Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter

September is the month of giving back.
Your garden is giving back for all that you have invested this season.
Like an annuity or a dividend bearing stock.
A Canadian bank stock.
The rewards are just outside your door: go get them.

Veggie garden

If you planted one tomato plant this spring, chances are it is producing red, ripe tomatoes to beat the band. Be sure to pick them.  
Mark has a zucchini, a Mark's Choice yellow zucchini 'Golden Delight'. It is producing one or two nice zucchinis each day. He goes out there and picks a nice yellow sausage shaped vegetable each morning from the same plant. 

It is like a kid with a bubble gum machine: one gum a day. One day the machine will be empty: the plant will collapse. He gives thanks for healthy plants every day that they exist. Life is precious.

We won't list the plants that are bearing fruit in our garden just now, instead we encourage you to walk out the door and inspect your own crop. Daily. This is important as there is a peak day of ripeness for everything. 
Even a carrot can get too big and woody. Or a radish or beet. Or us. 
Mark is past his peak. But he lives in denial, says that he has never felt so good (guess who wrote this).


Many of the flowering plants in your yard, annual and perennial, are in perfect shape for sharing. 


Cut your monarda, phlox, rudbeckia and the second coming of Veronica that is showing off in your yard. Bring them indoors to bloom on the table. Enjoy the colour and fragrance where you live.

Change the water every second day to keep them fresh longer.

Your Reward

If you have school-aged kids at home, you are in luck. All the effort that you put into ensuring their best summer experience ever, whatever that was: camp, home crafts, cottage or whatever are about to pay off.

They are going to school very soon and your reward is hanging out in the garden. You have just been too busy to see it develop into the beauty that it is.


You have yarrow, sedum and butterfly bush in full bloom. Dahlias (Mark's Choice dahlias!) are looking their blooming best. Cut them, bring the colour indoors. 

Go outside and smell the roses, hollyhocks and fall hibiscus.

If you have nothing in bloom in your garden or containers, go to your nearest garden retailer and buy some. Plant them, during the best planting month of the year (this is why National Tree Day is in September, the 25th.)

You have earned this moment.

There is a host of wildlife in your yard and garden now. Mating is mostly over (you were too busy with your kids to have noticed, likely) but other miracles are happening. 

Monarch butterfly larvae are munching on your milkweed. 

Hummingbirds are moving through most Canadian gardens (located in the south) now, on their long journey to Central and South America. First the males meander through, taking their time cause, well, they can.   The females are training and feeding their young up north. Bright ruby throated males are hanging out at both of our places just looking for our feeders and bright, nectar rich flowers. 

Perennial Salvia or Cardinal Flower is our #1 hummingbird pick. Fledglings that were born up north 6 weeks ago follow the daddies, then the females come up the rear, ensuring that the youngsters are finding their way.

Oh, what a miracle Mother Nature is.
It is all happening at your nearest garden.
If you happen to have one outside your front or back door, take a moment to count your blessings.
And as the kids head off to their first day of school, count that blessing too.
Your garden is producing dividends in September.
Don't miss it.
Your financial/garden advisors.
Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty


This summer we've written a lot about the idea of sharing as it relates to gardening - we do believe it's the most rewarding part of keeping a vegetable garden, all the more-so when you're dealing with a bountiful harvest.

Something struck us when thinking about some of the gardens we've been lucky enough to see this summer: opening your garden to visitors is another rewarding way to share the fruits of your gardening labour.

This summer we were wooed by the impressive gardens of the Guelph Horticulture Society's Member Garden Tour, and of Mark's Choice Through the Garden Gate tour of Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood. 

Another garden visit started out as simple as an email from a fellow Master Gardener - Robert Pavlis of Garden Myths - who sent out a note to his friends and fellow gardeners notifying them of an "open garden day" at his home. Ben showed up to a steady stream of happy garden-appreciaters, each leaving newly inspired by Pavlis' expansive rock garden and exotic plant collection.

Something to think about while your garden is at its peak - why not extend an invite to friends, family, or even friendly-strangers for a visit to share the gardening joy.


Now is the time to lay sod or sow grass seed.

To remove all the fuss of hauling bags of lawn soil and buying special grass seed and lawn food, why not buy it all in one bag? 

You won't believe the results.

Home Hardware customer, and Instagram user @lindsaystephenson, couldn't believe it. Which is why she posted this testimonial: "I really worked hard at saving our grass - new good earth and overseeding. But I think that @cillawnandgarden product kicked it into high gear. 100% recommend."

Don't take our word for it. Stop in at your friendly, local Home Hardware store and try it out.

It will save you time and money.

And you will be tickled green with the results.


