Food

Boyertown, Pottstown can get their hands dirty with local Home Garden Contest (photos)

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Ron Richael, far right, shows his backyard garden full of flowers to judges for the 2016 Home Garden Contest. Richael, of Pottstown, won first place in the Pottstown Bees & Butterflies Category earning a cash prize of $200. Michilea Patterson — Digital First Media

By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury

Boyertown and Pottstown residents can win money for playing in the dirt with the 5th annual Home Garden Contest.

First place winners of the growing competition can get up to $200. There are also cash prizes for second place, third place and honorable mentions. This year’s contest includes six categories with options for children, adults, flowers, vegetables, small spaces and big yards. Both experienced gardeners and beginners are encouraged to compete.

“It’s for everyone,” said Tracy Purdy, president of the Pottstown Mosaic Community Land Trust board of directors and a member on the contest committee.

Purdy said those new to gardening shouldn’t be afraid to enter and encourages them to give it a try. She said not everybody that won last year expected to but were pleasantly surprised. Those that register for the contest have the option of requesting a gardening mentor to answer any questions they may have about growing.

The Home Garden Contest is free to enter and the deadline is June 16. Residents can fill out an electronic form on the website at HomeGardenContest.com. Printed registration forms are available at the Building a Better Boyertown office, the Pottstown Mosaic Community Land Trust office and the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. The Boyertown office is located at 3 E. Philadelphia Avenue, the Pottstown Mosaic office is located at 10 S. Hanover St. and the foundation is located in Pottstown at 152 E. High St. on the fifth floor.

The growing event is open to residents of the boroughs of Pottstown and Boyertown. Last year, the contest was expanded into Boyertown making it the borough’s first official gardening contest. Adrianne Blank, main street manager of Building a Better Boyertown, said bringing the home garden contest to the borough motivated businesses in the area to start a planter awards.

“We’re kind of riding this momentum of beatification and greening,” she said. “We’re really excited to be part of this garden contest.”

Blank said she encourages Boyertown residents to enter the contest whether they have small gardens or bigger ones. She said gardeners in the borough take pride in what they grow and it would be nice if they were recognized through the contest.

Boyertown and Pottstown entries will have separate judging but there will be a joint awards ceremony. Each of the six garden categories will have winners from both boroughs. There’s $5,500 available in cash prizes between the two municipalities.

Kathryn Endy, of Boyertown, won first place last year in the grocery garden category taking home $200 for her display of vegetables.

“I’ve been gardening since I was nine,” Endy said adding that she continued the healthy activity when she became an adult.

She said all the produce she grows sustains her family throughout the year including during the winter by freezing items.

“I rarely buy vegetables because everything I grow, we eat,” Endy said.

Endy’s garden last year included cabbage, peppers, strawberries, eggplants, tomatoes, herbs and so much more. She said another benefit of growing her own food is that she uses organic methods without chemicals.

“Pretty much everything that my daughter and I consume, I know where it came from and I love that,” Endy said.

Endy said she enjoyed entering the Home Garden Contest and the awards ceremony allowed her to connect with others that had a shared interest.

“It’s a wonderful experience being able to meet other gardeners who are just as passionate about growing,” she said.

Ron Richael, of Pottstown, won first place last year in the bees and butterfly category taking home

$200 as well.

“I chased butterflies when I was a kid,” Richael said adding that it was a favorite pastime of his on the 40-acre farm he grew up on in western Pennsylvania.

Last year, Richael entered his 24-year-old butterfly garden which is full of native plants that attract pollinators. He said the interesting thing about gardening is that you continue to learn something knew which is why he enjoyed meeting other growers as part of the Home Garden Contest. Richael said growing is a challenge but an enjoyable one.

Penn State Extension master gardener Gretchen Lea said gardening isn’t an exact science especially since there are so many factors that can affect that’s year’s crops.

“If it doesn’t work, it’s not your fault and you’ll always learn from it,” she said. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Lea, who is also a Boyertown representative on the contest committee, sends out weekly “Master Gardner Monday” tips that can be found on the garden contest website. She said the tips are for those just starting out and don’t necessarily know all the dos and don’ts of growing yet.

“They’re just sort of tips to give you a better chance of success,” Lea said.

Lea said gardening is a great activity to begin because it has both mental and physical benefits. She said the healthy activity helps keep people focused and it’s peaceful to be out in nature. She added that growing helps to keep her fit as well and improves her balance.

“It’s all the lifting, the twisting and using your hands,” Lea said.

In addition to these benefits, she said gardening is just a great “common factor” for many people, no matter their background.

“I just encourage people to get their hands dirty,” Lea said.

The Home Garden Contest is made possible through a collaboration between Building a Better Boyertown and the Mosaic Community Land Trust as well as the main sponsor, the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation.

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