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MARK AND BEN CULLEN: Mid-June ‘sweet spot’ for gardening

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It is hard to believe we just wound down the professional hockey season as the gardening season hits its stride.

Humans have control over the timing of the Stanley Cup but control over planting seasons is firmly in the hands of nature.

Truth is, the gardening season is a series of seasons. Each plant species or genus has its’ own rhythm. Mid-June is a sweet spot on the gardening calendar as it is not too late to plant most anything and it is right on target for the “hot crops” like potatoes, tomatoes and impatiens.

It is a few weeks late to sow broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and like from seed but you can plant transplants now with good success.

Annual flowers can and should be planted within the next week if you want them to meet your expectations for garden performance. You will find petunias, marigolds, zinnias, bacopa, and the like, available now at garden retailers in larger format three and a half and four-inch pots. They cost significantly more per plant than the 4-packs that were available in May.

You can plant the small transplants of four packs this weekend if you can find them at retailers. You can still expect great garden performance this summer from the less expensive versions. However, make sure that they do not show signs of stress. Yellowing leaves and densely rooted containers are a sign to you, the buyer, that your new plants will sit in the garden for up to several weeks before they begin to grow.

Stressed plants are lazy. If you plant them, you will need to be patient if you want your garden to fill in and become the showpiece that you dream of.

Perennials, potted roses, shrubs, herbs and trees can be planted now. Keep in mind that we are on the threshold of summer and that means you will have to water more frequently then you did in May. There is no magic rule for water frequency. To determine whether your newly planted garden needs water, use your finger, press it through the surface of the soil about 5 cm or two inches or your second knuckle. If it feels cool or damp, don’t water. If it is dry, water deeply.

One more caveat with June planting is sunshine. The sun is more intense this time of year than at any other. If you plant in blazing sun, place a light bed sheet or newspaper over the plants during the few hours mid day to shield them from the burning and dehydrating rays of the sun. Do this for a week or so, until the new plants are accustomed to the intensity of the sun this time of year. Summer solstice is only a week away, June 21.


One of then most-asked questions since the demise of the impatiens, due to a world-wide outbreak of downy mildew, “When can I safely buy impatiens again?”

The answer is spring yes, spring 2020. Two large seed hybridizers have been competing to beat the clock on this one, as the demand is anticipated to be sky high when disease-resistant varieties finally get to the retail market. Look for Imara, which is Swahili for “strength and resistance” from Syngenta seeds while impatiens Beacon will be introduced from Pan Am seeds. Ben believes that Pam Am would be smart to call their new impatiens series Bacon to appeal to the male buyer. Mark will go for strength and resistance. Stay tuned.

Enjoy June 21 is the long day of the year.

Happy summer solstice.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at, @markcullengardening, and on Facebook.

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