As our “World’s Largest Community Garden” partnership with Williams-Sonoma gets underway, we asked gardeners from around the country to submit their qualifications to become an “Official Beekman Heirloom Gardener.” We wanted to enlist one gardener from each growing zone to help more novice gardeners with questions they ask in our garden forums.

We were swamped with submissions – over 1100 – and it was tough to narrow them down. In the end we decided to award two different distinctions per growing zone: Expert and Deputy.

Our Experts generally have over 25 years experience growing vegetables in their respective growing zones. And our Deputies range from first time gardeners to master gardeners who are new to heirloom vegetable growing. All of these winners share a passion for learning and sharing that will be yours for the taking all season long. You’ll see them a lot in the garden forums, and they are thrilled to help answer all your questions.

(We did not get enough entries in Zones 1 and 2 to award Experts and Deputies. If you live in either of those zones and want to help out, email us at [email protected])

Give our new “Official Gardeners” a Big Beekman Welcome!

Janet’s youngest garden “helper.”

ZONE 3 EXPERT: Janet Geeting; Rock Springs, Wyoming

As the granddaughter of Wyoming Homesteader dry land farmers, Janet Geeting has Wyoming gardening in her genes. She also has her Master Gardener certification and over 43 years of vegetable growing experience in a harsh climate. Toss in the fact that she gives her extra harvest to food banks and local churches and she’s practically blood relative of the Beekman family.  “Give me a few seeds,” she writes, “and I’ll help you grow your garden no matter where you live.”

Mary Beth Proudfoot

ZONE 3 DEPUTY: Mary Beth Proudfoot; Bozeman, Montana

While according to her zipcode Mary Beth Proudfoot may be a “Zone 4,” her 15 years of gardening have taught her that she’s really battling against Zone 3 conditions. Her Rocky Mountain home has even been known to celebrate the 4th of July not with fireworks, but with a snowstorm. So she realizes the struggles new gardeners can face in a colder climate because she once was one. “When I first started out it would have been great to have had a real person to ask my dumb little questions,” she writes, “and not feel like a total idiot.” We couldn’t agree more, Mary Beth!

Joan Wissert

ZONE 4 EXPERT: Joan Wissert; Scio, New York

Joan spent the majority of her professional life as an assistant professor of horticulture at Alfred State College, and is a passionate educator. One of her favorite gardening focuses is troubleshooting, which should really help some of our newest gardeners. “Small successes can create lifetime – and life-altering – changes for people,” she writes. Joan believes that it’s a gardener’s duty to share information with as wide an audience as possible.

Sue Roegge

ZONE 4 DEPUTY: Sue Roegge; St. Paul, Minnesota

Sue is committed to the mission of sustainability and biodiversity, and has been growing her own vegetables for 5 years. She’s also been a longtime Beekman contributer, and, like us, believes that growing heirloom vegetables can help honor our ancestors who grew the same varietes. “I am not an expert,” she writes, “but I have experience. I will model the joy of figuring it all out with my eye on the prize.” Not only does she love gardening, but she’s an all-around foodie with a passion for cooking and Farmers’ Markets.

Diana Tabor

ZONE 5 EXPERT: Diana Tabor; Layton, Utah

As an active Master Gardener from Utah State University, Diana brings her training in everything from fertilization and composting to entomology and pathology. But even more importantly, she believes in the power of community gardens to bring fresh, healthy food to the family table. She’s been growing her own vegetables for over 35 years, and like us, believes that “there’s nothing better than going out to the garden to harvest something you grew to cook for dinner.”

Allison Goodman

ZONE 5 DEPUTY: Allison Goodman; Harvard & Norridge, IL

Like most of our entrants, Allison gardened with her family as a kid, and picked it up again later as an adult. She’s been growing her own vegetables for 6 years, and has her own gardening blog. She dreams of owning her own farm. Last summer she began a raised bed garden in the parking lot of her church made from kiddie pools to teach Sunday School students about growing, harvesting, and sharing food with others. She writes: “I even have an 11 year old boy who can talk for 10 minutes on why bees are so important to the growth of zucchini (his favorite veggie)!”

