Get ideas for your own home garden at Master Gardener tour

As we go through our increasingly hectic lives, we often forget to pause throughout the day, enjoy our beautiful landscapes and reap the benefits of edible gardens. I don’t have space to create a garden, but I incorporate house plants and herbs into my humble abode to enjoy what nature has to offer. By incorporating edible plants, I’ve added greenery to my cement balcony as well as fresh chamomile and mint to my tea and basil to my cooking.

Maybe you don’t have much of a garden and have always wanted an outdoor space for relaxing, or maybe you have a garden and you are looking for a change. Wherever you are with your landscape, I encourage you to take time in your home and yard to do some planting and harvesting.

You may start with house plants and potted herbs like me. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you may attend a garden tour and gather local inspiration and knowledge to start planning or redesigning your own garden.

An opportunity to do that is coming up. The annual Master Gardener Garden Tour is Aug. 19-20. The event is sponsored by Rail City Garden Center, and it raises funds for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Washoe County Master Gardener Program.

Attending the tour is a great way to learn about gardening in northern Nevada’s climate and soils. Gardeners on the tour experiment with a variety of techniques and can give you the dos and don’ts of growing in the high desert. Homeowners can tell you about their use of season extenders for vegetable gardening, raised beds to work with clayey soil issues, and irrigation for low water-use gardens. After the tour, you will have a better grasp of local gardening practices so you can apply them to your landscape.

Featuring 11 properties, the tour includes all types of gardens, from vineyards to vegetable gardens to creative ornamental landscapes.

If you want to experience an old Reno landscape turned botanical haven, garden #7 in the tour booklet is a must-see. It offers a unique look at ornamental landscaping from a gardener who has learned to stop fighting nature. There, you’ll see how to make better use of your space by adding potted plants when inground plantings are not an option. The property’s microclimate provides a safe haven for plants that do not normally handle our winds and intense sun. If beating the heat while enjoying a diverse garden setting is your way of spending summer, garden #7 will give you creative ideas and inspiration to cultivate your own unique space.

Edible gardens take on many shapes and sizes. One that offers an excellent look at vegetable gardening in our area is garden #2 in the tour booklet. It was started to provide food for the family and as an opportunity to try something new every year. You will be amazed at the use of diverse gardening techniques, including raised beds and crop rotation with straw bales. A special characteristic of this garden is that each year new tomato varieties are grown there. This year, the homeowner is showcasing 45 varieties.

If you dream of California wine country, you will be happy to learn that wine grapes are not just for California anymore. Two gardens on the tour demonstrate local wine grape growing. Garden #5 in the tour booklet is a vineyard and offers a completely different perspective for edible gardening. The vineyard has several wine grape varieties, and with a little trial and error of how to cope with our region’s climate and soil types, the owner has come a long way. Garden #8 in the tour booklet has five rows of wine grapes, but that’s not all it has to offer. This garden also has a variety of vegetables and fruits too!

These are just a few of the gardens you will have the opportunity to see on the tour. Whether you are interested in vegetable gardening, fruit trees, vineyards or ornamental landscapes, there’s a garden for you. Want to go? Sign up at Rail City Garden Center, 1720 Brierley Way in Sparks, or online at

No matter what avenue you explore with greenery this year, I encourage you to take a while and enjoy the beauty and flavor of all your hard work.

Self-guided garden tour etiquette– Going on a garden tour is great fun, until you run out of time, get lost or end up sunburned. To avoid garden tour troubles, take these suggestions:

  • Pick up your tour book early so you can decide which gardens you just have to see.
  • Plan your routes before the event so you get the chance to visit every garden you want to explore.
  • Pack everything you need for the day, including drinks and snacks. Remember, the tour features private gardens, so there will be no public refreshments or restrooms available.
  • Bring your camera and notebook to document inspiration for your own garden.
  • Wear appropriate shoes and clothing so you will be comfortable and safe as you explore gardens diverse in terrain and in sun exposure.
  • Park carefully. Space can be limited, so be conscious of other tour-goers and make sure not to block in anyone.
  • Treat their landscape as if it were your own; what you bring in, please take out. And, stay on designated pathways.

Tips from experienced tour-goers- Master Gardener Garden Tour participants from previous years had these suggestions to share with you:

  • Team up with friends and family to carpool.
  • Buddy up with friends to take advantage of the group tour tickets discount.
  • Make a day out of it: see gardens in the morning, and go to lunch in the afternoon.
  • Be ready for the heat, and bring sunscreen!
  • Go to gardens in which you wouldn’t normally be interested. You may just surprise yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the garden owner questions about their growing experiences and yard. If there’s one thing gardeners love to talk about, it’s plants.
  • Take good notes of plant names.
  • Ask if they have a garden blog you can follow.
  • Say thank you!

Jenn Fisher is the Washoe County Master Gardener Program Assistant with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Garden questions? Attend the tour. If you won’t be able to, you can still talk to a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or, or visit