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.

Gardening and Your Health

~ April 25, 2012

Incorporating regular physical exercise into a routine helps boost energy, cope with stress, counter depression and improve sleep. Gardening for just 30 to 40 minutes will significantly contribute to overall health.

Gardening's weight bearing tasks (ie. digging holes, pulling weeds, pushing a mower) have been linked to osteoporosis prevention. Women aged 50 and older who gardened at least once a week showed higher bone density readings than those who performed other types of exercise, including jogging, swimming, walking and aerobics. And, exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D production, aiding the body's calcium absorption.

Recommendations: Use the right equipment. Whenever possible, look for equipment that is designed to be ergonomically correct. Keep in mind, a garden hose is easier to manage than a watering can, and a sturdy cart or wheelbarrow makes transferring easier. Pace yourself. Taking a few brief breaks each hour is recommended. Change your body position every 10 to 15 minutes, changing the focus from legs to arms, to hands to back. Relax and spread the work over a few days. Take it slow. Using different muscles than you're accustomed to can make even the most in-shape person slightly sore. So, take it slow, and alternate between heavy chores (ie. digging) and less physically demanding tasks (ie. planting).

[Source: Obus Forme report]

What To Do (and What NOT To Do) in the Garden

~ April 11, 2012

Is there another time of year when we feel such a surge of anticipation? The spring planting season will be here in earnest soon enough and with it a limitless supply of ‘to-do’s for even the most ambitious gardener.

In the meantime, some ‘NOT to do’s:

- Do not remove winterizing protection from evergreens, roses, and rhododendrons until you are certain that hard frost or heavy snow will not occur. Generally this is around the third week of April for southern Ont./Quebec and later as you go north.
- Do not stop feeding the birds. It is a myth that they only need to be fed in the winter.
- Do not turn your soil until it has dried to the point where it crumbles as you fork/spade it over. Otherwise, you will end up with large clumps of dried mud in your garden. And a sore back.
- Do not plant tender plants until the threat of frost has disappeared.

DO, however:

- Plant your little heart out – but plant only winter hardy evergreens, flowering shrubs and trees – while there is still the threat of frost. Perennials that have been ‘hardened off’ out of doors also transplant well in early spring –including the ones that you want to move around your own garden.
- Fertilize your lawn with a lawn food containing a slow release nitrogen ingredient. Better for your lawn –better for the environment. Rake out winter debris and seed thin spots in existing lawn.
- Turn your compost when frost has made it’s exit. This will introduce needed oxygen to get it heated up for late spring application to your garden.

Still restless? Then hose off the road salt from the evergreens nearest the road and the grass along the boulevard with a blast from the end of your garden hose.
Start your tomato and annual flowering plants indoors.
Start your dahlia tubers and canna lillies in one gallon sized pots. Place in a sunny window.
Take a deep breath: the great Canadian Gardening Season is here. You have a 7 to 8 month window to immerse yourself in the joy and to wear yourself out.

Things To Do in the Garden

~ April 4, 2012

I know that it has been said before, but remember to amend your soil with generous quantities of compost early in spring, before you plant. The organic gardener’s mantra says, ‘Feed the soil and the plants will take care of themselves’. True, to a large extent. If you provide lots of goodness at the root zone of all of your plants you will be amazed at how few insects, disease and other garden-nasties you will experience.
There is no better time of year than spring to take care of this ever important task.

Veggie Garden.

In the vegetable garden, be sure to sow your onions, peas, snow peas, carrots and your first crop of radishes before the last frost. For most of us that is in mid to late April: in northern Ontario/Quebec during the first two weeks of May.
Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and all members of the so-called ‘gassy’ family of vegetables perform their best when planted as transplants at the same time as you sow the aforementioned seeds. Make sure that your transplants have been hardened off before planting out.

Prune evergreens. Maintain the healthy appearance of your cedars, junipers, yews and other foundation planted evergreens with a light sheering (or a major cutting back, if the plants have been ignored for years). The fresh flush of new growth that occurs later in spring will fill your evergreens in very nicely.

Plant Bleeding Heart amongst your daffodils and narcissus. For a great show every spring, plant perennial Bleeding Heart among your spring flowering daffodils and narcissus. All are reliable performers from year to year and they will bloom together almost forever. Look for Bleeding Heart ‘Luxuriant’ for a longer blooming variety to mix with the old fashioned Bleeding Heart.