E-newsletter from Mark and Ben Cullen
Are you ready to start planting your veggie garden? All you're waiting for is sunshine and warmer temperatures.

The good news is that Saskatoon and Winnipeg are enjoying temperatures in the mid-teens and little bit of sunshine today. This is good news for gardeners, as most of us have endured a lengthy spell of rain and cool temperatures. (If you're wondering why your flowering trees are late, it's more related to temperature than anything else).

Flowering cherry at Toronto Botanical Garden

In your veggie garden, there's still lots of opportunity to sow directly from seed, regardless of where you live. Peas, radishes, carrots, onions (sets and multipliers) leaks, beets, broccoli, potatoes, kale, leaf lettuce and spinach can all be sown directly in the garden right now. Mark has sown all of these in his garden in central Canada.  Some, almost a month ago.

The frost tender stuff is a different story. Unless you live in the lower mainland of British Columbia or Vancouver island, there's still a chance of frost in your area. Moreover, the soil should be warm to about 18 degrees or higher before you plant heat seeking vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, m elons, pumpkins and gourds. There's no harm in waiting until the end of the month or early June to plant or sow the heat seekers.

The excess rain that many Canadians have enjoyed (?) is another matter. If stepping into your garden is not so much a garden as a mud hole, don't do it. You'll damage the quality of the soil by literally mucking through it. Drier days to come.


Speaking of fruit plants, as we do mid month every month this time of year, this is the perfect time of year to plant all berries, fruit trees and even asparagus and rhubarb. 
If you're thinking about it, go for it.


Speaking of new beginnings, Ben got married on Saturday. What a fabulous celebration. We are so happy to welcome Sam(antha) into the family and to become a part of hers. Not only is she a gardener, she has a Masters in composting. She won't just fit in to this family, she'll teach us a thing or two, no doubt. 

Congratulations to you both.


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

We recommend  BioMax composted manure as it is registered and approved by the Compost Council of Canada.  It is healthy, rich in the 'good' stuff and it works.  
Mix ten parts composted 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.

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. 

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.

Sow grass seed.  Use CIL 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 CIL Iron Plus lawn food.  
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. 

Fruit trees. Do nothing while they are in bloom. Let them flower and let bees, honey and native bees alike, do their work undisturbed.


"This is the best weeding and planting tool I have ever used. And I've gardened my whole life." ~Rudy. Udora, Ontario

The Mark's Choice backhoe is a multi-function weeding tool.  You can pop large, deeply rooted weeds out of the ground by dropping the sharp, pointy end of the head into the soil behind the weed.  Give it a tug and out pops the weed.
  • You can clear-cut small weeds, before they become established, by turning the Back Hoe on its side and  pulling the handsome, stainless steel head towards you.  
  • You can maneuver between vegetable plants as you move down the row without damaging the desirable plants.
  • You can make a furrow with the sharp pointed tip when sowing seeds and small bulbs, like onions.
  • You can comb out moss, chickweed and other shallow rooted weeds with the serrated edge.
This is the first weeding tool that you will purchase that does not need sharpening when you bring it home.  Home Hardware item# 5036-415

The run-away sensation, long handled hoeing/cultivating/furrowing tool also has a brother and sister. 
One is the same long handled tool with a head that is 2/3 the size of the original model.  
It is great for use in tightly planted gardens and small, urban spaces.  $27.97. Home Hardware item# 5036-414

The other new Backhoe features the same stainless steel, pre-sharpened 2/3 sized head on a shorter, 16 inch solid ash handle.  
Perfect for weeding and planting raised beds or while working in a crouch position. $19.97. Home Hardware item# 5036-413


Ladies Night. 7:00pm

June 1 - Minden Home Hardware
Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centre event.  11:00am - 1:00pm

June 7 - Gow's Home Hardware
Bridgewater NS. 6:00pm - 8:00pm

Annapolis Royal NS. 12 noon - 2:00pm


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 May.


The Toronto Botanical Gardens host their annual Through the Garden Gate on June 8 and 9.
This is the thirty-second year for Through the Garden Gate: Canada's largest tour of private gardens. We were excited to hear this year's tour will be hosted in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood, which is one of the city's most charming with its cozy houses and dense tree canopies. There is no shortage of creative and inspiring gardens.

The self-guided tour enables participants to discover the 21 beautiful private gardens at your own pace following a map and that contains descriptions of each featured garden. Complimentary shuttle buses are available for participants to "hop on and hop off" along the route.

Bring a notebook, phone/camera (avoid taking pictures of the actual houses, out of respect for the owners) and while in the area, take time to stroll the famous boardwalk at Toronto's Beach. Then you will understand why this is such a desirable place to live.

Enter our contest (below) for a chance to win 2 passes to Mark's Choice Through the Garden Gate.


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

Send one photo to  groundskeeper@markcullen.com .
We will post all photos on  Mark's facebook page.
The 4 photos with the most 'likes' will win their choice of prizes: 2 passes to Mark's Choice Through The Garden Gate and a  signed copy of our book Escape to Reality OR a $50 gift card for Home Hardware and a signed copy of our book Escape to Reality
(Don't forget to pick up a copy of Escape to Reality.  What a great rainy day read.  Only $25.95 available everywhere including many Home Hardware stores.)
Deadline for entry: May 20, 2019.
Deadline for voting: May 27, 2019.
Enter today!

Reminder: The Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa is on now through May 20. 

The Canadian Tulip Festival was established to celebrate the historic Royal gift of tulips from the Dutch to Canadians immediately following the Second World War as a symbol of international friendship. The Festival preserves the memorable role of the Canadian troops in the liberation of the Netherlands and Europe, as well as commemorates the birth of Dutch Princess Margriet in Ottawa during World War II-the only royal personage ever born in Canada.