Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PHS City Gardens Contest.... Musings

By Lois Fischer

Last year's garden in mid-to late May
It's raining today, a perfect time to begin thinking and writing about the annual City Gardens Contest sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. For those of you who are unfamiliar the contest, let me provide some background. PHS has been sponsoring this event for decades. Gardeners from all over the city enter their gardens that are judged by gardening volunteers. Small and large, ornamental and vegetable, individual and community -- all sorts of gardens are entered. For years, I have been part of the team of volunteer judges and have enjoyed seeing the amazing variety of gardens and the creativity of the gardeners.  After some hesitation last year, I entered my tiny vegetable garden, no more than 250 square feet. Low and behold, I won first prize for the small vegetable garden category. I am entering again this season and with encouragement from fellow Master Gardener, Michelle Koskinen, will occasionally contribute to the Master Gardener blog about the experience. I would also encourage all of you to consider either entering the contest, volunteering to judge or both! Go to the PHS website (, click on PHS Events and then on City Gardens Contest. You can enter and volunteer on-line.

Having been out of town for a good part of the winter, I have only just begun the preparation work for planting. Turning the soil in my three 4x10 foot raised beds and adding amendments including compost has been accomplished and the cool weather crops have been planted and carefully labeled. As a result of my judging experiences, I have learned that labeling is important for a winning garden.
Last year's garden in mid-to late May
The peas, spinach and salad greens have spouted, as well as the Swiss chard. Planting a number of cultivars of the same species also racks up points with the judges. Each year I try to select a least one new cultivar, as well as old favorites. Given the small space in which I am working, this can be a challenge. I also plant many vegetables and herbs in containers to maximize the space and to take advantage of all the sunlight that falls into the garden. Succession planting is a must for me.... and the judges like it too! I take photos of the first round of crops. Juding does not occur until July and August and I want the judges to know what things looked like earlier in the season.                                                      

Enough for now.... I will keep you posted as the season progresses and plan to share tips on what the judges look for in winner in case you decide to enter the contest!

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