UNION COUNTY, NJ - Gardeners are encouraged to 'grab their wagons' and head to 28th Annual Union County Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale May 21, which will be held rain or shine, from 12 - 4 p.m., at the Demonstration Garden complex at the Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside. 

The Spring Garden Fair, a project of the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County in cooperation with the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, features hundreds of plants and for sale including deer resistant, drought tolerant and fragrant verities, and easy-to-grow vegetables, herbs and ornamentals for beginner gardeners.

Among the many highlights of the sale are heirloom tomatoes and tomato varieties ideal for containers and small gardens, hot peppers, hanging baskets and houseplants along with annual and perennial flowers for the garden.

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Of special interest to tomato lovers are the Rutgers 250 and the Ramapo F1 Hybrid varieties.

The Rutgers 250 tomato is the new result from crossing the same parent varieties as the original ‘Rutgers’ tomato that was released by Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) in 1934. Rutgers 250 was selected for high fruit quality and flavor and was named in honor of the University’s 250th anniver­sary (the number of plants an individual can purchase may be limited due to demand). 

The Ramapo F1 Hybrid tomato was developed at Rutgers NJAES and first released in 1968. It was prized by gardeners for its great flavor, fruit quality, reliability, and productivity. Ramapo seed was unavailable for many years but Rutgers NJAES continued receiving requests for this popular tomato and eventually reintroduced Ramapo F-1 seeds in 2008.

Other Spring Garden Fair highlights include: 

  • Free Garden Helpline clinic and Rutgers information fact sheets for gardening problems -- Residents are encouraged to bring plant and insect samples for diagnosis.
  • Union County Division of Mosquito Control Supervisors available to answer questions.
  • Rutgers Soil Test Kits will be available for sale.
  • Square Foot Gardening display and informal presentation all day.
  • Free children's activities, including making bird feeders and planting seeds. Children must be accompanied by parent or guardian. 
  • 4-H Master Tree Steward display. 
  • Guided tours of the Demonstration Garden complex including our vegetable and herb gardens.
  • "The Cupcake Café" will have home-baked goods.  
  • Arts & Crafts table with hand-painted bird house gourds grown in the garden, along with other items made by Master Gardeners.
  • A Gardening “Odds & Ends” table with various new and slightly used gardening items.
  • Applications to become a Master Gardener will be available for the new Master Gardener class starting next fall.

The Trailside Nature and Science Center is located at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside, in the Watchung Reservation. Free parking for the Spring Garden Fair is available in the Reservation at the Scout Camping Area, and in the parking lot at the corner of New Providence Road and Coles Avenue. Additional free parking is available in the nearby Loop playground area. No pets are allowed in the Garden Fair.

Visitors who plan to purchase plants are advised to bring a small wagon for ease of conveyance.