Forty raised beds. One hundred twenty-five plants in containers and grow bags in his driveway. To say that James Worley loves plants is an understatement. What he loves even more, though, is introducing others to the joy that backyard gardening can bring.
Worley started gardening as a child, learning from his grandfather, who filled his corner lot with tomatoes, beans, and beets. As he grew as a gardener, he diversified a bit and now grows hundreds of varietals of herbs and vegetables. Not only does he grow them, but he has also recently started teaching others how and even doing it for them in their yards.
Yum Yards, Worley's company, started last year. Its mission is two-fold--to install raised beds for people to use for their gardens and if they want, to fill those beds with plants and maintain it throughout the growing season.
"My client is a two-income family with children that cares about where their food comes from but doesn't have the time or knowledge to do all the work that comes with gardening," says Worley.
To that end, Yum Yards is extremely personalized. Worley starts by coming out to each yard and assessing the available light and space. He says that the number of times that he couldn't find enough light to grow are very few. Once he's ascertained where the best spot for growing might be, he installs raised beds in which to grow.
Worley says he prefers raised beds because it's a fresh slate where gardeners can control the environment a bit more. Starting with fertile, well-drained soil gives plants a fighting chance as opposed to the potential for bad drainage and clay. He also prefers raised beds to allow older gardeners to be able to reach their plants without killing their backs.
Those raised beds also give clients a wide variety of options for their configuration, from modular beds in several spaces to linear beds or horseshoe or L-shapes.
Some clients only utilize Worley's bed-building skills but some take advantage of his growing skills as well. Worley provides all the plants and visits the garden two to three times a month to weed and maintain them throughout the growing season. With each visit, he includes a journal of what he did and instructions on what to do in-between visits. He also includes recipes from local chefs that utilize the crops that each homeowner is growing.
"All the homeowner needs to do is a little watering (or let me install an irrigation system) and picking, cooking, and eating--the fun parts of gardening!" says Worley.
He uses succession planting techniques to extend the growing season for his clients without having to use additional space. Personally, he grows all the way from March into the late fall.
"Before you plant a tomato, you can grow in the same spot. You can plant lettuce or radishes or kohlrabi. Then in the shade of that same tomato plant in the fall, you can plant fall radishes and lettuces and spinach. You can get three harvests out of one spot," says Worley.
Worley says that many of his clients have used CSAs (community-supported agriculture) in the past but want to customize their crops a bit more. Worley says that the drawback of CSAs can be vegetables that shareholders don't like or know how to use. A customized survey at the beginning of each season assures clients that they are growing what they want to eat.
As a former teacher, Worley's teaching experience is coming in handy. He says that many of his clients, which are mainly women, enjoy sending their kids out to help and learn.
As Yum Yards continues to grow, Worley says that he plans on adding members to his team but right now, he's putting in legwork all over the city. In addition to building the beds and maintaining gardens, he will pick ripe vegetables for clients if they are on vacation and donate the yield to local food shelters.
For more information about Yum Yards, visit YumYards.com.