E-newsletter from Mark and Ben Cullen

"Anyone who's a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: 'Is it good? Does it give pleasure?''- Anthony Bourdain

Most of the "crops" are in the ground and those of us who don't take a "RoundUp and burn-down", scorched-earth approach to weed control are likely scratching our heads. This is the time of year that it feels like weeds are winning the race of garden domination.

Ben and his fiancé Sam spent a good deal of time last weekend on their hands-
and-knees in the plot debating between "weeds" and "seeds" as they plucked the former one by one. At this stage, many of the young plants are still too small to go ahead with mulching, so they delicately mulched around what they could until the 'crops' are a little more robust.

It seems appropriate to ask, 'is this good? Does it give us pleasure'? as per quote above from the late Anthony Bourdain. Yes- this is as much fun as you can have in the garden. Now we are ready for the heat that late June and July will bring - the "growing days" of summer.

This past weekend was the Mark's Choice Through the Garden Gate garden tour of Windfield Estates, in Toronto. Not only is MCTTGG the largest tour of private gardens in Canada, it benefits the Toronto Botanical Garden. They have just announced a massive expansion plan, including 30 acres which were just bequeathed to TBG from the City of Toronto (and previously from big-hearted Rupert Edwards to the City of Toronto). 

This year's event was a tremendous success, with thanks to the organizers and volunteers at Toronto Botanical Garden, the Master Gardeners who oversaw each garden and Len of Pollock's Home Hardware who brought a Mark's Choice Pop-Up shop. 

Mark with Len from Pollock's Home Hardware

Already looking forward to next year's event in the Toronto Beaches neighb ourhood.

Mark also spent some time touring around Nova Scotia in the past week, with highlights including a visit to Pugwash, home to the internationally best-selling Supertunia Bordeaux hybrid.  

He took in the Halifax Botanical Gardens and an interview with Niki Jabbour, whose radio program featuring Mark will go to air June 17th (look out for it online), as well as a tour up and down the Annapolis Valley with friend and Home Hardware dealer Jeff Redden of Windsor, Nova Scotia.  

It was an amazing week. He even got to hold the Nobel Peace Prize while in Pugwash. Bet most of you didn't even know that this village of 800 won it.

You can read more about the Canadian Pugwash Group and the Pugwash Peace Conference 1957 here.

Of course, there is more than just weeding at this time of year - the longest day is just nearly here (June 21st), which means there are plenty of great growing days ahead. As such, we'll continue to:

Direct sow carrots, beets, beans, leaf lettuce, bib lettuce, mesclun mix, radishes for a continuous harvest into the fall.

We still have leftover containers that need planting for kitchen cutting gardens. Dill, mint and coriander get their own containers as they don't play well with others and tend to take over.


Tomatoes will be staked to double their bounty and treated with Bordo spray. It's a safe, copper-based spray which prevents early blight and will be re-applied every two weeks from now until harvest.


Cucumbers and squash will be treated with diatomaceous earth (silicone dioxide), a harmless means of dealing with beetles.


The asparagus and rhubarb are mostly finished, and we will leave some growing, so they can return energy to their roots for next year's harvest. Similarly, spring bulbs such as daffodils have long-passed but we will continue waiting to cut them down until their bulbs are restored with energy and the tops have died back naturally.


Onion and leeks benefit from a 5cm top dressing of compost or earth worm castings this time of year as they draw up nutrients to fuel their rich growth.


Mark's fruit orchard will be getting its first treatment of End-All and Garden Sulphur, and again every two weeks until the end of summer. This helps suppress insect and disease pressure. We recommend this for all fruiting trees, every two weeks until the end of August.


And of course, we will continue adding mulch as the gardens fill in and the risk of smothering the plants we want has passed. Ben uses 30 cm of straw, and Mark uses 12 cm of finely ground bark mulch.


Father's Day is coming at us this weekend, and maybe some of you still have "Dad" scrawled somewhere on your shopping list. Conveniently, there are some new items from Mark's Choice which might work for Dad.

The new Mark's Choice Watering Wand (5043-844) has a very convenient telescoping wand and pivoting head which is great for getting to baskets and going low to avoid wetting leaves without having to bend over. 
Remember to water deeply, less often to encourage healthier root growth. 

For the Dad who can appreciate top-quality, we have added another piece to our top-notch line of stainless-steel digging tools. We have searched everywhere and are confident that you will not find a more beautifully crafted line of tools than this - now with a stainless steel digging spade (5070-361) that has the solid-shank stainless steel blade and long, ash-wood long handle. 

The engineering of this quality tool was inspired by the now famous Mark's Choice Back Hoe. Another Fathers Day gift idea! Unless, of course, he already has one. Cause you only need one - the last weeding tool you will ever buy.

And if your Dad is less of a gardener, and more of a back-porch beer drinker (no shame in that) he might appreciate the Mark's Choice Misting Tower (5072-995) which, by way of fine mist, reduces the ambient temperature in its vicinity by up to 10 degrees Celsius.  Helpful to all plants in the perimeter too. 
Hope all of this helps. We strive to make your dream of a successful food garden easy as pie, each month around the middle, or 15th. Like now! 

Plant, nurture, grow, harvest and have loads of fun.
We sure are.
Mark and Ben Cullen
Partners, gardeners, father and son.
Living the dream, in the garden.