Mark Cullen's newsletter

As we enter the last 'planting' month of the season, I have a little secret to share.
Seeds can save you a bundle of money, effort and time.  And once they are out of the ground and growing they provide many surprises, sometimes daily.

I have a section in my garden that is 2 meters wide and 40 meters long.  Yes, it is large.  It is my 'wildflower' garden and it is loaded with more activity than a child's playground on a sunny Saturday.  

Here is my recipe for a pollinator garden that looks like this:

1.  Start with your favourite flowers.  Ok, they may not be 'wild' per se, but they will look great.  Mine include cosmos (I HAVE to have cosmos for cutting), tall zinnias, larkspur, nigella, coreopsis, lupins and over 20 varieties of sunflowers.  I use lots of sunflowers as they grow quickly, germinate reliably, produce flowers that attract all kinds of native bees and when they go to seed, the song birds forage them like no-ones-business. 


2.  I tear open each packet of seeds and pour them into a bucket.  Just randomly.  About one packet to every 25 sq ft or 2 sq meters. 


3.  Add half a bucket of dry potting mix, sand or vermiculite.  Pour the mixture into another bucket and back again into the original bucket.  Do this several times until the seeds are thorough mixed with the seeding medium.


4.  Over a weed-free bed of soil, that has been raked clean of debris, I broadcast the seed by hand.  Let the seed roll off of your index finger as you swing your arm back and forth.  Spread them as evenly as you can.


5.  Rake using a hard (Mark's Choice?) rake.  As you rake, you incorporate the seeds into the topsoil and even out the distribution of them. 


6.   Walk on the area with flat soled shoes to firm the soil/seed mixture into place.


7.   Water thoroughly until germination occurs (about 7 to 10 days) and keep moderately well watered until roots are set down. 


8.  Remove weeds when they are young.  Thistles and twitch grass are among the most persistent perennial weeds.  Don't give them a chance to get a root down.


9.      Relax.  Enjoy.  Watch the action.


Pollinators will visit your 'wild' flower garden in abundance as they begin to bloom.
As summer progresses, be sure to take time to take time.

Yes, your powers of observation will be sharpened when you slow down and observe what is going on in your new garden.  Canada is host to over 800 native bees, myriad song birds and of course hummingbirds that will entertain you and educate your children and grandchildren. 

This is one of the highlights of my summer.
And now, it is not a secret any more.


Our new videos will knock your gardening socks off.

Inspired by the 'most watched' food videos in the universe, my son Ben and our 'groundskeeper' Brenda have created 4 new gardening videos that will inform and entertain you.  

Each is less than a minute, so even a busy person like you will have time to watch and learn. 

Check them out: 

And let me know what you think. 

1. Plant all hot crops.  Corn, zucchini, squash (all cucurbits), peppers, potatoes: virtually every crop that requires heat to thrive are ready to plant in the first week of June.  Unless you live in Newfoundland.  You fortunate souls should wait a week or two longer.

(Speaking of Newfoundland, if you find yourself in New York City, I highly recommend the theater play 'Come From Away'.  It will make you very proud! And it is so much fun.)

2.  Mulch.  June is mulch month because May is planting month.  After you get most of your plants in the ground you can save yourself up to 70% in watering and 90% in weeding by laying down a 5 cm layer of finely ground up cedar or pine bark mulch.

3.  Sow fast growing flowers.  See 'Wildflowers' above.

4.  It is blossom time for roses, peonies, clematis and many other 'early' season flowering perennial plants.   If you have room for more, now is the perfect time to plant them!  Make sure that the plants you DO have are supported.

5. Container plants.  Time to finish planting up containers using fresh Mark's Choice Container mix, plants that suit your exposure and be sure to add a slow release fertilizer like Feed-and-Forget.  You apply it once for the whole season. 

Container plants need fertilizing more than garden plants as their roots are restricted by the size of the container. 

6.  Herbs. Plant them. Harvest them as needed.  Don't over water them. With the exception of basil, they love to get dry between watering.

7.  Tomatoes.  Stake with a Mark's Choice spiral stake and never tie them up again.  Get them off the ground and double your crop.  Mid-June start applying  Bordo Mixture to prevent early and late blight.

8.  Through the Garden Gate.  See details below and if you don't live in the Toronto area, check out the great public tours of private gardens that so often occur in the towns, villages and cities across Canada. More info.

