Mark Cullen's FREE e-newsletter
An Early Worm
Attracts the Bird
The foot soldiers of the garden are back.

Worms are populating my compost and my garden as they migrate up from the depths, some times from over a meter deep, to forage on the organic matter that I generously left on top of the soil last fall. 

Worms love fallen leaves and hostas laid flat by late autumn rains, not to mention lots of detritus material that I would have sanitized from my garden years ago.  No longer though.  Now, rot and decay are my friends.  And worms. 

The worms thank me as they lay about in the early spring rain, of which most Canadians have received a plenty.  Worms forage on organic matter and leave behind (literally) nitrogen rich castings, aka poop.

I love worms.
They save me so much work.
How so?

I don't have to turn my soil under after I spread compost on the surface of it.  And the natural microbes and other fine nutrients created by worms enhance the quality of my soil. 
Welcome to our first 'Food Gardening' newsletter of the year.  I have good news for you.  If you are anxiously waiting for frost free weather to start planting, like the long weekend of May, you don't have to.

I have already sown my first crop of beets, spinach, radishes, carrots (2 sowings!), Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, leeks, kale and all of the other 'gassy' vegetables.  
They prefer cool temperatures.  And I sow them because I can.

There will be enough to do when the warm, favourable weather of late May and early June arrives.
Hot Crops

As days get longer, so do my tomato plants.  I am busy pricking them out of seeding trays and potting them up into 4" pots. 

All of my transplants get the worm castings treatment.   For every 10 parts container mix that I use, I add one part Marks Choice Worm Castings.   

It makes ALL the difference.

All of the active microbes, beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae (you don't have to remember these technical words) work in the potting mix to promote roots, growth, general plant health and disease resistance. 
Things To Do in your Food Garden now:

1.  Once soil is dry about 3 cm deep (ha!) prepare it for planting.  I spread two centimetres of composted manure over my entire planting area.  

I recommend Bio Max manure as it is registered and approved by the Composting Council of Canada.  It is healthy, rich in the 'good' stuff and it works.  
I mix ten parts manure to one part worm castings.  
Let it sit on the soil and earth worms will pull it down for you and put it to work.

2.  Start 'hardening' off frost tender plants like tomatoes and peppers.  This means placing them out of doors for short periods of about an hour, to start gradually increasing to a full day and then in about 2 weeks leaving them out over night.  The idea is to get the tender darlings used to the intensity of the sun, wind and cool evening temps before you plant outdoors in 10 days to 2 weeks. 

3. Feed your transplants.  10-52-10 or compost tea will get them off to a good start.  Compost tea is made by 'steeping' a half filled pillow case with compost or composted manure in your rain barrel of a large bucket.  After 48 hours it is ready.  Mix 3 parts water with one part compost tea for great, all natural fertilizer.

4.  Start cucumbers, melons, squash, and the like in peat pots (they don't like to be disturbed) indoors now.  Avoid seed rot by sowing each seed vertically. 

5.  Build a cold frame.  (optional)  A great way to extend the season and get a head start on your veggie crops!

6.  Sow grass seed.  Use the new Golfgreen Iron Plus Lawn Recovery 4 in 1.  Amazing!  It contains top quality grass seed, pelletized compost, nitrogen and iron... and you can apply it using your fertilizer spreader.    3 weeks later Golfgreen Iron Plus lawn fertilizer.  
The results are incredible... your lawn will be so green it will appear almost blue-green.  I know, you can't eat your lawn (but sheep can, and you can eat them, unless you don't). So why is this tip in a 'food gardening' newsletter?  This is a perfect time of year to do this. 

See you at the Orillia Home Hardware Ladies Night on May 16.
I will be at Meadow Lake Home Hardware on June 6 and Lloydminster Home Hardware on June 7.

You will next hear from me on May 31st.

Keep your knees dirty (or use my new Mark's Choice knee pads, only at Home Hardware).
Merchant of edible beauty
Photo credit: Jules Torti
There's nothing better than the aromatic kick of just-snipped chives on a cream cheese -slathered bagel or freshly torn basil leaves on a strawberry feta salad. 

Herb gardens are a savior for instant, fragrant flavour boosts to catfish tacos or front porch mojitos. 

What are you planting this year? And what will you be planting your kitchen herb garden in? 

There are lots of fun ideas to choose from--our favourites are old bread pans, cowboy boots, silver teapots and watering cans. 

Share your inspired photos with us on Facebook and Twitter! And, if you're wondering what to make for dinner tonight, a Herb Roasted Cornish Game Hen seems appropriate and decadent! 
House & Home
8 Pretty Flowers that are a Snap to Grow

You're at the garden center, and you're.... confused. 

It will all be OK - Home Hardware gardening expert Mark Cullen has advice for newbies who can't tell a Shasta daisy from a Staghorn palm. 

Click through to discover which other plants get a (green) thumbs up from the gardening guru.

Canada 150 Tulip Contest

For the mid-May contest, show me your Canada 150 tulips!
Send one photo to
I will post all photos on my facebook page.

The photo with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize:
A signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware, a copy of the Harrowmsith 2017 Almanac + 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.

I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.   Vote for your favourite photo!

Deadline for entry: May 30, 2017.
Deadline for voting is June 4, 2017.

Enter today!