Five lucky families and schools will enjoy trying straw bale gardening this growing season courtesy of the Pine River Garden Club and Pine River Shares. Winners of the second annual garden contest hosted by the two non-profits were chosen from many contest entrants who wrote essays about why they were eager to grow vegetables this year, how they would involve other members of the community and how they would care for their gardens.
It was difficult to choose the most inspirational from among the contest entrants, since everyone spoke from the heart about their passion for gardening. Fortunately, the team of judges from Pine River Shares and the Pine River Garden Club had several criteria to help score the entries.
One of the winners was the Bayfield Early Education Program, known to locals as "BEEP." The teachers, including Kari Caviness, led children in composing a song explaining how they would learn from and enjoy the experience of growing veggies in straw bales. Caviness explained that students would plant the garden before the school year is out in May, tend the plants during BEEP's two summer sessions, and return to see results in late August. When school resumes at that time, kids will begin to harvest, taste their own produce and discuss the project.
Another winner was one of the Hope Community Christian Academy classes in Ignacio. The teacher, Tandy Nossaman, had each of her students add their own essay to hers, making the contest a double-duty learning experience for the youngsters. Nossaman said, "I love to share what I know about gardening with my students." The Begay, Blakeslee and Krug families also won gardens.
Other local gardeners can learn about straw bale gardening in a class on April 19 at the Pine River Library, hosted by the Garden Club. Kami Larson of the Garden Club said that many people are interested to see how straw bale gardening works in our area. The advantages of this method include virtually no tilling, less water, fewer weeds and an earlier start - things that could make a big difference in Southern Colorado. The class is open to everyone. Information will be posted soon on the Pine River Garden Club's page on Facebook.