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.

How to Shop at the Garden Center

~ May 30, 2012

When you visit the garden center it can often be overwhelming. I am often approached by gardeners asking me ‘where to start’. I offer this information to help point you in the right direction.

1. Good value does not always equal the lowest price. While there is a lot to be said for sale prices on most anything that you buy retail keep in mind that buying plants is unlike most other items that you put in your grocery cart. Plants are living things. A great looking plant is not pot bound, leggy, has yellowing leaves or is necessarily in full bloom. It IS young, roots only fill ½ of the container, stocky and always green. And not necessarily in full bloom.

2. Labelling pays for itself. During this, one of the busiest times of the year at garden retailers, it is not always easy to get answers from a sales person to your gardening questions. For this reason accurate picture labels are worth their weight. A good label is printed in Canada and is appropriate for our growing zone, includes a picture and detailed cultural information. It is also a handy reference placed next to your new plant in the garden.

3. Roots do not encircle the inside of the container. Young, white fibrous roots are ready to take off in your garden. These roots must make a home in your soil before the top part of the plant can thrive. It is o.k. to turn a plant upside down while at the garden centre, gently remove it from the pot and inspect it. If the roots circle the inside wall of the pot or cell pack put it back and look for a younger, perhaps less impressive looking specimen.

4. Full bloom is not always a good thing. It takes energy for a plant to produce a bloom. It is, after all, an effort on the part of the plant to attract pollinators (not buyers) and to reproduce. A great garden performer will have much more green growth on it than blooms. The power reserved in the roots will be there when you most want it to push the blooms to max while planted in your garden over the next month or two, rather than on the retailers shelf.

5. Wet. The hallmark of a good plant retailer is one that pays close attention to the maintenance of the plants that they sell. Many mass merchant retailers fall down in this department, allowing plants to become dry after they are received at the store. A plant that dries out excessively 'hardens off', reducing the vigor that it had when it left the green house. Avoid buying plants that are 'light weight' [dry] as they may just collapse on you before you get home. Buy wet plants.

Growing in Containers

~ May 23, 2012

I have a way to cut your watering down by up to one half this summer. Water Wicks are a great product in the Mark’s Choice line up that I am very excited about. Each ‘Water Wick’ tea bag absorbs up to 400 times its’ weight in water.

When you prepare a hole for planting, drop a pre-moistened Water Wick tea bag into the bottom of the hole and place the plant directly on top of it. Firm the soil around the plant as per usual. Now, as the soil dries out the plant will draw moisture from the Water Wick. When you water your plants the Water Wick is automatically recharged with water.

The results are that you will water much less and your plants will become deeply rooted in their search for water at the bottom of the planting hole.

How do we know these work? We tested them ourselves. But not until the Ontario Flower Growers applied them to over one million potted plants that were shipped to retailers across the country. The Water Wick concept was such a hit that reforestation projects are now using them when planting tree seedlings. We (Home Hardware and I) have the exclusive use of the product in the retail market.

Give them a try and let me know what you think. I have used them in the veggie garden, under newly planted perennials and in containers with great success.

Water Wicks are made in Canada and are a 100% Canadian concept!

More information visit

What's New with Mark's Choice - Part 2

~ May 16, 2012

Last week I introduced you to some of the new items in the Mark’s Choice product line. This week we will look at some great new Canadian-made, solid cedar items for your yard.

Woodpecker Feeder – This feeder with double reinforced mesh sides and cedar ends with feeding holes is sure to be a woodpecker favourite. Fill with nuts and enjoy the show!

Butterfly Habitat – If you plant flowers to attract butterflies then you need to provide them with a home. Place a small branch in the house to provide a perch and place this house in your flower bed.

Mason Bee House – Mason bees are solitary, non-aggressive insects that can be observed at close proximity. Supplying them nesting sites in the holes of this untreated cedar house can be an educational and fun activity for the entire family.

Bird Suet Plug Feeder – Enjoy this attractive, high-quality cedar suet feeder that is durable and weather resistant. Fill with easy to handle, no mess suet plugs.

