E-newsletter from Mark and Ben Cullen

"Nature's beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude
- Louie Schwartzberg

Ben considers himself one of the "lucky ones" for his September 17th birthday, unlike Mark who was born on January 2nd, the day after New Year's when folks are generally feeling "partied out".

Indeed, September is a month of enthusiasm - high spirits carry over from the summer months and a sense of optimism for young folks heading back to school. September feels fresh and crisp, without the bite of October or the grey of November. It might be a greedy calculation, but the positive air of September has benefited  Ben in the gift department over the years.

This becomes truer as Ben matures and the gifts of the season are more often found outdoors than enclosed in wrapping paper. This birthday, the hero gift will be Ben's pumpkin crop - the first year that he bakes a pie from his own pumpkins. He'll make it a birthday pie.

A gift Ben has already received was an incredible bounty of peppers which lent themselves to another kitchen experiment: homemade paprika and chili power.

Sliced and dried in the oven, with the door open on its lowest setting, they ground down easily in a mortar and pestle and separated through a sifter into powder and flakes. 

If you are looking at an overabundance of peppers from your own garden, this is a fun thing to try. Studies have shown that dried herbs are one of the most commonly "compromised" items in the grocery store.

Yes, the garden might be giving the best gifts this birthday.
Ben and Mark

Now is the time to plant garlic. We could write detailed instructions on how to do this, but we've already gone to the effort of making a video which will do an even better job of illustrating. 

There's another gift which arrives in September - finished compost. Now is the time to clear out the composter and apply it directly to the surface of the vegetable garden. There is no need to dig it in, as the existing worms in the soil are happy to do that work for you - and it is better for the soil to minimize disturbance.

Cover cropping is another way to give back to your garden at this time of year, and when it has been so generous to you how can you not feel compelled to give back? A cover crop can reduce soil erosion, loosen compacted soil, and suppress weeds, all while building organic matter in the soil and adding nutrients. 

Annual Rye Grass germinates quickly, which will help keep weeds down and prevent erosion while adding biomass back to the soil, and Red Clover will also produce a decent amount of biomass while fixing Nitrogen from the air as an added bonus (like all legumes).


To make his first pumpkin pie, Ben will be referring to his industry alma-mater of Smucker Foods for their No-Fail Pie Crust Recipe and Carnation Classic Pumpkin Pie filling recipe.

Stay tuned for our October newsletter to find out how it goes. 


In our weekly Toronto Star column we talked about how reduce allergies and choose plants with less airborne pollen.