Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

Pruning and Loafing

In a recent article in the Toronto Star I suggested that this is the time of year to take it easy – sit back and drink in the benefits of all your spring time activity in the garden.
Hammock time is what I called it.

Evidently not all of you took the advice.

I am getting a lot of questions about moving plants from one place to another. ‘Bleeding heart, Japanese maples, peonies, day lilies’ – that was just today! Some people want to move these established plants to other, more appropriate parts of the garden and some want to split/divide and give away parts of established perennials.

My answer: don’t.

Not now, anyway.

In most parts of Canada we have enjoyed ideal growing conditions for most everything that grows in the garden. As a result there is an incredible volume of new foliage that is just hanging out there drinking in the benefits of the sunshine and rain (or water that you have applied).

Let that foliage do its thing. Our opportunity to move plants will come soon enough. Foliage that has grown on perennials, shrubs, trees and roses this spring and early summer needs time to ‘harden off’: to do it’s primary job of strengthening the plant through the miracle of photosynthesis. Come September and October our chance to dig them up, divide them and move them around will come.

Grunt work has it’s time and place.

Same goes for starting grass seed. If you have just noticed that your lawn needs some thickening or you want to compete your lawn weeds out of existence as I have suggested that you can in earlier blogs: don’t do it. Not for a few more weeks.

The ideal time of the year to start fresh grass seed is just around the corner – the ‘window of opportunity’ is generally mid August through late September. When the correct time comes, I will tell you how to produce a fabulous looking lawn, right here. So stay tuned.


If you are still not satisfied with loafing around the yard, enjoying some bird song, watching the ‘flying hogs’ (as my friend Joel Marks likes to call them) drop free fertilizer indiscriminately all over your garden, then do some pruning.

Pruning Fruit Trees.

I am getting a lot of enquiries about fruit that is rotting on the tree. Apples, pears, cherries: it doesn’t really matter the species, this is a common problem. It is related to the lack of air circulation through the branches of the tree and a lack of sun being able to filter into the centre of it.

The breeze that moves through your fruiting trees discourages the growth of mold and disease, the likes of which causes fruit to rot and mildew to grow.

Likewise, the sun that filters into the crown of a tree helps to dry up the moisture that hangs on fruit and foliage far too long for the trees’ own good.

Using a sharp ‘green wood’ pruning saw (Mark’s Choice at Home Hardware product #1062-860 retail $12.99), get into the ‘heart’ of the tree and remove up to 1/3 of the old wood. Best to stand back and look at the over all shape of the tree before you start hacking away. Remember that the goal is to open the tree up, creating a series of arching branches that appear to be reaching for the sun – or, in the case of many apple trees, the branches will grow more or less horizontally.

Raspberries that have finished bearing fruit need to be pruned back to 10 cm high within the next 6 weeks.

Strawberries that have finished fruiting, and have been planted for more than 3 years, should be dug up and re planted into a separate part of the garden. The soil that you are moving the plants into should be tilled or dug up, weed free and the plants mulched with 10 cm of clean straw to help hold moisture and reduce weeding.
Your existing strawberry bed should be tilled under.

Blueberries should be given another dose of powdered sulfur and a shot of Green Earth blood and bone meal to encourage one more flush of growth before they begin to harden off for the season.

Matter of fact, this is an excellent time to fertilize all of the flowering shrubs and roses in your garden with the same blood and bone meal granules. About a handful per plant.

These suggestions should provide you with enough activity to keep even the most restless gardener happy. Go nuts! If enjoying your garden means never sitting down to enjoy it. For others, mid July is the ideal time of the year to relax and drink it all in.
Hammock time.

I don’t plan on traveling too far from my garden just yet... I am still pinching myself that this wonderful time of year is finally here. The time of year that I spent all winter dreaming about.

Keep your knees dirty,