Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
200 days is a long time. That is how long it has been since a day above 20 degrees Celsius in our zone 5 gardens.  In Central Canada, this has been a cold spring.
After a couple of teasers, the outlook appears promising - trust us. The gardening season is upon us (finally).

What Now?
Perhaps you watched a magnolia tree in your neighbourhood burn off with the frost just as it was opening. Breaks our hearts too - it is a rare spring when we get to see the magnolia through to its full glory.

Thankfully, a cold snap cannot fully blunt the spring show Mother Nature has in store for us. Our peonies, which are 30 to 50 cm high now, will not be stopped.
Nothing seems to slow down the daffodils. And then there is the veggie garden...


This has been a great year for exercising your season extension tools - row covers, and cold frames protect a bountiful harvest of greens in both of our gardens.

Leaf lettuce ready to go

Despite the cold, it has been a relatively sunny and dry spring which means soil conditions are perfect for planting. The farmers we know are telling us that most of their corn acres are already in the ground in Southern Ontario - an exceptional spring by that measure.

Home gardeners are even better equipped to deal with mucky soils than the farmers who wade in with their tractors and planters, so there is no excuse if you haven't started. Here are some of the crops you should consider direct sowing today: Peas, radishes, carrots, onions (sets and multipliers) leeks, beets, broccoli, potatoes, kale, leaf lettuce and spinach

Fruit, berries, asparagus and rhubarb - this is a perfect time of year to get them in the ground, or to establish an asparagus patch if you have been thinking of doing so. The asparagus crop has just started coming in, the first green vegetable we look forward to. If you want to enjoy your own bounty in a couple of seasons, now is the time to get them in the ground.  
Plant the young roots, purchased from a garden retailer, in a trench about 30 cm deep. The soil should be rich and well drained. As the roots produce growth, slowly back fill with a compost/sand mixture until the trench is full.

Seedlings? Heat-seekers like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and melons. Hold tight - there is no harm in waiting until end of May or early June to move these outside. That said, the next week or so will be a good time to start hardening off. Start by leaving them out in full sun for a couple hours during the day and extend their exposure by a couple of hours each day for 5-7 days until you can leave them outside all day. This will help toughen them up for transplanting nearer to the end of the month.


Today is a big day: the official launch of "Green File" hosted by us, Ben and Mark! 
We will be releasing Green File twice per month in 30 minute episodes, corresponding with our newsletters on the 1st and 15th of the month throughout the growing season.

Green File will run the gamut of our favourite food and gardening subjects along with some of our favourite people as guests.  The Green File podcast is guaranteed to be informative and fun.

Today, we cover a variety of topics, including a great discussion about growing potatoes.  Podcast #2 (June 1) we are talking to Antonio Valente, a flower-grower extraordinaire and all-round great guy who is very passionate about gardening. He teaches us a few things about growing cut flowers, and we'll give an update on what we're working on in our own yards .

Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty

Thanks to everyone who wrote/communicated with their MPPs in Ontario to get Community Gardens and retail garden centres open for spring. Together we helped to make this happen!

Stay safe, go outdoors and enjoy your garden.

We are doing everything we can think of to arm you with the information and inspiration that you need to feed yourself and enjoy your gardening experience during COVID-19. 

Daily Videos . Take a tour of Mark's 20,000 daffodils. Join Ben on his journey to control Creeping Charlie in his lawn. Want to know how to prune raspberries?

In two to 2 ½ minutes, we are delivering a daily message straight from Mark's garden and Ben's yard. You will find each new edition on our Facebook page, our YouTube channel and on our homepage at .

Garden Blogs/Tips . Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we post a new blog on our home page at . A 3-minute read. Our ultimate spring checklist, using cold frames, the benefits of mulch... There is lots of info in this growing library of current gardening/birding/environmental messages. Lots of great pictures too. Check it out.

Toronto Star weekly columns .   If you read The Toronto Star, you already have access to our column. Ben and I enjoy sharing practical information that is meant to inform, inspire and sometimes entertain. We research each of these thoroughly and our editors make sure that they are always accurate and timely. Find a fresh column, every Monday, on our homepage at .

Podcast. Listen to Green File twice per month.  Our 30 minute podcasts can be found 'everywhere you find podcasts'.

If you are still looking for gardening information that you can use, we post daily on Facebook , Instagram and twitter . Also, you will find our work at Harrowsmith, Active Life magazine, and Reno and Decor magazine.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you. Email

Also, reminder that you can go to our Library at and use our search engine to answer up to 10,000 gardening questions... go ahead, test us!


This week, Mark joined the Highway Of Heroes Tree Campaign team for a site visit. In this video, Operations manager, David Turnbull explains how they will prepare 10 clay-based acres for planting 10,000 trees on this high-profile site.
Lillian provides evidence that it is hard work taking soil samples for Vineland!

CIL Iron Plus 4-in-1 Lawn Recovery

W e tested and refined this product for many months on Mark's three acres of grass. We worked the details until our unique CIL Iron+ formula was made perfect for lawn thickening.  Watch the video.

The grass seed in every bag is the best quality you can buy. The iron is chelated, which means that all of it will be absorbed by your lawn, turning it the deepest possible green fast. 

A charge of nitrogen helps to get the grass seed off to a fast start, and the pelletized compost flows through your fertilizer spreader like a dream. Look for the new smaller bag for urban sized lawns.   Item #5065-188 (7kg), 5065-189 (4kg)
Within 3 weeks of use, we recommend that you apply CIL Iron Plus fertilizer 33-0-3 for a long lasting, deep quality green up. (5.25 kg  5024-508,
10.5 kg  5024-509)

Made in Canada for Canadian lawns.
Exclusive to Home Hardware.


For the mid-May contest, we invite you to share a photo of your favourite spring-flowering bulb.

Send one photo to

We will post all photos on Mark's facebook page.

The photo with the most 'likes' will win a $50 gift card for Home Hardware.

Deadline for entry: May 21, 2020.
Deadline for voting: May 24, 2020.

Enter today!

Reminder: The Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa is on now.

A Celebration of the Gift of Tulips and Canada's Role in the Liberation of the Netherlands in WWII.
A poignant and pivotal moment in time, the Liberation of the Netherlands led by Canadian Forces, forged a friendship that has lasted over 75 years. We honour the sacrifice of brave soldiers, our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, by keeping their memory alive.

The tulips will be at their best this coming week, I believe.

The Canadian Tulip Festival will be offering ALL performances, programming, and public participation ONLINE. The Festival will continue to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands with all Canadians and the world through their website, social media, and on their new YouTube Channel launching soon!

Please note: Commissioners Park is closed. Please Stay HOME and stay SAFE! There will be no staff, tour guides, volunteers, facilities, attractions or concerts on-site at Commissioners Park / Dow's Lake this year. #KeepCalmTulipOn #TulipTogether


Featuring a great article that Ben wrote about growing beans. Pick up a copy today and check out 'Let It Bean, Let It Bean. Mark and Ben Cullen on why you should start thinking about beans for your next backyard barbecue'.

Harrowsmith magazine is offering a special promo exclusively for our subscribers.
Subscribe to Harrowsmith at the special rate of just $26.
Click on   this link to take advantage of this special promo.

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