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.

Grub Control for Your Lawn

~ September 28, 2011

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get each fall involves controlling grubs in the lawn. Grubs feed on grass roots causing the lawn to die. Patches of dead grass will lift up easily if pulled by hand. Skunks, raccoons and moles will also dig in the lawn to feed on grubs. The fall is the best time to control grub populations. Larvae hatch in the fall and can be killed quickly due to their small size.
I recommend applying beneficial nematodes. These are microscopic worms that infest the grub larvae in the soil. Applying beneficial nematodes in the fall is a proactive approach to controlling lawn damage next spring. Visit for more information on Grub Busters Nematodes.

One of the secrets to getting the nematodes to work for you is to water heavily after application – apply 3 cm (about 4 to 5 hours with most lawn sprinklers).
A healthy lawn will often hide the symptoms of grub damage. A thick lawn which is watered and fed properly will grow new roots quickly. This helps repair grub damage and keeps brown patches to a minimum.

Late Season Lawn Care

~ September 21, 2011

Now that the intense summer heat is behind us for the year it is a good time to focus on the lawn. This time of year is perfect for lawn maintenance, repairs and laying sod. The weather and soil are still warm and more importantly fall rains have returned. This means that grass seed will germinate with ease and new sod will put down roots.

To repair any bare spots that occurred over the summer rake away any debris. Spread an even layer of lawn soil 2-4cm (1 to 2”) thick over the patch. Sow quality grass seed. I use CIL Golfgreen All Purpose Grass Seed (Home Hardware #: 5065-644). Spread this over the soil and gently rake it in. Lightly firm the soil to put the grass seed into good contact with the soil and water well. Keep the soil moist but not wet to encourage faster germination.

Also apply CIL Golfgreen Starter fertilizer (Home Hardware #: 5024-617) to help get it off to a good start and put down a good root system before cold weather sets in.

In one to two weeks the grass seed will germinate and begin to fill in the area

This is a great time of year to over seed your entire lawn to thicken it up around this time as well. The process is much the same as above except over the entire lawn. When doing this, concentrate on filling in the depressions with the triple mix or Mark’s Choice lawn soil to create a level lawn surface.

In a few weeks (mid to late October is optimal) you will give your lawn the most important feeding of the year with a fall fertilizer application. This application will help encourage good root growth and get the lawn off to a running start come next spring.

Your lawn will thank you.

Fall Planting

~ September 14, 2011

With fall just around the corner now is the time to squeeze in some late season gardening and plant any new additions you had your eye on. Take a trip to your local garden center and you will be surprised at what you can still find and at amazing sale prices. Planting at this time of year requires a couple of extra steps to ensure your plant survives the winter.
When planting, dig the hole to twice the diameter of the pot and to the same depth. Backfill with a mix of half the original soil that was dug out and half triple mix. Triple mix is an equal blend of peat, compost and sand and is an ideal soil mix for plants. After backfilling lightly compact the soil around the new plant to remove any air pockets.

Do not compact the soil too firmly as new roots will not be able to grow well.

Water the plant deeply at least two to three times a week. This is important as it will settle the soil and help reduce transplant shock. I recommend using CIL Plant Starter as it contains a special acid that will help the new plants put down roots quickly.

Do not be tempted to use a high nitrogen fertilizer on your plants as this will cause them to produce new top growth which will not be able to harden off before cold weather arrives.

As the soil is already warm your new plants should take quite well and be off to a great start next spring.

Although spring is the traditional planting season early fall works equally well. Get out to your local garden center, see what they have and start planting.

Dividing Peonies

~ September 7, 2011

Peonies are a classic summer-flowering perennial found in many gardens across Canada. Very old peonies need to be divided when they stop blooming at the centre of the plant. This is the time of year to divide them. You will need a good garden fork, a sharp knife and some muscle power.

The first step is to dig out your existing plant. Dig a circle around the crown of the plant with the garden fork and pull the plant up with the tines. Peonies have thick strong roots so you do not have to worry about seriously damaging them. Once you have exposed the crown wash the soil away with a gentle stream of water. This will allow you to fully see the crown and the “eyes” or buds which are next year’s shoots.

The number of divisions you can make depends on the size of the peony. Generally each division should contain at least three eyes for good flowering.

To make the divisions take a sharp knife and cut through the crown and root system. Leave as many good roots intact as possible while making sure each division has at least three eyes.

Now that you have the divisions, dig a hole that is double the size of the crown and root system. Plant each division so that the buds are no more than 1-2 inches below the soil surface. Amend the hole with plenty of well rotted compost and Green Earth Bonemeal. As peonies are long-lived and very heavy feeders this will help them get off to a good start.

Mulch with two to three inches of straw or bark mulch and water thoroughly. Peonies do not like to dry out so keep the soil moist. This will help the new plant put down a good root system before the first frost of the season.

Generally it takes two years for the plant to fully recover from this process so you will have to be patient. Do not expect a show of blooms the first year after division.

Give it a try! If you have a large Peony and want some more colour around the garden or house, do not hesitate and start dividing these great plants.