In This Issue:
Pass On Principle
Pumps for Food
Plant and Dream
Things To Do
Product of the Month
100 Red Poppies
Year of the Cucumber
As I write this monthly message my son in Halifax is house bound: the university
is shut down as is his local Sobeys.
He can't feed his mind or his stomach, unless he squeezes his 'at home' resources
[studying might be an idea, you think?] Such is the ongoing dilemma of a memorable
The forecast is for sunnier and warmer days ahead, right across the country [with
apologies to friends on the B.C. coast who have been basking in it for a while.
Wait a minute, why did I just apologize? Oh, forget it.]
This past month I had an adventure that I wish to share with you: I flew to El Salvador
on a 5 day monitoring trip with S.H.A.R.E. Agriculture Foundation.
It was my 4th such trip and 2nd to El Salvador in 10 years.
The goal of these trips is to witness the results of the work that is being done
'on the ground' with hard earned Canadian dollars. For every dollar raised from
private sources [like you and me] C.I.D.A. [Ottawa] match with 3 more dollars [tax
dollars, like yours and mine]. So it behooves me to see what gives where the rubber
meets the road.
I am happy to report that this organization is doing a masterful job of opening
doors of prosperity to a great number of people in Central and South America. SHARE
supports landless people and subsistence farmers with the tools and resources that
they need to get a start. The slogan 'A Hand Up not a Hand Out' originated with
this organization 35 years ago.
When I talk about 'opening doors of prosperity' I mean it as a relative thing. None
of the people that I visited in the remote mountains villages of El Salvador would
even dream of the kind of material wealth that we enjoy here in Canada. For them
a definition of great wealth would be a cow. One cow per family. A female that
gives milk, can be bred for more cows and at the end of the day can be consumed:
that is the ultimate gift.
Pass On Principle
One of the key rules that guides the SHARE strategy is the 'Pass On' principle.
This is a rule that, for every gift of resources provided, the fruits of it must
be passed on to other needy people. A cow has calves, which are given away to cow-less families. The wealth is therefore spread around to people who can really use it.
The Canadians who volunteer to lead the monitoring trips have been doing so for
many years and know their stuff. In my case, the trip was led by Les and Marg Frayne of Fergus, Ontario. Volunteers they may be but amateurs they are not.
Pumps for Food
While in El Salvador I travelled with my good friend Dr. James Clubine. He is the
minister at Central United Church in Unionville, Ontario.
This was his first 'SHARE' monitoring trip and he was quite overwhelmed by the experience.
So much so that he suggested that we come home and raise some money to help supply
30 water pumps to Salvadorian and Honduran farmers.
The pumps provide water through a cistern system that 'dribbles' water very efficiently down to a 2 or 3 acre 'garden'. We witnessed a couple of these 'Pumps for Food'
projects and were impressed by the incredible productivity for only a $1,200 [Canadian] investment per pump/system. They can generate up to 3 crops a year from the same land using these pump systems and they make otherwise marginally productive land
So we are now on the hook to raise $40,000 for SHARE over the next 2 years.
Would you help us? If you possibly can, a tax receipt is in it for you AND the
satisfaction that your money is being invested in places where it is desperately
needed AND being monitored by volunteers, at their own expense [there is no admin
charge on donated money]. Please donate today, or you will forget.
And speaking of food, a friend who was following me on face book sent me this message about another worthy organization:
Camille DePutter wrote:
Nutritional gardens can be a powerful food security tool. As an example, let's look
to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). As an international
NGO focused on preventing and treating malnutrition, Action Against Hunger has been
expanding our efforts in this vulnerable country in response to increasing needs.
Due to civil war, malnutrition in CAR has increased exponentially in recent months.
In February, we found that over 7 percent of children screened are suffering from
severe acute malnutrition - the kind that kills. It's considered an emergency when
that rate is 2 percent or higher.
Plant and Dream
It is April: soon it will be time to prepare your garden for planting. If you are
sowing some early peas, carrots, lettuce and the like I hope that you will think
for a bit about the wonderful gifts of food that spring from the soil, with a little tending.
Here in Canada there is some great work being done in our urban centres where growing food and making it accessible to all is concerned. I wrote a 2 part series of articles for my syndicated newspaper column this month that you might be interested in reading.
Using 'The Stop' in Toronto as a model, Community Food Centres Canada are gaining
traction in Dartmouth, Winnipeg, Perth and elsewhere. It is pretty exciting stuff.
'Things To Do in your garden' this month:
Start seeds indoors. Virtually all transplants that you wish to plant out come
mid to late May should be started this month. Some now [peppers, leeks, snapdragons, alyssum] and others in a couple of weeks [tomatoes, zinnias, asters etc.].
