UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County
University of California
UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County

Lake Merritt Trials Garden

 Welcome to the Trials Garden!

Have you ever wished you could plant 8 different tomato varieties to find out which grew best in your yard? Or wanted to plant a perennial that you could feel confident would grow well in your garden? As Master Gardeners, we too want to plant the best vegetables and ornamentals for our climate and maybe also discover fruits/vegetables that will do double duty as ornamentals (blueberries and Oriental spinach work well). From this desire to learn more grew our Trials Garden.

Planted, weeded and well loved since 2007, the Trials Garden at the Gardens at Lake Merritt provides the Master Gardeners with a unique space to try different varieties of the same plant to determine which one does best in our Mediterranean fog influenced climate. We have conducted trials of spinach, tomatoes, peppers and more. And we may evaluate the timing of planting. Do tomatoes do well when planted in March? Is April better? What happens if they are in the ground mid-May? We do our best to answer questions that will help make all of us better, more productive gardeners.

Trials Garden Sign

Come for a visit

Come see our trials in action. Master Gardeners staff the Trials Garden every Wednesday, year round, from 11am to 1pm. From April Through September, Master Gardeners are on hand the second and fourth Saturday of the month, weather permitting, from 11am to 1pm. (MAPQUEST Directions)

Learn to Grow Workshops - 2017

We hold hour long workshops (talk + Q&A) on a variety of topics from May through September (weather permitting). Our 2017 Learn To Grow Workshop schedule includes talks covering vegetables, beginning to garden, dealing with pests and what to do in the fall and winter for your garden. The 30-minute talks are always free and begin at 12:00 pm on the second Saturday of the month (please see schedule below). Be sure to bring your questions and and plant samples of concern; we'll hold a plant doctor session after the talk!

Lake Merritt Grow Food Workshop schedule 2017

What’s in the ground now?

March through May is a time when the garden is transitioning from our winter vegetables into our summer crop of squash, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. We are transplanting vegetable starts for some and starting from seed for others. Small “summer” crops are just getting started while the winter kale and lettuces are large and bountiful.

Trials Results

Trials Garden Recommended Veggies 2016

Trials Garden Recommended Veggies for 2015

Trials Garden Recommended Veggies for 2014 

Trials Garden Recommended Veggies for 2012

 Spinach Trials Results 2011

Tomato trials expanded results, 2010

Trials Garden Talk


 Purposes of the Trials Garden:

  • To test varieties of vegetables to see which do best in our marine-influenced local climate.
  • To test and demonstrate various types of irrigation, mulching, plant support, planting containers and other techniques that might enhance growing success.
  • To test and demonstrate the use of summer-dry ornamental plants to beautify the garden and save water, with a focus on the plants in our brochure Outstanding Plants for Alameda County.
  • To demonstrate inviting butterflies, bees, and birds into your garden.
  • To provide a venue for garden workshops, classes and demonstrations for Master Gardeners and the general public.
  • To provide a venue for ongoing public outreach for answering gardening questions.

Philosophy of the Trials Garden:

  • Because we are in a public garden that does not allow chemicals for fertilizing or pest control, we only will practice and demonstrate organic, sustainable methods in the Trials Garden.
  • We are an educational garden always open to the public during Garden Center hours even when Master Gardeners are not present.

Master Gardeners are at the Lake Merritt Trial Gardens to answer your gardening questions every Wednesday year round, and every 2nd and 4th Saturday from April through September, weather permitting, 11 AM - 1 PM.


Bellevue Ave is one-way off of Grand Ave on the north side of Lake Merritt. After passing Children’s Fairyland on the right and the lawn bowling club on the left, you come to the Garden Center building on your left. The entrance to the garden area is just past the building, and the Trials Garden is in the center of the overall garden area.  (MAPQUEST Directions)

Shrubby Monkey Flower - Outstanding Plant for Alameda County

Webmaster Email: dakooyumjian@ucanr.edu