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.

Wasp and Hornet Control

~ July 27, 2011

Anyone who has ever had a picnic outdoors knows how troublesome wasps and hornets can be. Social wasps are the most common stinging menace across many Canadian cities. They are attracted to sweet foods and are usually found scavenging garbage cans for their meals. These insects live in nests made out of paper. The nest can take on many shapes and sizes but the two most common are enclosed with an opening near the base or a broad open structure. Sometimes these nests are hidden in a corner or are in plain view hanging on a tree branch.
The best way to prevent wasps from making a home on your property is to inspect your yard and home early in the summer for any wasp or hornet activity. It is easier to discourage a single queen wasp from establishing too close to your home than to handle a full-size nest later in the season.

The next best way is to try to limit their food sources. Do not leave pet food or picnic leftovers out in the open and try to keep food and drinks covered while eating. Place a secure tight lid on garbage containers so the wasps cannot scavenge in it. Also, when spending time outdoors avoid wearing scented products like perfume or hair spray as wasps are attracted to the scent.

Wasp traps, like the Green Earth Wasp Trap, are another great way to lure these insects away from your living area. Make sure to place them away from patios and children play areas as wasp activity is increased around these traps.

If you discover a nest, treat it with Wilson One Shot Wasp and Hornet Spray to effectively trap and kill the wasps inside. Spray the nest after dusk when there is less activity and wear protective clothing to prevent getting stung. Do not shine a light directly on the nest as this will alert the wasps. Instead, put a red filter over it so you can see the nest without alerting the wasps.

If the location of the nest does not present a health hazard, you can leave the nest until November or December. Once it has been abandoned, you can remove the nest and dispose of it with less risk in these colder months.

Plant a Row Grow a Row

~ July 20, 2011

Have you ever found yourself in the vegetable garden and not knowing what to do with the extra produce? Well the answer is simple. Give it away to people who want it, can use it and will benefit measurably from its consumption.

In 1988 a couple in Winnipeg by the name of O’Donnagh found themselves long on pears from their backyard pear tree. They looked at each other and said, “why not” and took the extra lot to the local food bank on the off chance that they would pass them on to people in need of pears. The plan worked – the O’Donnaghs were greeted with open bushel baskets, which were soon loaded with the pears.

Days later the two of them got the same idea: if giving fresh produce to the local food bank provides a worthwhile service in the community, then why not spread the word and get our neighbours to donate their excess produce too?

And so it began.

More than two decades later this idea of donating your extra produce to the food bank has become what is known as Plant a Row Grow a Row for the hungry. Food banks are always looking to receive fresh local garden produce and donating your extras helps those in need.

Last year alone Canadians donated hundreds of tonnes of fresh produce.

It is easy to get started and there is nothing to fill out. All you need to do is pick your extras and bring them to the food bank; they will take care of the rest. Go to for all the details.

I urge you to do this! Taking part in this program is a great way to get out and help your local community. It is something small that you can do and means a lot to someone in need.

Deadheading - Removing Spent Flowers

~ July 13, 2011

One of the many summer time chores, especially on my farm, is deadheading (removing spent blooms). Deadheading is great for plants as it prevents them from going to seed. This allows plants to conserve energy and focus on root development and overall plant growth. In fact, some perennials and shrubs like, Delphiniums, Veronica and Weigela can even bloom a second time later on in the season if deadheaded right after the first bloom is finished.

Deadheading is simple and straight forward. Once the bloom is finished use a good sharp pair of pruners like the, Mark’s Choice Forged Bypass Pruner (Home Hardware Item # 5067-130) and make a cut right below the spent bloom at the closest leaf terminal. If you want to prune back your plant at the same time make this cut lower on the branch but always at the terminal.

In a couple of weeks you will see new growth from the place where you made the cut. These new branches will contain the second flower buds so do not be tempted to remove them. Once these blooms are spent also cut them back.

Not all flowering shrubs will bloom a second time but all will benefit from deadheading. If you have roses in your garden it is extremely important to deadhead them as it will prolong the blooming season but also strengthen the plant to help it endure the winter.

Therefore, this month when you are out in the garden do a little deadheading. It does not take a lot of time and will certainly pay off as you can enjoy the colours of your garden for a second time and make the plants “last” a lot longer.

Balcony Gardening - The Essentials

~ July 6, 2011

If you love gardening but do not have the space, balcony gardening is a great option. It is simple, relatively low maintenance and does not require a lot of material to get started.

When selecting plants make sure that they are suitable for the amount of sun you receive. If you have a sunny location plants like: Impatiens, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Pansies or vegetables and herbs are great choices. However, if you have a north or east exposure, with primarily shade, plants like: Wax Begonia, Sweet Alyssum, Coleus, Impatiens and Petunias will work well.

Once you have selected the plants, use clay pots that are deeper than they are wide for any vegetables and window or railing boxes made from wood or plastic for the herbs and flowers. These materials are light and inexpensive which make them ideal for balcony gardening.

When planting, place a Mark’s Choice Water Wick under the plants to conserve moisture and reduce watering. Use good quality potting soil like, Mark’s Choice Premium Container Soil (Home Hardware # 5053-500) for optimal results. Water frequently, especially in hot dry weather, as the containers will dry out quickly.

If you are planting vegetables, add roughly 30% well rotted compost or manure to the potting mix as they are heavy feeders.

You can also maximize your vertical growing space by using hanging baskets for flowers or strawberries or even an upside down tomato planter.

Give it a try! Even if you already have a garden, balcony gardening is fun, simple, convenient and a great way to get the family involved.

P.S.: The Mark’s Choice Hang N Grow Tomato planter is a great choice and comes with a water reservoir which reduces the need to water.