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Gardening Tips from Big City Gardener Timothy Hammond

Internet gardening sensation Timothy Hammond advises beginners to ask themselves their “why” before starting their own garden.

Timothy Hammond is trying to make the world a greener place. Known as Big City Gardener, Hammond has been gardening his whole life. He credits his parents and grandparent, avid gardeners and farmers in their native Jamaica, for inspiring his passion.

“I love the challenge,” he says. “I love that you always learn something new. I love the connection you get with the earth from gardening.”

A few years ago, Hammond turned that passion into a blog, a YouTube channel, and an Instagram account, where he has over 52,000 followers. He’s on a mission to help consumers develop their gardening skills.

City gardening

Hammond lives in Houston, but city life doesn’t keep him from having a great garden, which he estimates is around 15 feet wide by 30. He says the garden changes seasonally — at the time of this interview, he was growing hot peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, sunflowers, and herbs.

Hammond says he wants gardeners to find their why. Why do they want to garden? For food? Fun? A way to relax or connect with nature? He advises new gardeners not to get caught up in what other gardeners can do, especially when looking inspiration on Instagram. Instead, start small.

“Don’t try to plant your entire garden,” he says. “Don’t wake up one day like, ‘Man, I’m going to turn this whole backyard into a garden.’ Just start with one bed, and then allow it to grow with you, as your love for gardening grows.”

What to plant

Before starting to garden, decide how much maintenance you want to do. If you want to grow a lot of food, that means you’ll have daily maintenance. Depending on what you grow, gardeners can spend two or more hours a day tending their plants.

Be strategic. Hammond advises getting started with herbs, which flourish quickly and harvest in a month or two. He says those small victories can keep a newbie inspired to keep gardening.

Initially, stay away from plants that attract pests, such as tomatoes, squash, and watermelon. As your gardening advances, you can learn how to tackle those pests. Until then, they’ll will just be a deterrent to your gardening.

Hammond says you may have to adapt growing techniques depending on where you live. For example, he grows cucumbers up a trellis, a space saver in his urban garden. Typically, cucumbers like to sprawl out not up, but he trains the cucumbers to grow up and the yield is good.

He also cautions against using too much fertilizer, which can be worse than using none at all. That’s because sometimes when you overdo fertilizer, it can lock out nutrients for the plants.

“The soil, the life that is inside of the soil, is more important than the fertilizer,” says Hammond. “People want to always feed their plant, but I believe that it is more important to feed your soil. Amend your soil, put things in the soil that feed the biology in the soil, from the worms to the bacteria to the fungi. And then in turn, all of those organisms within the soil will feed your plant.”

Connecting with the earth

Hammond says in an era of instant gratification, gardening teaches patience and helps people give back. Plant by plant, gardeners can make the earth a better place.

“It’s kind of like me saying, ‘Thank you earth! I know everybody takes a bunch of stuff for you and they pollute you but hey, not me over here, I’m trying to help rebuild you and give back to you.’”

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