“Never does Nature say one thing and Wisdom another.
~Juvenal, translated by G. G. Ramsay, 1918”

Welcome to the half-time show. The beginning of August marks the halfway mark on our gardening calendars. Your annual garden is entering mid life, and like us entering mid-life, this is a great time to reflect on the meaning of (gardening) life.

Recently, Ben's aunt Lynn sent us a link to a thoroughly fascinating publication from New York about Nature-Based Landscapes. It is fascinating as it articulates many aspects of gardening as we know it today, in 2022. And it makes perfect sense.  
Gone is the access to pesticides that generations before us used with abandon.
Gone is the notion that the only garden worth having was one that reflected control over nature: the perfect lawn, hedge and a border dominated by pollinator-unfriendly impatiens.
Gone too, we only hope, is the idea that every piece of noisy equipment available must be obtained and used, often on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning. 
Here are our favourites from a long list of simple principles for a nature-based landscape:
1.     Go electric. No noise, no pollution. People won’t run away from you.
2.     Save the soil. It is to your garden what the foundation is to your house. Try building a house or garden without either and failure is guaranteed to be in your future.
3.     Mind the Mulch. A 10 to 12 cm layer of finely ground up cedar bark mulch will eliminate up to 90% of weeds and reduce the need for water by up to 70%. It is a miracle for both the low maintenance and Nature Based gardener.
4.     Raise your mower. Cut your lawn less frequently and never shorter than 8 cm. “The taller the grass blades the deeper and more drought tolerant the roots.” We quote ourselves.
5.     Reduce your lawn area and replace with native flowering plants. Neighbourhood pollinators, the ones who fertilize 30% of what we eat, will thank you.
6.      Plant a pollinator patch. With or without a reduced lawn size, attracting pollinators like bumblebees, mason bees, moths, butterflies and hummingbirds (to name just a few) not only is a wonderful and meaningfully positive contribution to the environment, it is entertainment. Once you start looking for them, you will be hooked on the exercise.  Our morning always begins this time of year with a walk through the garden observing the activity.  
7.     Plant a tree. Through our work with Trees For Life ( we have learned that of all the nature based solutions to climate change, trees, especially urban trees, represent 30% of the answer. Note: we added this point, it is not in the report. 
The idea of nature-based solutions is so good that we think it is causing a revolution in how we garden. Remember when milkweed was a weed? The seeds for milkweed are now sold from seed racks.
Remember when we sprayed 2,4-D to kill dandelions? If you are under 30, you won’t. But the rest of us do. 
And if you are over 75, you remember when municipalities sprayed DDT on well-treed streets while kids played road hockey. You might have been one of those kids.
We know so much more about how the world works and the impact of our activity on it. 
We are smarter now. 
Or, we like to think so. 
Have a great mid summertime in your garden and don’t forget to celebrate by inhaling the scent and scene of it all.
Yours as ever,

Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beans and Beauty

p.s. look for our story in the Toronto Star about 'A Garden for the rusty-patched bumblebee', by Lorraine Johnson and Sheila Colla . An amazing book.  
Divide German iris in August. Spread them around the sunny parts of your yard or give them away.

Sow grass seed and lay sod. From Mid August until early October - this is the best time of year to do it.

If you are receiving some rain and night temperatures are cooling down, this is a great time to apply lawn fertilizer, if you have not done it in 8 to 10 weeks.

Remove the spent blossoms of July flowering perennials and roses. Day lilies, early flowering hostas, veronica and the like. Blue veronica produces another set of blossoms when you cut it down this time of year.  Mark cut his veronica’s down by ½ this week, will rebloom early Sept.

If you are in the habit of fertilizing your winter hardy shrubs and roses monthly, then right now is the last application that you will make for this year. Feeding later in the summer/early fall can promote growth that will not have time to harden off before winter. Alternatively, spreading finished compost on the root zone of perennials, vegetables is a good idea any time.

