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Yes, You Can Garden Now

Yes, You Can Garden Now

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Yes, You Can Garden Now

There is an opportunity to squeeze much more gardening from the month of April than you likely realize. By “squeeze” we mean enjoy, well before what has traditionally been the start of the gardening season in May.

Sow and Grow

Start vegetable and flowers seeds indoors now. Many garden seeds can be sown now indoors. Frost tender flowers like marigolds, alyssum, zinnias, cosmos and a host more should be started in the next couple of weeks either under grow lights or in a sunny window. Same with tubers of dahlias and tuberous begonias.

There are many opportunities to sow crops directly in your garden. Onions by seed and bulb, carrots, beets, kale, radishes, Swiss chard and peas can be sown now. Prepare the soil by turning it with a garden fork or spade once, bang the clumps out of it and add lots of compost. For root crops, add generous quantities of sharp (sand box) sand at least 30 cm deep to open the soil up and improve drainage.

Wait a few more weeks for flowers that are cold hardy, as we do expect frost for the next 6 weeks in the GTA (zone 6 and north of Highway 7, zone 5). Sow calendula (pot marigold), dusty miller and alyssum outdoors any time from April 15 onwards.


All woody, winter hardy plants are good to go for April planting.

If the plant is dormant and leafless when you buy it you know that it is in its natural state, versus forced in a greenhouse. It is important to know the difference. A plant that is in full leaf is soft and susceptible to frost damage. A dormant tree, shrub or rose plant is naturally protected from temperatures below 0 Celsius. It might not be as attractive but it will transplant more easily.

Perennial divisions

Perennial divisions from your own garden or that of a friend or neighbour, can be planted now. Again, if you are shopping for perennials and they have soft green foliage or flowers, it is best not to plant them yet as the new growth is frost tender. But a dormant hosta or rhubarb root is safe to dig and transplant now. This is the perfect time of year to move most herbaceous perennials around your yard or divide the mature ones and give away the divisions.

Prune fruit trees

Apples, peaches, plums, cherries: most fruit trees respond best to an early spring pruning. As a rule of thumb, we remove up to one third of the growth, concentrating on the upright growing water sprouts and the criss-crossing branches in the interior of the tree.

Perennial food plants

Asparagus, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and the like, are best planted in April, while they are dormant. Buy strawberry plants as one year old roots and plant in compost-rich soil about 30 cm apart.

Raspberries are usually sold as rooted cuttings, about 30 cm high. Plant them out about 50 cm apart. Don’t wait for May, get out in the garden now.

Mark Cullen
Mark Cullen
Ben Cullen
Ben Cullen

Mark and Ben Cullen, professional gardeners, are broadcasters, writers, and public speakers.

Check out their latest podcast.


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4 simple home upgrades you can do yourself

4 simple DIY projects for the home

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4 simple DIY projects for the home

DIY projects are both super exciting and a great way to save some money. After all, you will be doing all of the work yourself and learn quite a bit about home maintenance. Simple home upgrades are not complicated at all, but they might take some time to complete. So if you are willing to put in the work, the results will be stunning.

We live in a time when everything is available online, including home upgrade tutorials. Many websites will offer you step by step guidance with these projects. But remember to keep your private information safe while browsing. One of the best tools for that is a VPN. What is a VPN? This nifty tool will secure your internet connection. It can also give you a warning when you try to load a potentially dangerous website.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best home projects you can do yourself!

Change your room with a fresh coat of paint

You can give a full makeover to any room in your home by simply painting the walls. This DIY project is not complicated at all, and you can complete it in just one weekend. If the current state of your walls is not great and you want to refresh them a bit, pick a color that you like, and get ready for some work.

The right color can completely change the mood of your home. For instance, bright colours such as peach and white can open up space and make it appear bigger. Of course, there are some guidelines you need to follow along the way. You will need to invest in some painting tools as well. Buy different types of brushes, tape, and floor covers. The whole process is fun, and your entire family can help out.

More yellow light

New light fixtures can also do wonders for the ambiance in general. White light bulbs have become a standard in the last couple of years, but they could sometimes be too bright. Yellow light bulbs give more warmth to a room and make you feel relaxed. This DIY hack will not take too much time as you only have to change the bulbs around your home. However, go for LED ones because they are durable and will last longer.

