Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough." ~Author Unknown

October is a lot of things: it is the month of 'harvest', fall colours, the first hard frosts (in many parts of the country), the last month to enjoy outdoors before the bite of winter is in the air.  And it is the month of 'Thanksgiving'. 

Imagine if we didn't have October.... When would we slow down long enough to contemplate our place in the world?
I don't know how you celebrate Thanksgiving, but at our place, we eat. 

Oh, no, really, that isn't fair.  We don't just 'eat', we celebrate what we have by coming together, family and some friends, to enjoy the best meal of the year. 
It helps that I am a gardener and my wife Mary is a cook.  

I bring the harvest to the back door and she enjoys the challenge of cooking as much for dinner on Thanksgiving from our garden as she can.  Other than the cranberry sauce and the turkey itself, she pretty much covers it too. 

When the harvest is coming in and Mary is busy preparing food in her kitchen, our house feels more like a home than at any other time of year.  Especially when the kids and the grand-kids come piling in the door.  

And Thanksgiving means taking the time to count blessings, to take stock of the enormous wealth that we have, most of which we could not take to the bank.

Food. Shelter. Each other. And this: a gainful living doing something that we love.   

From Ben and I both: we hope that you have much to be thankful for this October.  It is true, not everyone has. 

And to those who are 'without', we stop for a  while and think about how we can make this world better for all.  

Friday November 3rd is a special day on the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute calendar: we celebrate our 2nd anniversary with none other than Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

We will hear what she has to say about our campaign to plant 2 million trees along the Highway of Heroes, 117,000 for our war dead and more than 1.8 million for each Canadian who volunteered during times of war. 

There will be a ceremonial tree planting and several hundred trees to plant after the ceremony.  Come on out, wear your boots and get ready to get dirty.
Starts at 10 a.m.   
Meadowvale and Hwy 401, Scarborough.  
Details can be found here

Ben and Mark are on the air.  Look for us on Global National The Morning Show:

Wednesday, October 4th at 9:15 a.m.  "What Canadian gardeners are thankful for"

Wednesday, October 18th at 9:15 a.m. "Halloween Gardens"  so much more than pumpkins!  Learn how to decorate your home for fall using many plants from your garden.  Fall colour and fun. 

Wednesday, November 1st at 9:15 a.m.  Remembrance week.  "Why the poppy?" there is a story here..... plus seasonal gardening tips.

Harvest.   If it is ready, pick it, pull it or dig it.  Onions like to dry for a few days in the sun before you store them in the cellar or fridge. 
Carrots, kale and leeks improve with frost so don't be in a hurry to bring them into storage. 


2.  Dig and divide.  Perennials with 'fleshy' roots split well this time of year.  Go for it.... Use a sharp Mark's Choice digging spade or garden fork.


3.  Plant Holland Bulbs.  Tulips, daffodils, crocus and the like go in the ground now.  You have to do this if you want the colour that they provide come spring.  Look for the new Mark's Choice 'egg crate' bulb planters.  Dig a hole and drop the whole works into the ground or place in a pot and cover with 6 cm of soil.  Simple, pre-designed bulb garden in an 'egg' crate!


Naturalizing Garden Item# 5029-230
Fragrant Garden Item# 5029-229
Canadian Garden Item# 5029-228







4.  Lawn: fertilize. This is the most important application of the year.  When you feed your lawn in October (or early November) you beef up the natural sugars in the root zone of grass plants, helping to make your lawn stronger.  


Stronger = more resistant to snow mold, mildew and die-out come spring.  A faster, deeper green.  


I use Golfgreen Fall Lawn Food [12-0-18].


5.  Feed the birds.  If you stopped feeding your wild birds in the summer, now is a good time to fill your feeders.  

Clean them before you set them up and start with the best bird seed on the market, Mark's Choice Bird Feast.  No corn or 'throw-away' bird seed.  

Birds love it and it is great value. 


6.  Cut and enjoy .  I am cutting fresh dahlias still from my garden.  If you still have summer flowers lingering in your garden, be sure to cut some and bring them indoors to enjoy.  Decorate your Thanksgiving table with them!   