Rochelle Greayer

ZONE 6 EXPERT: Rochelle Greayer; Harvard, Massachusetts

Rochelle is no stranger to helping others garden with heirloom. She created and runs the Harvard Farmers Market, which has a number of immigrant vendors who preserve and share their heritage through heirloom varieties. Rochelle also write a garden design blog – and you know how much we value good design. She’s been gardening for roughly 33 years, and believes that “every gardener can grow by nurturing themselves through a garden.”

Stephen Jones

ZONE 6 DEPUTY: Stephen Jones; Powell, Ohio

Stephen Jones is 20 years old and while he’s been gardening since he was six years old, he only recently began growing vegetables. Just this winter he started Ohio State University’s Delaware County Master Gardener Program, and one requirement for the program is that he is willing to help novice gardeners in his community. “I am not a shy personality at all,” Stephen says, “and am always willing to help those who need advice, be it about their garden, their hair, their wedding, or if they should get their nipples pierced. Point being, I make people comfortable and truly enjoy helping.”

Kathy Jentz

ZONE 7 EXPERT: Kathy Jentz; Silver Spring, Maryland

The word “expert” takes on new meaning with Kathy Jentz. As the editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, we can think of no one better skilled to help novice gardeners of zone 7. Kathy has been growing her own vegetables for over twenty years and is starting a new community garden plot this year.  She’s planning to donate its entire harvest to “Plant a Row for the Hungry” (a project of the Garden Writers Association.) We’re thrilled to have Kathy aboard.

Diane Vaughan

ZONE 7 DEPUTY: Diane Vaughan & “Granny”; Guthrie, Oklahoma

Diane came with an offer we couldn’t refuse. Not only did she offer us her own 2-year-old enthusiasm for vegetable garden, she also enlisted her expert “Granny” as her teammate. “Granny” has been growing vegetable gardens in Oklahoma and Eastern Texas for her entire life, and has a wealth of knowledge to share with her granddaughter Diane, and us. “Two growing seasons ago I realized that when Granny leaves this great world,” Diane writes, “all of her expertise of living off the land will go with her.  It would be such a shame to lose generations of information, and I just cannot let that happen.”

Joan Leach

ZONE 8 EXPERT: Joan Leach; Burleson, Texas

With over 44 years of experience, Joan Leach knows her Texas gardening. She’s been frustrated in the past with the lack of information regarding which heirloom varieties grow well in which region. As a Zone 8 gardener, she is always asking herself which varieties can take the heat and make it into the kitchen. “I would be especially interested in being involved in research to answer that question,” she writes, “and would love to find varieties that do grow here.”

The Boles Family

ZONE 8 DEPUT(IES): Kathy Boles & Family; Round Rock, Texas

We’re not just getting Kathy as a Deputy Heirloom Gardener, we’re getting her whole family including Russ, Meg and Reese. They’re all avid vegetable gardeners, and have been for over 5 years.  Kathy feels that her region is under-represented  in gardening literature, when in fact they are able to grow and harvest year round in their suburban garden. When her children began eating table food, she really stepped-up her efforts towards eating organically and locally. “It has become a gift for not just our table,” she writes, “but the little minds we are growing as well.”

Jan Small

ZONE 9 EXPERT: Jan Small; Myakka City, Florida

Jan has been growing her own vegetables for 51 years, and has mastered the idiosyncrasies of growing in a difficult climate. She believes that gardening isn’t only beneficial for one’s physical health, but one’s mental health as well. She also loves sharing her knowledge behind her garden. “I love giving my visiting friends a tour of my garden,” she writes, “and watching as they discover a baby zucchini just ready to be picked or have their first taste of a fig still warm from the sun.”

