Making the World a Greener Place, One Instagram Post at a Time
Meet ‘Big City Gardener’ and Instagram Gardening Sensation, Timothy Hammond
Houston, Texas-based gardener Timothy Hammond has been fascinated by gardening, and learning about gardening, for as long as he can remember. “My parents were my first teachers,” Timothy says. “I grew up surrounded by fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers, so my love of gardening kind of just came to me.”
Now a parent himself, Timothy is sharing his life-long passion for gardening with his own young children. He’s also found a way to inspire people everywhere to try growing their own food—and more—at home. Known as “Big City Gardener” on his popular Instagram and YouTube channels and on his blog, bigcitygardener.com, Timothy uses social media and the Internet to share gardening tips, teach growing techniques, and chronicle his own at-home growing adventures.
Technology, combined with Timothy’s friendly, straightforward teaching style, Timothy spread his “Just grow it!” message to gardeners all over the U.S. and beyond, encouraging them to take risks and try new things. “I simplify it for beginners to make growing seem doable for everyone, not matter where they live or how much gardening experience they may have,” Timothy says. “I want everyone to garden because I think it’s great!”
How did you get started with gardening?
I don’t know how old I was, but I’ve seen pictures of me as a little kid around gardens and things that were growing. My parents were both from Jamaica, and they would tell me stories about having mango trees, and all different trees, everywhere. I think my earliest memory of gardening is around second or third grade, at my childhood home in Texas. My backyard had apple trees, cherry trees, and raised garden beds. Mom would plant up tomatoes. Dad grew native Texas plants, hibiscus, and roses. My grandparents were also into gardening, and I would hang out with all of them.
Gardening always had my attention; it was always something I was drawn to. In school, I did science projects based on gardening, like making paper with flowers in the pulp or explaining photosynthesis. I remember that none of my middle-school friends knew I liked gardening—it wasn’t the “cool” thing to do. But on certain weekends, I’d sneak off with my dad to see the flowers at the Antique Rose Emporium in Brenham, Texas. Brenham is also where they make Blue Bell Ice Cream. A stop at the factory was always part of the trip.
Why do you garden?
It’s a lot of things. I like technology and all that good stuff, but I also remember being a kid and having to occupy my time by running around outdoors. Gardening reminds me of how much fun it was to bike, swim, and get outside.
I enjoy the challenge of gardening. You can do everything right, and things can still not go right! For some odd reason, I like that—it keeps you on your toes.
I love that you can never be an expert at gardening. You may be really good at growing one thing, but there’s an unlimited number of plants to grow. There may be an old-timer up in the mountains who seems to know everything, but if you pick him up and drop him somewhere else, he needs to learn new stuff. There’s so much knowledge you can gain from growing, so just grow it.
What inspired you to share your gardening knowledge online?
When I first joined Instagram, people thought about gardeners as someone like Martha Stewart. I wanted to show everybody there were other kinds of gardeners out there—and another side of gardening. And I wanted to do it in the simplest terms. People tend to make things harder than they need to be.
Most aspiring and beginner gardeners just want to know what will work, so I try to give them information in the most user-friendly way possible. If I can show you how to grow plants successfully, that might spark your interest. Once that happens, you’ll dive deeper. I talk about it all—flowers, perennials, vegetables, succulents, fruit trees—so maybe something will click.
It’s like when you’re learning to ride a bike: I want to be that first little push on the back of the seat to get you going.
How did you decide that technology could help you inspire new gardeners?
Using technology to bring people back to nature happened organically, really. It takes technology to get people to do a lot of things. For example, many people care more about their heath when they can track it with a watch or an app on their phone. I’m trying to break gardening information down and make it as simple and straightforward as possible. Technology lets me do that.
What type of gardening brings you the most joy?
I don’t have one particular focus—I just like gardening and growing. I’ve done aquaponics, hydroponics, indoor growing, raised beds, and in-ground gardens. I’ve grown mushrooms and microgreens. Growing is just growing!
Describe your own garden.
I live in downtown Houston, Texas, where the building lots measure about 5,000 square feet. Once you put a house, driveway, and maybe a garage on there, your yard is what’s left over. I happen to have a garden area that’s probably about 20 feet by 20 feet, or slightly bigger. There’s a little bit of everything growing here, in raised beds, containers, and mostly in-ground beds, plus we have a few chickens.
I prefer in-ground beds over raised beds. They were my first introduction to gardening, so I guess I’m just fond of them. And I feel like by growing in-ground, I’m doing something positive for the earth by reconditioning and helping to rebuild messed-up soil, as opposed to bringing it in.
