We are so excited about May… not just the beginning of the gardening season but the beginning of the beginning. We dig, plant, nurture and set the stage for a season of much good acting to come.

Truthfully, our activity in the garden in May will determine how our garden will perform later this season. It is that simple.
It all begins by building a foundation for your garden.  Whether you are planning a food garden brimming with vegetables and fruit or a flower garden that attracts pollinators and produces an eye-popping show, or you are planting trees that will produce shade and fresh, clean air for future generations, what you do to enhance the quality of the soil you plant in will determine your success.

Funny, when you think about it, the results of our gardening efforts are the result of what we do not see, to a great extent: the ability for plant roots to receive nutrients and water efficiently.
We are reminded of two podcasts that Mark participated in recently.

One with his doctor, Dr. Lorne Greenspan of Medcan in Toronto. Mr. Greenspan is not a gardener, which is a good thing as he asked the right questions, from the point of view of a scientist and medical professional.
This podcast is exceptional as Dr. Greenspan brings to the discussion a lot of information about gardening for health: the benefits of stretching, body movement, and the connections with nature that only occur in the garden or even your condo balcony. 
He probes Mark to share his experience so that listeners can benefit by taking practical gardening tips out into the garden this spring.

The second podcast that Mark joined was with Ian Sherwood of Connected to the Land out of Halifax (but with a huge audience across Canada).
The topic revolves around the need to enhance the soil for gardening success. Lots of practical advice shared and some inspirational thoughts as well.

Both podcasts were a lot of fun and we hope that you agree that listening to them is a good investment of your time.

Ben has just moved into his new century home with Sam and their one-year-old Peter. He will be turning his attention to the yard this month, perhaps to grow some food and also, one imagines, to escape to the reality of nature from time to time.  If you have ever lived with a newborn, you know what we are talking about.
An update on the 780 copies of our Escape to Reality book that we sent to many of our newsletter readers: they were sent out last week via UPS. If you have not received yours, let us know and we will trace it for you. Above all, know that you have made a difference to Ukrainian people who need the support and services of the International Red Cross. Together we donated over $50,000. Bravo!

We thank you for reading our monthly newsletter and, for sharing it with friends. Come mid May we will send out our first “food gardening” message through this same channel.

Enjoy an active and productive month in your garden.
And be sure to “keep your knees dirty”.

Mark and Ben
Merchants of beauty and beans

Presented by Cullen's Foods!
After a two-year hiatus, we could not be more excited to announce the return of Canada’s largest tour of private gardens- Through the Garden Gate benefitting the Toronto Botanical Garden.

This year’s tour is slated for Wychwood, a neighbourhood known for its Arts & Crafts architecture and artistic community. New this year is live music among the 15 private gardens on display.

Get Ahead of Insects and Disease with Dormant Spray. Wait until nighttime temperatures are above freezing for treatment of your trees, shrubs and roses. Apply before the buds have fully broken.

Start your zinnias, marigolds, cucumbers, squash and other fast growers or wait another couple weeks and direct sow them outdoors. Always in a sunny garden.

Overseed the lawn with quality lawn soil and grass seed, and apply a quality, slow-release fertilizer to existing lawns.

Prepare hanging baskets and containers. Containers should be emptied of last year's soil and replaced with quality stuff. The point is to replace used, tired container soil with the best new soil you can get your hands in and put last year's container soil in your garden. If you live somewhere off the ground, like a condo, give the soil to a friend who owns some real estate.

Plant your dahlia tubers in one-gallon pots and place in a sunny place indoors until end of May, planting time.

Plant. Most Canadians live in a growing zone where frost is expected for at least the next couple of weeks. All of us can plant trees, shrubs, evergreens and roses now. If you find perennials that have not been greenhouse-forced, they can be planted out as well. 

Sow. Many veggies can be sown by seed now, regardless of frost in the forecast: peas, radishes, beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
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 April.
Great Canadian Birdathon
By: Jody Allair
For those who have been following along with my column over the years, I’ve written a lot about my favourite yard birds, highlighted conservation issues and provided tips that people can use to help protect and conserve birds at home. This month I want to draw attention to a very important fundraiser for Birds Canada – The Great Canadian Birdathon.

The Great Canadian Birdathon is a national event raising crucial funds to support bird conservation efforts throughout Canada. Participation is easy! You simply choose any day in May for your Birdathon birding day, and invite your friends and family to join you in helping birds through your personal fundraising page.
Photo credit: Jody Allair
Here’s how to get started:
  • Register as an individual, join a team, or start your own team by visiting the Great Canadian Birdathon Website, or by calling or emailing Kris at 888-448-2473 Ext. 121,
  • Ask your friends and family to support your Great Canadian Birdathon. You can share a link to your page through email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Plan your adventure. Choose when and how you wish to participate.
  • Gather your resources such as a field guide, binoculars, apps to assist with identification – Birds Canada can help.
  • Set your Birdathon goals. Will you try to find 10 different species? 100 species? Will you do a green Birdathon? Will you aim to raise $200, $2000? Any amount will help protect birds.

The best part is, you don’t have to be an experienced birder to join the Great Canadian Birdathon – Birds Canada will help you get started. All contributions to the Great Canadian Birdathon are tax-creditable.
All registered participants can receive an exclusive Great Canadian Birdathon t-shirt, and are eligible to win some fantastic prizes. And the funds raised support the work of Birds Canada and numerous conservation-related projects through the James L. Baillie Fund.

I have been participating in this important event for over 20 years. If you’re interested in supporting my 2022 Birdathon in Southern Alberta you can visit my donation page at: Everyone who sponsors me will get a summary of my birding day, along with some photo highlights.
Happy Birdathoning! 

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

Make a Nesting Box for Eastern Bluebirds

These delicate songbirds have striking blue feathers, unlike any other you’ll see in nature — and they need our help. Bluebird populations have declined to just 17% of the levels seen 60 years ago. Effective nesting boxes could turn this situation around, but to make a real difference, we’ll need a lot of bluebird houses.

An inexpensive and easy-to-build design that you’ll find at can help this plight. Get kids involved and you can teach them a little about woodworking and the vanishing eastern bluebird at the same time.
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!