Mark Cullen's newsletter
Breaking the Rules.

I am about to break one of my cardinal rules: I am going to mix business with pleasure. 
When I write this monthly message to you, the thing that is foremost on my mind is this, "I have to earn the trust of every reader."  I don't just earn it once but I earn it every time you open my newsletter or, for that matter, watch my gardening tips (which reminds me, I have some big news for you) or read my newspaper column or hear my Green File on the radio etc.  
You get the idea.
Today I am going to talk about my life with Home Hardware. 

This is not exactly a dirty little secret.  It is an open secret.  Every time you see my ugly mug on a bag of soil or fertilizer, on the TV wearing a red shirt or while listening to the Blue Jays on the radio, there I am: the Home Hardware gardening guy.   The guy in the red shirt is trying to sell you something. 

The guy who sends you gardening tips is not.  He just wants to make sure that you are informed as a Canadian gardener.  After all, what gets me up every morning, and has done for over 30 years, are the questions, "What can I do today to get more Canadians to pick up the trowel and start gardening?" and "What can I do today to get Canadians who garden to do it more?" 
Approached from this point of view my life is quite simple.
The reality is that these two guys are the same guy.
Which is why, on this one occasion, I want to share something rather personal with you: the reasons why I put my name on a line of products at Home Hardware.  'Mark's Choice' is a huge part of my life and I live it every day.  It is not just a line of gardening products, it is an obsession. 
We have over 160 garden supplies and tools in the line up.  Plus over 50 plants that many Home Hardware stores carry each spring with the same logo on them.  

So what?  Well, I am glad that you asked!

In the retail world, there is generally an agreement that the customer deserves choice.  A choice that reflects the varying needs and affordability of a wide range of shoppers.  'Good, Better and Best' is a great way to meet the needs of most people. 
Until it isn't. 
There is another category of buyers who are looking for 'Better Still'.  It is the trowel or hand pruner that will last for at least 5 years.  Longer if you look after it. 
It is a Back Hoe that is unique and is sold pre-sharpened.  
Possibly the only weeding tool sold in a sheath because it is so sharp.  (We just added two new models to this line up.)

It is a pair of knee pads that are not over designed: they are light weight, tough and they seal up at the top so that dirt won't fly in while you are digging.

Better Still gardening products have been torture tested in my 10 acre garden before I put my name on them, often for more than a year.  Some I just leave standing in the garden all winter long, ignoring them and letting the elements of nature try to destroy them over time. 

When the Mark's Choice product development team search out and review new product ideas, we always ask, 'What is unique about it? Will it stand up to our rigorous standards of quality for long term use?' and 'Does it make the tasks in the garden easier/faster and/or more effective?'
I mention this as you are likely heading out to buy some garden supplies any day now and I would be doing you a great disservice not to let you in on my 'secret'. 
In the name of editorial integrity, I don't generally talk about my life with Mark's Choice or Home Hardware
But today is different and I hope that you will forgive me for this. 

Where can you learn more about these Mark's Choice products?   
On the internet, of course.  Click here 

And I highly recommend that you pick up the current spring edition of Home at Home magazine.  Go to the middle 12 pages and voila..... a superb presentation of what is new in the Mark's Choice line up AND a special message on birding from my friends at Bird Studies Canada
This spring I am especially excited about these 3 new introductions:

Backhoe.  The run-away sensation, long handled hoeing/cultivating/furrowing tool that we introduced last season now has a brother and sister. 
One is the same long handled tool with a head that is 2/3 the size of the original model.  
It is great for use in tightly planted gardens and small, urban spaces.  $27.97
The other new Backhoe features the same stainless steel, pre-sharpened 2/3 sized head on a shorter, 16 inch solid ash handle.  
Perfect for weeding and planting raised beds or while working in a crouch position. $19.97

Golfgreen Iron Plus .  Two years ago we introduced Golfgreen Iron Plus and we have since created a long line-up of customers who are loyal to this new brand. 
They have learned that it produces a fast, deep green in 72 hours (or your money back) that lasts for up to 10 weeks. 

Now we have Golfgreen Iron Plus 4 in 1 Lawn Recovery.  Remember when you spread soil over the thin patches of your lawn, broadcast lawn seed over that, raked it smooth, fertilized it and watered it?  

No more.  

Golfgreen Iron Plus 4 in 1 contains the best quality grass that I have ever grown, a charge of nitrogen based fertilizer to get it started and pelletized compost that expands with moisture to provide a medium for the grass seed to germinate in.  

You apply it by spreading it in your fertilizer spreader.  And water it in.  It is $39.99 a bag and will save you a small fortune as you no longer need to bring in a load of soil by dump truck, buy grass seed and fertilizer separately and go to all of that effort. 
I recommend that you apply Golfgreen Iron Plus three weeks after you apply the 4 in 1 product
Go ahead: win the award in your neighbourhood for the greenest and healthiest lawn on the block.  Thank me later. 

