Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
"August is a gentle reminder for not doing a single thing from your new year resolution for seven months and not doing it for next five." Crestless Wave

Humble Backyard Gardeners, Standup!

Gardeners have a reputation for being kind of shy. It is un-gardener-like to boast of a fine lily or a big tomato. Though, passionate gardeners are tempted. We tend to leave our bragging for our tight circle of friends who share our passion.

And then along comes a contest that is easy to apply to and fun. Canada's Backyard Contest is run by Communities in Bloom and is open to all Canadians coast-to-coast. 

There is a grand prize of $1,000 gift card to Home Hardware as well as a finalist prize and random draw.
We would strongly encourage any of the backyard gardeners to apply online by August 15th at .
You might be wondering: what is special about a backyard? What can be done differently in the backyard, as opposed to the front? We have some ideas.

Outdoor artwork and sculpture work exceptionally well in the backyard because unlike the front yard, where the focal point is generally the house, you get to choose your focal point for the backyard.



- Choosing artwork is very personal and has the power to set the tone for the rest of the yard - a statue around which a maze of formal hedges is oriented, a mirror to add another dimension of space to compact gardens, or a colourful abstract to lift you up in the winter months.


- When designing a garden from scratch, finding the right piece of artwork can help anchor your design and inspire your plant selection.



- Finding art is a great opportunity to support the communities of artist scattered across the country and give justice to their work, by framing it within the living boundaries of your yard.


- If you're looking for a new piece of art for your garden and happen to be in the Toronto area, why not check out ZimSculpt at the Toronto Botanical Garden.



Running from August 3rd to September 30th, ZimSculpt is a showcase of hundreds of sculptural works by Zimbabwean artists, all of which is available for purchase. More information at


Water gardens are in their element in the backyard, away from the traffic and noise in the front yard.


We are especially fond of water for its ability to attract wildlife - birds stopping for a drink, frogs croaking, fish feeding are worth it even if it allows for the breeding of insects, because we like the insects too.



To nurture the frogs and toads, avoid disturbing your pond too much in the spring - you only need to scrub the top 20% of the liner.  Provide habitat by extending your love of plants to the pond with water plants.


The kids in your life will be intrigued by a flowering lily pad floating on the water's surface.


A lawyer might also tell you that separating the liability of water from the public with a fence is legally prudent, but that's another matter.


Create an eating oasis around the grill .


Maybe it's to avoid hungry neighbours from mooching off the BBQ but grilling in the front yard has never really caught on.


Feature garden created by University Pro Landscapers, Paving, Pools and Spas.


Grilling is one cooking activity which we both enjoy and can always be enhanced with the addition of fresh herbs and a shady place to enjoy the fruits (or steaks) of our labour.


In the grilling area - away from the shade, in the sun - add containers of herbs within arm's reach when you need to add a dash of flavour to your marinade.



For the nearby eating area, consider planting a shade tree to cool you down. A Catalpa has beautiful, orchid-like flowers in the early summer and the thick, large leaves provide great shade coverage. It grows quickly and is well suited to urban environments.


The backyard is really an extension of the home as a place for private life, where we can truly relax and be creative, and it's the creativity we can foster there that creates stunning outdoor spaces. Whether you decide to keep your garden private, or open it up to the world - consider the opportunity to be a winner for sharing the garden you call home. Remember you can sign up at .


As we crawl out of the air conditioning after a heatwave, we're ready to start spending more time in the garden again. Here are some Things To Do:

-   Continue fertilizing the annuals and veggies for the remainder of the season. A 20-20-20 works fine.

-   Early season perennials can be cut back , such as veronica and roses. They should rebloom in a month or two.

-   Prop-up your tall-growing perennials with stakes, such as rudbeckias, coneflowers, hydrangea (with their heavy flowering heads), to prevent them from falling over.

-   Winter-hardy plants get their last fertilizer application before the fall. From here-onward they will take care of themselves, stashing sugars into their roots.

-   If you've been keeping on top of weeding through June and July, you will find August not too bad. Stay on top of it.

-   Shop for new plants! As long as you water enough, planting in the heat of the summer is fine and by now, many of the garden centers are starting to discount their perennials and shrubs- you might just find a great deal!

- Take care of your lawn.  Fertilize your lawn with Iron Plus Lawn fertilizer.  The results are incredible.  Your lawn will be so green it will appear almost blue-green.