If you could grow only one plant, what would it be and why?
I don’t know if I could only grow one plant! But if I could pick one type of plant, it would be herbs. You can use them for tea and season all of your food. I feel like I put herbs in everything, at every meal. My favorite is rosemary
What is your biggest gardening challenge?
It’s encouraging people to get started—trying to get them to understand that anybody, regardless of where you live, everybody can grow something. I want people to believe they can do it! Just grow it. If you fail, try to grow something else. Maybe that plant wasn’t a good match. You can’t just give up! Once you find what works for you, you’ll have more confidence. You’ll go back to that thing that worked, and you’ll try again.
Another challenge is limited space. I want to grow everything. I’ve adopted a few community gardens throughout the city and whatever doesn’t fit at home, I get to plant there.
What is one of your most memorable gardening successes, or disasters?
Lots of times I’ll forget to water, especially in the summertime. It’ll be 100 degrees and too hot. If I don’t hand water, I’ll forget to turn the sprinkler system on and—boom. Most plants will still make it, though.
Do you have any gardening quirks or superstitions?
Not really. I kind of just go for it—if something fails in my garden, I don’t blame it on the moon, or clouds, or whatever. It just didn’t work. But I rarely wear gloves. There have been times I’ve planted things with gloves on and the plants haven’t been successful. I know it has nothing to do with the gloves, but … you know!
How has your gardening style changed through the years?
I kind of went from super-neat and organized, to chaotic, and now I’m back on my way back to super-neat. I don’t know why! It has started to clean up as my kids have gotten a little older. They just want to be out there, doing what I do, digging holes—maybe where they’re not supposed to. I try to keep them around the garden but I don’t force it on them. When I’m getting ready to go outside, they hop up and want to come. They enjoy eating what I grow, too.
What gardening trends have you seen emerging recently?
With the pandemic, there’s definitely been an uptick in people’s desire to learn about growing. That’s cool—I hope it’s consistent and it stays once all of this is over. I don’t want the interest in gardening to be a wave. I want it to be here to stay.
For a while, due to the COVID situation, everyone was told to stay at home. I think a lot of people who always had a desire to grow things, but didn’t have the time, suddenly found themselves with a lot of time and gave it a try. I also think people with younger kids were trying to find ways to get them outside, and to get rid of some of their extra energy, so families started growing things together.
Whenever COVID is under control, I have a list of farms and places I want to visit and people I want to meet.
What do you feel are the biggest benefits of gardening?
It’s a way to connect people back to earth and nature. People kind of forget how a tomato grows, you know? If you can get on your phone or laptop, and get your food delivered, your level of appreciation differs from if you see if growing, or if you grow it yourself. Gardening helps people remember that we need nature, and nature needs us. We’re all connected, through food and through gardening.
Gardening is also good for you overall. It’s a great way to relax, de-stress, and get your mind off things. You get a little bit of exercise carrying bags of dirt, squatting down, and walking around. You build your confidence by trying new things. When you’re gardening, you’re learning. Everybody should always be learning. I’m an experienced gardener, and I’m still learning. I don’t think I’m different than anybody else.
What’s your favorite gardening tool or product?
I have both a wooden pallet compost pile and the Gardener’s Demeter Metal Compost Bin. When I first got it, a bunch of people didn’t think it was going to work. I filled it with leaves, soil, some chicken coop bedding, and some veggie scraps, and turned it once in the winter and once in spring. I got compost! And the bin looks way better than that pile.
How did you discover Gardener’s Supply?
Gardener’s messaged me on Instagram in the early spring—actually, I think I had probably just put down their catalog, where I was looking at cool stuff for the growing season. I guess I just put the energy out there! They liked what I was doing with my educational content, and they were so friendly. It showed me they’re a real company, with real people who actually care. And they actually garden, so they make great products.
This fall I’m going to put together and test some super-sleek raised beds for Gardener’s. They’ll go in the front yard because I’m converting it from grass to growing area. I don’t believe we should have a lot of grass.
When I started Big City Gardener, all I ever wanted to do was showcase some gardens, and teach some people how to grow things. Gardener’s saw me and believed in me.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell Gardener’s Supply readers?
Everybody, everywhere, has to grow food. Before mega-farms, everyone grew food locally, and everyone adapted to their region using the resources they had available. So everybody can grow. It’s really just about trial and error. Eventually, you’ll be successful!
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