I AM CRAIG LEHOULLIER.
Through the years, I’ve been known as NC Tomatoman. Some know me as the fellow who named Cherokee Purple in 1990. To others, I am the author of the books Epic Tomatoes or Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales, the co-host of Tomatopalooza, a co-leader of the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project, or just the odd person with a garden where the driveway used to be. I am the tomato nut with a website, a blog, a newsletter (on occasion), and a huge tomato and pepper and eggplant collection. Really, all I am is Craig LeHoullier – someone that heirloom tomatoes chose to help participate in their continued relevance.
This interview actually starts out in the pre-chat because I know my listeners like to hear some of these things we talk about. My amazing guest today Craig LeHoullier was just recommended a couple of days ago and has already agreed to come on and talk about his amazing book:
I put out 2 episodes now I called RAW, where the content was key….
One of my next goals is to put out a podcast and some webinars. What I’m supposed to do next will come to me and so I’m just having fun with it.
Well if you need anything, I joined Podcaster’s Paradise, and I am always learning.
My daughter bought me the Paul Collegan book up, she lives up here near Seattle, she’s helping me with the blog and Facebook. You can teach an old dog new tricks.
I struggled with my husband for years, I got him a laptop, and a kindle, and a macbook, and finally I got him an iPhone 6, and it works. I finally found what works. I look at his feed compared to mine.
When my book came out, my daughter told me careful with the political stuff because gardeners come from all different political views.
I can’t help but let my feelings leak out a bit. IT seems like when I look, my listeners are pretty interested in the political things. Fortunately I work on the reservation, and so it’s a little more progressive then my
I’m a bit inspired by my Facebook feed in light of the news these days.
Democratic Underground moderator… the courage being shown, this is the time for good people to take a stand. We’re at crossroads right now, things can go a couple of years, this is the first time in my 61 years, I’m really worried. Human beings we do have faults and there’s a lot of them showing.
My husband and my step daughter were watching the news… We’re right at the stage at the beginning of the August 16th with the big thing down in Virginia over the statue thing.
Welcome to the OGP today! It’s August 16th, and my last day before I go back to school and training tomorrow! So I’m excited to say Craig LeHoullier is here to share with us!
Tell us a little about yourself.
Live in Raleigh NC, I’ve lived here 25 years.
I’m a native New Englander. In Rhode Island is where my dad and grandfather instilled the love of gardening when I was really young. I didn’t do much gardening in Rhode Island, but then I met my wife in Grad school in NH. The first thing we did after our marriage is have our first garden.
1981 this is 2017 so that’s like 36 gardens?
I’ve had a lot of gardens in my life. I just can’t be without it!
I major in tomatoes
I minor in peppers and eggplant.
I truly love to grow everything. I find that gardening in Raleigh, NC is the most challenging. I didn’t realize how good we had it in 8 years in PA no matter what you through in the ground didn’t get diseased. It’s a different story here. I guess that’s how I got here on your show.
Wait a minute let’s back up because where should people be looking in Pennsylvania if you can just throw things in the ground and they grow? It’s a big state as big as Montana!
dig in your dirt
- so we lived in Villa Nova
- moved to Berwin
- west Chester of Philly
- not terribly far from Lancaster.
The ground there was very rich and drained nicely
One of the advantages (living in Pennsylvania)
was we lived where they produced a lot of mushrooms, they could drive up to your place with a truckload of 32 cubic yards of mushroom soil and work that into your garden!!
by the time we moved out of West Chester in PA where I caught the heirloom garden bug and that’s where my tomato collection started exploding.
To just be able to go out into a garden and jam your fist in the ground up to your shoulder is just the direct opposite of here in Raleigh where every shovelful produced a clay pot or brick, if I did that here I’d break my wrist
it’s where you live.
touch on the trees have grown where I used to have my garden. Now I’ve built an expertise on
Container and straw bales
dig into the heirlooms
portable garden and be able to grow a lot of food wherever the sun shines
Growing Vegetables in Straw Bales: Easy Planting, Less Weeding, Early Harvests. A Storey BASICS® Title
books 3 & 4 in my head in planning. One will be on the dwarf tomato breeding project, I’ve co-led for about the last 11 years we’ve been creating compact plants are compact and the tomatoes are often full sized. We do it the old-fashioned way doing Mendelian breeding and crosses and selecting
I want to do a gardening cookbook we will probably self publish those so I can practice what that’s like.
I like to
no end to learn what we can
screw something up and find out when something goes wrong.
I love all of this I have so many questions I don’t even know where to start. I guess, Mike just started the Straw Bale thing, I’m curious about the pots, but your book is called Epic Tomatoes. IDK…
Where Epic Tomatoes comes from…
We pick things to love in life whether it’s our significant other or our pets. Every now and then something chooses us to become obsessed with.
