Mark Cullen's newsletter

5 reasons why new Canadians should garden.
As a member of the Order of Canada, I can officiate at citizenship ceremonies.  

I have done this on three occasions and to celebrate Canada Day and Canada's 150th birthday, I am officiating again July 1st in Ajax, Ontario.

Gardening is very much a part of being Canadian.  

Here is how:

Rich history.  Long before the Europeans arrived and changed everything here forever, the indigenous people here were growing much of their food.  The 'three sisters' factored large in their daily diet.  

The combination of beans, squash and corn planted in a mound, with a dead fish under them to provide natural nutrients, sustained them.  No doubt this is also true for many Europeans who were introduced to the idea by friendly indigenous people. 

Welcome!  As European settlement spanned the country in the 1880's, towns located along the Canadian Pacific Railroad competed for the best looking public gardens at railway stations.  The idea was to demonstrate to immigrant families a sense of pride in 'community' and say 'welcome' in bright, colourful displays of flowers.  We still do this, it is called Communities in Bloom and more than 270 communities across the country took part last year.


Cultural Mosaic.  The gardening experience crosses all cultural and religious boundaries.  It is glue for a diverse group of people who form the population of Canada.  At Ben Nobleton Park in Toronto, the community garden provides opportunities for residents in this culturally diverse neighbourhood to work together in a joint effort to grow fresh food.  


Growing tips are shared among volunteer gardeners who come from many faraway places, like the Republic of Congo, Vietnam and Syria.  Communication often occurs between people who do not share a common language, but make themselves understood.


During harvest time, each volunteer at Ben Nobleton Park is encouraged to create a dish using the fresh produce from the garden and to bring it to a big gathering where everyone dresses according to the customs of their native land.  Can you imagine the colours?  The sites?  Or anything more Canadian than this?


Success Among Adversity A successful garden in Canada is entirely possible despite the challenges of severe weather.  Hail on the prairies, excessive rain on the west coast, late frosts in Central Canada (well, anywhere in Canada), permafrost in the Arctic, salt-wind in the Maritimes and solid rock in Newfoundland: these things challenge us and we rise to that challenge. Because we are Canadian gardeners. 


It is worth mentioning that we also grow some of the world's largest pumpkins (we have won that title many times), the sweetest corn, the most abundant tomato crops and for the most part, we are self-sufficient in the fruit and veggies section.  And where we are not, we could be with better planning. 


We are social people When gardeners get together there is always much chatter.  Take the quietest person (gardener) in the room and put them with other gardeners and you will witness the cure for shyness.  We love to share information, stories and ask questions. 


Gardening is a social experience and, as our Governor General David Johnston said in his landmark book 'The Idea of Canada', "We derive happiness from our wealth of social connections." 


Canada has been deemed to be one of the happiest countries on earth. Is it a coincidence that gardens spring from the goodness of the earth?
On a final note, his Excellency David Johnston, in the same book, quotes Saint Augustine, who said this 1,500 years ago, "If you wish to judge the quality of a city, look to see what it cherishes." 
The same may be said of a country.  Our green spaces, our parks - urban, provincial and national and of course our gardens, public and private, say something profound about who we are as a nation and what we value.  
Gardeners are not just earth-grubbers.  We are birders, conservationists, tree huggers, local food boosters and passionate story tellers.  Gardening is the most popular outdoor pastime in Canada, next to walking.  More than 80% of us grow something green.

To a very large extent, Canadians are gardeners.
Welcome to Canada. 
And Happy Birthday.

Mark Cullen 

A longer version of this story appears in the July 1st edition of the Toronto Star.
AEROPLAN Partners with 

The entire Highway of Heroes Living Tribute team is excited by this opportunity for you to donate your Aeroplan miles to our campaign.  We are planting 117,000 trees on the Highway of Heroes, one for each of Canada's war dead since Confederation in 1867.
Note that your donation is matched 3 times.  Wow!  Thank you in advance for anything that you donate.  

Sincerely,  Mark.


The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute is excited to announce that we have partnered with Aeroplan and Avis Car Rental in an effort to encourage Canadians to donate Aeroplan Miles to support our campaign. 

