NEWS, Va. — Wendy Iles grew up playing in the dirt,
like most kids did 50 years ago. Her grandparents
had a farm and her mother always gardened.
seven kids, we were expected to be out there as
well," she says.
planted with my kids and the neighborhood kids 30 years
ago. I always enjoyed sharing the information — and
then the harvest. I was a culinary professional, so I
expect the freshest produce to cook with and eat."
the Hampton, Va., resident wants to share her expertise
with today’s young generation, teaching them how to
garden and how to prepare their harvest with tasty
accomplish that, she founded the nonprofit Hampton Grows
www.HamptonGrows.org — with the goal to "build
community by building gardens."
a slow process but she’s gaining ground — seed by
seed, plant by plant and ultimately garden by garden.
She relies on grants and donations and the goodness of
helping hands, especially husband Roger, who builds
anything she needs.
helped implement a garden at Phoebus High School in
2012, where I met so many teens who had no idea how to
garden, what ‘real’ produce looked or tasted
like," says Wendy, who has a 30-year culinary
I looked at poverty and obesity rates in our schools, I
knew we needed to address the bigger issue of food by
teaching children and adults not just how to eat better,
but how to stretch their food budgets and grow their
an accident left me sidelined, I started talking to and
planning with like-minded people in Hampton. We
incorporated Jan. 1, 2013, and filed nonprofit papers
shortly after, which are still pending. Last year,
we created nine totally different garden projects —
from vertical pallet gardens to a hoop house, and each
garden has its own personality."
and Roger, general manager of the Petco in upper Newport
News, Va., operate out of a 10-by-26-foot greenhouse in
their backyard. There he builds the vertical
gardens and totem planters they sell, while she plants
seeds and plots community garden projects. Now, they are
experimenting with aquaponics, recycling fish tank water
to nourish plants growing in pelletized clay.
had eggplant all year," she says, pointing to an
eggplant blooming and fruiting in a container above the
tank of tilapia.
Wendy wants the tilapia they breed to become part of
school projects where kids are given baby fish in
September and take home grown fish and aquaponically
grown vegetables the following June.
a great school-year project that can teach the kids so
much about so many aspects of life," she says.
far, Hampton Grows has helped implement gardens,
greenhouses and seed-starting programs at Virginia
locations including Natasha House, a shelter for women
in York County, Hampton History Museum, North Phoebus
Community Center, Lincoln Park, Cary Elementary and
Hampton Christian schools and Spratley Gifted Center.
She’s also taught women to grow tomatoes and herbs in
not limited to just working with wanna-be gardeners in
Hampton venues. She’ll go anywhere, anytime to teach
young and old how to start and plant seeds or how to
prepare a fresh veggie.
like to see gardens all over Hampton building community
and getting people of all ages outdoors," says
have been so many studies on the benefits of gardening,
not only for greening Hampton, reducing crime rates to
improving property values and most importantly,
improving the quality of life for our community.
ultimate hope is that no child or adult goes to bed
hungry because they can’t afford to feed themselves or
their family. If I can teach someone to garden and
provide food for themselves, then I have
SEEDS WITH TOILET PAPER ROLLS
likes to say everyone has empty toilet paper rolls so
why not put them to good use throughout the year, using
them as easy-make seed-starting containers.
supplies: empty toilet paper rolls, seeds, potting mix,
permanent marker and plant labels.
in one edge of the toilet paper roll.
in corner. Then opposite corner to create the bottom.
with potting mix. Tamp down the soil and add more as
needed to fill to ¾ full. Make a small hole in the
your seeds. Larger seeds are easier for kids or elderly
to work with.
one to two seeds in each hole.
a Popsicle stick, cover the seeds lightly.
blinds! Measure the blind and cut to fit your seedling
recycled blinds, Popsicle sticks or plant markers.
the seedlings so there’s no guess work.
the pot in a shallow bowl of water to keep from
disturbing the seeds. Keep the rolls damp, but not
rolls can be planted directly into the ground or in a
bigger pot and are easy for small hands to manipulate
without crushing the roots," she says.