Things feel as though they have calmed down somewhat in 2022, with Ben getting into the swing of fatherhood and Mark’s 1-acre, new-from-scratch garden starting to fill in. It is the most relaxed we have felt on a New Years in some time. 
It is in this mood we are animating our vision for 2023 – Mark going into his third year, and Ben his second in “new” gardens. There will be less ground-breaking, and more incrementalism in the at-home gardens while we turn our attention outward to the communities that have welcomed us each so warmly. That means getting more involved with our local causes and greenspaces. 
For Ben, a neighbourhood group is forming where he lives in Guelph, and he is throwing in his hat to take part in a volunteer stewardship program for the park in his neighbourhood. He also intends to support the active non-profits promoting trees in Guelph, such as Guelph Urban Forest Friends and Trees for Guelph with their various tree planting programs. Slightly further afield, he’ll be staying ‘on-board’ at the Toronto Botanical Garden where he’s on the committee for their ongoing, multi-year expansion project. 
Mark highlighted 2022 with a conclusion to the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign- 2.3 million trees along the Highway of Heroes.

2023 will be largely focused on the ongoing launch of Trees for Life – a commemorative tree planting organization that is national in scope.

These commitments stem from our firsthand experience with one of gardening’s greatest, and most under-celebrated benefits: community building. In a world that seems to be getting lonelier and more divided, we have personally benefitted from communing over a shared love of the environment with amazing folks we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to know.

Consider getting involved with a gardening or environment non-profit in your community for a resolution you will be sure to enjoy. Some recommendations below.


Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beans and Beauty.
Getting involved in a local garden or environmental group is a great way to indulge your love of gardening, meet new people, and give back to your community. Consider our rule of thumb: attend at least three meetings before you decide whether you want to stick with it. Even as self-proclaimed extroverts, it can take a while before you feel at home among your new friends – but the long-term benefits are worth it! 
Field Naturalist Groups. Most cities have a local club of “Field Naturalists” which can engage a diverse range of people committed to the appreciation of protection of our natural spaces.
Programming can include citizen science projects, nature walks, speaker series, and stewardship, with plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Expect to learn from the passionate types who attend these groups. Start by looking up your city + “naturalist group” (not to be confused with ‘naturist’) or look on a provincial directory such as https://www.ontariofieldnaturalists.ca/Links/Field_Naturalists_Clubs.html

Service Clubs such as Rotary make important contributions to diverse causes and are always seeking new members. For the success of the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign, much is owed to local Veterans Clubs (Legions) and Rotary Clubs along the highway. https://www.rotary.org/en
Communities in Bloom is an annual event across Canada for communities that want to express the best in “environmental sustainability, enhancements of green spaces, and heritage conservation, in cultural and natural environments encompassing municipal, residential, commercial, and institutional spaces.”

The friendly competition is a great way to meet other green-minded volunteers and contribute to your communities flourishing. https://www.communitiesinbloom.ca/

Trees for Life.  We are always looking for community lead tree planting projects. We are volunteer driven. Got ideas? Some time? Would you like to meet like-minded people? Please join us.  www.treesforlife.ca

Horticulture Societies are a great place to share simply in the love of gardening, each with their own programming that usually involves speakers and social events. Find your local chapter through the provincial horticultural association, or by googling your city + “horticulture society” or “garden club”.

Master Gardeners are where you will find the serious gardeners. Serious about gardening, and serious about sharing their knowledge and passion for horticulture. Becoming a Master Gardener can take up to two years, but you will immediately be welcomed by your local chapter as a “Master Gardener in Training” until you have completed your coursework or challenged the exam. Maintaining your Master Gardener designation requires annual volunteer work and continuing education units, but the commitment is worthwhile for the education and friendships. Learn more at https://www.mgoi.ca/ (Ontario), or your provincial association. 

In addition to running Cullen’s Foods, Ben has been involved with the Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) as a member of their volunteer board for about three years now (“promoted” to President in 2022).
OCO represents the organic sector in Ontario, from farmers to consumers, and recently took ownership of the Guelph Organic Conference – the largest and longest running organic conference in Canada.
This year, the Guelph Organic Conference is running in-person and online from January 23-29 at the University of Guelph, with the tradeshow and in-person seminars happening on campus the 28-29th

Cullen’s Foods will be sponsoring a special seminar on the 28th at 3:30 “Growing Edible Organic Beans” where we will be hosting a panel of growers and sharing from our experience of commercial, organic bean growing in Ontario.
  • Pot up your Christmas amaryllis. Bury the bottom 1/3 of the bulb in moist soil. You will be amazed how quickly your amaryllis wakes from dormancy and begin to grow.
  • Reduce watering of most indoor plants. 9 out of 10 problems with indoor plants are the result of over watering. Take a break.
  • Order seeds for your veggie and flower garden. If you don't 'order' seeds, check out the fresh stock local hardware stores.
  • Go to local horticultural club meetings. Gardeners are social creatures... especially in winter! Bring your questions and an inquisitive mind: many answers are to be found here!
  • Read, listen, organize your garden photos from last summer and put up your gardening antennae: winter is when we learn and deepen our horticultural knowledge, not to mention create a plan for our 2023 garden!
  • Order your seed catalogues or go online to view all of the new offerings. Our favourites include Veseys in P.E.I., Ontario Seed Company, McKenzie Seeds, and Stokes.
  • Check indoor tropical plants for bugs. Squish them with your thumb or apply Green Earth insecticidal soap. If you have spider mites spray with room temperature water ever day and make sure that you reach the underside of the leaves.
Sharing a Love of Birds
By: Jody Allair
I can’t believe we’re already at the end of 2022! For the first time since the pandemic started I was able to get back to leading birding tours across Canada and spend time birding with others. In many ways it reinforced just how important it is that we share our love of birds with people. Many of us discovered the joy and value of birds during the pandemic. But let’s not stop there, if you regularly benefit from time spent with birds in your yard, or during your travels, then take the next step to help others appreciate just how amazing and transformative birding can be.

I saw many great birds this year, including Whooping Cranes in Saskatchewan, Yellow-billed Loons in the Canadian Arctic, but in all honesty nothing can quite beat the stunning beauty of one of our local birds here in southern Alberta – the Mountain Bluebird. I managed to get this photo of an adult male back in May. If seeing one of these gems in person doesn’t help connect you with the beauty and importance of nature, I’m not sure what will.
Mountain Bluebird of Happiness
Photo credit: Jody Allair
I also want to take a second to encourage you all to learn more about how you can make positive changes to help birds in 2023 by visiting: Your Guide to Helping Canada’s Birds | Birds Canada | Oiseaux Canada.
Thanks again to Mark, Ben and Brenda for having me be part of this wonderful newsletter in 2022 and thank you all for reading my monthly column.
Good Birding!

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

30-Minute Chickpea Curry & Rice

This simple curry comes together in a flash making it a cozy meal that the whole family will love. This dish is packed with nutrients from the chickpeas, is easy on the pocket and also fabulous for batch cooking — and extra delicious with Cullen’s chickpeas! The recipe for 30-Minute Chickpea Curry & Rice is at www.harrowsmithmag.com/chickpea-curry.
Don’t miss an issue of Harrowsmith’s gardening, cooking, sustainable living and DIY tips. Harrowsmith’s Winter Issue is on newsstands now and features 46 ways to celebrate winter, amazing nature facts, recipes for homemade comfort food, how to make your own kitchen cabinets and essential gardening advice — including the best winter architectural plants — from Mark and Ben Cullen + so much more!

Subscribe now to get the special spring gardening issue. www.harrowsmithmag.com/subscribe.