Laurie Gore

ZONE 9 DEPUTY: Laurie Gore; Bonita, California

While Laurie Gore is a certified Master Gardener, she admits that she’s not the most experienced vegetable grower. But sees that as an asset, “because I will be learning as I am doing.” She’s also an avid photographer and writer, and has just put in new raised beds specifically for vegetables. “There is no reason I won’t succeed,” Laurie writes, “excepting the gophers, hornworms, the odd beetle, and a heat wave next summer.”

Sally's picture to come
Sally’s picture to come

ZONE 10 EXPERT: Sally Newhart; New Orleans, Louisiana

While some might place New Orleans in Zone 9, Sally’s 37 years of gardening experience has taught her that the region is actually now experiencing the climate of Zone 10. Which is one of the most difficult zones to grow “cold weather” varieties. But she’s had success. Sally gardens on a small city lot, and after “Katrina” Sally composted all new soil to go into her beds to counteract the toxins that had flooded the area. She now has earthworms living happily among her roots. “So,” she writes, “I guess it’s safe to lay in the grass again.”

Dianne Reed

ZONE 10 DEPUTY: Dianne Reed; Boynton Beach, Florida

Gardeners in the north might long for a longer growing season, but Dianne Reed knows firsthand how difficult it can be to grow vegetables in “paradise.” Sandy soils and insects create unique challenges. “Pests like the good weather as much as we do,” she writes. Raised beds are a necessity for Dianne, and she’s building some new ones especially for the Beekman 1802 Community Heirloom Garden project.

Don’t know your growing zone, click here to find out by typing in your zip code.

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

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Zone 7 Expert Garden

Late cold frnt coming through the Mid-Atlantic this week and weekend and moving up the East Coast. Brrrr! Another week delay in getting those outdoor seeds planted. But if gardening teaches us anything, it is patience!

cookie cooks

I am zone 5 and I just started my pepper and eggplant seeds. A bit late on my broccoli and kohlrabi but they are the first to emerge after just 3 days! I also started some herbs. Come on spring!

Nadine Simon

I planted all of my heirloom seeds last Saturday, 3/5 except for the radishes, turnips, and carrots. I am in Zone 9 and have to wait until fall to plant those. Yesterday, a mere 5 days after planting, my cucumbers and bush beans are up already. I am planting in raised beds because I love the way the Beekman garden looks.

Sue Siegfried

My Sunset Western Garden Book says I'm in growing Zone 15 but I don't see a group for Zone 15 here. Help!

Linda Turner

What a wonderful forum this will be! To be able to interact with so many devoted gardeners will give me so much insight! I do a program every spring with a local community garden-they have raised beds built from the new decking material(like Trex) that was donated to them, right on top of an old basketball court. There's a waiting list of gardeners anxious to claim their spot, so they are continually looking for more land. It makes me feel encouraged about the renewed interest in 'growing your own'.

Zone 6 Deputy Garden

hi Sue! I'm sorry I just saw your question. It's so easy and inexpensive. I built mine two rows of cinder blocks high. The only drawback is they are rather undesirable additions to the landscape. I combat this by planting potato ivy in the holes of the cinder blocks; it grows quickly and covers them well.

Jean Paras

I planted my Herloom Garden seeds except for the sugar pumpkins,February 24 in my little indoor greenhouse I'am in zone 6A.I'll keep you posted.

Zone 4 Deputy Garden

James and Stephen, can you tell me a little more about cinder block raised beds? I assume you mean the cinder block replaces wood or railroad ties as the frame?

You caught my attention because everything will be on a strict budget this year. I don't have any raised beds right now. My husband tills and we amend flat ground.




hey…you forgot Jersey! I know you covered our zone…but you ought to have a representative from the Garden State. I know you New Yorkers make fun of us….but we are a unique state with our farms and gardens : ).

Happy Spring to both of you!

Zone 6 Deputy Garden

James, I always do my raised beds in cinderblock; fabulously affordable and I've always been thrilled with the way my plants respond inside them.

