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It’s Time to Get Your Yards Prepped for Spring!

HGTV star Carson Arthur shares his landscaping and gardening dos and don’ts.

When Ontario-based landscaper Carson Arthur isn’t jetting off across Canada to attend the Edmonton Home and Garden Show (see him on the Main Stage March 22 to 25), he’s at his Prince Edward County home, with his 10 chickens and a swarm of bees—in 2015, Arthur tore up the grass in his backyard to create a wildflower garden that now houses two beehives. Since then, he’s expanded his urban farm to include 25 raised vegetable beds, and he’s currently in the process of building an heirloom garden centre on the property (which will be open to the public).

According to Arthur, we’re seeing a real trend towards growing vegetables, driven by millennials “who want to have the experience of growing vegetables in their own outdoor spaces—they want to try, success or not; it’s all about the experience.” So, whether you’re just starting out with your first condo garden or if you’re looking to up the value of your home with a front-yard facelift, here are Arthur’s best landscape and gardening tips (yes, those are two different things. Who knew?).

(Photo: Carson Arthur.)

Carson Arthur’s Best Landscaping Tips

Landscaping refers to hard-scaping projects: outdoor decks, patios, stonework and woodwork.

1. Add value to your home with a well-designed front yard.
According to several online studies that Arthur has read, a good first impression can increase a home’s value between 8 and 15 percent—”[that’s] a big number in most home budgets,” he says. “Creating a little bit of character in the front yard is so important for creating that first impression.” But don’t think you have to invest in a lot of plant material; a nice door, planters on either side of the entrance or a bench out front will really make a difference.

2. Don’t use shrubs or trees to create privacy.
Arthur cautions against using shrubs or trees to block-out neighbours: “Most evergreens and cedars are pure-middle in shape, which means the very top of the tree is the absolute smallest part,” he says. “For that thick part to get high enough to hide your neighbour, you’re looking at between 10 and 15 years.” This is an even bigger problem when you decided to put shrubs at the very end of your property line. A simple lattice panel directly beside your deck or patio is the best way to get instant privacy—and it’s easy enough to install in just one weekend.

3. Keep grassy areas to a minimum.
“Don’t sacrifice usable space (patios, decks and other areas that can house furniture) for bigger lawns,” says Arthur. Most homebuyer these days don’t want the work or the hassle associated with big grassy areas, but “everyone will look at a patio or a nice deck and think, ‘I can create something in this space that works for me or my family.'”

4. Design a dynamic space with opportunity to grow.
Of course we want to encourage our kids to play outside, but according to Arthur, “if you design a backyard for a three-year-old, by the time they’re six they’ve already outgrown [it],” and then you’re stuck with a cemented-in swing set or big play structure that limits your resale value. “Instead, design a backyard so it can be multi-purpose and grow and change [with] the family,” says Arthur. “Go for patios that you can add elements too or take away as the kids out-grow them.”

Planters made from MicroPro Sienna. (Photo: Carson Arthur.)

Carson Arthur’s Best Gardening Tips

Gardening is all about soft-scaping: creating an outdoor space with trees, plants and shrubs.

1. Understand how your garden space works.
Before you start a garden reno, it’s important to know how many hours of sunlight it will receive: “It’s going to help you be successful with the plants you choose for the space,” says Arthur. If you don’t know how much sunlight it gets, he suggests buying a solar-powered dancing toy (available at most gardening supply stores) to help figure it out: “Put it in the space, then set your [alarm every hour] and when it goes off, look at the dancing toy,” Arthur says. “If it’s moving then you know you’ve got sunlight for that hour.”

2. Lay down (or hang up!) the proper foundations.
“We’re seeing more and more vertical gardens,” says Arthur of the pallet-garden trend where wooden garden beds are mounted on the wall of a home, either inside or out. “The constant watering of the plant material [is] actually causing damage to the house or to the structure behind it,” he says. “Often, you’ll even get mold growing back there.” It’s important to waterproof the mounted side of your vertical garden to protect your home’s exterior.

3. Plant flowers in your vegetable gardens.
Everyone is aware of the the current situation surrounding the wild bee population in Canada, but none more so than Arthur. He says the best way to help our fuzzy, buzzy friends is to add “some flowers, whether they’re Marigolds, Echinacea or Brown-Eyed Susans, into your vegetable garden to attract more pollinators.” As a bonus, the bees will increase vegetable production because they’ll pollinate your tomato and pepper plants at the same time. “We all want to provide food for them,” says Arthur, “but we also want to take advantage of their presence in our home through a mutual, synergistic relationship.”

4. Always remember to water your plants.
Gardening companies have finally developed a genius way to help those who never remember to water their gardens: self-watering planters! They have reservoirs in the bottom to hold water, so all you need to do is fill it up and presto! “You can literally go away for a couple of weeks,” says Arthur. “It does all the work for you.” And if you live in a small space, fear not! They’re available in condo sizes, too.


Edmonton Home and Garden Show

Thursday March 22 to Sunday, March 25
Edmonton Expo Centre, 7515 118 Ave NW

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