MARIPOSA COUNTY – According to the USDA, 93 percent of gardeners in the U.S. plant tomatoes every year. Clearly, it’s our most popular home-grown fruit. Now is the time to start thinking about planting, caring for and, finally eating it.
The Mariposa County Master Gardeners will conduct a free workshop, Tomato 101, on Mar. 15, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors chambers.
Presenters are Helen Willoughby-Peck and Dan Horner. Within the Mariposa Master Gardeners group, Peck is known as the tomato queen. She grows hundreds of plants from seeds every year for the MG annual plant sale. Horner has been an avid gardener and can talk entertainingly about his experiences.
They will cover growing, choosing the right variety for your garden, planting techniques, pests, diseases, grafting and seed preservation.
One of the things that often puzzles tomato growers is the alphabet on tags and in seed catalogs. These letters stand for tomato problems the plants are resistant to (resistant does not mean immune). A stands for alternaria stem canker, F for fusarium, N for nematodes, T for tobacco mosaic virus, St for stemphylium gray leaf spot and V for verticillium wilt.
Other terms to know are “bush” vs. “indeterminate.”
Bush means the tomato plant will grow to a given size (generally 3 to 5 feet), bear most of its fruit within 3 to 5 weeks, then decline. Most early ripening tomatoes are determinate.
Indeterminate plants will continue to grow and produce fruit until killed by frost. Indeterminate tomatoes need to be supported by stakes, cages or lattice, or their vines will sprawl on the ground and the fruit will develop rot.
Throughout the year, Master Gardeners present free workshops for the home gardener. Topics coming up are year-round gardening on May 3; oak and pine tree care on July 12; coping with mammalian pests such as deer, squirrels and gophers and landscaping for fire safety on July 19; and beneficial insects on Oct. 18.
Please register online at cemariposa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener or call (209) 966-2417 so the presenters can prepare enough materials to hand out.
The Mariposa County Board of Supervisors chambers is located at 5100 Bullion St.
The Master Gardener program is overseen by the University of California. Volunteers give UC-researched answers to home gardeners’ questions, conduct an annual garden tour and plant sale and staff the horticulture building for the Mariposa County Fair. For more about Master Gardeners, go to cemariposa.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener, where you will find information about the group’s hotlines for gardener questions and other services.
The Mariposa group maintains a native plant demonstration garden along Mariposa Creek between 8th and 6th streets. In North County, the group has a garden beside the old firehouse in Coulterville.
For a University of California website with researched information for home gardeners, go to http://cagardenweb.ucanr.edu/.