For a period between 1986 and 1990
I received so many valuable rare tomato seeds from people all over the country where it was that family and I were the only ones had the variety.
I receive cherokee purple from a fellow in Tennessee
- Anna Russian
- Lillian’s yellow heirloom
I got to slap names on or distribute by listing in the seed savers exchange
Sending them to friends so they’d be in seed savers catalogs
I am very lucky I have had a hand in reintroducing a couple of hundred different seed catalogs and availability. Kind of turning back the clock.
over 3000 tomato varieties
I’ve been seed saver exchange tomato advisor for over a decade now and it’s been so much fun!
They have questions on tomato history
I’m lucky the tomato decided someone who could help them spread their wings and
How did you get to be a tomato advisor? You started sending them seeds? What was your corporate job?
PHD in organic chemistry I was actually at pharmaceutical companies…
gardening thing developed in parallel to that
passion for gardening, so I’d work during the day and I’d do the gardening when I came home from work
I love stories
I love the idea of saving seeds and passing them on
tomato hobby was the prefect intersection or perfect storm of me being able to rope all of my passions into one pursuit
seed savers exchange one of their main one of their tomato collected
listed in their year book
got to know them a little bit and went to a camp outs in Iowa
recognizes and values
People who develop and expertise and that became the advisory network that would learn about it
take a step back my friends ask why tomatoes?
We all of us, if we look at our lives we have a something passion that we can’t seem to learn enough about.
My passion is biographies, I love to learn about people’s lives! So what’s one thing we as gardeners should know but probably don’t know about growing tomatoes?
lets’ give you a top 3 things to know about growing tomatoes!
fortunate to be at Monticello at their harvest festival and I gave a speech on 5 must dos for successful tomato growers.
First would be amount of potential fungi and disease that lives in the soil
a lot of thee trouble people run into is starting low down in the plant foliage started dying off works itself up the plant . So I think
- untreated grass clip
- fine hardwood bark
- wheat straw as long as you make sure it has not been sprayed with persistent herbicides
- straw bales
- lawn clippings
Isn’t it sad that we have to put that caveat in because there is so much use of roundup and herbicides. You can be the greatest gardener in the world or have the greatest dirt but if you have a straw bale that has been impregnated with a persistent herbicide it’sg gonna die so you need to know the source or your mulch!
But if you put a mulch and create a barrier so that soil doesn’t splash on the lower foliage.
#2. Space your plants so the get really good air circulation around the plants, and between the plants and the sun can shine around the plants as much as it can
especially in areas where it gets warm and humid
you can really alleviate or minimize the things that attack your plants!
anybody who gardens all of us know we have this enthusiasm for growing as much as we can. When we plant them they have all this space and then when they reach mature size your garden is a jungle
Hahaha, Jackie is laughing cause she knows this well!
for the most part most things that we grow like that type of crowding because there are so many different types of fungi.
viruses and bacteria
usually the fungi that are the bad actors on tomatoes plants.
if we gardened in the 40s and 50s seed catalogs had like 150 or less tomatoes
- few pinks
- few yellow
- flavors were good to ok
in 2017 because of the efforts in seed savers exchange
maintain our genetic companies
10,000 more varieties different tomatoes now! If you get their yearbook.
stretch your imagination
- heart shaped tomatoes
- one the size of a pea
- swirled one
You could almost say learn to play with your food
- let’s make white tomato sauce
People are gonna ask you what varieties and know the stories and histories
I like the biographies of the things that we grow
- tomato varieties have stories!
- melons varieties
- all of us who are involved in this things called gardening
being able to tell them an interesting story about the tomato you used to make that yellow tomato sauce and it was sent to Craig and he got it from Robert Richardson who got it from Lillian Bruce who was an elderly woman who got the seeds from her son who went to farm shows and find intestering tomatoes to bring back to her
Tomato Grower Supply
amazed how delicious
I think the easiest to save of all
the ones where you simply let the vegetable or fruit dry on the vine
- dry on the plant
on the plate
pepper go to whatever ripe color to what it’s gonna get to
except for one variety
are on their way to a different color
once it hits it’s final color
air dry for a week or so
I said to my wife jokingly because we turned the tv off 8 years ago
don’t get the newspaper
- read to each other
- listen to audiobooks
maybe people would enjoy it!
driving in the car
why does it have to be fiction?
read a gardening book…add little tidbits
I came across this book called Homegrown Humus Cover Crops. So yesterday I actually read her book as an audio book, cause I wanted to see how long is it gonna take? If we are going to do a study group on the book how long will it take? It was about an hour.
