E-newsletter from Mark and Ben Cullen

"Some people grumble that roses have thorns, I am grateful that thorns have roses" - Alphonse Karr

It is easy to feel a tinge of melancholy as the trees lose their green leaves and the vegetable garden gives up its last bounty. As we transfer the now-lifeless mass of life-giving plant material to the compost pile, we are thinking about some of the successes we saw this year in the garden.

After a
lackluster  season last year, Mark had his best-ever apple crop, so much that the biggest challenge has been converting it to apple sauce fast enough.

The orchard thankfully missed the late frost that inhibited apple crops across the province and got just enough heat and water to put on an impressive harvest.

Raspberries also had a record fruit-set this year. An aggressive pruning helped minimize disease pressure and the heat brought on the berries in droves. Grand-kids Neil and Claudia (both 2 years old) were a big help with picking.

Ben and Sam's allotment also provided bounty - sweet pumpkins, crunchy pickling cucumbers and quite frankly, too many tomatoes. One of the biggest successes, however, were the cut flowers- enough that Sam wants to double the planting for next year. 

In the kitchen, Ben's first ever pumpkin pie was received with rave reviews. Unless the family was just being polite. And home-made paprika, made from the abundance of Hungarian peppers, has already gone into hearty fall dishes such as paprikash.


Hopefully you have left some of your harvesting into late October, such as carrots, leeks and kale, which all taste better after some cooler weather. Kale can be harvested even after first frost.

Rake those leaves onto the garden, rather than into bags and put to the curb. A layer of leaves will insulate the garden through the winter and break down handily for a layer of fresh compost in the spring. The earthworms will thank you, and in turn that plants will reward you for this addition of nutrients.

Set up a Mark's Choice row cover  to extend your harvest past last frost, especially if you have some crops that were late to get planted and haven't yet provided a harvest. Heat tunnels or cold frames come in many forms, the easiest thing to do is simply stretch plastic over some hoops planted into the ground.

Save seeds from your heirloom varieties for replanting next spring. It is important to keep track of the varieties, as hybrids do not reproduce "true" to their genetics year after year. If you had two or more varieties of flowering vegetables in your garden, you are also likely to end up with cross-pollinated seeds and unpredictable results. Scoop the seeds out of ripe tomatoes, squash, pumpkins and melons and spread them out to dry in a well-ventilated space. 

Beans and peas need to dry on the stalk before they can be harvested for seed, and you will want to make sure that you are harvesting only the biggest, healthiest pods. "You reap what you sow" is the rule here. Corn is also best left on the stalk until is has "dented", that is when it is fully dried and ready for storage. Selecting your own seeds from the healthiest plants in your garden will allow you to, over time, adapt the best sub-varieties for your garden, soil and local climate.
There is still time to plant garlic bulbs. 
Watch our video for tips of a successful garlic crop.

Lawn and Leaf Rake

We love this rake.  We call it the 'World's best rake', with a tensile strength and flexibility that provides an amazing 'throw' when raking leaves or grass clippings.  Pit this tool against the dreaded power-leaf blower and it will do the job just as quickly without polluting the neighbourhood. 

Exclusive to Home Hardware.


In our weekly Toronto Star column we talked about harvesting bounty from your garden for your Thanksgiving table.