Mark Cullen: Beating the Heat

From Mark Cullen’s website:

If we do hit a short dry spell you may have garden plants that are wilting before your eyes. Some plants speak to us by drooping their leaves like a child who drags their knuckles on the kitchen floor, pouting for another cookie. Plants pout too. My rudebeckia and hydrangeas pout all of the time when it is hot and dry. Like a responsible parent, I don’t always pay attention. Put another way, I don’t choose to ignore them, I just don’t respond to them in a panic.

When you do water your garden do it between sun set and sun rise as much of the water that passes through your lawn sprinkler mid day is lost to evaporation. Water deeply. Apply H2O using a slow-mo device. I made this word up to describe the wide variety of great products that are on the market designed to slowly eek water to the root zone of plants. These are designed to be economical [as they save you water] and effective [as they move water to the root zone of plants, where it is needed]. Some of the slo-mo products include:

Weeping hoses. A hose with perforations in it that allows water to seep out slowly, not in a stream but more like a sponge that oozes water when it is full. Weeping hoses are made of either a tough synthetic fabric or recycled rubber. Both work best when they are buried under 4 to 6 cm. of bark mulch. I prefer the fabric ones as they last longer under the extraordinary hose pressure that I have at my place.

Heart Breaker. This is a Canadian designed water sprinkler that pulverizes the water into a mist and delivers it low, in a circular pattern and without a ‘hallow’ effect [where a portion of the ground beneath the water being applied is missed, creating a doughnut of dryness surrounded by wet]. Look for the Mark’s Choice line up at Home Hardware.

In-ground watering systems. Watch out for these as they can waste more water than a leaky faucet. If you own one, I recommend that you turn off the timer, unless it is one of the new ‘smart timers’ that knows when it is raining and the ground is already wet. One of my pet peeves is to see lawn sprinklers blasting away while the rain is pouring down. This happens in industrial parks all of the time. Ugggh. “If I was mayor of this city….!”

Turn on your in-ground lawn and garden sprinklers when the ground is dry, not until. And, I repeat, turn your lawn watering system off during a drought. It just does not make sense to try to keep a lawn active when it wants to sleep.


Forgive me for saying this once before, but it is important to know [and most people don’t] that all plants need oxygen at their root zone. When the soil around their roots dries out, the spaces between soil particles are filled with air [oxygen] and the roots are allowed to breath. This is a very good thing. Odd as it may sound more plants are killed by overwatering than underwatering. I have learned this based on more than a few years of retail gardening. I use rain-barrel water on all of my container plants and I think that their performance demonstrates the benefits very well.

Watering Trees

Oddly enough, Janet MacKay, Executive Director of LEAF here in Toronto tells me that the biggest challenge they have when they plant a tree for someone is to get them to water it regularly. So let’s define ‘regularly’. For a newly planted tree this means several gallons of water once a week, poured onto the root zone slowly enough that the water is absorbed by the soil around the new tree. This is why we create a crater of soil around the base of a newly planted tree and then mulch it with finely ground up bark mulch, which acts as a great insulator from the drying effects of the sun. You apply water to a new tree weekly for the first year, once every 2 weeks for the second year and once a month in the 3rd year and then the tree is on its own, until a drought comes along when you will water it deeply once again.

Which Plants?
There are many plants that are suitable for harsh, dry conditions. Of the many thousand perennials available, the sempervivums and sedums are extraordinary survivors in hot sun. Make that ‘thrivers’! Once they have been pampered with regular watering while getting established after planting, you can enjoy the summer off.

Many popular evergreens like mugo pine, junipers, taxus [yews] and cedars enjoy a dry spell from time to time. That is why we use so many of them in foundation plantings under the eave and soffit of our houses where rain seldom, if ever, falls.

Annuals that thrive on very little water include the brilliantly colourful portulaca [which grows between the patio slabs in my yard all on their own], dwarf zinnias, gazania, Cape Daisy, English ivy, spider plant, asparagus fern and good old-fashioned Boston fern.

When planting in containers I advise that you put a Water Wick bag right at the root zone of each plant. Put it in water until it has absorbed 400 times its weight and is nice and fat. Place it in the bottom of the hole where it will make direct contact with the roots. As your plants require moisture they will pull from the Water Wick and when you water your plants the bag fills up with water for a new charge. They are all natural [mostly sea kelp and corn starch] so no worries where the environment and kids are concerned.

Wacky weather patterns aside, do your garden and yourself a favour by watering smartly and only when (and where) absolutely necessary.


What events would make the Pan Am Games more AWESOME?

What if the host country got to add its OWN events to the Pan Am games? Some of our listeners suggested:

ladder ball

horse shoes (toilet seat?)


corn hole (bean bag toss)

washer toss

dodge ball

fly fishing

And of course, some games need to have authentic rules:

Street hockey:

-Games will be played with wet tennis balls

-Body checking ONLY allowed on the grass

-Game clock is paused when ball enters the neighbour’s hedge

-Goalie’s must use regulation bike helmets, baseball gloves and knee-high pads. If goalie gets injured, the back up goalie is the plastic one from Canadian Tire. (already has a better GAA than the human goalie)

-One player for each team is designated “CAR” shouter

-Slap shots must NOT be aimed at the groin, unless the goalie is wearing a cup

-EVERYONE’S little brother must have a spot on the team, no matter how terrible they are

-Game only ends when mom lets the dog out to steal the tennis ball

TimBit Beer Pong

-5 players per side

-Must only use official Solo Cups or approved medium Tim Hortons coffee cups

-Only regulation ping pong or picnic tables (home team gets the side with the least amount of bird poop)

-TimBits must NOT have jelly filling for added weight

-All beer must be 4.5% ABV or higher.

-In the event of a tie, there will be a 3 on 3 overtime where players must also Roll-up-the-Rim and flip the cup on the table

Thanks for your suggestions! Have any to add?

Halfway through 2015

How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along? If you’re like me – the old-fashioned type who still makes them.

For me, they’ve worked to keep me on track with a specific life goal – be it a tangible achievement like skydiving or seeing the Eiffel Tower, or general improvement in a certain facet of life: physical health, stress, financial management etc.

If you remember, I said in January that I’d set a goal to run a half marathon (21km) within the calendar year. I even said it on the air as a small way of holding myself accountable. Since January 6th, I’ve been working behind the scenes to prepare. I love athletics, but this is was a brand new challenge worthy of much more endurance and ability than anything I’d done before.

Sacrifices? Heck yes. Those times at the end of a long work day when I just wanted to plop on the couch and snooze? I went out running instead. Weekend BBQ’s missed because Sundays are training days? Yes, unfortunately. And cutting back on beer? Man.

This week, I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon, and crossed “run a half marathon” off of the “Goals for 2015” list posted on my fridge. Makes me happy! -Adam

PopSugar just put out a pretty insightful new list: “13 Things You Must Give Up to Be Happy”

  1. Bad spending habits! Stop accumulating debt. Make a budget and stick to it!
  2. Waiting for the perfect moment. There’s never the perfect time. Live in the moment.
  3. Give up you social media obsession.
  4. Give up living in the past.
  5. Give up yearning to fit in.
  6. Give up your disorganized lifestyle.
  7. Give up over-analyzing situations.
  8. Give up your need to have the best things.
  9. Give up toxic relationships.
  10. Give up your hesitation to indulge. Have fun every now and then.
  11. Give up comparing yourself to others.
  12. Give up your packed schedule.
  13. Give up relying on others to make you feel happy and fulfilled.