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JULY GARDENER: Make your own hypertufa container

Dale Aycock displays plant gardens in hypertufa containers at the Albany Mall during a Master Gardener Day celebration. (Special photo)

Dale Aycock displays plant gardens in hypertufa containers at the Albany Mall during a Master Gardener Day celebration. (Special photo)

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This hpertufa container was made using a bucket form, similar to those used in hospitals, and terra cotta-colored liquid cement. (Special photo)

Hypertufa is a lightweight cement mix that makes it simple to create your own plant containers and projects. Hypertufa is named for its similarity to tufa, a soft, porous rock used frequently in alpine gardens which mimic stone feeding troughs in old English gardens. Over time, hypertufas begin to age with a rustic appeal and take on a natural look in your garden.

On a personal note,I have been in the Garden Club of Georgia for over twenty years. My club sponsored a Junior Garden Club and since 1991 two other members and I helped with 4th and 5th grades at a local school. Looking for projects we discovered the students really enjoyed working with mud, planting the dish-gardens and then showing them at the State Perry Garden Club Flower Show and earning prize money.

I have been a Master Gardener for over ten years and a member of the Southwest Gardeners and I started teaching adults in Garden Clubs this easy fun project. I am surprised, I have been asked to repeat the second time.

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I learned to be a Master Gardener from James Morgan when he was the county agent for Lumpkin.

You can do this project too following these simple steps.

Supplies:

— Mixing tub or wheelbarrow

— Container for measuring

— Peat moss, Perlite, and Portland cement

— Plastic container for molds-plastic terra cotta planter pots work well

— Spray cooking oil

— Disposable gloves and dust mask

— Black garbage bags (for the curing process)

Recipe:

3 parts Portland cement

3 parts Sphagnum peat moss

3 parts Perlite

— Wear disposable gloves and dust mask

— Coat inside mold well with spray cooking oil.

— Be sure to use only portland cement and not a quick-set material. Mix dry ingredients together first. Use hands to remove all lumps out of the sphagnum.

— Add water gradually until mixture cups in your hand or is the consistency of cottage cheese.

— Press firmly into a mold to a thickness of 1” on the bottom and up the sides.

— Use a small stick or dowel to create three drainage holes in the bottom of the container. Re-stick drainage holes the next day as they will sometimes close up overnight. Blot excess water in pot with paper towel to remove.

— Cover with black plastic bag. Place in sun to dry for two to three weeks

— Dip pot in half water and white vinegar before planting.

— Succulents and sedums work best in this type of container, especially the cold hardy types that can stay outside all year.

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— Many herbs work beautifully in hypertufa, and gardeners can snip the ends for cooking.

July Garden Tips:

Birdbaths — Relocating your birdbath to a shaded area helps to slow water evaporation and keeps it from becoming too hot. Placing the birdbath near a small tree or among shrubs will provide shelter for the birds and encourage use. By adding sand or pebbles to control the depth of the water, you will also attract our beautiful butterflies.

Lawns — by raising the cutting height of your blades 1-2,” it will help your grass survive heat and drought. Taller turf will slow evaporation, shade the soil, and discourage weeds.

Crape Myrtles — After producing their first big flush of the season, it’s time to cut off the faded flower so they will bloom again. By diligently dead-heading them, you can enjoy continuous blooms until September.

Lantanas — they are among our most heat drought and pest resistant perennials and bloom from Spring until frost.Our natives make large plants that return each year.” Lantana is one of the top nectar plants that attracts and nourishes butterflies.”

Vegetables — Continue to pick squash, cucumbers, okra, and pole beans to encourage continued plant production. If vegetables are allowed to over- mature, the plants will go into a state of rest. You can also replant now to ensure a late summer harvest.

Mulch — Adding mulch will help alleviate water loss and cut down on weeds. Mulch helps keep the roots cool during the hottest part of summer. Pull weeds as they appear through each layer.

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Here are a few tips from UGA publication C943 which was prepared as a reminder and guide for planning your garden work. Other extension publications containing information about specific gardening practices are available at your county extension office or you can find them online at www.extension.uga.edu/publications/.

— Start planning the fall garden

— Keep grass from going to seed. Fallow soil to conserve moisture for germination of fall crops and help reduce the nematode population in the soil.

— Clean off harvested rows immediately to prevent insect and disease buildup.

— Plant the following vegetables not later than July 20 ( or up to 2 weeks later in extreme South Georgia) to allow time to mature before frost: tomatoes ,okra, corn, pole beans and lima beans. Also plant cucumbers, squash and snap beans.

— Water deeply and less often-as needed to prevent drought stress.

— Plant that big pumpkin for Halloween.

— Be sure to make arrangements for neighbors to harvest and water you garden while you are on vacation.

Dale Aycock is a Master Gardener Extension Volunteer who gardens in Randolph County. She is a member of SOWEGA Master Gardeners and the Georgia Master Gardener Association.