E-newsletter from Mark and Ben Cullen

"Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet" - Roger Miller

About a month of ago, a lot of us were wondering if we were ever going to "recover" from the cool, damp and prolonged spring we've had here in the east, unlike the west which was mostly above seasonal.
Turns out, all that moisture in the ground wasn't such a bad thing.

A farmer friend questioned last week if maybe he should have resisted switching to short-day variety corn after all, and a garden center manager admitted that they were catching up to last year's sales - might even come in higher, year over year.

Much of this recent optimism comes from the stretch of sunny days we've been having that has finally delivered a flush of growth. The zucchini seeds which I figured the squirrels had made off with finally germinated and are taking over the veggie patch one huge leaf at a time, each soaking up solar energy and socking it into a healthy-looking fruit-set.

On average, things are a week or two behind at most and if this fall is anything like last year, there are a lot of sunny days ahead.

There are good reasons to be optimistic for this year's crop.



If you've spent any time in the woods this year, you would know that the damp spring was good for bug-breeding. The same is true of weeds, which don't wait for the soil to dry out before planting themselves in the garden.

- Get out there and weed. Like a lot of jobs, Ben tends to procrastinate with the weeding. With wild and cut flower mixes germinating from seed, it's easier to tell what is and isn't a weed once they're a little more mature. That's the excuse, anyway. By now, the seeds - and the weeds - are in full flush, so go whole-hog on weed removal before they totally take over. Your veggie crops are probably starting to seek out more space now, too, so reducing weed pressure will improve your harvest.

- Apply bordo mixture to prevent early blight in your tomatoes, if you haven't already. We repeat this treatment every two weeks until harvest. Also, stake your tomatoes if you haven't yet - it will double your crop and help prevent fungal disease, as it improves airflow.

- Sow late season crops such as leaf lettuce, mesclun, radish, broccoli, carrots, onions and peas for successive harvest right into the fall. A lot of us lost the seeds we started for this spring with the late cold snaps. It's not too late to fill in the gaps that left in your garden.

Garlic scapes are ready to harvest.  If you're not sure what to do with them, try Ben's very made-up recipe for garlic scape pesto. Otherwise saute them with your eggs.

The pesto recipe:
  • Fill the bowl of your food processor with scapes (you might have to cut them down to fit)
  • A cup of parmesan
  • Half a cup of raw, shelled sunflower seeds (cheaper than pine-nuts, and nobody can tell the difference)
  • As much basil as you might have growing in your container garden
  • A cup of olive oil
  • The squeeze of half a lemon
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • Pulse in the food processor until it reaches a consistency you're happy with.
  • Whether you add this to toast or fettuccine, the powerful garlic taste is as fresh a meal as you can get
- Raspberries and cherries are coming on strong.  Make sure to stay ahead of the harvest to minimize waste. Mark likes his raspberries stewed just a bit and poured over ice cream. Ben goes with pie or crumble.

Tree fruits such as apples and pears can fall apart if you don't stay attentive.   Mark applies End All and Green Earth Garden Sulphur to keep insects and disease at bay. These two products are safe chemical alternatives which can be applied together to save time.

- Harvest ! If you didn't have so much going on in your life, you could almost watch the produce turn ripe in your garden on a good growing day. Make sure you find time to walk the garden daily so you don't miss anything at its peak.

If you're looking at an excess harvest, remember to check with your  local food bank whether they're participating in the Plant a Row, Grow a Row program ( https://www.growarow.org/ ).


On the long weekend, Ben was in Restoule Provincial Park with his wife and friends. It was also dog Ruby's first Canadian camping adventure since arriving from St. Lucia in the fall. 

She seemed to adapt well to Canadian wilderness. 

Last week, Mark spent a few days on Georgian Bay off of Parry Sound fishing with his brother in law, Bryan. There were some catches, but mostly just laughs.


-  On Tuesday morning (July 16), Ben will be on The Weather Network with Rachel Schoutsen talking "What grows best, where" - where the best crops come from across Canada.

-  Wednesday at 4:30 pm, you can hear Ben on The New Classical 96.3 FM with Mark Wigmore, the host of The Oasis.  Tune in for 'Gardening with the Cullens'.

A forester in the family, Mary's cousin Lynn, sent us this video which we enjoyed. 

It does a great job of explaining how complex trees really are and will change your perspective next time you go for a walk in the woods.

Watch the video.


We write a weekly column for the New In Homes & Condos section of the Saturday Toronto Star.
In case you missed it, these are the exciting gardening/environment columns we wrote in early July.

Bring beautiful garden colours indoors.