If you are set on improving the lighting situation in your home, consider installing dimmers. These allow you to select the right brightness in each room. Plus, the dimmers are not too expensive but will improve your quality of life. Replace your standard light switches with dimmers and create the perfect mood, regardless of the time of the day.

Decorate your space with plants

Greenery can make any space look more polished and beautiful. Place a couple of potted plants on your shelves or around your home, and you will notice the difference right away. You can start by selecting house plants that are easy to keep alive. These don’t need too much attention, so you can occasionally forget about them. Succulents are another great option because they are small and can survive long periods without water.

Those of you who travel a lot can also go for faux flowers. There is no need to worry about watering these plants all the time. And the best part about faux greenery is that you can pick and choose flowers and create unique decorations or bouquets. But make sure you buy high-quality artificial plants. They could be more expensive but are also super realistic.

Organize your closet

It might seem like a basic home improvement project, but a well-organized closet can make a huge difference. Plus, you won’t be needing any tools unless you want to build more shelves or rearrange the existing ones. Start by cleaning out your entire closet and then sort out the clothes. There are probably some garments you don’t wear anymore, so donate them if they are in good shape.

It will create more room and you will be able to sort out the clothes in a way you find useful. You can make a whole system that could help you find what you are looking for right away. Sort out your clothes by seasons, colours, use or anything you want. Closet organizers and boxes can help you make more space in your closet and keep everything nice and tidy. Don’t forget to wipe the shelves and clean the dust before you put the clothes back in.


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Once upon a seed

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Once upon a seed

We love to sow and grow our own annual flowering plants. There is a measure of satisfaction from the activity that is greater than any that we grow from store-bought transplants.

Growing annuals in the flower border helps to provide colour from spring to fall, bridging the gaps between perennials. By growing your annuals from seed, you get a head start and save some money – and you’ll also get a lot of pleasure from it.

You can start many seeds now through early May, indoors in flats or cell packs and many other seeds lend themselves to sowing direct into the garden soil as early as the second week of April.

Seed packets

Always check the date on the package before you buy. The sell-by date printed on the packet is equally important for seeds as the fresh produce that you purchase from your grocery store and guarantees freshness and successful germination. On the reverse side of each package, you will find complete growing advice, including the number of days you can expect to maturity and whether to plant in sun or shade (essential information!).

Sowing seeds can be as simple or sophisticated as you choose. A sunny window can provide sufficient light, or you may opt for supplemental grow lights. Plasticdomed mini-greenhouses with cell-pack inserts are an excellent alternative to a full-sized greenhouse. The humidity dome helps to seal in moisture and encourages germination. Indoor lighting systems, heating coils and self-watering equipment are available if you are looking for a more advanced approach.

Be sure to use a professional lightweight potting mix, like ProMix Seed Starting Mix, to promote optimum growth. Seed-starting mixes contain sphagnum peat moss and perlite or vermiculite. They have great water retention and drain well.

Peat pellets are another option. They are made from compressed sphagnum peat moss and have a mesh cover. Add water to these pellets and they expand. You can use peat pellets to sow seeds or to root cuttings.

What else will you need?

We recommend that you purchase a small desk fan while shopping for your seeds and supplies. This will help protect against damping off; a fungal disease, which infects young seedlings when there is a lack of air circulation and excessive watering. Place the fan in the same room as your seeding trays to improve air circulation.

ProMix root booster helps all plants develop a strong root system. It has a high concentration of phosphorous, 5-15-5, for strong and rapid root growth in seedlings. Begin feeding seedlings with starter fertilizer once they have their first set of true leaves.

Some plants require up to four months of growth before being planted in the garden. Geraniums are slow-growing and require at least this long to prepare for the outdoors. However, the majority of seeds are ready to be transplanted outdoors in six to 12 weeks from the date they are sown. Seed packets will usually recommend when to start seeds indoors.

Have fun and remember that odds are a packet of seeds is your best bet, if you are betting on anything!