I thought who would listen to a garden podcast? When they’re doing that boring weeding job or riding their lawnmowers.
I’m a person who has, I’m a
better job adding things to the list
then ticking them off
water the garden
save the seeds
make dinner for my wife on the couch post knee surgery
no brainers on the list everyday to check the no-brianers off.
getting to the ones who take some that fall at the bottow of the to-do lists.
I always think why would anyone stare at a blank page? granted I have 13 books in the work. For me is usually summer vacation get a book done, but it’s submit submit submit….
found that I can write very fast in short bursts
lots of different things in the course of the day
My wife is an introvert she can be in her quilting room for hourse
I do things 30 min
sit for an hour
touch type 2000/words an hour on the lap top.
you shoud do my shownotes for my podcast! I can barely type 60 wpm…
don’t like to edit and proof
I enlisted quite a few people to help with the proof reading and editing.
I say kudos to them because I show things to my family and then I print and i’m like look at these mistakes.
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Now Let’s Get to the Root of Things!
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
For example in mid august
plants are still alive but not looking great
know that they need something
maximizing the garden and trying to find the enthusiasm
when it’s hot
we’ve already canned 20 quarts of tomatoes
remove all the disease foliage and do the chores.
get another big crop
I’ve never been a good 12 month gardener because I put so much into it by February
- seed starting march
I spend Sept-Dec
- thinking back
- what didn’t work
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?
I’ll tell you what I like to tell people
the people who love gardening the most appreciate the journey rather then focus on the destination.
Ive got 98 tomatoes
growing in my driveway
various states of thriving…
all different varieties
but I know I’ve lost some of them
planting the seeds
which ones are growing like I expect
a bee crossed a little bit of that pepper so now I have a mysterious hybrid
The mad scientist lights up!
putting a little music on in the garage
getting them in the ground
I will lose 20%
- plant will fail to thrive
It’s great to
- I’m burning calories
- birds are singing
- getting dirty
I know I have a lot of plants growing if I only had room for 6 and I lost 30% of my crop I could see why people would be despondent.
wonderful about gardening spot
instead of being totally focused on I didn’t get in as many pounds
I learned a lot
tried all of these new things
diseases hit but I figured out what went wrong so next year I can change it.
journey not the destination
It’s the single act of garden!
I know my listeners are gonna be like ME Too! That’s what I love too!
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
I guess here’s what’s interesting
My grandpa and dad taught me to garden when I was very very young. But for the most part I did it on my own.
Even though I’m an extrovert and I like people and I have a passion like gardening
I like to be an explorer
- didn’t read a whole lot of books
- If I do this, this is likely to happen
- try this
Maybe I’ll take some advice from a different pursuit when I was getting a degree.
If you are going to change something only change one thing at a time
epsom salts on my plants
also use fish emulsion
what I tell people is do an experiment
- do everything the same
- apply epsom salts
- take good notes!
- yield the same
that’s how you answer the questions
what can I do in gardening? That make some things make things better
- trying to learn something
- controlled study
- plant your doing nothing to is the control
- the other is the experiment
- Then at the end of the year you can add to body of gardening
So valuable no wonder you have a degree in organic chemistry!
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.
Back when I was a regular gardener
in the dirt
- short handled blade
- cutting tool…
now that I’m a container gardener
I need a big wheeled gardening cart that I dump the bags of potting manure and mix with the cow manure
- wheel it over to my containers
- need to have something
roll around my yard…
I hear you, when I first thought of this question I thought a shovel but then I picked a wheel barrow and I have been looking for a cart!
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
So it varies
thing is with great tomatoes
slice them on the plate
Classic caprezi salad
so many good recipes!
nothing but the tomatoes
our go to
favorite cherry tomato
bundle of tomatoes bliss and joy
essentially make pesto
- use cherry tomatoes
- toasted almonds
- olive oil
The flavor that creates it’s a cold sauce like typical pesto you just heat your pasta
pale color, it doesn’t look like much but almost so good you can’t eat it.
One thing you’ll ask me.
emails is email@example.com
I spend about the last 1/2 hour doing diagnoses I feel like its a network of my tomatoes friends I probably will never meet but we share our passions of gardening
I like to be out there and answer questions. There’s nothing like a spirited discussion about what tomatoes is better!
when the book came out my daughter said if you want to sell some books you have to be out there and build a network and be with other gardeners more accessible
You can teach an old dog new tricks
love anytime people want to get in touch with me.
How do we connect with you?
emails is firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re all pieces of the puzzle of waht we’re doing to make the world a better place! believe the wonderful emails
pictures of diseased
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