“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later” – Og Mandino

Year of the Garden is underway, and we have already made plans to enjoy some of Canada’s great gardens. Canadians are blessed by a plethora of public gardens to choose from – great historic gardens, and newer gardens such as Canada’s “newest botanical garden”, Whistling Gardens, where their 1,200 peonies will be worth a visit early summer (opening May 7th).

We should not prejudice ourselves against newer gardens for the fact that gardens tend to improve with age. After all, every great established garden was once bare soil lined out with seedlings and gardener dreams. New gardens allow us the opportunity to experiment, embrace the newest thinking, and put gardens where there was no garden before.

This thinking tracks with Doug Tallamy’s campaign for Homegrown National Park – a US movement to convert ½ of their green lawns (approximately 20 million acres) to life-supporting natural habitat. We view this as a form of gardening, and indeed relevant in Canada. (You can learn more about Homegrown National Park at or by listening to our podcast episode with Tallamy on the Green File with Ben and Mark).

It also tracks with the movement to “Grow Food, Not Lawns”, an international campaign to convert those same acres of grassy monoculture to food producing permaculture landscapes.

That is not to pick solely on lawns. New gardens can be created where old shrubs have grown unwieldy and unsightly. They can go vertical – from containers on porches and straw bales on driveways. Our goal this Year of the Garden is to put new gardens where there wasn’t before, for the good of society, the economy (food!) and the environment.
For regular readers, you will know that Mark established a new one-acre garden last year which has really started to take off now that the soil quality has been addressed.
Ben and his young family are moving again, into a mature urban lot back in Guelph. Cutting back lawn and overgrown cedars are top of the To-Do list for his new garden, where an apple espalier and red oak are intended to anchor a rejuvenated yard.
As Year of the Garden ambassadors, we have had a few speaking opportunities come our way. This month, Ben will be offering a free presentation on behalf of the Guelph-Wellington Master Gardeners on the theme “Visioning a New Garden”.
We urge you to join the season-long celebration of Canada’s first Year of the Garden. Plant red!  And go to the website to learn more.

We are excited that a relative COVID-free season means we can once again join together in real-person to help make Canada a cleaner, greener country.


Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty and Beans
Ontario Only - Still Available
Food and Farm Care is a Canadian charity promoting Ontario’s agriculture sector.

This year, Cullen’s Foods is excited to support their Garden-in-a-Box program which will provide new gardeners with basic materials to grow their own food garden, as well as an accompanying online program and community to guide them through the experience.

The idea is to help people understand what goes into the foods we eat from Ontario agriculture, where of course Cullen’s organic kidney beans, navy beans, and black beans are grown. As part of the program, Cullen’s is supplying bean seeds so you can grow your own “Cullen’s Beans” at home.

For $45 you will receive everything you need for a 4x10’ plot or opt for the $35 patio kit.
Learn more and order your box at
Our readership and our social media followers have discovered the power of trees over the years, through the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign and more recently the “next chapter”, Canadian Trees For Life.

We are grateful to you for your support, whether you volunteer, donate or simply send our messages wide and far, to family and friends.

Today, we have an announcement that is a game changer: Trees For Heroes.

During the pandemic our front line workers and first responders have been thanked and acknowledged in many ways.
Now, you have an opportunity to have a tree planted in their honour. Not just a rinky dink 2-year-old but an 80 cm to 1 metre and a half teenager, healthy, and ready to grow.

Trees For Life will plant your tree in an urban/suburban environment and will do it right, ensuring the best possible outcome for years to come.

We (Ben and Mark) guarantee that a tree planted to honour someone you know will enhance the environment and provide yeoman's service as one of nature’s air cleaners for generations to come.

With our thanks,
Mark and Ben
I found this while going through some of my late father's old files.
The situation in Ukraine is on everyone’s mind these days, ours included. It was early in the conflict when we hatched the idea of donating to the Canadian Red Cross, asking you to do the same with a minimum $25 donation and we sent donors a copy of our latest book Escape to Reality, How the world is changing gardening and gardening is changing the world

Well, we were overwhelmed, in the nicest possible way, by your response.
In total, we raised over $50,000 for the Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal.
We sent out over 700 copies of our book… and ran out!  If you were among those who made a contribution but did not receive a copy of the book, our sincere apology. We just had no idea that our offer would be so successful.
If you gave over $25, as many did, a special thanks for being so generous at a time when our help is needed in the extreme.
If you are inclined or can afford to help further, the need is still great, as you likely know. We encourage you to connect with the Canadian Red Cross to get updates on their courageous work and a link to donations, fully receiptable.
Again, you, our newsletter subscribers, continue to amaze us. 
Thank you so much for following us: reading, listening and passing our gardening/environment messages on to friends and family.
Together we will make Canada a better country.
It's time to prune apple trees, thinning out old, thick branches and dead wood to open up the tree for spring. Watch the video.

Buy garden seeds or look in your area to find out about Seedy Saturdays and Seed Exchanges, which are a great way to find heritage varieties and meet local growers. If you're going to buy your seed from a seed company or retailer, it's still early enough to get a broad selection.

Before the end of the month, you can begin starting your cooler season crops such as onion, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower and kale which are okay to transplant up to a month before last frost. It helps to protect them with a row cover but starting seeds now is a good opportunity to lengthen your growing season.

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

Gardeners are emerging from their hibernation, and horticulture clubs everywhere are getting active. If you aren't already a member, look up your local club and see what they are offering...many have already started running workshops for the season. 

Apply dormant spray to all permanent fruiting plants like apples, pears, raspberries etc. when nighttime temperatures are above freezing but before the flower/leaf buds break open. For Central Canada and Maritimes, this usually is the third or fourth week of April. Newfoundland and Prairies later. Lower mainland BC, very soon!
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.
Northern Flicker
By: Jody Allair
“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.
Northern Flicker
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, reddish 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 (they love using our metal chimney for this purpose!) 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.
Good Birding!
*A previous version of this article was featured in the July 2018 issue of the Mark Cullen enews.
Jody Allair
Director, Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair

The Caesar Salad is the most popular salad in the world! And did you know that it was invented 98 years ago in Tijuana, Mexico by Cesare (‘Caesar’) Cardini a French-inspired Italian chef who immigrated to America before moving to Mexico to escape prohibition?!

Back in the 1920s, there are many accounts of celebrities crossing the border south from California to enjoy this sought-after dish at Caesar’s restaurant. Today, it continues to be a mainstay on menus around the world with several variations of the classic version.

This Kale Caesar Salad With Garlic Croutons is a delicious one you have to try! It's the easy-to-make, crunchy garlic croutons that take this healthy salad to the next level.
Don’t miss an issue of Harrowsmith’s gardening, cooking, sustainable living and DIY tips. Our spring issue — on newsstands now! — features recipes made from magnolia flowers, off-grid energy know-how, nature crafts, the Ultimate Guide to Growing Your Food Organically from Mark and Ben Cullen & so much more!