From June 26th to July 2nd, Aeroplan and Avis will each match all miles donated to the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute (up to 500,00 miles) to be used for fundraising purposes and to bring special representatives, silver cross mothers, regimental peers and families of the fallen to planting ceremonies. This will triple the impact of Aeroplan miles donated by individuals.

To learn more about this partnership and how you can donate, please visit:

1. Stake tomatoes.  Double your crop.  I use the
Mark' Choice spiral tomato stakes

2. Apply bordo mixture to tomatoes to prevent early blight. Once every 2 weeks all summer.

3. Prune evergreens, especially cedars including cedar hedges.

4. Remove spent flowers from your peonies and other spring flowering plants.  It is true that if you remove spent lilac flowers, the plant will bloom more prolifically next year. 

5.  After a good rain, fertilize your lawn with  Golfgreen Iron Plus.
6.  Put out hummingbird feeders.  Clean the ones that you have.

7.  Feed container grown plants  like petunias and geraniums with  20-20-20 water soluble plant food every 10 days to 2 weeks.  All summer.

8.  Relax.  Enjoy some hammock time... read a good book.  
Pick up a copy of my newest book  The New Canadian Garden.  A great summertime read: you will learn how to grow food more effectively, how to start a community or allotment garden, how to maximize the pollinators in your garden and how to engage young people in the exercise.  $20 at book retailers and  Home Hardware

All royalties, from the sale of my new book, go to the  Highway of Heroes Living Tribute, a tree for every one of Canada's Fallen since Confederation.  
Enjoy your early summer: talk to you on the 15th with  Food Gardening.

Keep your knees dirty,
Merchant of Beauty

Introducing 2 new gardening videos that will inform and entertain you. 

Check them out:
Although we shot the 'pruning' video while no leaves were on the trees, you can still prune this time of year.  It was easier to get clear shots of the pruning techniques while the trees were dormant.
And let me know what you think. 

After creating a land-mark success with the stainless steel Back Hoe last year, we have added two new versions that are worthy of your attention.
First, the 2/3 Back Hoe.  The head is smaller than the original version, providing better access in tightly planted gardens.  Perfect for the urban gardener, with less space than our rural counterparts.  Same solid ash, 62" long handle.  $27.99
Second, the short handled (16 inch) Back Hoe is multi purpose.  Perfect for use in raised beds (it saves a lot of stretching and improves access to weeds) and great for those of us who find ourselves on our knees while gardening.  Same 2/3 size head as the new, long handled version.  $19.99
All 3 Back Hoe models are stainless steel, multi functioning and they are the first digging/cultivating and weeding tools that you will buy in Canada that are pre-sharpened. 
Treat yourself to one.  It is your country's birthday after all. 


Red-winged Blackbird
When I think about signs of spring, many things come to mind. The arrival of American Robins, the croaking of Wood Frogs, and the telltale conk-ke-reeee song of Red-winged Blackbirds. Their voracious appetites at feeders test the patience of some backyard birdwatchers, but these fascinating birds can be quite entertaining to watch, particularly during spring.
Male Red-winged Blackbirds are arguably among the sharpest-looking birds in North America. The glossy black males are adorned with bright red and yellow epaulets or shoulder patches. The females look so different from the males that they're often misidentified as another species. Females are noticeably smaller, and mostly brown, with brown and white streaking below. They have a distinct whitish eyebrow. Some females show a rich peach colouration around the face.

Red-winged Blackbird male
Photo Credit Peter Ferguson
Red-winged Blackbird female 
Photo Credit May Haga

Red-winged Blackbirds nest in wet fields and marshes. Males are polygynous, meaning they have many female mates - up to 15 in some cases! Red-winged Blackbirds can overwinter in extreme southern Canada, but most migrate south in the fall, returning shortly after the snow dissipates. Although they'll eat just about any type of bird food, cracked corn is a particular favourite. 

If you welcome these birds to your yard and spend some quality time with them, you will be rewarded with close-up views of a variety of interesting social interactions and behaviours. And who knows, perhaps the Red-winged Blackbird could become your new favourite backyard bird.
Jody Allair
Biologist and Science Educator

This message brought to you by 
Mark's Choice Bird Feast bird food,  exclusively at Home Hardware. 
Proud supporters of Bird Studies Canada.

