October: Thanksgiving month.

Some words, when we use them frequently enough, just roll off the tongue. The word “thanksgiving” as it relates to the event that we celebrate every October in Canada can be one such word.

We have been thinking about what we are thankful for, and the list is long. We won’t bore you with it, other than to say there is a newborn in the flock (welcome baby Peter) plus four grandchildren/nieces, nephews, a healthy sister/daughter Emma living in London UK we have not hugged in over two years and the list goes on from there.

We are thinking about how we express our thanks and have an idea for you: plant a tree.
Mark with his new Linden tree and grandson Pete.
Autumn is the best time of year to plant a tree as there is still warmth in the soil to encourage young feeding roots. Moreover, the act of planting a tree is an act of hope, as we don’t do it for ourselves (at least not when you are Mark’s age) but for future generations.

Planting a tree is a great way to say thanks to Mother Nature for all the bounty of the land and sea. When we plant a tree, we grow a clean-air-machine that performs with efficiency not matched by anything invented by the hand of humankind. 

One tree captures over 1.5 tonnes of carbon in its first 100 years of life.
It generates an average of 25 pounds of oxygen annually.

It provides habitat, security and food for nesting birds and many beneficial insects including pollinators.

A mature maple transpires over 400 liters of water on a hot summer day. Trees cool the atmosphere. 

And finally, a maturing tree is just the place to spread a blanket when you want to have a picnic. Try doing that on your driveway on a lovely summer day.  
Sunday October 24 is U.N. International Climate Action Day. A day set aside to say thank you to the earth and acknowledge that we humans can do more to preserve it. 

Why not celebrate Climate Action Day early and plant a tree this weekend? 

If you can’t plant one around your own home, you can buy one at

A tree will be planted in the name of someone you want to acknowledge for being special.

During the pandemic we have heard many “thank you’s” tossed in the direction of front-line health care workers and first responders. Why not name a tree to honour one of them?

That way you can say thank you twice: once to Mother Nature and once more to the people who have helped smooth the way during a very bumpy ride in the last year and a half.

Happy Thanksgiving to you.
With thanks for your support.

Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty and Beans.

p.s. be sure to read our monthly food gardening newsletter on the 15th of each month, from April through November.
p.s.s. be sure to check out what is new at Cullen’s Foods
The gardening season isn't over yet! Here are some of the things we expect to be getting into in the coming days:

Planting bulbs. As the annual flowers fade, plant spring flowering Holland bulbs. Tulips, daffodils and the like.

Backfilling holes with asters, mums, rudbeckia, butterfly bush. If you haven't been to the garden center since May 24 weekend, give them another visit! Not only are the fall colours beautiful, but leftover perennials are also 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.

Top-dress gardens with compost. Remember, 'digging in' compost is a thing of the past - all that disruption is just bad for the soil. Simply apply the compost to the surface of the soil 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.

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've accomplished. 
This week on Green File, Ben and Mark talk SOIL – organic matter, composting, organic vs regenerative – and other soil-based subjects to consider at this time of year!

Tune in - on Apple, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts.
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.
White-breasted Nuthatch
By: Jody Allair
I need not look far for inspiration on what to write about in this month’s Birds in Focus article. Outside my window today, and most days, is a very active, and downright charming, pair of White-breasted Nuthatches. For those who are not familiar, or have trouble separating White-breasted from Red-breasted Nuthatches, you’ve come to the right place.
White-breasted Nuthatches are round, short-tailed, stout-billed birds that in many ways appear to be half-way between a chickadee and a woodpecker. They have very strong short legs and large feet which are perfectly adapted for climbing around on tree trunks – often upside down! They are steel blue in colour on their back, white underneath with a bit of rust colour in their undertail feathers. Males have dark black heads and shoulders, with white cheeks and throat. Females have darker blue heads.
White-breasted Nuthatch
Photo credit: Jody Allair
Separating them from Red-breasted Nuthatches is relatively straight forward, especially when seen together. Red-breasted Nuthatches are noticeably smaller with reddish-rust coloured feathers on their undersides, black to dark blue heads with a distinct white eye-stripe.
White-breasted Nuthatches are found across most of southern Canada, with a strong preference for mature deciduous forests, unlike their red-breasted counterparts who prefer conifers. The name refers to their habit of taking large seeds, wedging them in some bark (or the trim of my office window!) and pecking at the seed until it opens/ hatches.
I thoroughly enjoy watching these birds creep along the trunks of our Manitoba Maples. And you will too – all you need to do is supply them with large seeds like sunflower, peanuts, or even suet. Having some mature trees in the yard would also help.
Good Birding!
Jody Allair
Director, Community Engagement
Connect with me on Twitter at: @JodyAllair
Sweet Potato Cake with Smoky Maple Frosting

This simple sweet potato cake is an elegant addition to any meal (even breakfast… it is a vegetable after all!) when served with just a dusting of powdered sugar. Not overly sweet on its own but moist and rich tasting, it makes a cake you will want to make again and again.

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