Announcing 2 New Relationships....
Beginning this spring, I will be appearing on The Weather Network and on Global News with gardening segments to help you achieve the garden of your dreams.  
I am excited about these new relationships and hope that you will find them friendly, conversational, inspirational and useful.  In the extreme.
Nothing would please me more.
Let me know what you think.... To find out more (like when they will air) stay tuned to my Facebook  and twitter posts.
Things To Do in your Garden:

Ok, it is April.
Enough fooling around. 

  Don't wait for the 'traditional May 24 planting weekend' to plant frost hardy trees, shrubs, evergreens, perennials (that are not 'soft' and greenhouse forced), roses and hardy annuals (say, what?) like pansies, violas, ranunculus, anemones and spring flowering bulbs (assuming that you need more than you planted last fall) which are in full bloom in pots at your favourite garden retailer.

Greenest Lawn ever
.....when it is dry enough to walk on:
Rake lightly to remove winter debris and get the grass blades to stand up on end.
Fertilize with Golfgreen Iron Plus (did I tell you about one reader, of this newsletter, who fired their lawn maintenance company after she used this product?  True story).
Apply Golfgreen Iron Plus 4 in 1 Lawn Recovery wherever your lawn is thin, your female dog has burned patches of your lawn and/or there is snow mold smothering it. 

Sow the following veggies
from seed (and look for the Mark's Choice garden seeds on the Ontario Seed rack at Home Hardware - superior quality and garden performance).  Peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce, mesclun mix, beets, onions and later this month plant out all of the gassy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts etc).

Start many of your veggies and flowers indoors for planting out in May.  Be ready to plant and save money!

Dig in BioMax manure and/or Mark's Choice garden soil
when planting anything.  Yes, anything.  Both are good for everything that you grow.  Except water/pond plants.  Use clay or silt for that job. 

Set up your rain barrels and garden furniture . Sharpen the blades on your lawn mower (you won't need it for another month) and change the oil.  Unless it is a cordless electric machine.  Just hug it. 

Thanks for listening. And for your feedback!

If you happen to be in a Home Hardware store and pick up some Mark's Choice product, remember that I always love to hear from you: what do you think of the product?  Did it meet your expectations? Fall short?  Exceed?  
I really want to know.... And if I hear from you, one way or the other, I will send you two packets of my own veggie seeds.  Just be sure to send me your address. Email your comments to  
Keep your knees dirty,
Merchant of Beauty

P.S.   Look for son Ben at the Home Hardware in Orillia Ontario this spring.  He is cutting his teeth at one of the best HH stores in the land..... he is working in the garden centre with MJ.  Be sure to give him a hard time!
Soon enough he will be back here and you will be hearing more from him.

Highway of Heroes Living Tribute

Big news about the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute!

Look for us on the History Channel during Vimy Week April 3 through 16.  
Highway of Heroes Living Tribute is THE presenting sponsor. 

Also check out this video of my friend and our fundraising specialist Mike Hurley.  He does an excellent job of telling our story.  Watch the video.

They finally convinced me to get on Instagram, and I am getting the hang of it!

You can expect to find my best photography, inspiration and occasional piece of advice at @markcullengardening.
Bird Studies Canada

White-crowned Sparrow

Sparrows can be challenging to identify - all brown-flecked with only subtle differences between the many species.  But that dapper-looking one, with bold, black-and-white head stripes and a clear, grey breast, is the White-crowned Sparrow.  
Photo credit: Ron Ridout

In April and May, this sparrow moves northward in huge numbers across Canada, through gardens and thickets, heading to breeding grounds in the tundra and western mountains.  Look for them on the ground, under your feeder and especially near shrubs, where their bright head markings reveal them against the brown leaf litter.  

During breeding season, like most birds, they prefer insects for food.  But when migrating through your backyard, they will eat many kinds of seeds, including smaller millet and milo, which you can scatter under your bushes.  Best of all, the less manicured your garden, the more habitat you have for ground-feeding birds, like White-crowneds, who prefer the cover for protection from hawks and cats.  That brush pile in the corner of the yard you haven't cleaned up yet?  Don't!  
Your legitimate reason is that it's great sparrow cover!

Steven Price

This message brought to you by 
Mark's Choice Bird Feast bird food,  exclusively at Home Hardware. 
Proud supporters of Bird Studies Canada.

Rain gardens: Slow water is good water

Water is flowing through our landscapes faster than ever - paved surfaces prevent it from seeping into the earth, so water has no choice but to flow ever faster into our streams. 
The results are flooding, erosion and pollution.

Good news: Every homeowner can make a difference! Rain gardens capture rainwater, and allow it to filter down where it is needed, preventing those serious problems.
Beyond that huge benefit, rain gardens are beautiful, and can even solve drainage headaches on your property.