Canada does not currently have a National Flower.
A National Flower that naturally occurs in every province and territory would be a symbol of Canada that would connect us with each other and with this great land.

The Master Gardeners of Ontario created an online poll to choose a National Flower that would (a) occur in every province and territory, and (b) not already be an official provincial or territorial flower.

Almost 10,000 Canadians voted in the poll over a four-month period, and 79.5 per cent of the voters chose Cornus Canadensis (Bunchberry/Quatre-temps/Kawiscowimin (Cree)) as their preferred choice.
If you agree, please sign the online petition.


Dark-eyed Junco
One of my favourite winter activities is backyard bird feeding. And every fall, I look forward to the return of Dark-eyed Juncos, as they migrate south out of the boreal forest and into southern Canada. These handsome members of the sparrow family come in a variety of forms across Canada, from the hooded Oregon-type Juncos of the mountainous regions of western Canada to the widespread "Slate-coloured" form found throughout central and eastern Canada. All Dark-eyed Juncos are generally grey or brownish and have flashy white outer tail feathers, a pale pink bill, and a white belly.

Photo credit: Ron Ridout

Dark-eyed Juncos are among our most widespread and common bird species, and they can be found throughout Canada's northern coniferous forests. They are also one of the most common bird species that visit bird feeders during the winter months. For people who live in northern Canada these wonderful birds can be year-round backyard residents, but for those of us who live in southern Canada, they usually arrive in October and depart in April.
It's remarkably easy to attract Dark-eyed Juncos to your yard. They tend to forage out in the open on the ground. They do require some cover in the form of bushes, conifers, and even patches of weedy growth. I often place brush piles near my feeders to give juncos and other sparrows shelter from the wind and from potential predators. [*Note: if outdoor cats are regular visitors in your yard, brush piles near feeders should probably be avoided, as they could create ideal ambush points for cats to kill birds.] 

Dark-eyed Juncos will eat a variety of seeds, but black oil sunflower and millet are two of their favourites. I would recommend placing seed on the ground or using a hopper-type feeder. It's just that easy! Follow these simple steps and you will get to enjoy the wintertime company of Canada's endearing little snowbird, the Dark-eyed Junco.

Jody Allair
Bird Studies Canada
Twitter: @JodyAllair

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

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Have you picked up your Harrowsmith 2018 Almanac yet? The fall issue covers everything from sky-side high rise potato patches in Saskatoon to Dundurn Castle's secret kitchen garden in Hamilton, Ontario to an exploration of Canada's hard apple cider industry. 

Mark Cullen's colourful guide to growing your own snacks and book collection is the perfect arsenal for crisp autumn night inspiration. 

You'll find all the usual Almanac staples too: Mark Sirois' weather forecast for 2018, the Astronomical Almanac and our 39th annual guide to Canada's seed houses and specialty nurseries. 

Let us know what you think! Find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily ideas about living simply and sustainably. 

Photo by Cheri
In the September issue of Gardening With Mark, I invited you to share a photo of your favourite part of your garden.  I really enjoyed all of the inspiring photos.  Thank you for sharing.
The 5 photos with the most likes each won a signed copy of my latest book The New Canadian Garden.  Congratulations to: Cheri, Linda C., Adeline k., Ernie W., and Tracey H.
This month I encourage you to share a photo of your fall d├ęcor.  We are looking for inspiring ideas using pumpkins, corn stalks, ornamental kale, etc.  

A visit to your local farmer's market is a wonderful way to shop for fall decorating accessories.
Send one photo to
I will post all the photos on my Facebook page.
The 5 winners, who get the most 'likes' will receive a signed copy of my book ' The New Canadian Garden' and 4 packets of Mark's Choice garden seeds ($28 value).  The #1 winner will have the most 'likes' of all!  And will receive a $50 Home Hardware gift card, plus the New Canadian Garden and 4 packets of Mark's Choice garden seeds. 
Encourage your friends and family to 'vote' for your photo to increase your chance of winning.
(deadline for entry is October 8, 2017.  Voting closes October 15, 2017)
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My monthly Event Listings are so popular we were running out of room in the newsletter.  All event listings have moved to .
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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.