The garden is getting planted.

Or, maybe in your case, you have finished your spring planting.

It is amazing to us how straight rows of veggies in the garden today or a perfect grid of marigolds, cosmos or zinnias will take on the appearance of total chaos in a few weeks. This is what it is to work with nature. We do our thing, generally taking a linear approach to things, and nature makes a beautiful mess of it. 

This photo of Mark's veggie garden, taken yesterday, illustrates just how ordered things are, as of now.

Th experience of gardening, unlike any other art form, moves us slowly through the seasons, using a rhythm over which we have little control.  Unless of course, you have figured out how to make it rain, or not rain, the wind to blow and the birds to sing. The elements of our outdoor experiences come together in a fabulously marvelous way that we cannot (and likely could not) create if it were up to us. It is music.

Recently, we heard an amazing speech by Mark Williams, CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) in which he shed light on the meaning and value of music in our lives. He reminded us that we are exposed to music every day, often at times when we are not even conscious of it. We sing for birthdays, we listen to a processional at weddings and no funeral would be a true celebration of life without music. 

Music, according to Williams, transforms us. “It transforms ordinary commutes into moments of calm; times of love into glimpses of ecstasy; periods of isolation into opportunities for communion.” He continues, “I have seen music transform addiction into healing. Confusion into discipline. I have seen time itself transform into timelessness.”


Williams knows his stuff. He has been in the “business” of music his whole life, which began when he was a “shy, unsure and lonely” young man who was introduced to the French horn. At 15 years old, he played for the Cincinnati Youth Orchestra in Ohio. Clearly, he is a gifted musician.  Through his musical experience he discovered his many gifts and found “his people” and community.

The TSO has discovered that Alzheimer’s patients connect with music in ways that they cannot using verbal ques. A special program that serves Alzheimer’s patients is “not only transforming peoples’ health; it helps to connect people who report some of the greatest isolation in our society”.

We are reminded of the many qualities of music that are like those we experience through gardening.

We relax and open our minds while in the presence of trees, as the Japanese have taught the world, through Forest Bathing.

We stop and observe forces of nature when the wind blows, lightning strikes and rain falls to the earth.

We absorb benefits not well understood through the complex alchemy of soil, when we connect with it.

The sound of bird song, so prevalent this time of year (thank you mating season!) registers in our minds with rhythm and cadence that stays with us all day. If we think about it hard, it can come back to us mid winter. Or in old age, as will the smell of lilac or the sight of a fresh peony.


Everywhere we look we see evidence that gardening brings people together and builds community.

Here, Mark delivers 300 tomato plants to his local Lions Club to sell for a fundraiser to refurbish a local public pond. 


Ben meets monthly with “Green Drinks” friends in Guelph to discuss “green topics” every month and enjoy a beer. This month, featuring our good friend Lorraine Johnson, author of the A Garden for the Rusty Patch Bumblebee. (event details here)

Transforming lives.

Finally, Mark Williams states that “The TSO works every day to transform lives. Whether through beauty, health, empowerment, or connection – and ideally, all the above, we know the power that music has.”

We think that we could substitute the word “garden” for the word “music” in that quote and it would be quite accurate.

We might add: when we combine the power of music with the power of the gardening experience: what then? Perhaps you have the answer.

It is June and we wish you every success no matter what you grow.

This is the most colourful month of the year, with roses, clematis, peonies, lilacs, and many other plants providing their very best performance. Enjoy. And be sure to listen to their music.  


Mark and Ben Cullen

Merchants of Beans and Beauty





It is blossom time for roses, peonies, clematis and many other 'early' season flowering perennial plants.  If you have room for more, now is the perfect time to plant them! Make sure that the plants you DO have are supported.

Plant all hot crops. Corn, zucchini, squash (all cucurbits), peppers, potatoes: virtually every crop that requires heat to thrive are ready to plant in the first week of June. 

Mulch. June is mulch month because May is planting month. After you get most of your plants in the ground you can save yourself up to 70% in watering and 90% in weeding by laying down a 5 cm layer of finely ground up cedar or pine bark mulch.

Herbs. Plant them. Harvest them as needed. Don't over water them. With the exception of basil, they love to get dry between watering.

Tomatoes. Stake with a spiral stake and never tie them up again. Get them off the ground and double your crop. Mid-June start applying Bordo Mixture to prevent early and late blight.

Through the Garden Gate June 8 and 9. Toronto’s largest tour of the most beautiful private residential gardens. This year features the west-end Toronto neighbourhood of Swansea. More info here.


Registration is now open for our annual golf tournament

in support of Trees for Life

Date: Thursday, August 22nd, 2024

Golf Course: Pheasant Run Golf Club, 18033 Warden Ave., Sharon, ON

Event Fee: $225 per golfer, which includes 18 holes with a power cart, BBQ lunch-to-go, and a celebratory dinner in a spacious, covered, outdoor dining area.


11:00 am: Registration opens

11:30 – 12:45: BBQ lunch on the patio

1:00 pm: Shotgun start

5:30 pm: Reception and silent auction opens

6:00 pm: Dinner

7:00 pm: Silent Auction closes

For more info, click here. https://www.treesforlife.ca/charity-golf-2024

And check out the photos from our 2023 tournament!

Harrowsmith’s FEATURE RECIPE

11 Quick Zero-Waste Food Hacks

Quick and Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home. There are lots of things we can do that can make an impact on the amount of food we waste by finding creative ways to use up food that isn’t perfect. 

While supplies last, get Harrowsmith Summer 2024 on Newsstand now! Where Ben & Mark Cullen, give us the dirt on how Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become an alternative way for households to receive fresh, seasonal produce straight from the farm.

Be sure to not miss out on the Almanac 2024/25, subscribe before June 25th at the Mark & Ben Cullen's newsletter friends reduced rate. More info here.