Hang out a hummingbird feeder. They are returning from the far north, will stop and forage in your garden for a few weeks as they accumulate fat under their wings for the long flight south this fall.

Stake your dahlias.

Harvest as your garden matures. The more you harvest, the more it will produce.

Continue to spray Bordo copper spray on your tomatoes to prevent early and late blight.

Weed, mulch, water as needed and be sure to hang in the hammock. You earned it!!
Our father/grandfather Len Cullen was honoured by our professional trade association, Landscape Ontario, with a memorial tree planting on July 20th

Our family was pleased to be there for this special event, where Len’s contribution to the profession was acknowledged and will be permanently celebrated through the long life of a beautiful White Oak. 

Brother/uncle Peter spoke on behalf of the family, talked about Cullen Gardens in Whitby, Cullen Country Barns, Weall and Cullen Nurseries and thanked those responsible for this very special memorial gift. 

7 other industry leaders were acknowledged the same way that day. Planted on the grounds of Landscape Ontario in Milton, ON. 
On July 19, four friends, Pauline Craig, Mike Reid, Lisa Pottier and Kevin Walsh were walking in Eugenia, Ontario when they were struck by a car in a hit-and-run. Kevin was tragically killed and the other three were injured, sending Pauline to hospital by helicopter where she is recovering from critical injuries.

Pauline is a promoter of native plants from her Lacewing Native Plants Nursery, where her busy work is on hold indefinitely.
A GoFundMe has been setup to support Pauline and the business through her recovery.
A GoFundMe for Mike Reid, and in memory of Kevin Walsh have also been setup.
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 July.
American Robin
By: Jody Allair
The American Robin is one of the most familiar and widespread backyard birds in North America. Most people can recognize its cheery, low, whistled song that has a speech-like quality because of the paused phrases. It’s also very attractive, which we need to be reminded of sometimes when it comes to our common birds (don’t even get me started on the stunning plumage of male Common Grackles!).
Now allow me to let you in on a little secret – the American Robin is one of the coolest birds in North America. They can live in the northern Boreal Forest, urban backyards, and everywhere in between. Where many birds have declined due to habitat loss, American Robins have been able to adapt in the presence of humans. Although that’s not to say that they aren’t impacted by issues like cat predation and collisions with windows and vehicles.
American Robin
Photo credit: Jody Allair
One interesting element of their biology is their diet. American Robins are omnivores and eat a diverse combination of insects, worms, and berries. They even alter their diet at different times of year and can survive some very cold Canadian winters by eating berries and fruit. So, in addition to making your yard insect and worm friendly, consider planting fruiting trees and shrubs that can provide food in the winter.
Something that occurs regularly at this time of year, often with American Robins, is the appearance of seemingly helpless baby birds in your yard. I frequently get asked what we should do with these birds. The answer is usually quite simple. If they are fully feathered and are hopping about, then leave them be. They have fledged from the nest and are being fed and watched by the parents – even though you might not see the parents around. If they are tiny, without much in the way of feather growth, then they have fallen from the nest and should be put back into the nest if possible. For more details on what to do with baby birds, visit:

Good birding!

Jody Allair
Director, Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair

Footnote: Mark is reading the book What the Robin Knows, by Jon Young. “How birds reveal the secrets of the natural world”. Fascinating. When we understand birds and their songs better, we see the natural world differently. ~Mark 
Maple Miso Corn Ribs

These One-Pan Maple Miso Corn Ribs are full of flavour and easy to make. Whether you enjoy this savoury corn dish as your main or as a side, you’ll be craving this recipe all through corn season.

Find the recipe at:
Don’t miss an issue of Harrowsmith’s gardening, cooking, sustainable living and DIY tips. The Harrowsmith Almanac hits newsstands next week and features 12 months of weather forecasts, night sky charts, amazing nature facts, easy one-pan meals and essential gardening advice — including tips on planting spring bulbs —from Mark and Ben Cullen & so much more!