Rufous Hummingbird and Ruby-throated Hummingbird
I'm always thrilled to see hummingbirds! From the Rockies west, you can see the Rufous Hummingbird; the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is in central and eastern Canada. (In parts of British Columbia, three additional species can be seen: Anna's, Black-chinned, and Calliope.)

Rufous Hummingbird
Photo credit Ryan Bushby
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Photo credit Ron Ridout
Weighing just 3-4 grams, and with 50 or more wing-beats per second, hummingbirds are tiny, bright torpedoes zooming around your yard. They can hover in one spot, as well as move backwards, sideways, up, and down. Amazingly, these tiny turbos fly to southern Mexico and Central America for our northern winter.
Hummingbirds like nectar-rich tubular flowers, particularly red and orange ones. Consider Lobelia, Columbine, Bergamot/Bee-balm, and Trumpet Creeper - all these plants have varieties native to parts of Canada. Your garden centre can help with choosing species appropriate to your area.
Like bees and other insects, hummingbirds are important pollinators, getting their bills and faces brushed with pollen while probing flowers for nectar.
If you use a hummingbird feeder, remember to mix one part sugar to four parts water. Regular feeder cleaning is important (at least two times per week), particularly in hot weather or if the feeder is exposed to the sun.
Enjoy hummingbirds while you can - for 7 to 8 months of the year, they are not in Canada!

Steven Price

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

Hummingbird Feeder

This is by far my favourite hummingbird feeder.  I have 5 set up around my property and nothing brings me more joy than to see them visited by the intended visitor.

I designed this one to be easy to clean, high capacity, perches (hummers like to perch), an ant moat (because ants are the #1 enemy of the feeder) and it works.

I hope you have as much luck with this quality Mark's Choice product as I have. 

Tip: it is helpful to have lots of 'hummingbird plants' in your yard to help attract them in the first place.

Exclusive to Home Hardware. 
Home Hardware #5453-448

Joe Pye weed
For my June contest, I invite you to show me your favourite plant.  

Include a sentence to explain "why is this your favourite plant".
I think your photos will encourage gardeners to try something new this year. 

Send one photo to
I will post all photos on my Facebook page.

The photo with the most 'likes' will win 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.

The next 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' will win: a copy of my book The New Canadian Garden.

Vote for your favourite photo!

Deadline for entry: June 11, 2017. 
Deadline for voting is June 15, 2017.

Enter today!
North Rosedale & Moore Park

Saturday, June 10 and Sunday, June 11, 2017 
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Through the Garden Gate, one of Canada's largest private garden tours, will celebrate its 30th year by showcasing 30 of Toronto's most beautiful gardens. This self-guided tour enables participants to discover the gardens at their own pace following a map and garden guide containing descriptions of the featured gardens. 

A complimentary shuttle bus service is available for participants along the garden route. Knowledgeable  Toronto Master Gardeners will be at each garden to answer any questions about the plant materials and design features.  There will be opportunities to buy snacks and refreshments along the route with our partners  Augie's Gourmet Ice PopsSummerhill Market and  Vert Catering Pickle Cycle

All proceeds from this event support the Toronto Botanical Garden.
Headquarters:  Chorley Park, 245 Douglas Drive, Toronto

One-Day Pass: Public $45 / TBG Members $40
Two-Day Pass: Public $65 / TBG Members $60
Students $25 (With ID, One-Day Pass Only)
Tax included. Tickets are limited, advance purchase recommended.

Join Me for a Day of Golf
in Support of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute

Date: Thursday, August 24, 2017
Location: Port Hope Golf & Country Club

Mark Cullen and Dr. James Clubine host this golf tournament in support of The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute.

The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute is planting 117,000 trees along the Highway of Heroes, one tree for each of Canada's war dead since Confederation.  A living, breathing memorial.

Sign up today!  Space is limited to 92 golfers.

Cost: $150/golfer includes: 18 holes of golf/cart, prize table & dinner

Visit for more information.


June 6 - Meadow Lake Home Hardware - Garden Party. More info.

June 8 - Lloydminster Home Hardware - Gardeners' Tea & Grand Opening. More info. 

June 15 - GrandErie Home Hardware - Garden Centre Party. More info.

June 17 - Roncy Rocks with Pollocks Home Hardware. More info.
Stay in Touch 
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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.