Rich Benninger

My tomato, pumpkin, winter squash, and sweet pepper seeds have all gone off to boarding school at Cave Country Greenery. I wanted the kids to have the best possible start in life and I know that would not be with me. They are happy to be among thousands of other seeds (in their own dorm room) and will grow big and strong for planting on May 27th. Now the snow just needs to melt so I can build raised beds. Rich

Eve Stavros

Hooray! Help for a newbie Florida gardener! I'm trying it small-scale in containers. Planted the first crop (fingers crossed) today.


Excited to see San Diego County Zone 9 by Master Gardener Laurie Gore. Looking forward to the season and all the educational opportunities this series will present

Dianne Reed

Good morning everyone ! This is so exciting. My seeds arrived yesterday together with an "After the Garden" goat milk soap bar. The soap smells divine and I cannot wait to use it. Thank you Josh and Brent ! With the long weekend upon us, the timing could not be better. Today, I am working on building the raised garden beds and readying the seeds for planting. Good growing everyone !

Zone 6 Deputy Garden

Wow! Reading through all the experts bios I am beyond impressed! I'm so excited to be a part of this project! And to meet the Experts and the rest of the Deputies over Memorial Day!


After 18 years in zone 6a, zone 8a has been a welcome change. I am struggling with how the rain impacts the garden. Looking forward to the season!

patricia beckerman

mary beth proudfoot—i'm really impressed about the company you are in–i didn't know you had that talent. good luck and have fun

aunt pat

Zone 3 Deputy Garden

How exciting to see this garden community forming! It's going to be a ton o' fun.


What a great group of gardeners! I'll be interested in their advice even in zones other than my own.

Kathy Jentz will be my expert–I'm just up the road in Baltimore. So generous of a busy magazine editor to give her time to this project. Gardeners are the best.


What a great group of folks!!! Am so glad to see someone from Louisiana included in the mix. And Sally is right–after "the storm" we gardeners had an entirely new and different set obstacles to overcome just to be able to re-plant!!! Thank you for bringing this group together!


So glad to see a deputy from Boynton Beach! I live in Lake Worth (just a little north of Boynton), so I know Dianne will understand (and sympathize!!)what my weather and soil are like. Great choice for Zone 10, Beekmans!

Zone 4 Deputy Garden

Ruth, that is such a lovely sentiment. The world does seem big and bad sometimes.

And you are right, this project will make it a lot friendlier.

Thank you pointing this out.


Joan Wissert

Looking forward to a wonderful experience and lots of sharing of information AND vegetables! Lyn, there is also a Scio in Ohio…

sue t.

Allison, So glad to know I'm going to have advice from someone thats been around the gardens more than I have. Flower gardening is my thing but excited to expand my knowledge with veggies. Talk soon sue t.

Zone 4 Deputy Garden

I am not surprised that Mary Beth gardens according to zone 3 in Bozeman. That is the only place I've ever experienced snow on my birthday, June 10th. And that's saying a lot because I am in St Paul,MN.


I didn't know there was a Scio, NY! I will be growing my garden in Scio Oregon! It is going to be a great growing season.


I am really looking forward to hearing how everyone does with the Heirloom seeds. This makes the big bad world seem a little smaller, and friendlier.

Have a wonderful day,



Hope we will see these smart, caring folks on TFBB Season two alongside Farmer John, using their expertise and love to Make It All Work.Maybe y'all should have a stall selling delicious organic sustainable veggies, fruit, flowers at Union Square Greenmarket. We'd start seeing you on Food Network/Cooking Channel, Perhaps, suggesting another strategic brand marketing alliance?

A big fan of loving gay couples with goatherds,

Brooklyn, NY

Linda Schnell-Leonar

Looking forward to a great 2011 gardening season. Folks from all across the country will become part of the" World’s Largest Community Garden”, how great is that?

Such a simple act, yet such a grand outcome.

Thanks Dr. Brent and Mr. Josh for taking us all along for the journey!