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New book and garden centre embrace spring with ideas to grow forward

Carson Arthur – Photo by Denise Jones

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Excitement for a new growing season is building for Carson Arthur with with the opening of a new garden centre and the launch of his newest book.

Arthur is best known from his HGTV and CityTV television appearances, radio broadcasts and many news and magazine columns over his illustrious career as a landscape designer.

He describes the new garden centre as a purpose-build, comfortably rustic structure located on Wilson Road featuring a seed wall, locally-sourced seeds, exquisite Japanese tools and culinary plants.

Having moved to the County several years ago, he renovated a home and created a garden to tend, where he grows vegetables, raises chickens and cares for bees. And then came the idea for a book.

This is not his first book, but it is his first about growing food. Vegetables, Chickens and Bees: An Honest Guide to Growing Your Own Food Anywhere was released in February 2019 and includes many of his own photographs and is an honest, authentic and funny account of real-life gardening, where Arthur often tells it just how it is.

Unlike many gardening books, Arthur says he isn’t afraid to mention the pitfalls, or experiences others won’t tell about – such as the rats that moved in when he tried straw bale gardening. Readers will also learn about his experiment of putting sweaters on his chickens.

“The book was everything I loved about gardening, but specific to vegetables, chickens and bees. I didn’t want to talk about roses, boxwoods and hedges, I wanted to talk about the things that give back,” said Arthur, who notes the book was very much a labour of love for him.

“I wanted people to feel confident that they could just grow food in any capacity, so that’s what I talked about, doesn’t matter your parameters – but also to understand your scenario, because everybody’s house is different and completely unique and I wanted you to be able to understand the criteria within each situation as it pertains to you and then apply that knowledge into growing.”

The name of the book began as a bit of a joke, he explains.

“Sometimes a pickle just needs to be called a pickle, not a gherkin, not one of those fancy names, so we said let’s just call it vegetables, chickens and bees because that’s what it is. It’s a pickle label, straight up,” he laughs.

He also includes a small section of his favourite vegetable recipes in the book.

His first taste of growing, how to preserve and get food on the table, comes from working in the garden alongside his mom and grandmother.

It is geared not only to seasoned gardeners, but also to beginners and to those with limited growing knowledge.

Arthur points out the best veggies to start with and those easy for kids to try, such as the simple and forgiving carrot, right up to the vegetable (or fruit) Arthur admits to having a crush on: the eggplant.

Early seedlings growing in the greenhouse at Carson’s Garden + Market.

The growing continues in his new garden centre which will focus on heirloom edibles.

“It’s really supposed to motivate the idea that the food that we eat comes from the spaces that we live,” said Arthur. “And I really wanted people to feel motivated to do that in a way that wasn’t overwhelming. I often find for a lot of people that gardening is overwhelming.”

Arthur also relishes sharing the information he’s gained over the years as a landscape designer, profiling needs and habits of various generations.

“There is the baby boomer demographic who are gardeners, then Generation X followed them and they weren’t gardeners. They just didn’t want to garden, they would rather hire somebody else to do it, and that’s where the landscapers came in. We have this new demographic with the millennials coming in and they love to garden again,” he says.

The book also covers sunlight hours needed to grow certain crops, the best seeds to buy, the cycle of weeds and the best in companion planting, fondly described by Arthur as the ‘wedding-table seating chart’.

Part of the impressive seed wall at Carson’s Garden + Market.

“Within the book, I talk about vintage and heirloom and non-GMO seeds and this whole collection is that,” he said, referring to the seed wall inside the garden centre. “It is all the best of the best from the last 50 to 100 years. I even have some varieties that are over one thousand years old.”

Carson Arthur with his new book Vegetables, Chickens and Bees.

Arthur says it doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your gardening career.

He wants readers and visitors to reminisce or at least compare notes on all he’s tried and tested.

“People always see things through the rose-coloured glasses when looking on the internet and a lot of these inspirational garden projects don’t always work,” he said. “I went through a lot of the more popular ones and said, why would you do this? I’ve tried it and it didn’t work and I’m a gardener.”

Most important, he notes is being smart about growing food, especially if you are trying to feed your family.

There’s 240-pages of gardening goodness and mouth-watering colour photography in Vegetables, Chickens and Bees: An Honest Guide to Growing Your Own Food Anywhere.
The book is available now at Books and Company and Zest Kitchen Shop, and at Chapters in Belleville. It is also at many retailers across Canada, including Amazon and Lee Valley. It can also be purchased at the grand opening of Carson’s Garden + Market May 4 at 1323 Wilson Rd. Hillier

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  1. Hey Dave.

    We just got our new civic address. 1317 Wilson Rd. Hillier.
    Website and the phone work though

    Come say hello this May

  2. Hey Joel. I’m glad strawbales work for you and I talk about that in my book. I just wanted to point out why they didnt work for me. No bird feeder, no other incentive for the rats to move in…but they did. There is a similar problem on the east coast right now with strawbale gardens being banned in residential areas like Halifax. I just want my readers to understand that some of the ways people grow food also have other side effects. We should all do research and understand the choices we make BEFORE we run off and invest.

  3. […] New book and garden centre embrace spring with ideas to grow forward Defining your property line, in style Think Spring! Part 1 […]

  4. Joel says:

    You’re full of beans! I’ve done straw bale gardening for ten years and never had a rat! Once I started using bales I will never ever go back to growing in the soil again, because it is so much easier and productive with far less work. I also can plant earlier and it doesn’t give me tomato blight like I used to get. Maybe you had bird feeders near your garden, because this is what I’ve read causes rats or maybe you just have rats! Also I’ve read that it is important to keep the garden moist which makes sense because rodents would want to live where it is wet.

  5. Administrator says:
    1323 Wilson Rd.
    Hillier, Ontario
    (613) 243-2492

  6. Dave says:

    You can’t publish the address? or the web site or phone number???

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