Mark and Ben Cullen's newsletter

This month, the country celebrates Garden Month.

Well, that is what WE say. 
Officially, Saturday June 13 to 21 have been declared "Garden Days" in Canada. We just thought, "why not celebrate the whole month of June".

How are you planning to celebrate?
As the national spokespersons for Garden Days Canada, we are inviting you to post daily messages about your garden experience.   

What is your garden story?
Perhaps you live in an urban condo or apartment and grow some herbs or salad greens in a window box. Share.

You started your first vegetable garden this spring and you are excited to tell us about it. Share.

Perhaps you have a fruit tree or orchard, a perennial pollinator garden, an area devoted to flowering plants you will cut and bring indoors. Share.

It is about the experience.
We also want to hear about your garden experience as it extends beyond your property. What public gardens have you enjoyed recently? Parks? Conservation areas? A neighbour's garden, who kindly invited you in for a look at their backyard garden?

Toronto Botanical Garden

During COVID-19 we are experiencing a lot of changes. None of us has escaped the need to think differently about how we entertain ourselves. A recent poll in the United States (IMPACTS)  indicates that people intend to visit parks and public botanical gardens more frequently than in the past. In fact, public gardens factored higher than any other form of public, out-of-the-house entertainment for planned frequency of visits.

It is true, when it comes to social distancing it is much easier to manage in a public green space than, say, a theatre. And when it comes to the natural beauty of gardens the appeal crosses all boundaries: all cultures, all age groups, all religions.
In fact, we have not met one person who does not enjoy seeing a beautiful garden.

Pulling weeds and nurturing growth is a different story. All of us know people who would rather sail, golf, watch TV or whatever, rather than get their knees dirty in the garden.
But we know of no one who does not truly love the experience of walking through a garden, sitting and contemplating the environment of one or simply viewing it through a window (perhaps a hospital window!).

What is the garden experience to you?
To us, the garden is where the food is.
The garden is where nature shows us her best side.
The garden is stage for a complex exhibition of birdsong, buzzing insects and wind in the treetops.

Garden Days will also have a wellness stream with the goal of sharing the major wellness benefits, mental and physical, of gardens and gardening. "Greening the environment decreases cancers, heart disease and pulmonary disease. It should be a central measure to a positive health scope" said Dr. Claudel P├ętrin-Desrosiers, President of the Quebec Association of Physicians for the Environment. 

This month, let's acknowledge the tremendous impact that the gardening experience has on each of us. Share pictures of our favourite garden places and tell stories that relate to the healing, inspiration, and daily calming influence that gardens have on you. We would love to hear from you.

For details about Garden Days go to

Use the hashtag #gardendayscanada and/or #itsgardentime. Stay tuned to our social media channels. There will be an opportunity to win prizes!

Above all, be sure to tell your friends and family about your garden experiences.

We believe that today, during the pandemic, is Canada's garden sweet spot: a time when more of us than ever before enjoy a heightened awareness of the benefits of gardening.

With our best wishes for a great June in your garden.
Mark and Ben Cullen
Merchants of Beauty

PS. Be sure to check out our new podcasts... details below


1. Plant all hot crops.  Corn, zucchini, squash (all cucurbits), peppers, potatoes: virtually every crop that requires heat to thrive are ready to plant in the first week of June.  Unless you live in Newfoundland.  You fortunate souls should wait a week or two longer.

2.  Mulch.  June is mulch month because May is planting month.  After you get most of your plants in the ground you can save yourself up to 70% in watering and 90% in weeding by laying down a 5 cm layer of finely ground up cedar or pine bark mulch.

3.  It is blossom time for roses, peonies, clematis and many other 'early' season flowering perennial plants.   If you have room for more, now is the perfect time to plant them!  Make sure that the plants DO have support.

4. Container plants.  Time to finish planting up containers using fresh Mark's Choice Container mix, plants that suit your exposure and be sure to add a slow release fertilizer like Pro-Mix Organic Multi-Purpose Fertilizer
Container plants need fertilizing more than garden plants as their roots are restricted by the size of the container. 

5.  Herbs. Plant them. Harvest them as needed.  Don't over water them. With the exception of basil, they love to get dry between watering.

6.  Tomatoes.  Stake with a Mark's Choice spiral stake and never tie them up again.  Get them off the ground and double your crop.  Mid-June start applying  Bordo Mixture to prevent early and late blight.

We are working hard to share Practical Gardening Info every day.  It's our goal to inform Canadians and inspire you to get out and garden.

