April’s chilly winds are making way for balmier weather, just in time for the 27th annual Union County Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale. This year the event takes place on Sunday May 15, 12:00 noon to 4:00 p.m. at the Demonstration Garden by the Union County Trailside Nature and Science Center in the Watchung Reservation, at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.

As always, admission and parking are free. All sales are cash only. Proceeds from the sale go to fund community service projects of the Master Gardeners of Union County, the all-volunteer organization that runs the Demonstration Garden.

“Every year, our Master Gardeners work hard to assemble a great collection of plants, activities and educational opportunities for every gardener, from raw beginner to seasoned pro,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. “A visit to the Spring Garden Fair is a fun, inspiring way to kick off the growing season, and I wish the Master Gardeners all the best for another successful event.”

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The Spring Garden Fair features deer resistant, drought tolerant and fragrant plants that thrive in Union County, including many including many easy-to-grow plants for beginner gardeners and a large selection of tomatoes and herbs

Popular tomato varieties for sale at the fair include the Ramapo and the Mortgage Lifter, so named for the 1940’s-era grower who paid off his mortgage by selling plants.

One major highlight of the fair this year is the brand new “Rutgers 250” tomato, available for sale as transplants only.

Introduced on a limited supply basis just last summer by the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station of Rutgers University, the new variety is a historic re-invention of the world famous Jersey tomato first introduced in 1934 by Rutgers.

“The new Rutgers 250 variety promises bursting flavor with a little more bite and complexity, according to the experts,” said Bergen. “It’s not available to large commercial growers yet, so stock up at the Garden Fair and get a head start in your own backyard.”

In addition to selling plants, baked goods, books, crafts, and garden supplies, the Spring Garden Fair is packed with activities for gardeners of all ages including:

  • Guided tours of the Demonstration Garden including the vegetable and herb gardens.
  • Displays and information for “Square Foot Gardening,” Rain Barrels, and Rain Gardens.
  • Information on joining the Master Gardeners and the 4-H Master Tree Stewards.
  • Free children's activities.
  • Free Garden Helpline clinic and Rutgers information fact sheets for gardening problems (attendees can bring plant and insect samples for diagnosis, and a Rutgers soil test kit is available for sale).

Free nearby parking is located at the Trailside Nature & Science Center parking lot and the Scout Camping Area. Additional free parking is available in the Loop playground area, located a short walk away on the other side of Trailside.

Visitors are advised to bring a small wagon to convey their purchases. Sorry – no pets are permitted at the Garden Fair.

The Master Gardeners of Union County is an all-volunteer organization run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, supported in part by the Freeholder Board. Anyone with an interest in gardening and volunteer service can become a Master Gardener. No previous education or training in horticulture is required. 

Among the Master Gardeners community service projects are educational events and summer camps, neighborhood beautification and nutrition projects, and a horticultural scholarship. The group’s work in the Demonstration Garden has also yielded thousands of pounds of fresh produce for local food pantries, and many donations of cut flowers to cancer centers.

For more information on the Master Gardeners program, contact Judi Laganga at the Extension at 908-654-9854 (ext. 2), or visit online at ucnj.org/rce. The Extension offices are located in the Colleen Frasier county services building, 300 North Avenue East in Westfield.

For all Union County programs and services visit ucnj.org, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email info@ucnj.org or use the online Contact Form.

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