Win Mark's Choice product from Home Hardware!

Help us find Toronto's beautiful gardens.

Let's recognize our green-thumbed residents and business owners for helping to beautify our city.

To make a nomination: visit or pick up entry forms at your local community centre, garden centre or civic centre. 

Deadline: July 15, 2017

Entries must include a photo of the garden.
Winning gardens will be recognized at awards ceremonies in 2017/2018.  Details will be provided to winning entrants.
Prizes include Mark Cullen's Mark's Choice gardening supplies from Home Hardware.
More info.   

Show us your backyard and tell us why you are proud of it! Amongst all entries, we will draw five (5) $100 Home Hardware gift certificates to help you purchase Mark's Choice products, lawn and garden products and other outdoor living products. Our judges will also select the best entry to win a trip* for 2 to the 2017 Communities in Bloom National & International Symposium and Awards Ceremonies in Ottawa/Gatineau from September 13-16, 2017.
More info

(deadline: August 30th, 2017)

This may be the last month that you can sign up to play and sponsor our fun golf tournament in Port Hope, in support of the reforestation of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute.  

We are limiting our players to 92 as we want the 'play' to move swiftly and smoothly (no long Tee box line ups!)
Please plan on joining us.  We are over ½ sold out now.


The Harrowsmith team is looking for trade secrets! We will be reintroducing "Over the Fence," a page dedicated to tips and advice in the kitchen, garden and workshop.
Whether it's spraying PAM on furnace intake filters to increase efficiency, using Frito corn chips as fire starters or how to cool down an accidentally over-spiced chili, we'd love to hear your ideas.
Please send your submissions by August 1, 2017 to with "Over the Fence" in the subject line. Our favourite entries will receive a copy of Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs cookbook or Mark Cullen's latest, The New Canadian Garden.

The theme for 2018 is "Let's Go To The Movies" celebrating the grandeur of the Silver Screen.  

From days of old to the newest blockbuster hit, Canada Blooms is excited to kick off the Spring gardening season by showcasing our theme - "Let's Go To The Movies"


Photo by Cheryl Lambrecht
In the June issue of Gardening With Mark, I invited you to show me your favourite plant. 
The photo with the most 'likes' won the Grand Prize: A signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware + 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.
Congratulations to: Cheryl Lambrecht
The next 5 photos with the most 'likes' each won: a copy of my book The New Canadian Garden.
Congratulations to: Christine Wenger, Bob Teefy, Angi Watson, Carol, Claire Watts

I enjoy touring gardens in July.  It is inspiring to see what's going on in private gardens across the country.  I would love to see how your garden is growing this summer.
Send me a photo of your yard/garden and I will post on my Facebook page
This month, I am giving away a signed copy of my new book The New Canadian Garden to the 5 photos with the most 'likes'.  
The New Canadian Garden focuses on 'growing your own food', 'community gardens', 'biodiversity', and 'the learning garden'.  
The one photographer/gardener with the most 'likes' will also receive a $50 Home Hardware gift card.
Email one photo to  I will post all photos on my facebook page. 
Encourage your friends and family to vote for your photo.
Deadline for submitting a photo is July 10, 2017
Deadline for voting is July 16, 2017

Enter today!

Date: Saturday, July 15
Time: 10-4 pm
Enjoy a free tour of 10 gorgeous properties!
Donations to the local food bank will be received that day.
My sister Sue has created a wonderful, expansive garden on a lovely 'double lot' (she is almost as crazy as I am, with my 10 acre garden!)  look for it when you get 'down near the lake'.  Amazing! 
September 16, 2017
Join us for an evening of culinary delights and fabulous entertainment in support of the programs and services provided by WindReach Farm.  Back by popular demand, A Night at WindReach Farm with Next Generation Leahy is a night not to be missed!
Presenting sponsor: Mark's Choice
More info
Stay in Touch 
Mark's Gardening Connections  

Home Hardware

Gardening Events
Event Schedule

My monthly Event Listings are so popular we were running out of room in the newsletter.  All event listings have moved to .
Event lists are organized by Province and accessible through these links:
Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote?  I would be happy to include your event listing on my website.

Send your info to with the subject line 'Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.