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.

Let the Therapy Begin!

~ January 19, 2011

In recent weeks I have waxed on here in my blog about dreaming, planning and scheming your new 2011 edition of your garden.
Enough already.
Time to actually get to work.

You see the garden that you dream about is only going to become reality with the aforementioned plan and some – ahhhhemmmm (throat clearing) – work. There. I said it.
Those of us in the gardening business do not think of the slugging, bending, pulling, pushing and grunting associated with the garden as ‘work’ – it is more a kind of therapy.

So I say – “let the therapy begin!!” by starting some seeds indoors.

Seed buying.

You may be thinking in terms of your veggie garden – which is good if you are buying your seeds at your local garden centre or hardware store this time of year. I encourage you to get in there and buy your heart out as the selection of garden seeds – garden variety seeds and the rare ones more so – is at its very best right now. Store seeds in a cool and dry place, out of the sun, humidity and away from mice. And make a note mental or otherwise where you put them or you will have to buy them all over again in a month or two.

Vegetable seeds do not require germination yet. The #1 home grown crop – tomatoes – are actually started 6 weeks before the last killing frost in your area… so find out what that is by going to and locate your town/city on the zone map. When you find out what the last frost date is, count back 6 weeks and voila. For zone 5, where I live, that is about the 3rd week of April. So there is lots of time for that.

Flowers are a different thing – violas, pansies, impatiens, petunias and geraniums should be started now.

Getting started.

Follow the directions on the back of the seed packet and keep in mind these general rules of ‘green thumb’:

- Use a ‘seed and cutting’ seed starting mix – not ‘soil’. Look for good quality brands like CIL, Green Earth, Premier and Schultz.
- Fill seed starting trays/cell packs with the mix and premoisten it. In other words, water the soil mix and let it soak in for a half hour or so before you sow your seeds.
- Impatiens require darkness to germinate. After you sow the seeds, place a piece of black plastic over them until germination takes place in about 10 days. Place the seeding tray on the top of your refrigerator where it is warm, to speed germination.
- Use a ‘misting’ atomizer to apply water to the surface of the soil until about 10 days or 2 weeks after germination. This is the most gentle method of applying water at a time when the seed/seedling does not like to be disturbed.
- Allow the soil to ‘dry to the touch’ between watering. This is a rule that you can live by – use it when starting most any seeds, otherwise you will have to deal with the next point:
- If a white powdery mildew appears on the surface of the soil, apply Green Earth Garden Sulfur to prevent damping off. This is the result of overwatering, water logged soil and poor air circulation. A small fan placed a half metre or so from the seedlings, will discourage further problems with damping off.

Above all, have fun. Involve the kids, grand kids, neighbourhood kids in the project if you can and remember that you are saving a ton of money in the process by avoiding the purchase of bedding plants come spring.

Remind yourself of this should some of your seeding efforts end in failure.

And keep your knees dirty!