Seychelles: Home Garden Competition Open for Seychelles' Green Thumbs, Both Small and Large

No balcony is too small and no yard is too large. There is space enough for every home in Seychelles to participate in a newly launched garden competition.

Launched by the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, the idea of a 'Home Gardens Competition' started when the ministry noticed an increase in the number of people turning to gardening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The director general of the public education and community outreach division at the ministry, Jeanette Larue, told the press that "since the start of COVID-19, we have seen through social media that there is an increase in the number of people planting at home."

"There are about five groups on social media dealing with gardening in Seychelles - Flower Pot, Backyard Farmers Seychelles, Beautifying Seychelles, Mirenda's Garden, and My garden. They are all local groups. Many people in these groups say that it is the first time that they are planting at home," said Larue.

Interested participants have until April 31 to register in one of three categories - balcony, small garden or large garden. A person simply needs to call 2827096 or send an email to c.clarisse@env.gov.sc to register.

With space not being a deterring factor, participants will have to meet five set criteria. The quality of the plants in the garden will matter a lot and judges will be looking to see if the plants are healthy, well maintained, pest free and correctly pruned.

Under 'diversity of plants' judges will be looking at the aesthetic appeal, colours, plants that complement each other as well as the integration of fruits and vegetables.

"The garden must be a mix of flowers and vegetables/fruits. If a person is competing with only flowers, I don't think that they will be among the finalists. We would also like to see people planting at least herbs and other small vegetable plants on their balconies. In outdoor gardens, we expect to see our local plants - palms and other native plants - which give shade," said Larue.

A senior programme officer in the same division, Terry Mousbe, said that "by doing this we are also asking people to be self-sufficient, where they are able to provide food for themselves while at the same time beautifying their home."

To ensure that creativity and innovativeness are met, participants must have a good layout, design and plant arrangements. Judges will also be looking at the landscaping in outside gardens and anything innovative will surely score extra points.

Integration of recycled materials, the conservation of water, use of eco-friendly pesticides, compost and fertilisers will tick the sustainability box.

"We want to see how people are integrating recycled materials in their gardening however we are not expecting to come to a house to see only tires being recycled, we want to see good diversity in the materials and good integrations," said Larue.

The fifth criteria is social and wildlife impact and through that judges want to participation of different family members, the attraction of wildlife to the garden and the inclusion of native plants in outside large gardens.

Larue said that one of the aims behind the contest is to help keep Seychelles beautiful and clean.

"When we talk about Seychelles as a country, we need to realise that it starts at home, which then moves to the community, and then to the district level. If your home is beautiful and clean, it contributes to the beauty of your community and it bounces back to your district," said Larue.

The organising team expects many people to participate and has made available three judging teams - one for each category - which will help speed up the process. Judging will start by the end of August.

The judges will choose 10 finalists in each category and will take to Facebook for the people to choose their favourite gardens. This means that aside from winners in each category, there will also be prizes for 'people's choice'.

"Prizes are mixed. There is some prize money but we will be giving people garden equipment and plants as well. In all our competitions nowadays, we are giving a coco de mer, which is worth around SCR4500, as part of the first price as we are encouraging people to have one at home," said Larue.

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