Fertile young minds.

When the kids join us adults on the other side of this pandemic, how will it have affected them? We don’t have the answers, but recently we had our eyes opened to an opportunity that we want to share with you. 

The opportunity is for us, all of us with a connection to children anywhere, to make a positive difference. Parents, guardians, grandparents, and teachers can access a program that opens the eyes of youngsters to the miracles of nature.
Plant a Seed & See What Grows is a program that has been thoughtfully put together for Canadian children between the ages of 5 and 8. Through books that an adult can read out loud to children, workbooks, a teacher guide and organic garden seeds, kids can take a journey into the magic of seed germination and plant growth.

Things that we adults take for granted, like pushing a bean seed into some soil in a pot and watching it grow, in its own time. Experiencing its response to water and sunshine, the changes that occur day by day. Sometimes by the hour (it is a bean after all). Seen through the unvarnished eyes of a child, this experience is magical.
And it is free.

How so? Through the generosity of the supporters of the not-for-profit registered charity Plant a Seed and See What Grows, that is how. A foundation was set up a few years ago by a generous Canadian in B.C., Roland Gahler, Founder of Natural Factors vitamins.

Why? We don’t know why, exactly, as we have not talked to him, but it seems that he loves kids and knows the power of nature, as seen through their eyes when a garden seed germinates and takes root. We do know that he has a dream to help raise a generation of kids “who learn to become good stewards of planet earth.”
The storybooks and materials are available in both English and French.
On April 22, at 10:30am Eastern time, Mark will be reading from one of the two books online. Afterwards, he will demonstrate how to prepare a pot of soil for seed sowing. We invite you to join us, free of charge, to share this experience.

The live streamed video will take about 30 minutes.

Details of the book reading and to learn more about Plant a Seed & See What Grows Foundation, are available at and of course on our website
Canada Blooms Blossoms

With the pandemic, it was impossible to create Canada’s favourite public garden show in Toronto last month. Canada Blooms celebrates its 25th anniversary and we could not just let it slip by without celebrating.

So, we helped the organizing committee to create a series of “before and after” videos of spectacular gardens. Each one is about 2 to 3 minutes. Soon, all 10 videos will be strung together into a professional presentation that you can view online for free.

We host this series, with great pride and mindful of the millions of hours of creative design, professional landscape installations and endless hours of quality horticultural education that has been invested since inception, in 1996. Here is our first installation.
It is April and there is a lot to do both in the garden and indoors in preparation for the gardening season ahead.

Check out our podcast, launching today with this newsletter, where we (Ben and Mark) spar over the most important garden tasks this month. Many tasks you can undertake right now. as always, we have fun and enjoy every minute.  We hope you do too. Listen here.

If you are hungry to learn more, check out our Toronto Star articles which are appropriate for every growing zone across the country really.  We are taking a more practical approach to our writing as we wade into spring, to help inspire and inform Canadians who want to take up the trowel, get their knees dirty and succeed in the garden this season.
Mark recently joined The Weather Network to talk about the possibility of extreme weather affecting the pollen count of trees. Watch the video.
Join us.  So many ways!
And enjoy a fabulous start to your gardening season.
Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty and Beans.

p.s. note that Ben’s food products are now available in over 500 retail locations across Canada. Look for his organic, Canadian grown bean and chickpeas (almost) everywhere. Check it out at
Plant. Don't wait for the 'traditional May 24 planting weekend' to plant frost-hardy trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials (that are not 'soft' and greenhouse forced), roses and hardy annuals like pansies, violas, ranunculus, anemones and spring flowering bulbs which are in full bloom in pots at your favourite garden retailer.

Start your dahlia bulbs and other summer flowering bulbs inside using 1-gallon pots and a quality potting mix, which will give you a jump on their blooming season.

Apply dormant spray. Control overwintering diseases and insects on all fruit trees, roses, most shrubs and deciduous trees with an application of dormant spray. You will buy two bottles [likely in one box] one is Dormant Oil and the other is Lime Sulphur. Mix according to directions and apply when night temperatures are reliably above zero Celsius and BEFORE the blossom or leaf buds open.

Worm castings. Our secret to starting the best seeds. We add one tenth worm castings to seed starting mix. We use 10 scoops of ProMix to one scoop of worm castings. Worm castings convert the raw, organic material in the soil into a rich material that is loaded with microbes, beneficial bacteria and mycorrhiza, all of which assist in the growing process of all plants, especially in their early stages of growth.

Cut back roses and remove winterizing.

Now is a good time to start your peppers, eggplant, petunias, geraniums and other slower germinating seeds. Mid-month we'll start tomatoes, cucumbers, melons...working back from planting date by the number of weeks on the packet.
Recipe for the Best Lawn on the Block:

Rake. Use a lawn rake to remove loose debris and get the grass blades to stand up.
Sow fresh grass seed on thin patches. To make this job easy, just apply CIL Iron Plus 4 in 1 Recovery. The best product of its' kind in Canada. Fast green-up, thickens your lawn and repairs damaged areas.
Apply CIL Iron Plus lawn fertilizer. The only product on the market that is guaranteed to produce a visibly greener lawn in 72 hours or your money back. The Iron is exceptional quality, the nitrogen slow release for longer results.
Aerate your lawn, where soil is compacted, with a hand aerator. 
On this week’s podcast, Ben and Mark get practical. No guests – just advice to get your garden going this spring, along with a bit of reminiscing and story telling.
Don’t miss it! 

Tune in - on Apple, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts.
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 March.
a Great Backyard Bird Count for the ages!
By: Jody Allair
*excerpts taken from Kerrie Wilcox’s Great Backyard Bird Count Summary which originally appeared in the Birds Canada blog.
It’s fairly well known that the pandemic has motivated many Canadians to take up birdwatching. One of Birds Canada’s premier entry-level birding events is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) which takes place each February around the Family Day Weekend. Birdwatchers participating in the 2021 Great Backyard Bird Count created an outstanding snapshot of bird populations around the world. Continuing the GBBC’s upward trend, this year’s event topped all previous years in terms of participation level, checklists submitted, and species reported. Below are the figures as of March 2021.
Species: 6436
Checklists: 379.7K
Participating Countries: 190
Despite bitter cold in many regions, participants in Canada entered 43.5K bird counts and documented an impressive 263 species! It was an extraordinary year for participation in Canada, with a 109% increase in checklists from 20.7K in 2020! To see checklist and species numbers in your province or territory, click on “Explore”. Canadians found lots of “irruptive” species this year due to a poor cone and seed crop in Boreal Forests across Canada. Irruptive birds (such as Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, Purple Finches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Evening Grosbeaks) respond to poor cone and seed crops up north by moving south in search of food.
Red Crossbills
Photo credit: Jody Allair
Can’t get enough of being a Citizen Scientist? Please keep observing and reporting birds! Just go directly to to submit checklists from your yard or local green-space at any time of year.
The next GBBC is February 18-21, 2022
Good Birding!

Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair
Feature Recipe - Fiddlehead Tart
Fiddleheads are coiled ferns that are only edible before they are open.  
They are foraged in the spring and seen in grocery stores until the early part of the summer, but they’re best eaten at the beginning of the season. Fiddleheads are mainly eaten one way: sautéed with butter! They are enjoyed for both their look and their asparagus-like crunch, so they’re rarely cut up or cooked into other dishes. 

This tart takes them to another level while allowing them to be seen and eaten without doing much to them. For the recipe go to