Our YouTube channels features  "Mark and Ben from the Garden" videos to entertain and educate. You can watch the videos on, our YouTube Channel and on our Facebook page.

A moment in Mark's apple orchard

The Green File Podcast - episode 2
We will be releasing Green File twice per month in 30-minute episodes, corresponding with our newsletters on the 1st and 15th of the month throughout the growing season.

Today, we are talking to Antonio Valente, a flower-grower extraordinaire and all-round great guy who is very passionate about gardening. He teaches us a few things about growing cut flowers, and we'll give an update on what we're working on in our own yards.

And watch for our daily Facebook postings, Twitter, and Instagram.

Keep in touch! We love telling you our gardening stories and really enjoy hearing from you. 

Ben and Mark

High capacity mixed seed bird feeder
We have seen a record number of songbirds at our bird feeders this spring. Maybe we broke our old record by looking out the window or sitting in the garden a record number of hours.

In any case, during the mass migration of birds each spring, there are many opportunities for Canadians to re-engage with our feathered friends. Why not do this with our favourite bird feeder?

This easy to fill feeder has two large seed compartments that can hold several types of seed.
Attractive copper finish and metal construction will enhance all outdoor decor.
Attracts all varieties of clinging and perching birds allowing all to feed at once.

Exclusive to Home Hardware. Item# 5453-015


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 May.

Don't wait for May 24. Here's how to start gardening now.

If fences make good neighbours, a hedge full of edible berries can make even better ones.

By Jody Allair
At this time of year spring migration has just about wrapped up and most birds have settled in for the nesting season. Our backyards, neighborhoods and local parks are now filled with the sounds of songbirds proclaiming territories and attracting mates. But there is one bird who can arguably lay claim to the title of champion of the backyard dawn chorus-the House Wren.

House Wren
Photo Credit: Yousif Attia

What the House Wren lacks in colour, and size, it makes up for with its explosive song, personality and smarts. House Wrens can be found across much of southern Canada from late April through October and is particularly fond of backyards and urban parks, provided there is a good amount of shrubs and tree cover. House Wrens are cavity nesting birds that will regularly use nesting boxes. One interesting life history adaptation of these birds is that they will construct dummy nests in cavities throughout their territory and will even evict other birds from their nests in the process! These dummy nests act as way of reducing competition from other birds and is a defense mechanism for hiding a nest from on looking predators. House Wrens will construct nests in tree cavities, holes in buildings, and even obscure items like watering cans and discarded shoes.
With House Wrens being such a conspicuous backyard nester, you have a great opportunity this summer to become a Citizen Scientist and help Birds Canada monitor the health of bird populations by taking part in Project Nestwatch. You can learn more about this fun and educational program by visiting:
Good Birding at Home!

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

A Special Offer Exclusively for our newsletter subscribers

Harrowsmith magazine is offering a special promo exclusively for our subscribers.
Subscribe to Harrowsmith at the special rate of just $26.
Click on this link to take advantage of this special promo.

For our June contest, we invite you to show us a photo of your favourite plant.

Include a sentence to explain "why this is your favourite plant".

We hope your photos will encourage gardeners to try something new this year.

Send one photo to .

We will post all photos on Mark's Facebook page.
The photo with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize: a $50 gift card for Home Hardware.

Vote for your favourite photo!

Deadline for entry: June 7, 2020.
Deadline for voting is June 14, 2020.

Enter today!


In the mid-May issue of Food Gardening with Mark and Ben, we invited you to share a photo of your favourite spring-flowering bulb.

The winner received a $50 gift card for Home Hardware.

Congratulations to Ernie W.

The Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign plants a record number of trees this spring! 
Growth of a Green Tribute
Highway of Heroes expands partnership with Forests Ontario along full length of Highway 401 -  By MJ Kettleborough 
A green tribute to Canada's veterans and fallen comrades is set to expand along North America's busiest highway this spring, thanks to a partnership between the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign (HOH) and Forests Ontario.
Property owners within 30 kilometres of Highway 401, from Windsor to Cornwall, were able to apply for the program if they had room for a minimum of 500 trees. They will receive site preparation, tree seedlings, planting, and survival assessments at significantly reduced costs.
The partnership has expanded HOH's efforts to include private land, and has enlisted planting partners including Conservation Authorities, stewardship groups, municipalities and forestry consultants that provide tree planting within the given corridor. Forests Ontario anticipates more than 770,000 trees will be planted via this initiative in the coming months.

Mark and Ben's Gardening Connections  

Home Hardware

Toronto Star