Plus: Two native plant tours will show you what's possible in your own yard.
Area Master Gardeners have spent the last several months seeding, transplanting and nurturing tens of thousand of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Each variety and been trialed and selected based on its ability to do well in our various microclimates.
They also have tasted hundreds of tomatoes and peppers to ensure that each is worthy of a place in your garden. Not only will there be options you can't find anywhere else in the Bay Area, there will also be experts on hand and demonstrations on growing great tomatoes, pest management, sustainable gardening and more.
You will find tomatoes in almost every color of the rainbow –purple, green, orange, yellow, white, black, and of course, red. Pepper offerings include bells so sweet you can eat them like candy and super hot ones that might make you put your doctor on speed-dial. There will be traditional purple eggplant, but how about trying a white or rose-colored one as well?
If you aren't adding edible flowers to your salads, you are missing out. The sales will have a variety that will also encourage bees in your garden.
Santa Clara Master Gardeners‘ Garden Market is the oldest and largest in the Bay Area. There will be more than 20,000 plants, including 75 varieties of tomatoes and nearly 100 peppers; dozens of sunflowers, herbs and eggplants.
Ask about the Romanian Gogosari or the Cullarici, two unique peppers you won't find commercially available anywhere else in the country.
If you love succulents, you will be delighted with the array of choices — individual plants, sampler packs and beautiful arrangements, artfully potted in clever containers.
- 9 a.m. to 2p.m., April 8. History Park at Kelley Park, 1650 Senter Road, San Jose
San Mateo/San Francisco
Along with an array of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, the San Mateo and San Francisco Master Gardeners will be offering strawberries, herbs, microgreens and pumpkins. They will help you select varieties that do well in cooler climates as well as the small spaces of city-gardening.
Look for Patio Baby, a miniature eggplant that is perfect for containers, and other varieties developed for smaller gardens.
- 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 1, San Mateo County Event Center, Sequoia Hall, 2495 Delaware St., San Mateo
The Contra Costa Master Gardeners really want to get the East Bay gardening. This year they are hosting three markets on different days and locations to make it easy for folks to attend.
Beyond the most sought-after options, they will be offering unique selections such as the Pomodoro Canestrino di Lucca, a robust and flavorful roma tomato that produces prolific, deep orange fruit.
They are also will have tomatillos as well as peppers, eggplant and herbs.
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 1, Our Garden, 2405 Shadelands Drive, Walnut Creek.
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 8, Richmond Civic Center Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 22, Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 W. 10th St., Antioch
Native plants tours
If vegetable gardens aren't your only interest, check out the Going Native Garden Tour in the South Bay, and the Bringing Back the Natives tour in the East Bay.
Now in its 15th year, the Going Native Garden Tour showcases waterwise, low-maintenance plants that are attractive, require little care and encourage and support our native birds, bees and beneficial insects.
The tour includes a variety of designs and plant selections at homes in the South Bay and on the Peninsula. For more information and to register on the website.
- 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 22 and April 23
Registration is now open for the Bringing Back the Natives annual plant tour that offers visits to 45, mostly native gardens throughout the East Bay. The tour is designed to let gardeners see how they can incorporate native, low-water plants in there own gardens.
The tour is free although there is a $10 fee for a program. Register early.
- 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 7
by UC Master Gardener Rebecca Jepsen
This article first appeared in the March 23 issue of the San Jose Mercury News.