Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter

"The first of April is the day that we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year" - Mark Twain
Here is an April Fool's idea that will take a few months to come to fruition: sneak something that's totally bizarre into a friend's veggie patch.

Dill's Atlantic Giant pumpkin seed for a pumpkin that will just keep growing and growing, or "Asparagus Yardlong" beans for 18-in beans among their standard varieties. 

Whether you decide to come clean or leave them wondering about what kind of mutation has come to their yard is up to you. Ha! Ben would never do such a thing to his father, of course.
The gardening season got off to a tremendous start this year with the success of Canada Blooms in March. We were incredibly proud to see what Joe Genovese of Genoscape Inc. was able to do with the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute Garden which took home six awards including Best Large Garden, and People's Choice. Watch the video.

It was an incredibly moving and worthy tribute to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the country. 

As a highlight of the 10-day event, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne appeared on the Friday to announce $1-million from the province towards the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute project, which brings the total to $3.2-million of the $10-million goal. 

There is still plenty of work to be done, but we can feel that the campaign is gaining momentum. Details at
April is of course the month when real gardeners get going , as they know that there is no sense waiting until the May 24 weekend for many garden tasks.
We recommend that you consider:

Starting more seeds and hardening off seedlings is an ongoing project that starts in March right into May.  With veggies, we start early and plant seeds in succession, so we can transplant seedlings at various stages of maturity - this ensures that the crops don't all come at once. 
By mid-April we harden off some of our seedlings in a cold frame against the potting shed at Mark's, and a mini-greenhouse that Ben has on his porch so that they are ready to be planted early.

By mid- April, weather permitting, we'll be direct sowing some of our more cold-tolerant crops such as beets, broccoli, salad mixes (including choy and kale), peas, potatoes, leeks and carrots. Direct sowing is our favourite way to grow many veggies as it is so straight forward, and eliminates all the costs associated with seed starting indoors or buying seedlings. You can save up to 90% off the price of store-bought transplants by direct-sowing seeds in your garden.

Plant trees, shrubs, evergreens and perennials. Mid-late April is an ideal
 time to buy  trees, shrubs, evergreens and dormant roses for the garden. The selection at retailers is the best.  Be careful to avoid 'soft' perennials that have been greenhouse forced to blossom early.  
Plant hardy annuals such as pansies, violas, ranunculus, and anemones.

Top dress your beds with compost wherever you plant. Don't bother "digging it in", the worms are happy to do that work for you- pulling compost down into the soil, producing nutrient-rich worm castings.

Setup your rain barrels and garden furniture .  You never know - if we have a warm snap this month, you're going to need somewhere to sit while you enjoy that sun!

Rake your lawn with a soft rake
once it's dry enough to walk on. You want to get those grass blades standing up and remove any debris. Then apply a quality, slow release fertilizer. Golfgreen Iron Plus is all that we use. If you have areas where the lawn is thin, apply Golfgreen 4 in 1 Iron Plus Lawn Recovery- this product contains seed, soil and fertilizer all in one to repopulate your lawn.

If you are watching TV this spring, you might see our new Home Hardware commercial for CIL 4 in 1 Lawn Recovery. The best product of it's kind on the market. Perfect for thickening a thin lawn or starting a new one. And April is a great month to get the job done: lots of moisture and cool evening temperatures.

Sharpen the blade on your lawn mower and change the oil.   You'll likely be too busy to do that when it's time to start mowing in May. Hopefully by now you've ditched the gas mower for electric, but if not, that's up to you. 
There are some great rechargeable battery powered mowers on the market. And the new push-type reel mowers are lighter, sharper and easier to use than ever. Look for the Mark's Choice reel-type mower at Home Hardware.

-  Thursday, April 5th, 8am - 2pm, Mark and Ben will be at the Grand Erie Home Hardware in Dunnville, Ontario for a garden center ribbon cutting, presentation and BBQ

-  Saturday, April 7th at 1:30 pm, Ben will be speaking at the Backyard Living Expo at the International Center in Toronto about "How to have the greenest garden on the block"

-  Sunday, April 8th at 11:30 am, Ben will be speaking at the Backyard Living Expo at the International Center in Toronto about "The why, what and how of kitchen gardening"

-   Wednesday, April 18th   - Mark's first appearance of the season on   Global National News   at 9:15 a.m. with Carolyn Mackenzie.

