Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
         THEN WHAT?
During COVID-19, "Do not give way to melancholy or flee into flashy new stimulus. Look out the bus window, which is itself a window on the soul. Embrace the burdens of your being in the world. You cannot escape from yourself, but you can examine the conditions of your own possibility."
  ~Mark Kingswell, Globe and Mail, professor of philosophy University of Toronto
Possibilities. There is a word worth hanging on to as we enter week 5 of self-imposed lock-down. We have been thinking about how we can help get everyone through to the other side. Helping others, it seems to us, is a fulfilling endeavour for a host of reasons.

We are fine, with roof overhead, lots of food and even an income. No problem with all of that. But like so many Canadians we ask ourselves, "What can we do to help smooth the journey for others?"   We are not retired doctors or nurses who can volunteer to join the front lines in the COVID-19 fight. 

As we examined this question, we came up with this: we know how to grow food. We understand soil, light, water and the miracle that lies in every seed.
We can give Canadians a daily dose of knowledge, sprinkled with some humour, that will help them live a more sustainable life. We write and talk for a living. Why stop now? In fact, why not ramp it up, when our country needs us most?

So here it is, our plan to help every Canadian who wants to feed themselves and have fun doing it.

Daily Videos . Want to know how to start seeds on your kitchen windowsill? Want to grow plants from seed using stuff that you (likely) have lying around the kitchen or pantry? Engage your kids in an exciting, fun activity that will bear fruit in a few weeks? (see how we did that, "fruit"?). 

In two to 2 ½ minutes, we are delivering a home-made message straight from Mark's greenhouse and Ben's garden. 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. Seed starting, composting, growing stuff from the kitchen. 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 .

This past week, the Toronto Star chose our column in their

680 News . Each week we deliver a new gardening tip through Canada's largest AM radio station, 680 News in Toronto .  THIS coming week, starting April 20th, we are delivering one new tip a day. 

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.

Soon Chatelaine magazine online will feature a story with us. 

And, in our next newsletter, we will have a special announcement of a Mark and Ben podcast launch.

All of this is to say, that we are pulling out the stops to provide you with the best, timely, accurate gardening information out there. All Canadian. Infused with a little fun.

We hope you are safe and remain healthy. That is #1.

And then, we hope you can find the silver lining in this experience. It may be in a cloud, but we are betting you will more likely find it in the soil.

We are off to donate blood.  Seems we are qualified to do that and there is a need.

Sincerely yours,
Mark and Ben
Merchants of beauty

Be sure to share this newsletter and encourage friends and family to sign up at


Weather permitting, it's time to direct sow some of our more cold-tolerant crops such as beets, broccoli, salad mixes (including choy and kale), peas, potatoes, leeks and carrots. Direct sowing is our favourite way to grow many veggies as it is so straight-forward and eliminates all the costs associated with seed starting indoors or buying seedlings. You can save up to 90% off the price of store-bought transplants by direct-sowing seeds in your garden.

Top dress your beds with compost wherever you plant. Don't bother "digging it in", the worms are happy to do that work for you- pulling compost down into the soil, producing nutrient-rich worm castings.

Asparagus , one of our favourite perennial crops can also be planted now. To establish asparagus, the best thing to do is start with "crowns" (1-year-old plants) planted 12-inches apart, 2-inches into well drained soil with a generous amount of compost. Being dioecious, there are male and female asparagus plants.
The females produce red berries in the fall which contain seeds that can produce new crowns, and the males do not. The male plants do not expend energy producing seeds, they are generally more productive as a harvest crop.
It might take you 2-3 years to get a really great crop - you're starting from the start here, after all - but you will reap the benefits of harvest for up to 20 years or more.

Start seeds now for planting out later in May.  Sow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, leeks, Swiss chard, kale, Brussels  sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower (all the "gassy" vegetables) and onions from seed. 

Mulch your garlic  now that it is poking through the soil. We tend to plant the garlic into bare soil in the fall, and mulch around it once it's about 2-3 inches high. Leaving the dark soil bare will warm up sooner and adding mulch now will insulate it as the early spring temperatures continue to fluctuate and before weeds can germinate through the row.

Stay in Touch 
Mark and Ben's Gardening Connections  

Toronto Star

Home Hardware

Gardening Events
Event Schedule

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?  We would be happy to include your event listing on our 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.