Passion for gardening

By JON ALVERSON/JALVERSON@DDTONLINE.COM,

Leland resident Billy Johnson has been gardening nearly his entire life. He first started gardening at the age of 7, under the helpful eye of his grandfather, Billy Condon. Johnson said he believes Leland has some of the most fertile soil in the world and the city once had a large community of gardeners. Learning from various gardeners growing up, Johnson said he probably learned the most from master gardener Horace Dean. Johnson said Dean taught him gardening tomatoes are similar to roses, which like a fertile, well-drained bed. Johnson earned a horticulture degree from Mississippi State University and has been growing vegetables ever since. Tomatoes remain Johnson’s specialty, growing 300 tomato plants each year of Bella Rosa and Arkansas Traveler tomatoes, which he gets from Fountain’s Green Grow-Cery in Greenville. Johnson sells his tomatoes to Stop-n-Shop and various people in the community. Throughout the year, Johnson also grows lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, squash, eggplant, cantaloupe, okra, peas, and more.