- Saturday, April 21st - Mark is speaking at the Town of Markham Earth Day event at 10 am
- Sunday, April 22nd - Earth Day Sunday, 10 am, Mark is speaking at an official ceremony and public tree planting of 250 trees at Sunnybrook Veteran's Centre.

Tuesday, April 24th at 1 pm you can catch Ben on the Urban Forestry Radio Show and Podcast online where he'll be talking about tool selection and maintenance     
-  Plus: the Weather Network online, 680 news and 5 other Rogers "Green" stations, each Saturday in the Toronto Star New Homes and Condos section plus 31 other Canadian newspapers.

Otherwise, look out for us on social media where we will be posting updates from the garden now that the season is finally underway: @markcullengardening on Instagram, @MarkCullen4 on Twitter and Mark Cullen, Canada's Gardening Guru on Facebook.
April is Tree Swallow month around Mark's acres.

Like clockwork, these amazing birds will arrive the second week of April.
If you hurry, you can get nesting boxes out on your property (or your golf course or conservation area!) that will provide habitat for swallows, blue birds and house sparrows.

Swallows and blue birds are insectivores: they are very effective at mosquito control. Their populations are in decline so it is important for us to provide habitat when we can.
They prefer an open landscape, like a meadow or broad expanse of grass, where they can swoop and dive to their heart's delight.

Look for a Mark' Choice nesting box at Home Hardware. Item 5453-689
Designed to exacting specifications. Mark has 40 of them on his property and last year all but 4 of them had nests in them.
Mark and Ben
Merchants of beauty
Telescoping Watering Wand - New for 2018

No more stooping or stretching when watering.  I am using this new Water Wand to water the fern baskets across the front of my house. 
You will enjoy using it wherever you have hard-to-reach plants and containers (not just overhead, but a stretch into the garden as well)
Featuring a smooth, sliding thumb valve, telescopic wand, and a 180-degree adjustable head lets you extend your reach to water hanging baskets and hard-to-reach garden plants with precision. And here is the best part: no leaks!
Home Hardware item# 5043-844

As any gardener will confess, growing anything comes with natural and immediate challenges. There's rain, not enough rain, aphids, curious kids and, more often--a dog ready to help dig or a napping cat in the mix. In Harrowsmith's Spring 2018 issue (on newsstands now), Mark Cullen provides 10 tips on how to combat such pet peeves.

Harrowsmith is asking readers to send snapshots of their pets caught in action (ie. where they shouldn't be--eating raspberries and lying in the tulips). All submissions should be sent to by May 1, 2018 for a chance to win a copy of Harry: A Wilderness Dog Saga by Chris Czajkowski or Tails Don't lie 2: A Pack of Dog Cartoons by Adrian Raeside.
In the March issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we asked you to share your feedback about the Mark's Choice Backhoe.

We were overwhelmed by the response! We received more than 40 emails and we are happy to say, they were all positive. You really like the Backhoe! We knew it was a winner.
Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback.
Everyone who emailed received 4 packs of Mark's Choice seeds.
We randomly selected 5 winners to receive their choice of a pair of tickets to Canada Blooms OR a signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden, plus a copy of the current Harrowsmith Magazine.
Congratulations to Helen P, Shelley J, Sharon N, Jeremy P, and Joslyn M. 
This is the 5th annual 'Searching for Spring' contest and it is always popular.
Take a photo in your yard that shows a 'Sign of Spring'.   
Send one photo to
Everyone who enters a photo (and provides a mailing address) receives 4 packets of Mark's Choice Vegetable seeds.
The photo with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize:
A signed copy of Mark's book The New Canadian Garden + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware + 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds ($78 value).
The next 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' will win: a copy of Mark's book The New Canadian Garden + 4 packs of Mark's Choice Vegetable seeds.
I will post all of the photos on Mark's  Facebook page.
Vote for your favourite photo!
Deadline for entry: April 8, 2018.
Deadline for voting is April 12, 2018.
Mark's golf tournament, in support of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute, will take place August 23, 2018 at the Port Hope Golf and Country Club.
We are limiting the number of golfers to 92, to make sure everyone enjoys their day in the sun.  I encourage you to sign up ASAP, spaces are booking quickly.
The registration fee is $150 for 18 holes of golf with a power cart.  This also includes a lunch-to-go, goodie bag, buffet dinner, prize table, and MORE!
Last year was so much fun!  And we raised more than $40,000 for the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute

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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.