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada. He reaches over 2 million Canadians with his gardening/environment messages every week. Receive his free monthly newsletter at www.markcullen.com

Ben Cullen is a professional gardener with a keen interest in food gardening and the environment. You can follow both Mark and Ben on Twitter (@MarkCullen4), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MarkCullenGardening/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/markcullengardening/).


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Bringing the outdoors inside!

Bringing the outdoors inside!

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Bringing the outdoors inside!

We’ve been seeing a notable movement towards decorating with house plants. With the seasons always feeling so short-lived, decorating with plants is a great way to bring the outdoors inside and enjoy the lushness of greenery all year long. In the world of decorating, plants have a way of making a space feel bright and alive. They add a burst of great colour to a room while creating a relaxed and welcoming ambience.

Plants are very versatile and can be used in a multitude of ways to enhance and revitalize your space. They add colour and texture, and with a bit of creativity in your selections can really boost the character of your home. A large fiddle-leaf fig tree cannot only simply fill a corner of your home, but the scale of this plant with its beautiful dark green, waxy foliage and structured sculptural shapes is a great asset to any design aesthetic. You can find this striking plant equally comfortable in a relaxed “boho” design, as it is in a well-curated modern home.

Plants are a wonderful decor accessory adding life and beauty to your home. However, beyond just the aesthetic value, they also have actual health benefits as they reduce the toxins and improve air quality. They also provide a variety of aromatherapy perks and have been known to lower stress levels, make you feel energized or even simply add a lovely natural fragrance to your home.

Cut flowers are a stunning addition to any room, but can often be costly to maintain on a regular basis. A collection of plants displayed on a vintage silver tray can be a great alternative for a centrepiece, while adding a new layer to your decor. Or perhaps a great little grouping of hanging plants in the corner of your bathroom, with the added accessory of a trendy macrame hanger – a small nod to the 1970s – that would be a perfect complement to your home.

Whatever inspires you, there’s definitely a plant or two that will be perfect for your home decor needs. And should you be thinking that you don’t have a green thumb and will likely end up torching a beautiful live plant, there are fantastic alternatives in the world of faux plants that you can indulge in and still stay on trend with adding the lush look of greenery to your space.

4 tips to bring the outdoors in!:

  • Work with an assortment of plants that vary in heights, scale, colour and texture.
  • Planters and baskets are a great way to further enhance the decor element of your plant selections, but don’t just limit yourself to these items. Air plants and succulents can look fantastic displayed in many different container options.
  • Make sure you don’t keep all your plants on the ground or on table tops. Think about different ways to elevate them off the ground, such as a stack of books.
  • Make sure you are aware of the needs of your plants prior to purchasing them to ensure you benefit from the maximum enjoyment and decor aesthetic.

Linda Mazur is an award-winning, nationally publicized designer and Principal of Linda Mazur Design Group.

With almost two decades of experience this in demand multi-disciplinary design firm is known for creating relaxed stylish spaces and full-scale design builds within Toronto, the GTA and throughout Canada.



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A burst of colour, April shows bring May flowers

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A burst of colour, April shows bring May flowers

During the month of May, local garden centres are receiving their stock of trees, flowering shrubs, evergreens, roses and perennials – often the best selection you’ll find throughout the entire year. In spring, we want magnolias, Japanese maples, flowering cherries and other ornamental trees and shrubs that offer exquisite blooms. The best quality plants are sold first, so if you’re a late spring shopper, you’ll never know the difference between the ‘best’ and the ‘next best’. In this case, the early bird catches the worm of the highest value.

Plants differ in size, colour and texture. However marginal those differences are to the untrained eye, there can be a marked difference, especially where ‘woody’ plants are concerned. Trees, shrubs, fruit trees and evergreens can vary greatly in their appearance at the time of sale. Any retail garden sales consultant will tell you that they spend a lot of time pulling out products, usually from the back of a row, in order to find the perfect specimen.

Early perennials

Barronwort (Epimedium) | They tolerate dry conditions and almost full shade, they flower for several weeks beginning in May, and they make a great ground cover under a dense tree canopy.

Pansies | We’ve planted pansies as early as the 15th of April. They will take some frost and flower best in cool temperatures (under 25°C). They love the sun (east exposure) and are available in an array of vibrant colours.

