena for the annual tulip parade? Nope. Impossible, because they grow lousy tulips south of the Mason-Dixon line. That is why Pasadena had to settle for roses to create a colourful parade.
All of this is to say that I am very proud of what Canadian gardeners do.
We do gardens well.
And we are capable of so much more.
To the Veggie Garden:
Over the next couple of weeks I am still sowing
carrots, beets, beans, leaf lettuce, bib lettuce, mesclun mix, radishes (two or three times) and did I mention beets?
I will plant out broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and all of the other gassy vegetables. Stay tuned for the July newsletter.
Sow leaf lettuce and mesclun mix in containers, next to the kitchen door, for mid summer salads and easy access.
Herbs. There are many herbs available in stores still. Go for it! They will thrive during our long days and in the summer heat.
Plant all herbs together in a window box or large pot, except:
- Basil. Plant on its' own in a pot or in the garden. It requires an open, rich soil.
- Dill. It grows over a meter and a half high. Give it room. Lots of room.
- Coriander. Ditto dill.
I am applying Bordo mixture to my tomatoes now, to prevent early blight (it is a safe copper spray). Apply Bordo Mixture once every 2 weeks. This will slow the development of early and late blight - the scourge of all tomato growers.
I stake my tomatoes this weekend too. Get them off the ground using a Mark's Choice spiral stake and you double your crop. No tying either.
I apply End-All and Garden Sulphur to my fruit trees now. Continue to do this every two weeks until late August. Sometimes I switch it up and apply Bordo just to confuse the insects and diseases.
Mulch tomatoes with clean straw or finely ground up cedar mulch. Straw about 30 cm thick and bark about 12 cm. This will hold moisture in the ground, reducing water applications by 70%, weeds by 90% and help to prevent blossom end rot.
Dress onions and leeks with a 5 cm layer of finished compost or composted cattle manure
Weed everything. Using your new 'Back Hoe' (Mark's Choice, exclusive to Home Hardware). Pull soil up to each plant, whatever it is, to insulate the main stem of the plant from the drying effects of the sun and to help anchor it against the wind.
The new Back Hoe is an amazing tool, by the way. I highly recommend it as a Father's Day gift.
Cut leaves from your leaf lettuce, arugula and all culinary herbs for use in the kitchen. I have taken my first cuttings from our basil this week. Yes!
Water deeply but not too often. Best to let plants get on the dry side, about 5 cm or 2 inches deep before watering. Except with young seedlings, which need more water while young.
Beetles on cucumbers and squash can be controlled using silicon dioxide (diatomaceous earth). This stuff is safe around pets and kids. It is not even a poison, but an abrasive on the tender tummies of crawling insects, including ants by the way.
Asparagus may be coming to a close in your growing zone (it is in mine, zone 5) but if you are enjoying cool evenings, keep cutting. And keep pulling your rhubarb. In time you will leave some to mature in the garden to build up root stores for next season's crop.
Strawberries. They are ready in many parts of the country but yet to peak in Southern Ontario and Quebec. Next week! Keep an eye out for them.
Back to herbs for a moment: remember that they like to be dry between watering. Take your time before you apply water on all but basil, which is thirstier than most herbs.
It is not too late to plant tomato transplants, if they are healthy and planted in good soil.
Keep your knees dirty (or use my new Mark's Choice knee pads, only at Home Hardware).
Merchant of edible beauty
Harrowsmith - Over the Fence
The Harrowsmith team is looking for trade secrets! We will be reintroducing "Over the Fence," a page dedicated to tips and advice in the kitchen, garden and workshop.
|Photo credit: Jules Torti
Whether it's spraying PAM on furnace intake filters to increase efficiency, using Frito corn chips as fire starters or how to cool down an accidentally over-spiced chili, we'd love to hear your ideas.
Please send your submissions by August 1, 2017 to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Over the Fence" in the subject line. Our favourite entries will receive a copy of Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs cookbook or Mark Cullen's latest, The New Canadian Garden.
Last year's recipe contests were so popular, I decided to bring them back.
This month, I'm asking you to submit your favourite recipe featuring rhubarb. Email your recipe to
for a chance to win.
I will post all recipes on
my Facebook page
. The 3 recipes to receive the most 'likes' will each win a signed copy of my book
The New Canadian Garden
Deadline for entry: June 22, 2017.
Deadline for voting is June 26, 2017.