Ann Wright: Garden colors and fall plants! |

Ann Wright: Garden colors and fall plants!

Tomoatoes will be the centerpiece for the Nevada County Master Gardener's annual "Bite Me" tomatoe tasting and open house.
Photo by Ann Wright |

The garden is full of color this time of year, and tomatoes certainly stand out amidst the fading green of corn and bronze of the fennel.

Ripening tomatoes herald autumnal celebrations of this versatile fruit. (Botanically speaking, tomatoes are true fruit as they bear seeds.)

As September is upon us, it’s time to “speak” tomato.

The language of tomatoes is almost as beautiful as the colorful fruit. “Heirloom” varieties suggest tradition, ancestry, color and form.

Heirloom tomatoes are open pollinated, which means saved seeds produce fruit that is identical to the parent plant. “Hybrid” tomatoes are a cross between two parents, where two different varieties are cross-pollinated, usually with human intervention.

“Grape” tomatoes are small, oval shaped berry-like fruit with firmer skin.

Grape tomatoes are generally smaller than “cherry” tomatoes, which are a favorite to many. Despite the small size of these taste sensations, some cherry tomato plants may grow to over 6 feet in height.

Alternatively, the massive “beefsteak” tomato is a type of its own and may reach a sizeable 2 pounds. “Slicers” are generally round and uniform in shape, also known as a “globe” tomato.

“Plum” is the description of paste or Roma tomatoes which are medium to small in size and shaped like red ovals.

These have thicker walls and fewer seeds than some of the other varieties.

Tomatoes will be in the spotlight at the very popular Nevada County Master Gardener’s annual “Bite Me” Tomato Tasting and Open House today from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the demonstration garden on the Nevada Irrigation District grounds, 1036 W. Main St. in Grass Valley.

This very popular event offers dozens of varieties of tomatoes to taste and to rate. The tomato with most favorable votes will generally be featured at the Master Gardener’s spring plant sale.

And if tomatoes are not enough, a workshop and tours of the demonstration garden will also be provided at the open house.

The workshop “Retain the Rain” will be presented at 10:30 a.m. and will offer a look at how to collect rain during our wet season.

The drought may be declared over in parts of California but it doesn’t hurt to stay alert and ready for the less plentiful rain years. It’s amazing how little rain it takes to fill up a rain tank, and this workshop will introduce some different ways to save the rain.

Learn about infiltration basins, diversion swales, cisterns and rain barrels.

Tours of the Demonstration Garden will follow the workshop, and Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions about tomatoes and other home gardening concerns.

Other Master Gardener events in September include a class about soil — “Growing Great Soil: from Lasagna Gardening to Cover Crops” will be presented from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 16.

Find out what it means to utilize green manure or sheet mulching to create nutrient-rich soil right in your own yard!

On Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon, Master Gardeners will host the Fall Plant Sale.

Plants will include cool season leafy greens such as lettuces, greens, mizuna, chard and kale. Milkweed and other perennials will also be offered for sale at this seasonal event.

Keep in mind that fall is the optimum planting time for perennials, as the winter rains and cooler temperatures allow the plants to become established before warm season rolls around again.

For example, milkweed planted in the fall will die back but will reappear the following spring — just in time for Monarch migrations.

For questions about these or other Master Gardener events, contact our Hotline at 530-272-0919 or check the website at

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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