Gardening Showcase

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If cold wintry weather does nothing else, it makes most of us yearn for spring, warmer weather, or a reason to get out of the house. Now that spring is approaching, North Carolina Cooperative Extension is busy planning, developing, and offering educational programs to the public.

One program I would like to highlight is “Epic Tomatoes,” which will be presented Saturday,      March 3, by the author of the same-named book, Craig LeHoullier. Would you like to grow great tomatoes? Geared toward success in this particularly challenging gardening climate, this colorful, information-packed talk will take the audience on a journey from the earliest known varieties through selected fascinating histories, exploring the incredible range of sizes, shapes, colors, and flavors of the most widely grown vegetable (botanically speaking, fruit). Covering all of the steps along the path to success – choosing and planning, starting seeds, plant care, harvest, and seed saving – Craig will show how tomatoes can be grown in the ground, containers, or straw bales, thus offering solutions for all possible scenarios. All are encouraged to bring their questions and share their experiences. You will also have the opportunity to purchase either or both of his books for Craig to sign.

Craig LeHoullier (who many know as “the guy who named Cherokee Purple”) lives and gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina. A Rhode Island native, he caught the passion for gardening when very young from his grandfather Walter and dad Wilfred. Craig has a PhD in chemistry from Dartmouth College, and endured a 25-year career in pharmaceuticals, which ended in 2008. His gardening obsession, which started the year he and wife Susan were married (and their first garden in 1981), is passing through several stages of evolution. The love of heirloom tomatoes grew from joining the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization for which he continues to serve as adviser for tomatoes, in 1986. In 2005, he added amateur tomato breeding and continues to co-lead the Dwarf Tomato Breeding project, responsible for creating 90 (and counting) new compact growing varieties for space-challenged gardeners everywhere. His writing career kicked off with a request from Storey Publishing to write a book on tomatoes; Epic Tomatoes (2014) and Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales (2016) soon followed. Craig is a much sought-after lecturer and guest on podcasts and radio shows. His next projects will be a third book, focusing upon the story of the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project, and a webinar series in which he will share his gardening knowledge.

A program that will spotlight gardening in raised beds will be presented Saturday, February 24, from 10 a.m. until 12 noon. We will address siting and sizing the bed, suitable crops, and pest and disease issues. One last pre-spring program will be titled “Vegetable Gardening 101,” which will address gardening basics for the beginner. This program will be Thursday, March 8, from 6-8 p.m. All the programs will be at the Cooperative Extension Center located in the O. P. Owens Agriculture Center, 455 Caton Road, Lumberton, N.C. Please call ahead to reserve your seat.

For more information, please contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, by E-mail at, or visit our website at For accommodation requests related to a disability, contact the Cooperative Extension Center at 910-671-3276 no less than one week in advance of desired event.

NC State University and N.C. A&T State University are collectively committed to positive action to secure equal opportunity and prohibit discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, and veteran status. NC State, N.C. A&T, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.