Fostering Positive Change While at Home
On Monday this week, Sept. 28th, the Canadian government signed on to an international pledge, “To reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, joining more than 70 countries in committing to put nature at the centre of COVID-19 economic recovery plans.” We quote directly from a front-page story in the Globe and Mail.

The news might not have rocked your world, but let’s face it, climate change is rocking our world in many ways and sometimes those ways are devastatingly personal. Residents in Oregon and California would likely agree, where fires have raged for far too long.

Many Canadians would have read this news and had their own opinion of this action by our federal government. We think it is a good idea. But then, we also believe that responsibility for climate change starts at home. 

At the City of Toronto, where neither of us live but both of us were born, we read a letter this week that was signed by several environmentally aware people including our friend Lorraine Johnson, who brought this letter to our attention, asking City Council to revise and update the ancient Grass and Weeds Bylaw. We signed this letter too.  

It seems, from recent activity by City bylaw enforcers, that you cannot grow a wildflower garden in your front yard unless you cut it at 20 cm or less. This makes no sense. The idea of creating pollinating corridors through our urban spaces, in every city and town across the country, is catching on and bylaws that restrict this activity are poorly timed, to say the least. 
We recently interviewed Doug Tallamy the author of Nature’s Best Hope and the originator of the idea of Home Grown National Park in a podcast that we featured in this newsletter. He has convinced us that growing native pollinating plants in our gardens is a great idea. 

The problem with the City of Toronto bylaw, as it stands now, is that there is no room for pollinator gardens. This is odd, as the same City will pay you or a not-for-profit agency up to $5,000 to plant a pollinator garden.

In our opinion, the root of the problem is not goldenrod (Solidago canadensis L.) which is the new Milkweed, for all the biodiversity that it supports, according to Tallamy. The problem is people who choose to have a lawn, made up primarily of non-native fescues, ryegrass and bluegrass, but do not choose to maintain it. 
A lawn that is ignored is just a patch of noxious weeds, a vacant lot with a house on it.

We say, “By all means fine these people who just choose to ignore their lawn.” 
But for everyone who chooses to plant and nurture a flower garden of native pollinator attracting plants, go for it! And leave them unfettered. 

To be clear, we not advocating that lawns should be eliminated. Canada is a free country and if you want to grow a lawn, we can tell you how to grow a great one (now is a good time to apply fall fertilizer by the way). 

We also know that many homeowners are reducing their lawn size or eliminating it in favour of tree planting, food gardens or a mix of native/non-native plants. 
That is just the way that it is. 

To read more about the benefits of growing native plants and how you can contribute to Home Grown National Park, check out our story in the Toronto Star.

Meanwhile, we urge municipalities to get with the times.  
We are committed to saving the most magnificent tree in the City of Toronto. The Heritage Red Oak. 

Check out this 50 second video, read our recent column and feel free to support our efforts by donating

We hope that the video will inspire you, and a City of tree lovers.
For a couple of months now we have featured a new interview/subject in our 40 minute podcasts. Our interviewees have included a cast of characters who have all made a contribution to the conversation about how Canadian gardeners are changing the landscape from coast to coast to coast, and many are choosing to garden in an effort to a. feed themselves (and their community) and b. enhance and protect the environment.
This week we are inviting back Jennifer Llewellyn, Provincial Nursery and Landscape Crop Specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Jennifer joined us in August to talk about invasive pests to be aware of in your trees and shrubs, and this week she returns to talk about the right way to plant a tree. We love talking to Jennifer for her great sense of humour and deep knowledge of growing – an interview you will enjoy!
And finally, it is October. Some readers will consider this month the last good gardening month of the year. We would agree, depending where you live (hello B.C. coast!). But it is also the beginning of a new harvest of kale, leeks, and carrots. It is an opportunity for apple picking, pumpkin carving and decorating the house with fall foliage. 

In some ways, October is a new season in the garden. A link to a novel experience that is very Canadian: the winter garden.  More on that later.


Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty and Beans
Backfill the gaps in your garden with colourful asters, mums, rudbeckia, butterfly bush. If you have not been to the garden retailers since May 24 weekend, give them another visit! Not only are the fall colours beautiful, leftover perennials being likely on sale and happy to be popped into your garden at this time of year.

Thickening the lawn. Grass is a cool season crop, so this is the perfect time of year to cover patches and improve your lawn's competitiveness against weeds. CIL Iron+ Lawn Recovery contains the seed, soil and fertilizer all in one bag to ensure that this job is done right.

Top-dress with compost. Remember, 'digging in' compost is a thing of the past - all that disruption is just bad for the soil. Simply spread the compost over the soil 4 to 6 cm. thick and let the worms do the hard work of pulling it into the root zone.