This year I am excited to introduce the Mark’s Choice line of Premium Vegetable Seeds. These 12 varieties have been selected for: garden fresh flavour, ease of growing in Canadian conditions, and overall garden performance.

I have grown these seeds and presented the harvest at our table. I believe that you will equally enjoy the experience of growing AND eating these vegetables.

Varieties: Bush Green Bean, Bush Yellow Bean, Kestrel Hybrid Beet, Juno Hybrid Carrot, Fanfare Hybrid Cucumber, Red Lettuce, Leaf Lettuce, Mesclun Mix, Early Frost Pea, Samich Hybrid Spinach, Yellow Zucchini squash, Blue Spice Basil

What's New with Mark's Choice

~ May 9, 2012

The Mark’s Choice product research team thoroughly reviews and tests new products, one at a time. Before a product is approved to carry the Mark’s Choice name, it must meet very stringent criteria.

• Does it succeed in fulfilling a specific need for the Canadian home gardener?

• Is it tough enough to stand up to commercial grade use?

• Is it manufactured with the highest standard of materials?

• Will it perform a unique function and assist Canadian gardeners in creating a great looking lawn and garden?

The answers must always be ‘YES’. I believe that every Mark’s Choice product will help you to succeed in your garden. I would not put my name on them if I did not believe this.

New for 2012

Firefighter’s Nozzle – The new Mark’s Choice Firefighter’s Nozzle is fun to use. The adjustment is finely tuned to mist new seedling AND it can blast water up to 23 feet (7 metres), plus everything in between. The quality is superior to anything I have ever used, and I believe it will help you grow a better garden.  Home Hardware item# 5042-512.

Floa Constrictor – Provides the convenience of controlling water pressure virtually anywhere on your hose, eliminating trips back and forth to the tap. Adjustable to any hose size, you can easily irrigate exactly where you want, when you want, without wasting water. Simply place sprinkler in position, then snap the Floa Constrictor onto the hose in view of the sprinkler head. Close the valve tightly. Turn on the tap, and slowly open the valve on the Floa Constrictor until the correct water flow is achieved.  Home Hardware item# 5042-960.

Mark Cullen Edition Golfgreen Lawn Fertilizer – Exclusive to Home Hardware, this new formula of Golfgreen lawn fertilizer will produce a thicker, greener lawn for a longer greening period. The slow-release ingredient feeds your lawn when the rain falls, temperatures rise, and microbial activity in the soil takes place. It works when your lawn needs it the most, and gives your lawn what it craves the most. I only use Golfgreen fertilizer on my lawn. Special note: When you purchase a 12kg bag (or two 6kg bags) of Mark Culleh Edition Golfgreen at Home Hardware you will receive a complimentary copy of my new book Canadian Lawn & Garden Secrets.  Home Hardware item# 5024-503 (12kg) and 5024-502 (6kg).

Next week: more new products in the Mark's Choice line up.

Attracting Wildlife to Your Garden

~ May 2, 2012

Attracting wildlife to your yard is one of the great benefits of gardening – you just want to ensure that you are attracting the right kinds!

While we all garden for our own personal reasons, everyone loves hummingbirds, songbirds, and butterflies.

My new butterfly house provides the perfect environment for butterflies to nest, pupate, and morph, out of the reach of predators.

Attracting mason bees to your garden is ideal because they are very effective pollinators. They nest in 3/8” (1cm) tubes like those found in the new Mark’s Choice mason bee house. All you do is mount if out of the wind and clean it out with a drill once a year.

When planning your garden be sure to incorporate as many plants that attract desirable wildlife to your yard as possible. Many native plants like Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) and Rudebeckia (Black eyed Susan) attract butterflies and songbirds. A hummingbird magnet is Monarda (Bee Balm).
Keep in mind that all of our flying friends enjoy still water for drinking and bathing, a protected place to perch, and many enjoy the addition of feeding station in your yard.