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.

Of Flower Bulbs, Nursery Stock and a Quiet Garden

Why is it that when the kids go back to school the atmosphere changes?
We have just finished the finest summer of recent times: lots of sunshine, tolerable heat throughout most of the days and an adequate amount of rain.

To the garden and some things to do of importance if you want yours to look good and feel good as it matures into the autumn:

- Lawn. A great time to apply lawn fertilizer. Not the ‘fall’ fertilizer yet: you will apply it in late October or November and it IS the most important application of the year. In case you didn’t hear that before.
o This is still the best time of year to start grass seed or lay sod (the ‘season’ for this one is mid August up to the end of September for most parts of Canada).
o Use Mark’s Choice Lawn Soil and spread Golfgreen Grass seed (weedfree/Canadian) at the rate of one pound per 400 sq. ft. or ½ kilo. Per 50 sq. meters.

- Perennials: Dig and divide. You can successfully dig and divide many perennials now. I dug up a bunch of ‘Monarda’ (Bee Balm) in spite of the fact that they were still in bloom (sort of). Now, I would generally discourage this sort of thing… digging up and dividing perennials in bloom. But this is one tough plant species and the truth is, you will have a hard time killing it. Just make sure that you water the root zone thoroughly before you dig up the plant and after you have planted it. AND make sure that you plant in good quality soil.

- Apples and pears are ripening now. I picked my first truly ripe apple (vs. the sour ones that I kept handing to the kids saying, “try this and tell me what you think.”) It was a ‘Liberty’. Quite good. The point of course is that you should pick fruit while it ripens on the tree – as close to its peak of ripeness as possible. However, it is better to pick fruit before it reaches its peak vs. after. Unless you like a mouthful of rotten apple/pear.

- Tomatoes are now ripening to beat the band. Be sure to pick them as they ripen too, whether you plan on using them right away or not: otherwise the over-ripe ones that rot on the ground and fill with earwigs will just harbor more of the same for the more desirable tomatoes. No point in letting them rot/get eaten by bugs before they ripen to your kitchen plate!

- To market, to market! If you can’t pick your own, go to one of the many local farmers markets that have sprouted up (weekends) across the country. This whole idea of the ‘100 kilometer’ diet and ‘locavors’ is an idea that is catching on. My brother in law Guy is a ‘pick your own’ farmer ( and he tells me that the number of people coming that he has never seen before is quite noticeable. He puts this down to the new trends. Especially among young consumers (would you care to qualify that please? I assume that you mean anyone under 60).

- PLANT! the first week of September marks the beginning of the autumn planting season… the best time of the year to plant trees, shrubs, evergreens and (if you can get them) roses. These winter hardy plants will put down roots before our winter hits home which will support substantial growth come spring. Fall planting provides much more satisfying results than spring planting. AND many retailers are selling at discounted prices to move stock before winter. They would literally rather have you plant now than have to overwinter excess stock.

- The Bulbs are in!! Yes, the Holland bulbs arrived at garden retailers across the country this week and believe me that this is the best time to shop for them. The selection will not get any better as (the truth is) they all arrived on a boat from the Netherlands and they do not send more over later. One boat: one chance at the best selection. Go to for more information (likely more info than you want!). More to follow in upcoming blogs.

Last weekend I had a very pleasant day with two of my kids – we took our bikes over to Toronto’s Centre Island. Our favourite part of this trip is to slowly ride around the quiet pedestrian streets of Wards’ and Algonquin Islands. The cottages are remarkable for their architecture, and in some cases they are in such poor repair that it is remarkable that they are still standing! In any case, the gardens alone are worth the day trip.

With the kids back in school – take time to enjoy some quiet and to enjoy the beginning of the most restful season in your garden – fall.

Keep your knees dirty!