Have you ever wanted to have your own garden but lived in the city with limited space? If so, you may want to learn a little bit about urban gardening. Living within the city limits has not stopped Miles Wampler from growing a plethora of fruits and vegetables in his urban garden. Urban gardening is a creative way to grow a garden in a city or town with limited space.
Wampler doesn’t run a nursery nor is his thumb green, but he has a family and a passion for gardening. He’s an Escalon resident, who works for a commercial construction company that specializes in wood to steel framing on commercial warehouses.
Raised on a walnut farm, Wampler did not really like farming back when he was a kid. But when his family moved into their home eight years ago and the back yard was not completed, he had an idea. Wampler decided to take a corner of his back yard and turn it into a flourishing ‘urban’ garden.
His wife Lucy, who is a third grader teacher, and their two girls Hannah, 6, and Rebecca, 3, make the gardening experience a family affair.
“The kids are a good inspiration for me to want to keep doing it,” said Wampler. “There are times we eat for cents on the dollar because of what we have in the back yard.”
The girls helped dig holes for the carrots, they helped plant green beans in the last year in the late spring, and in the fall the family planted snow peas together.
“The girls jump around like bunnies and pick the carrots,” said Wampler.
There are many things that he has planted, including crookneck yellow squash, straightneck squash, black beauty zucchini, eight ball zucchini, Armenian cucumbers, burpless cucumbers, Thompson seedless grapes, a variety of peppers, kale, and several different herbs, just to name a few.
To save on space he grows green beans on a trellis. The green beans will grow up the trellis so he has more room for other plants like the four different varieties of lettuce that he grows. One season they planted watermelons and cantaloupes and trained the vines to go up the trellis. As the melons grew they took burlap sacks and cut them into pieces to make melon hammocks to support the fruit on the vine.
Wampler has planted six different varieties of tomatoes, including yellow sun gold, cherry, and beef steak. To keep the family involved he tries to keep the garden fun and has the girls hunt for any garden pests such as tomato worms that need eradicating. They have grown a large enough amount of tomatoes to make their own sauce that they vacuum seal and freeze.
The avocado tree that Wampler planted has been fruitful and he added a fig tree as well.
Some of the perks, he explained, of having your own garden is being able to plant things like bananas, strawberries, and two varieties of guavas.
The bananas are a rare variety that he discovered called apple bananas. They are a tropical plant that has a specific growth period. Wampler explained that the bananas go dormant in the winter and then perk back up in mid-March. The tree will flower bananas after an average of 44 leaves but timing is a major factor since the plant will go dormant. So between March and June he will probably get a flower that fruits and then it takes about three or four months before you can harvest them. Wampler suggested picking the bananas when they are green, then put them in a bag with an apple or avocado, which will help them ripen.
“It’s kind of an art,” said Wampler of the process.
Sometimes he will plant flowers to attract the bees to keep everything pollinated. At times, wife Lucy will pick the flowers and create arrangements to decorate the house.
Wampler has seeds that he will start indoors and then move them to a compost friendly pot until they are ready to be planted outside.
If you have a really small space then Wampler suggests planting tomatoes or peppers. Zucchini and squash can produce several vegetables, but may take up too much space because they can get big.
Nurseries throughout the region stock a wide variety of seeds and outdoor decorations that can help keep the garden fresh.
“The nurseries will put those (vegetables) out when they know it’s time for you to get going,” said Wampler.
He encourages anyone who wants to start gardening to at least try it. Start out small by getting a pot and plant a tomato plant. Or find an area that is at least two feet wide to start a couple tomato plants there. Wampler planted two tomato plants in an area with only six inches wide of dirt next to concrete and they produce several tomatoes every year.
Gardens require maintenance but Wampler estimated he only spends a few hours in the evening and on weekends on it. By setting up a battery operated timer on drip, he doesn’t have to worry about watering. Burpee.com is a website that he often frequents to get tips, tricks, and seeds. He stated that he was able to purchase smaller sized cantaloupes and watermelons for his small area through the website.
Gardening for eight years has saved the family money, but has also been very rewarding for them.
“We micro manage our space,” said Wampler. “I have a passion for this and it works.”