Carson Arthur’s outdoor expertise comes to Ottawa when the popular speaker, TV personality and writer takes to the main stage at the Ottawa Home & Garden Show March 23 and 24. He’ll be tackling how anyone can grow food by redefining the traditional backyard to work for today’s homeowner.
Arthur is especially interested in how millennials — those folks born between 1977 and 1997 — are enthusiastic about growing their own food but uncertain when it comes to actually doing it. In fact, he’s just published a new book, Vegetables, Chickens & Bees, that walks readers through the whole process of producing their own food, whether it’s lettuce and tomatoes or fresh eggs.
“Millennials are right at that stage where they’re pairing off, thinking about having families and they want to be homeowners versus condo owners. One of the big reasons they want to be homeowners is they want to raise their children with outdoor experiences, specifically having gardens.”
They also want to incorporate more vegetables into their diets at the very moment that the price of fresh fruit and vegetables is rising.
Millennials missed out on gardening
Problem is, many millennials don’t know how to grow vegetables, according to Arthur. It seems that their Generation X parents didn’t do a whole lot of gardening, in part because they didn’t want to put their limited amount of free time into it. “The whole (idea of) low-maintenance gardens really came out of that (generation),” he says. Instead, they hired people to do it for them.
However, their kids, faced with skyrocketing home prices, debt and an uncertain job market, can’t afford to hire experts. At the same time, they are confused by the conflicting information they find online about everything from planting vegetables to caring for backyard chickens and bees in urban settings.
Which is where Arthur — whose humorous, you-can-do-it approach offers neighbourly reassurance to the uncertain — comes in. So does his book: it includes tables so you can match vegetables with the number of hours of sun you get in your backyard or condo garden.
It’s also where technology comes in. Although homes have gotten bigger, many yards have shrunk, leaving less room for gardens. If you live in a condo, you have even fewer square feet for a vegetable patch. And busy lives can make it tough to find the time for garden maintenance, including watering. Solutions like IKEA’s open-source Growroom — a spherical structure that produces enough food for multiple people in a small space — vertical gardens on walls and fences, and self-watering systems are solutions to the space and time issue, according to Arthur.
As to those backyard chickens — a topic Arthur has become expert in, partly by getting it wrong more than once — Ottawa doesn’t permit them in urban areas. Maybe more to the point, you shouldn’t think it’s going to save you money: the cost of a hen house, bedding, food and everything else will make those eggs the most expensive you’ve ever eaten.
He also stresses that chickens, like bees or any animals that we take under our wing, are a very real commitment and that even backyard farmers have a responsibility for their care and well being. “I want you to think about it before you make a decision,” he says.
More at the Ottawa Home & Garden Show
This year’s home and garden show is about a lot more than chickens and bees, of course.
There are over 200 exhibitors representing everything from pool and spa suppliers to home and cottage builders, renovators, and outdoor living experts.
And there is a children’s workshop.
The Living Landscape feature is also back with seven inspirational gardens to get you moving on your own. Visitors can also vote for the People’s Choice Award for the best garden and attend a raised garden demonstration.
And there is a full slate of speakers along with Carson Arthur. Handyman pro and TV favourite Chris Palmer will bring his renovation and DIY expertise to the main stage. Also returning is award-winning Sue Pitchforth of Décor Therapy Plus with her special approach to transforming indoor and outdoor spaces.
Other presenters abound, including All Things Home co-founder Anita Murray, who will sit down with acclaimed landscape designer Stephanie Scott from Yards Unlimited for a Q&A on turning a new yard or one that needs an overhaul from a dud to a stud. That presentation is on Thursday, March 21, 5-6 p.m.
The Ottawa Home & Garden Show runs March 21-24 at the EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr.
Hours: Thursday & Friday, noon-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tickets: $9-$13 depending on age.
Special pricing includes Seniors’ Day, March 21: 2 for 1 tickets for all seniors (at box office only).
Information: 613-667-0509, website.