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!
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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)!”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.