Violas | These are more frost- and heattolerant than their larger cousins – the pansy. Neither are reliable perennials, so you may want to treat them as annuals. However, they have been known to overwinter after their first year in the garden. Violas often selfseed with aggression.

Peonies | They’re not early bloomers, but they are among our favourite flowers. It’s well worth the wait (late May or early June) for them to produce an abundance of mop head, roselike flowers. They are reliable, winterhardy perennials that come back year after year. In fact, there are peonies that were planted around pioneer cabins more than a century ago that still live on. The peony is more than a perennial – it’s an heirloom.

Don’t plant peonies too deep. Prepare a hole with generous quantities of compost and 30 per cent sharp sand for drainage. Do not place soil more than 10 centimetres over the top of the highest crown bud on a bare-root plant. Divide in September.

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) | Plant this old fashioned favourite in a sunny or semi-shaded garden. The hanging pink, or white, flowers of the original varieties are beautiful, but only bloom for a few short days. The newer ‘Luxuriant’ variety blooms for weeks on end, beginning in mid- June, throughout the summer and into early autumn.

Other early blooming perennials include trilliums (nursery grown, never taken from the wild), primula, tiarella, geranium and brunnera. Plan, peruse and then plant in well prepared soil.

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada, and provides gardening advice to more than 2,000,000 Canadians each week. Ben Cullen’s specialty is food gardening. markcullen.com; Facebook @MarkCullenGardening; Pinterest @MarkCullenGardening.


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Improve home health and wellness with these 10 plants

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Improve home health and wellness with these 10 plants

By: Andy DeSantis RD MPH


With spring finally upon us it truly time for homeowners to start thinking about their gardens and plant life.

Whether or not you garden out of necessity or passion, today’s article is all about the versatility of plants and the fact that they serve much more than an aesthetic purpose.

Studies in older adults show that the presence of plants in their living space can contribute to an improved sense of wellbeing.

It doesn’t end there either. Different plants can serve different purposes in your home.

Some are superb bug repellents, others exceptional air purifiers while some are great choices for those living with allergies.

Air Purifying Plants


Most of us spend the vast majority of our lives indoors, which means we spend most of our lives breathing indoor air.

What you may not have heard, however, is that everyday indoor items give off low levels of air pollutants such as formaldehyde.

Although it’s hard to quantify the actual effect these pollutants have on our health, there are certain varieties of plants that are known to be particularly effective at absorbing these pollutants from the air.

Bamboo Palm

Bamboo Palm is an excellent choice for homes, or areas of homes, that get a ton of natural light. They are an incredibly aesthetic plant and grow quite tall and are known to be able to absorb a variety of indoor pollutants.

Peace Lily

A smaller plant better suited for shady areas, peace lilies will flower all summer long and enhance a room with their natural fragrance. They may not be appropriate for those who are bothered by pollen though and should be kept away from pets and small children.

Other candidates: Garden mum, Boston fern.

Bug Repellent Plants


I don’t think anyone truly enjoys an excessive insect presence in their gardens.

And while growing certain varieties of insect-repellent plants in itself is not the only step you need to take to prevent a mosquito invasion, it can help.


Lavender is an excellent example of a multi-purpose plant. It helps to repel flies, mosquitoes and moths.

Lavender can be utilized both in and outdoors, provides a beautiful fragrance and is extraordinarily aesthetic. The oil from its leaves can also be extracted for use as an essential body oil with healing effects.

Other candidates: mint, basil, parsley

Hypoallergenic Plants


Allergies are annoying but can be controlled by selecting the right plants for our garden.


Roses are red, violets are blue and they happen to be plants that won’t bother you!

How’s that for a nursery rhyme? No pun intended.

In all seriousness, violets are a classic selection that are among the least allergenic garden plants and make an excellent choice for those living with allergies.

Other candidates: Summer hyacinth.

There you have it folks, a plant for every purpose!

