By Andrew Bunting
PHS Vice President, Public Horticulture
The idea of getting your garden ready to be judged for the 2020 PHS Gardening Contest might sound like a daunting feat. This year, both outdoor gardens and indoor houseplant gardens (with 8+ plants in one room), will be judged remotely, by experienced volunteers, who will review the garden photos that you submit along with a garden questionnaire. While your garden will require more effort and attention leading up to the day or days that you take your photos for the Contest, this should be a special time for you in the garden. I have been on many garden tours and while there is some consternation over the approaching day, I have always loved doing whatever it takes for my garden to look the best it can be.
First, carefully review the Contest judging criteria. I would suggest “taking stock” of your garden and making a prioritized list of everything you feel needs to be done to best meet the criteria, in time for the day or days that you will take your garden photos. There is undoubtedly weeding that needs to take place. You might think about touching up the mulching in the bed. For those of you who plant seasonal annuals and tropicals they should be planted now and put on a fertilizing regime of a soluble fertilizer every one-to-two weeks. Just yesterday I was doing some selective pruning. I would only prune those things that will make the plant look better and/or make the plantings around it look better.
Once the major tasks are complete then it is just a matter of removing dead leaves, deadheading (removing spent) flowers (or choosing to leave them as food for birds), pinching annuals that you want to be bushier, and general upkeep. One of the great things about gardening is that the plants will do most of the work. They will grow and flourish and fill spaces and start to “knit” the garden together for you.
You can find general Contest information and register here. Upon registration, you will receive more detailed instructions and will have until June 22 to upload your photos and questionnaire. Remote judging will take place in July and August.