Dinner Gala
Date: September 13
Location: Parkwood National Historic Site and Museum, Oshawa, Ontario
Mark is Honorary Gala Dinner Chair

A Night at WindReach Farms brought to you by Mark's Choice
Date: September 21
Unfortunately, we are out of town during this great event.  But Mark's Choice is proud to be the presenting sponsor.
Location: WindReach Farm, Ashburn, Ontario
WindReach Farm Foundation is proud to bring you a Night at WindReach Farm with The Dan Clancy Band! Dan is the lead singer of the 4-time Juno Award winning band Lighthouse!
WindReach is a registered charity operating for 30 years offering a variety of unique and innovative nature, farming and equestrian related opportunities to individuals of all ages and abilities, including those with physical, psychological, and intellectual challenges.

Communities in Blooms National & International Awards Ceremonies
Date: September 28
Location: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Mark will lead a Town Hall meeting before representing Home Hardware at the Awards Ceremony.


Dig and divide. Perennials that flowered in early to mid summer can be dug up and divided. Replant the divisions around your yard in the appropriate places or give them away if you have run out of space. Be sure that the soil is moist when you dig up the mature perennial.

Plant spring flowering bulbs. The boat has arrived from The Netherlands and we recommend that you check out the selection at your favourite retailer for the best selection of the season. Fact is, they don't replenish the 'hard to find' varieties of tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths and the like later in the fall season. Even if you just store your new purchases in your garage for a few weeks, at least you have the varieties and colours that you really want.

Speaking of spring flowering bulbs, check out the Mark's Choice bulb collections at Home Hardware. All great value for the money.

Compost: a. empty b. fill. Not to oversimplify this, but your garden needs the natural goodness that is contained in your backyard composting unit and your now-empty composting unit will provide a valuable service this autumn when the leaves fall and you yank your spent annuals and veggie plants out of the ground.

Core Aerator
Aerate your lawn if it is compacted. Heavy foot traffic will squeeze the air out of the soil and prevent the roots of grass plants from breathing.
We recommend a small core aerator for this job.
The Mark's Choice Core Aerator is exactly what you need to reduce soil compaction where foot traffic is a problem on the lawn.
The wide step on base allows for more downward force. Each step removes 2 cores of soil from the lawn. This opens up the soil and allows moisture and air to flow to the roots of grass plants.
Two handle design allows for secure grip.
Powder coated finish.
Home Hardware Item# 5010-144


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 August.

Fall Birding and the Yellow-rumped Warbler
By Jody Allair
Welcome to autumn! It may still look summery outside, but if you're a migrant bird, you are most likely already on your way south. In fact, for arctic nesting shorebirds, early September marks the peak of migration through southern Canada. Even though spring migration gets most of the spotlight, for my money, you cannot beat birding in the fall.
So why is fall birding so fantastic? For one, you have more time to enjoy migration because it happens over a longer period than in spring. In spring, birds are rushing to their breeding grounds whereas in fall, they take time to pack on the fat before heading south to Mexico, Central America, or even southern South America. There are also more birds to see compared to in the spring. In addition to the adult birds, you now have all of the newly fledged young attempting their first fall migration.
One commonly-cited advantage to spring birding is that the birds are sporting their bright breeding plumages, making them easier to identify. Well that may be true, but it should not dissuade you from getting outside and having a go at identifying these amazing super-migrant songbirds in their fall colours.
Photo credit James Lees

One of the most ubiquitous migrant wood-warblers is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. Named for the bright lemon-yellow patch on its lower back, the Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the most abundant fall migrant songbirds across Canada. Chances are if you're out in your local park or well vegetated yard, you will see one of these amazing little fireballs looking for insects and small berries. And here's a tip: listen for the Yellow-rumped Warblers rich "chep" call note (you can listen to it here: It is quite distinctive, and once you learn it you will find them just about everywhere over the next two months.
Good birding!

Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Bird Studies Canada
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair

Seasoned gardeners know that the season never ends--even though saying "fall" in the middle of this very late summer is almost like swearing! But Harrowsmith's 2020 Almanac is on newsstands now! 

As you enjoy those first sweet ears of corn with a local IPA, read our article on How To grow your own hops. In the fall gardening section, you'll also find our garlic tutorial.

We are pleased to be the gardening editors to Harrowsmith magazine.

This month, we are inviting you to submit a photo of your favourite part of your garden.
Email one photo to and tell us why it is the favourite part of your garden.
We will post your photo on our Facebook page.
The top winner, who get the most 'likes' will receive a $50 Home Hardware gift card, a copy of our book Escape to Reality.
The next 3 winners will receive a copy of the 2020 Harrowsmith Almanac.
Encourage your friends and family to 'vote' for your photo to increase your chance of winning.
Deadline for entry, September 8, 2019
Deadline for voting, September 15, 2019
Enter today!

Photo by N. Chiasson

In the August issue of Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to share a photo of your favourite mid-season flowering plant.
The photo with the most 'likes' won the Grand Prize: A signed copy of our book Escape to Reality + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware + a copy of the Summer issue of Harrowsmith magazine. Congratulations to N. Chiasson
The next 3 photos to receive the most 'likes' won: a copy of our book Escape to Reality + a copy of Harrowsmith magazine. Congratulations to: M. Emery, M. McMann, and M. Jenvey

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.