- Thicken your lawn.  Mid-August is the best time to sow grass seed.  Where thin spots exist, spread Mark's Choice quality lawn soil 4 cm thick and rake smooth.  Broadcast quality grass seed at the rate of 1kg per 100 sq. meters.  Rake this smooth, step on it with a flat-soled shoes and water until germination.

To thicken your entire lawn, u
se  Iron Plus Lawn Recovery 4-in-1 . It contains top quality grass seed, pelletized compost, nitrogen and iron... and you can apply it using your fertilizer spreader.  
Water the lawn deeply after you apply 4-in-1 Lawn Recovery.    Keep the seed moist until germination. You will be amazed by the results.
Nut Gatherer

Nuts to This Job

Fallen walnuts are a bane to me as I have about 30 large black walnut trees flanking my property.

A bane no more! I discovered this amazing nut gatherer. It makes the job fast and fun. Not only that but I discovered in testing this product that it will pick up golf balls, small to medium sized apples, pears, crabapples and even tennis balls. Virtually anything that is reasonably solid and round(ish).
I love handing this product to strangers to give a try, after I have dumped a pail of walnuts in front of them.

Easy. Fast. Fun. No instructions included. Just roll your new Mark's Choice nut gatherer over any annoying debris that fits through the flexible tines. And say "nuts to this job".
Item# 5010-033
By Jody Allair

Northern Flicker
"What is that large bird hopping around the backyard? Is it a weird robin? Or some sort of strange woodpecker?"
If you've said this about an unfamiliar bird in your yard, you have probably just encountered one of North America's most interesting woodpecker species - the Northern Flicker. Not only are Northern Flickers strikingly beautiful, they're also a fairly common backyard bird across the continent. They are a year-round resident across much of southern Canada and throughout the lower 48 states, with more northerly populations migrating south in the fall.
Photo credit: May Haga

Northern Flickers can be easily recognized by their large size, brown colouration, and black-spotted plumage. A closer look, especially when the bird is in flight, will reveal brightly-coloured flight feathers - yellow in eastern birds, red in western birds - and a bright white patch on the rump.
But let's cut to the chase - these are no ordinary woodpeckers. Yes, Northern Flickers are cavity nesters. They will take part in territorial drumming and they have long, pointed beaks, just like other woodpeckers. What makes flickers unique is their preference for foraging on the ground, much like American Robins do. Their favourite food is insects, like beetles and especially ants. Just think of these birds as the avian equivalent of anteaters.
So how do you attract this avian anteater to your backyard? Keep a variety of bird-friendly plants, including some larger trees, along with a mix of open yard space. And make sure your yard is also insect friendly! No need to use pesticides in your yard when you have such wonderful (and dare I say cost-effective?) insect-eating birds like Northern Flickers and Tree Swallows around. You can also put up a special nest box for this species in your yard. A quick search online should produce a variety of DIY plans.
Lastly, enjoy those birds of summer. Fall migration is just around the corner....
Good Birding!

Jody Allair
Bird Studies Canada
Twitter: @JodyAllair

Have you downloaded Harrowsmith's summer digital exclusive issue yet? Editor, Catalina Margulis, had the opportunity to talk sustainability and menu philosophy with one of Canada's hottest chefs, Jason Bangerter. 

At Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa, Chef Bangerter's kitchen is reconnecting guests to food and its source in clever, tantalizing ways. 

Here's a sneak peek into Langdon's legendary galley from the summer edition!  Sea The Change - Harrowsmith

Bee balm
Send us a photo of your favourite mid-season flowering plant and we might just send you a $50 Home Hardware gift card and a copy of Mark's latest book The New Canadian Garden.
Email ONE photo to

We will post your photo on Mark's Facebook page. The photo with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize.

2nd and 3rd place will each receive a signed copy of Mark's book with 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.
Deadline for entry, August 6, 2018
Deadline for voting, August 12, 2018
Enter today!


The 2nd annual Highway of Heroes Living Tribute Golf Tournament is now 100% sold out for golf spots, but there is still room for additional sponsorship opportunities. What's more is that an anonymous donor has pledged to match all sponsorship donations, so there is an opportunity here to have double the impact through the sponsorship of this event. 

We would like to Thank everyone registered to golf on August 23rd.  And Thank You to all of our sponsors.

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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.