Get inspired with a new, seven-part video library hosted by Mark Cullen: 
'Searching for Spring' Contest

This is the 4th Annual 'Searching for Spring' contest.
Take a photo in your yard that shows a 'Sign of Spring'.   Send the photo to

The photo with the most 'likes' will win the Grand Prize:
A signed copy of my book The New Canadian Garden + A $50 gift card for Home Hardware, a copy of the Harrowmsith Garden Guide + 4 packs of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.

The next 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' will win: a copy of my book The New Canadian Garden + a copy of the 2016 Harrowsmith Garden Guide + 4 packs of Mark's Choice Vegetable seeds.

The next 5 photos to receive the most 'likes' will win: a copy of the 2016 Harrowsmith Garden Guide + 4 packs of Mark's Choice Vegetable seeds.

I will post all of the photos on my Facebook page.   

Vote for your favourite photo!

Deadline for entry: April 6, 2017. 
Deadline for voting is April 10, 2017.

Enter today!
Contest Winners

Photo by Carl & Lory Hansen
In the March issue of Gardening with Mark, I invited you to share 'a photo of your 2016 veggie patch'.  Thank you to all who entered their photos.  I look forward to these contests every month.
The 10 photos with the most 'likes' each won a prize pack worth $45.  Each contains a copy of the 2017 Harrowsmith Spring Garden Guide + a $25 Home Hardware Gift card + 4 packets of Mark's Choice vegetable seeds.

Congratulations to these Winners: Arlene, Carl & Lory Hansen, Claudette Grant, Nicky North, Debra Thompson, Shannon Harbers, Jackson, Rebecca Cowling, Carol Laplante, Trixie Reichardt.

You can view all of the photos here.
NEW! - Canadian Shield Rose 

The Canadian Shield Rose is a brand new introduction from the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.  It is winter hardy to survive the extremes of Canadian weather from coast to coast.  This stunning new rose will be available at garden centres across Canada in time to celebrate Canada's 150th.
The Canadian Shield rose is a landscape rose.  It will spread more than one metre across the garden.  The blooms are full and red, which provides a beautiful contrast to the glossy leaves.  As a repeat bloomer, the roses will continue throughout the growing season.  The Canadian Shield rose is resistant to black spot.  One of the many reasons I am looking forward to growing this rose in my 10 acre garden.
The Canadian Shield rose is the first release from Vineland's 49th Parallel Collection.  The rose selections are products of the Canadian hardy rose program at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, in partnership with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.
Looking to purchase this gorgeous rose to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday?  Go to "Where to Buy" at for a cross-Canada listing.
Join Me for a Day of Golf
in Support of the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute

Date: Thursday, August 24, 2017
Location: Port Hope Golf & Country Club

Mark Cullen and Dr. James Clubine host this golf tournament in support of The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute.

The Highway of Heroes Living Tribute is planting 117,000 trees along the Highway of Heroes, one tree for each of Canada's war dead since Confederation.  A living, breathing memorial.

Sign up today!  Space is limited to 92 golfers.

Cost: $150/golfer includes: 18 holes of golf/cart, prize table & dinner

Visit for more information.

Where is Mark? 

April is the start of my busy season.  I look forward to this time and I invite you to join me wherever I happen to be.

April 7 and 8 - Cornwall Spring Home and Leisure ShowI will be speaking at 7pm on Friday night and noon on Saturday.  I will also be in the Home Hardware booth, signing copies of my new book 'The New Canadian Garden'.

April 13 - Green Thumbs - Emergence.  Regent Park Community Food Centre.

April 21 - Fifty-Five Plus Lifestyle Show. Join me at noon on Friday.

April 23 - Highway of Heroes Living Tribute tree planting at Downsview Park.

April 25 - Collingwood Home Hardware Spring Ladies Night. Register online.

April 28 - Parry Sound Home Hardware. Don't miss my presentation at 1:00pm.
Harrowsmith's Spring 2017 issue 

The Harrowsmith team had the opportunity to chat with Dr. David Suzuki about the coveted books on his bedside table. The conversation that unfolded offered a colourful and nostalgic glimpse into his childhood and musings about his grandchildren. 

Join us as we sit down with Canada's favourite tree hugger: A Conversation With David Suzuki

Our Spring issue is now on news stands across Canada.

Stay in Touch 
Mark's Gardening Connections  

Home Hardware

Gardening Events
Event Schedule

My monthly Event Listings are so popular we were running out of room in the newsletter.  All event listings have moved to .
Event lists are organized by Province and accessible through these links:
Do you have a 'gardening' event you would like to promote?  I would be happy to include your event listing on my website.

Send your info to with the subject line 'Event Listing'.  Please provide a brief description of the event, along with a website for further information.