Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter
Every so often, we read something that resonates.

Our good gardening friend Liz Primeau, who has a history steeped in the written word, wrote a compelling op-ed for the Globe and Mail a couple of weeks ago titled, "How Ethically Does Your Garden Grow?"

In her usual fashion, she forces the reader to think outside of the box. Consider, for example, the current state of the environment as it relates to our activity in the garden. Liz asks, "What can a simple gardener do?"

The answer, of course, is that we have many opportunities to help ol' Mother Earth. We are, after all, people of the earth. Where would gardeners be without it? Liz urges us to, "Live with insects and the plants we consider weeds. It's time that gardeners realize deep in their guts that humans are occupants of the world, not rulers of it. It's time that all gardening choices be ethical."

We support this position. In our new book Escape to Reality, How the world is changing gardening and gardening is changing the world (Nimbus Press) we explain our own position on this. With a new generation of up and coming gardeners reminding us daily of our responsibilities to our planet, we feel compelled to quit demonizing critters like bats, toads, snakes and native bees, as we have done for generations.   

We are building insect HOTELS in our yards, inviting many of the very species that Canadian gardeners went out of their way to kill only a few years ago.

We are planting more native plants.

We are going out of our way to plant pollinating, flowering plants.

Take milkweed. Time was, most every Canadian gardener pulled the stuff out of the garden before it could bloom and set seed. Now we buy packets of the seed off the rake at our favourite retailer and sow them with abandon to support the declining monarch butterfly population.

If we willingly sow today what was considered a weed only yesterday, just how much can we change in the next short while?
Environmentalists tell us that time is running out.

Which is another reason why we should all read Liz's column. "Deep down I know that we need more than a loose connection of gardeners to save the world. We need to be united in our awareness and our quest."  We need to be united, we repeat.

In our book, Ben and I suggest that, "This is the most exciting time in the history of our country to be a gardener." Perhaps, more than that, it is the most important time as well.

Gardeners are, after all, so much more than tillers, weeders, planters and harvesters. We are conservationists and even social activists. We care and we use action to foster change.

We enjoy making progress, not just talking about it.

Check out Liz Primeau's message in the Globe and Mail.

We hope you are stimulated by it.
Wishing you a wonderful June in the garden.
Mark and Ben


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. 

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 shredded cedar or pine bark mulch.

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.

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.   

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

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.

Mark's Choice Through the Garden Gate.  The Toronto Botanical Gardens host their annual  Through the Garden Gate  on June 8 and 9.   This is the thirty-second year for  Canada's largest tour of private gardens. We were excited to hear this year's tour will be hosted in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood, which is one of the city's most charming with its cozy houses and dense tree canopies. There is no shortage of creative and inspiring gardens. More info.

We have seen many hand tillers come and go over the years, but this one is the best and will stand the test of time. 
It has 6 tines to turn the soil effectively with minimum effort. Plus, its sturdy construction will not give up. 
We know you will enjoy using this tool for many years while you enjoy your garden!
Home Hardware item# 5015-061

Exclusive to Home Hardware.

June 1 - Minden Home Hardware - Mark Cullen Approved Garden Centre event

June 7 - Bridgewater Home Hardware, Bridgewater, NS
June 8 - Annapolis Home Hardware, Annapolis Royal, NS

June 8 - NSAGC Provincial Convention - New Minas, NS


We write a weekly column for the New In Homes & Condos section of the Saturday Toronto Star.
In case you missed it, these are the exciting gardening/environment columns we wrote in May.

Don't let the Emerald Ash Borer be the boss in your garden

By Jody Allair
Feeding Hummingbirds

For many of us who feed backyard birds, late spring or early summer means the welcome arrival of hummingbirds. By now, backyards across much of southern Canada have seen the return of these charming migrants.
We have five regularly occurring species of hummingbirds across Canada. From Alberta to the East Coast, you can find the widespread Ruby-throated Hummingbird (pictured here). From Alberta to British Columbia, you can spot the Rufous Hummingbird and the diminutive Calliope Hummingbird. The final two species are found only in British Columbia - the Anna's and Black-chinned hummingbirds.

Ruby-throated hummingbird
photo credit: Ron Ridout

Feeding hummingbirds is very popular across Canada. And why wouldn't you want to attract these amazing little fireballs to your backyard? For those who are interested in attracting hummingbirds, or who feed them already, here are a few tips and tricks to consider.
One of the best things you can do is grow plants that have nectar-rich flowers for hummingbirds to feed on. Having a mix of trees and shrubs in your yard will also provide habitat for nesting.
For those who use traditional hummingbird nectar feeders, it is very important that you follow a few guidelines. First, make sure that you clean your feeder with hot, soapy water every couple of weeks. For heavily soiled feeders, you can use a vinegar solution or a mild bleach solution - just be sure to rinse well. When purchasing a feeder, make sure it has a large opening so that you can clean the inside of the feeder thoroughly. There is no need to purchase packaged nectar solution, and absolutely no need to purchase artificial solutions containing red food colouring. You can make nectar using four parts water to one part sugar. Boil the water, remove from heat, and stir in the sugar until dissolved. After the solution has cooled, fill your feeders and enjoy the birds!
One last tip: hummingbird feeders can also be used to feed orioles. Just remove the yellow wasp guards so the orioles can get their bills into the holes.
Happy hummingbird watching!

Jody Allair
Bird Studies Canada
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair

Have you heard? Harrowsmith published its inaugural summer issue BUT, you have to be a subscriber! This exclusive print edition will not appear on any newsstand--it's like a secret society club, and you should join! 

You will find articles on ornamental grasses and water gardens, written by Mark and Ben Cullen.

We are honoured to be the garden editors of Harrowsmith.  

For our June contest, we invite you to show us your favourite plant.
Include a sentence to explain "why this is your favourite plant".
We hope your photos will encourage gardeners to try something new this year.
Send one photo to
We will post all photos on Mark's Facebook page.
The photo with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize:
A signed copy of our book Escape to Reality + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware + a pack of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds.
The next 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' will win: a copy of our book Escape to Reality + a pack of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds.
Vote for your favourite photo!
Deadline for entry: June 10, 2019.
Deadline for voting is June 17, 2019.
Enter today!

Photo by Arlene H.

In the May issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to share a photo of your favourite Spring bloom.
The Grand Prize winner received a signed copy of our book 'Escape to Reality' + a copy of the Harrowsmith 2019 Spring issue + a $50 gift card for Home Hardware. Congratulations to Arlene H.

The next 5 winners received a copy of Harrowsmith 2019 Spring issue + a packet of Mark's Choice wildflower seeds. Congratulations to Mary K., Mary-Jane P., Ruth S., Ernie W., and Melanie M.

Stay in Touch 
Mark and Ben's Gardening Connections  

Toronto Star
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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.