Winners of the 1985 Garden Contest

Our national winners show off the best gardens in the United States and offer tips for planning a garden no matter where you live.

| January/February 1986

  • Gardener
    These winners show that beautiful, productive gardens are possible in all regions of the United States.

  • Gardener

It's our pleasure to introduce you to a group of extraordinary gardeners . . . the cream of our 1985 Garden Contest crop. We simply couldn't pick a top winner from among the five regional finalists, so each will receive a $200 first-place prize, a Ball canner set, and a Weed Eater Model 5000 Power Hoe. And one entrant so deserved special recognition that we create an additional category (and awarded another first-place prize) just for her.

Meet our winners, take a tour through their gardens, learn their secrets for success . . . and discover (as we have) that their enthusiasm for good gardening is highly contagious. After reading our top winners' stories, we can hardly wait for spring to come, so we can get to work on our gardens!

Judith Hendrickson: "Never a Bare Spot."

"July 23: Frost!" wrote Judith Hendrickson in a note to us on the progress of her garden in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And fickle weather is but one of the imposing horticultural problems Judith has faced since she and her family first moved to their homestead — at the time, a rundown cabin on seven overgrown acres.  

"The field was covered with goldenrod, thistles, black-eyed Susans, burdock, bindweed, and seedling apple trees . . . all pretty and fine in their place, but not in my garden!" she writes. "I placed my children and husband in strategic positions with numerous buckets of water and torched the matted undergrowth. " 

Three years, untold hours of digging, and tons of compost later, Judith's large (a total of 3,300 square feet!) garden produces a prodigious quantity of vegetables, flowers, and herbs despite the brief growing season ("90 maybe frost-free days"). Succession planting, dense intercropping, and heavy mulching — and a love for her work — are the keys to Judith's success. 

The first year, I used a spade and lots of labor (my children's and my own) to dig and turn over a rough 20 x 50 feet plot. I explained patiently to my mutinous crew that turning small nibbles of ground and chopping them once with the spade made rototilling the soil afterwards a much easier job. We finally got the area tilled by the end of April. I formed it into beds about 3 x 8 feet, forked in composted manure from our barn, and when the ground got warm in May, planted.

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