When frost is out of the ground, sow your first crop of peas, carrots, onions, lettuce,
radishes and mesclun mix. These are somewhat frost hardy and can take the light
frost of late April and early May.
Apply dormant spray. Control overwintering diseases and insects on all fruit trees,
roses, most shrubs and deciduous trees with an application of dormant spray. You
will buy two bottles [likely in one box] one is Dormant Oil and the other is Lime
Sulphur. Mix according to directions and apply when night temperatures are reliably
above zero Celsius and BEFORE the blossom or leaf buds open.
* Rake gently to raise grass blades and open up the root zone to oxygen.
* Fertilize with Golfgreen [it is the only fertilizer that I use on my lawn] which
contains slow release nitrogen and DDP Iron for a deeper, richer green. Lasts up
to 10 weeks.
* Thin patches are best thickened with 2 to 4 cm of Mark's Choice Lawn soil or triple mix spread over the area, Golfgreen grass seed broadcast over the area by hand,
rake smooth [gently] and step in the works to bring soil/seed together. Water until
* Aerate if the soil is compacted, while there is plenty of winter moisture in the
Prune apple trees now [not when the buds are swelling].
Prune cedar hedges for shape.
Apply a layer of 2 to 4 centimeters of triple mix or 70% compost/30% sharp sand
to your entire garden. Do not turn it under: let the earth worms do this for you.
Remove the spent soil from last year's containers: spread this on the garden. It
is good stuff, just not good enough to use again in your containers.
Replace used container mix with Pro-Mix or Mark's Choice Container Soil available at Home Hardware [made by the same people as Pro-Mix].
Relax, enjoy and breathe deep. You have earned this spring!
Keep your knees dirty,
Merchant of Beauty.
p.s. be sure to visit your nearest Mark Cullen Approved Home Hardware Garden Centre
[listed below] for the very best in service and selection. We now have 20 locations
in the family! I am very proud of them all.....
Mark's Choice Product of the Month
I used to think of the accident that could happen should I slip and cut myself when
I turn my garden knife upside-down to sharpen it, but not with the Mark's Choice
This is the best sharpener I have ever used, and not just because it works like
a charm and creates a razor sharp edge, but because it's safe. The high impact
plastic wrist wrap prevents cuts when you use a down stroke to get the sharpness
that you want.
The high carbon steel sharpener puts a fine edge on hand pruners knives, loppers,
and garden shears. Keep one in the garage and another in the tool shed!
Exclusive to Home Hardware (item# 1074-627)
100 Red Poppies
I received this email from Teresa Glover this week.
"On 28 July 2014 it will be 100 years since the start of WW1. To remember the men
and women that fought in that war I thought it would be a lovely idea if the Towns
& Cities across Canada planted 100 red poppies in their public gardens to mark this
The poppy tradition came from WW1 and given that John McCrae author of 'In Flanders
Field" was a Canadian it would be a great tribute to him also. I began writing to
mayors all across Canada and so far 40 have responded enthusiastically stating that
they will indeed plant the 100 red poppies in public gardens.
I am hoping that my friends and neighbours will join my campaign by planting some
red poppies this Spring to mark this important centenary. I am also asking Garden
Clubs if they could encourage their members to also plant some poppies this Spring
and wonder if you could mention this to your listeners and on your website. Most
towns are planting the Flanders Field poppy Papaver Rhoeas. Many thanks, Teresa
Glover Cobourg, ON."
I am happy to share Teresa's wonderful idea with my newsletter subscribers. I encourage
you all to join in.
2014 is the Year of the Cucumber
Every year, National Garden Bureau names one edible, one annual and one perennial
as featured crops for a year. 2014 is the Year of the Cucumber.
The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are
very easy to grow from seed. They like to bask in the sun, so choosing a site in
full sun is of prime consideration.
Soil should be light, fertile and well-drained. Amending the soil with plenty of
compost or well-rotted manure will ensure good yields. Check soil drainage before
planting, as a soggy garden will promote disease and cut down production.
How much space is allotted to the cucumber patch depends on the variety chosen.
Standard types may spread 4 to 6 feet; grow them 4 to 5 feet apart. The restricted
vines of dwarf and bush varieties require much less space; some as little as 2 square
Seeds should be sown when the soil has warmed up to 70 F. Sow a seed every 6 inches
pushing it into the soil to a depth of 1 inch. Cover with light soil or sand, firm
well and keep moist. Seedlings should emerge in about a week. When the plants
are 2 inches high, thin them to 1 foot apart.
Source: National Garden Bureau