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.

Succession Planting

~ June 27, 2012

As we move towards the end of June, there are still some planting tasks that can be undertaken in the vegetable garden. In order to keep the delicious fresh fruits and vegetables coming throughout the summer, you can employ 'succession planting.' There are two main ways to do this depending on the crop.

First, if you have planted something with a short harvest time (like radishes - about 45 days), you can plant something completely different in its place once you have harvested. I've harvested my first radish crop and a few heads of lettuce. In their place, I've planted a crop of green and yellow beans.

Second, you can plant a few of the same thing every week for three or four weeks. Onions and carrots are great for this. I started my onions at one end of the row way back in April and every week I planted a few more. Last week I pulled my first few green onions and I will continue to get a few every week until the end of summer.

There are many benefits to succession planting beyond the obvious benefit to you when you can harvest fresh veggies all summer long. Think, for example, about the soil. Vegetables take a lot of nutrients from it in order to grow - but not every vegetable needs these nutrients in the same ratios. Since radishes require minimal nutrients, the beans sown in their place will have adequate amounts left. As well, the soil will be turned when the second crop is planted allowing oxygen and nutrients to mix through the soil. Finally, if you have a smaller vegetable garden, succession planting allows you to enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables (if you're replanting with a new type of veggie).

So next time you're out in the vegetable garden, think about succession planting. Simply keep in mind harvest times so the cold winter months don't swoop in before you can pick your crop.

Summer Lawn Care Tips

~ June 20, 2012

As the heat of summer hits home it is time to review Summer Lawn Care Tips:

- Water the lawn early in the morning. Watering in the heat of the day will result in moisture loss through evaporation.

- It is best to water your lawn infrequently and deeply. Rather than watering a little each day it is more beneficial to the root structure of your lawn to water deeply (1") once a week.

- Practice 'grass-cycling' and leave grass clippings on the lawn. Clippings will return nutrients to the soil and help retain moisture in the lawn. Better yet - use a mulching attachment on your lawn mower.

- Reduce the amount of foot traffic on the lawn during periods of drought.

- Raise the cutting height of your lawn mower to 2 1/2 or 3 inches to avoid stressing the grass. Longer grass will provide shade to the roots and reduce water loss from the soil.

- Sharpen lawn mower blades so the grass will be cut cleanly, not torn.

Decide whether you will allow your lawn to go dormant during periods of drought. Unless you experience a prolonged drought, your lawn will come back and green-up once the weather cools off.

Invest in a Mark's Choice rain barrel [I have 4 working for me right now!], available at Home Hardware, to collect valuable rain water. I use it to water all of my container plants and newly planted plants in the garden. Water collected in a rain barrel will not be as cold as tap water and will not shock plants when applied during hot conditions. Heat seeking plants like impatiens and tomatoes love it!

Father's Day is June 17

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Do you find it a challenge to choose the right gift for your father each year? Let me suggest that you consider the Mark's Choice line of cutting tools. I am really excited about this line of ‘best quality’, Canadian made loppers, shears and pruning saws.

I have chosen Canadian -made tools for their outstanding quality and durability. The Mark's Choice Bow Saw is balanced to reduce fatigue (especially in your forearms!). It melts green wood without binding, twisting and cuts effectively on both the back stroke and fore stroke. It’s a lot quieter and safer to use than a chain saw too!

My hedge shears keep an edge for a long time due to the high carbon steel and Teflon coating on the blades. They have extendable handles that hold sure and firm under pressure. Years of pruning experience have taught me that a good pair of tree loppers must feel good and confident in your hands. They must hold an edge - and be made of the very best steel. The ratcheting mechanism should stand the pressures of cutting through substantial limbs without jamming or twisting. And finally, extendable handles provide access to branches that otherwise may be out of reach.

These tools have set industry standards for quality and performance. Visit your local Home Hardware store to try these tools and pick one up for Father's Day while you're there.

Planting Basics

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The first step in choosing new plants is to choose the proper location based on the amount of sunlight your garden bed receives. Once you have determined which plants are appropriate for the sun/shade of your garden you can move on to preparing the soil. I recommend that you mix triple mix into the garden soil. Triple mix contains equal portions of composted manure, peat and loam. Spread the triple mix 2 inches (5 cm) deep over your entire garden bed and either dig it in by turning it over or leave it there for the earth worms to do the job (Which will take 6 to 8 weeks but is really quite effective).

The organic ingredients in triple mix enrich the soil with nutrients and boost microbial activity. If your garden soil is heavy clay you can amend the soil with organic matter and sharp sand. A yearly application will help break up the clay soil and improve drainage and aeration.

Now it is time to set your plants in the ground. This should be done as soon as possible when you bring the plants home. Place your plants in the ground at the same soil level as was in the container. Fill in around the root ball with your freshly amended soil and press the soil firmly around the root mass. Water in each plant well to settle the soil and make sure there are no air pockets around the roots. New plantings are dependent on you for moisture until they are established and can seek out their own moisture. For perennials and hardy shrubs water at least once per week for the first growing season. If you experience long periods of dry weather water more often.

Reduce maintenance by fertilizing with SMARTCOTE® Feed & Forget. This is an excellent controlled release fertilizer which provides nutrients to the plant over the entire growing season. Nutrient release is dependent on the available moisture in the soil and the temperature. Every time you water your plants, or it rains, SMARTCOTE® will release nutrients to the root zone of your plants. As the soil temperature rises the nutrients are released more quickly for optimal plant growth.