Fallen leaves: mulch & rake. That is, mulch them with the lawn mower and rake them into the garden. Per above, the earthworms are more than happy to feast on these and turn them into beneficial organic matter. No leaf blowers. No more stuffing into bags and carting to the curb. 

Harvest. Any time now, frost is going to finish off your veggie garden, so start collecting those pumpkins and squash. By now, your pumpkins will be pretty maxed out for size, so take a minute to appreciate what you have accomplished.

Apply Iron Plus Fall Lawn Food. The most important application that you will make all year. And later is better.
Fall Lawn Fertilizer is formulated to build up the natural sugars at the root zone of grass plants. You will get a faster green up come spring, less snow mold, and a stronger, healthier lawn.  The later that you apply this in fall, the better. So, the timing of application varies from region to region. Wait for a few 'killing frosts' which will slow down the metabolism of grass plants, creating the perfect conditions for application. Available at Home Hardware #5024-137
Birdseed Mixes
The Mark's Choice team worked hard to develop tasty combinations of quality bird seed that appeal to the broadest possible pallet of bird taste buds.
Mark's Choice Sunflower Plus is Exclusive to Home Hardware.
(Home Hardware item# 5453-365)
Bird Feast Songbird Blend - the best-selling product in the entire line up of Mark's Choice quality products. (item# 5453-067 4kg, 5453-072 8kg)

Deluxe Blend with Berries and Nuts - Lots of protein for wintertime bird feeding. (item# 5453-362 7kg, 5453-360 14kg)

Nyjer Plus with Sunflower Chips - not just for finches and nuthatches, though, they love it too! (item# 5453-364 3kg, 5453-115 9kg)

Finch Blend with Sunflower Chips - the perfect variety of seed for the perfect little wintertime birds.  (item# 5453-363 3kg, 5453-352 11kg)
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 September.
BIRDS IN FOCUS: Turkey Vulture
By Jody Allair
Over the past few years I’ve used this space to shed a bit more light on some of our backyard birds and various issues facing birds across Canada. I thought I would do something a bit different today and highlight a bird you’re less likely to see hanging out in your yard but is truly remarkable…the Turkey Vulture.
This wonderful and misunderstood bird has been expanding its range northward into southern Canada for decades and is now a fairly common site across central Canada and the SW part of British Columbia. They are scavengers with one of the strongest senses of smell of any known bird. Turkey Vultures have been unfairly characterized as dirty, ugly and spreaders of disease. 
In truth, they are remarkably clean birds with an impressive digestive system and they actually help reduce the spread of disease by cleaning up (eating) the remains of freshly dead animals. And let’s be honest with ourselves here – they are really cool looking birds, with impressive wings and, dare I say, a very kind expression.
Now that you’re won over on the amazing Turkey Vulture, how do you go about identifying them? They are quite large (slightly smaller than a Bald Eagle), black overall with silver flight feathers and a small red head. When flying they hold their wings in a dihedral pattern (angled up approximately 45 degrees from their body) which enables them to stay aloft easier while looking for food. Fun fact: passenger planes are designed with a similar dihedral wing shape.
So the next time you see one of these amazing creatures I hope you now appreciate just how incredible they really are and that they provide very important ecosystem services across the landscape.
Good Birding!
Jody Allair
Director, Citizen Science and Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair
There’s nothing like a hearty soup made with vegetables from your garden!
Try this Cream of Butternut Squash soup with pureed cashews for a rich creaminess. Cashews add vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that you wouldn’t normally get with plain dairy cream.  
•         1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into large chunks (about 9 cups)
•         1 cup chopped celery and celery leaves
•         1 cup chopped onion
•         2 cups chopped potatoes
•         2 large cloves garlic, chopped
•         1 tsp salt
•         2 to 3 bay leaves
•         2 tsp brown, coconut or date sugar
•         1 tsp curry powder
•         1/2 tsp dried basil
•         1/2 tsp dried oregano
•         1/2 tsp cinnamon
•         1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight in the fridge
•         Salt and pepper

1.        In a large stockpot, place all the ingredients and cover with 8 cups of water.
2.        Heat over medium-high until boiling, then turn down to medium. Let simmer until the chunks of squash are cooked through.
3.        Remove the bay leaves and discard.
4.        Ladle out 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid (it’s OK if there are random bits of veggies floating in it) and put it in the bowl of a large food processor.
5.        Add the soaked cashews and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed until everything’s evenly puréed.
6.        Scrape the cashew mix into the stockpot and, using a handheld immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth.
7.        Add salt and pepper to taste.
8.        For a stronger curry flavour, double the curry powder.
9.        This recipe makes an enormous amount of soup—about 10 grownup, main-attraction servings.
10.      It freezes well, too.
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