Learn to garden with informative, witty columns by a master, Tom Timmons

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Certified Master Gardener Tom Timmons. Photo Courtesy: Tom Timmons

Before Tom Timmons learned to tend the soil as a gardener, he toiled 3,000 feet beneath it – as a gold miner in South Dakota.

It was his gig to pay for college.

These days, the longtime Kauaʻi resident – a retired high school administrator who spent stints as a barroom bouncer and literary professor – is best known as a certified Master Gardener and author of many well-received gardening pamphlets.

He’ll bring his knowledge and wit to Big Island Now readers beginning this Saturday, Feb. 10, with the first installment of a new biweekly column titled: “Gardening in Hawaiʻi with Tom Timmons.”


“I could grow the finest weeds you can imagine,” Timmons said of his early gardening days. “That’s why I took the Master Gardener classes – to figure out how to grow plants for my table.”

Timmons and his wife Pat Fallbeck live in Kōloa on the South Shore of Kaua‘i. Their home is surrounded by breadfruit, mango, papaya, avocado and citrus trees, but orchids are his favorite plant.

Orchids are renowned for their many varieties. The showy flowers come in all shapes and sizes, but Timmons isn’t fussy – he likes them all. And why? Because his wife loves them.

“So what better thing to do than bring her home orchids,” he said.


Given Timmons’ background, it’s perhaps unsurprising he sees gardening as an exercise in education.

“I sure like to learn everything there is to know about plants and diseases and nutrition, how to get the most out of the plant and so on,” he said.

Kauaʻi Master Gardener Coordinator James Keach, an assistant extension agent for the University of Hawai‘i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, credits Timmons and Fallbeck with the Kaua‘i Master Gardener program’s continued success.

“They are the power couple that have kept things moving,” Keach said.


In 2022, Timmons was honored as the statewide Master Gardener program’s inaugural contributor to the University of Hawai‘i newsletter Hānai ʻAi.

“It’s great that Tom has this real gift and joy writing these things,” Keach said. “He seems to be able to strike a really good balance between distilling the information for a topic, but still making it entertaining and engaging to read.”

Timmons’ first column will be dedicated to “Basil – the royal herb.”

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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