*Article courtesy of EiEiHome


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Take Back Your Backyard Privacy

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Take Back Your Backyard Privacy

By Chris Palmer

This is the year to bring back privacy to your outdoor spaces. With neighbourhoods getting denser, and Ontario’s population growing, backyard privacy is becoming more important and hard to achieve for homeowners. Good news is there are easy solutions to enhance backyard privacy so that everyone can create their dream outdoor living space.

Spring is the perfect time to create an outdoor living room to escape to with lush planters, rich jewel tones and eco-friendly privacy solutions to create a visual outline for your backyard.

Whether you’re working with a large or small budget, the trick is to get creative with your existing surroundings to provide a natural aesthetic that creates privacy.

Plants: Regardless of whether you’re working with a small or large backyard, adding some low-maintenance greenery can optimize privacy while adding some visual appeal. Alternatively, you can plant tall grass in raised planters, which creates a nice blind while allowing the wind to pass through easily. If greenery isn’t enough, buy fast-growing trees that work with your backyard location, which can offer privacy and shade.

Pergola: Overhead privacy structures and pergolas provide endless possibilities to add style, privacy and shade to your backyard. A great outdoor investment that also increases the value of your property, much like a deck would. It also creates the sense of an outdoor room. To add personality, plant climbing vines to gradually colonize the structure for a natural, soothing canopy. And try trailing fashionable vintage lights or lanterns to bring a touch of the indoors outside.

Horizontal privacy: Horizontal or woven privacy screens are also a great aesthetic addition that can help create that separation in your backyard from neighbours. They also provide a cool lounge feel to any outdoor space. Many of my clients are always looking to build more sustainably and are more aware of the ecological impact of certain materials. An industry secret is MicroPro Sienna, which is an eco-friendly pressure- treated wood that’s affordable and at about half the price of cedar.

Upcycling: I’m a big fan of transforming unwanted old furniture or doors into unique outdoor accents. You can easily make over a vintage door into a privacy wall to add a personal and vintage touch. A fun and affordable project that also reduces our carbon footprint!

Furniture and accessories: Brighten up shady corners with vivid jewel tones, shades and vibrant patterns. If your backyard feels like you’re on vacation, then every time you step outside will be invigorating. Feel refreshed with sunshine yellow bistro chairs, bright blue accessories and modern white tables to entertain your family and friends this spring behind colourful and multi-tasking privacy curtains.

Often billed as Canada’s Favourite Handyman, Chris Palmer has quickly become a household name through his thoughtful and creative DIYs. With a strong focus on handcrafted woodwork, Chris has turned his passion into a career creating custom projects through his company Handcrafted by Chris Palmer. He made his national debut on the hit HGTV show Canada’s Handyman Challenge.



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January 2017 eNewsletter

Beat The Winter Blues With Garden-Inspired Scents

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Beat The Winter Blues With Garden-Inspired Scents

(News Canada) — Many of us crave the fresh sights and scents of the warm weather in the depths of winter. And even though it’s not spring yet, you can beat the winter blues by transforming your home into a fragrant, garden-scented oasis.

Fragrances from common backyard plants can enhance our mood and lift our winter-weary sprits.

“Plants have scent characteristics that evoke specific emotions and even have wellness properties,” says scent sommelier Pam Helms, co-founder of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. “There’s relaxing lavender, cool and crisp basil, energizing lemon verbena or soothing honeysuckle. Energizing scents work best in the kitchen, while something more relaxing is ideal for the bathroom or bedroom.”

Helms explains how you can bring different scents into your home.

“Natural, plant-scented candles or diffusers are an easy way to bring freshness to every room,” recommends Helms. “If you’re feeling creative, make your own indoor scented garden with pretty planters. Not only will it smell amazing, but it’ll add a pop of colour, too.”

Another practical way to add incredible scents to your home is through cleaning and creating an aroma therapeutic experience while you do it.

“It provides you with a wonderful sensory experience while cleaning to make the process more enjoyable, and also leaves your home smelling like a fresh garden,” Helms explains. “Use products that combine essential oils in fragrance compositions, like new-to-Canada Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. The line of products includes pleasing scents that you’ll want to use again and again.”

To bring garden scents to your home, check out a DIY planter project from Grace Bonney, founder of Design Sponge, at http://www.mrsmeyers.com/



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