Georgia Garden Girl

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Fun with Hypertufa!

Last Saturday, I attended an exciting workshop on hypertufa at the Columbus Botanical Garden.  Toni Fogle, a lawyer-turned-hypertufa enthusiast, taught a gaggle of ladies and one gentleman how to craft our own (relatively) lightweight stone-like containers.  We had a super time getting dirty and sculpting our vessels.

Ms. Fogle learned how to make hypertufa from her mother, who makes hypertufa containers for the Cox Arboretum in Dayton, Ohio.  Ms. Fogle now lives in Columbus, is a member of the Azalea Garden Club, and hosts hypertufa workshops at her home.  She repeatedly emphasized that she is not an expert, but she sure seemed like an expert to me.  She had an answer for every question, and she really knew her stuff!

So what is hypertufa?  It is a popular medium for making garden pots, troughs, and ornaments.  It has a stone-like appearance but is much lighter.  Hypertufa is made of Portland cement and peat, plus either perlite or vermiculite (and maybe sand, depending on the recipe).  And when you’re molding it, it’s like Play-Doh for grown ups, y’all.

At our workshop, we used a formulation comprised of 2 parts Portland cement, 3 parts peat, and 3 parts perlite, plus a handful of fiber mesh.  A couple notes on the ingredients.

  • First, I’ve mentioned before that some gardeners are concerned that peat is becoming an unsustainable resource, so I wondered whether a peat substitute could be used.  Short answer: yes, though the quality of the finished product may be different than a container made with peat.  If you’re concerned about peat, you can use coir or a fine grade composted bark.
  • Second, I wasn’t sure where to get fiber mesh, which is a reinforcing fiber used in concrete.  Turns out you can buy it at amazon.com.  Or if you know someone who works in construction, they can probably sell you a bit—it only takes a pinch to make a hypertufa container.
  • Third, if you want to buy perlite and vermiculite, the big box stores will charge you an arm and a leg for a tiny bag.  If you want to pay an arm and a leg, I suppose that’s your journey.  But if you want to be thrifty, go to your local feed and seed store.  Columbus folks can just go across the Chattahoochee to B.W. Capps in Phenix City—you can get a 4 cubic foot bag of perlite for $17.50 and a 4 cubic foot bag of vermiculite for $17.99.

In addition to the ingredients, you’ll need safety equipment, mixing container, a sturdy table, a plastic tablecloth, a form, some plastic bags grocery store bags with handles, and a large plastic trash bag for each form.

  • Safety equipment.  Hypertufa involves concrete, and you don’t want to breathe in concrete dust or get it in your eyes or your jewelry/watch.  So when you are mixing the hypertufa ingredients, leave your jewelry and watch inside and wear safety glasses, a dust mask, and gloves.  You can ditch the glasses and mask while you’re molding the hypertufa, but keep on your rubber gloves.
  • Mixing container.  You need a place to mix the ingredients.  A wheelbarrow or a large plastic container will work.
  • Sturdy table.  It is important to have a sturdy work surface so that your hypertufa doesn’t jiggle a lot while you’re making it.  Jiggling leads to cracks.
  • Plastic tablecloth.  Ms. Fogle recommends plastic tablecloths from the dollar store, although heavy duty plastic drop cloths will also work (but they’re more expensive).  The tablecloth has two purposes.  First, it covers your workspace so your table doesn’t get messy.  Second, when you are finished molding your hypertufa, you will use the plastic tablecloth to cover it.
  • Form (or not).  You can do free form hypertufa, but the workshop did not cover that. We learned how to make hypertufa using a form.  I used a small plastic bowl that was fairly rigid.  You could also use a plastic flower pot, a sturdy plastic bag (like a cat litter bag), or even a cardboard box.  If you are using an “outside in” approach (molding the hypertufa on the outside of your form), make sure your form doesn’t have a lip.  If you are using an “inside out” approach (molding the hypertufa on the inside of your form), make sure your form isn’t too rigid.
  • Plastic grocery store bags.  You need a plastic grocery store bag or two to cover or line your form.  The handles will make it easier to pull out your form when your hypertufa is dry.  If your bag seems flimsy, use two.
  • Large plastic trash bag.  You will use the bag to wrap your hypertufa for drying and seasoning.

Once you have your gear, you’re ready to start!  Before you mix the ingredients, have your form prepared—it should be covered in plastic grocery bags and sitting in your large plastic trash bag.

My Form: a Small, Plastic Bowl

My Form: a Small, Plastic Bowl

My Form: Wrapped and Ready to Go

My Form: Wrapped and Ready to Go

Mix your ingredients and slowly add water until your mixture is the consistency of cottage cheese.

Mixing the Hypertufa

Mixing the Hypertufa

Then, when you start, you must keep going until you’re finished.  Build from the bottom of your form, keeping a depth of at least 1.5 inches, especially at the corners.  You will be tempted to press the mixture with your fingers, but Ms. Fogle recommends focusing on using your thumb to tamp down the mixture while using your fingers simply to hold it in place.  If you get puddles of water, you’re squeezing too hard!  And when you get to the bottom of your vessel, make sure it is flat.  You can use your finger (or a dowel) to check the depth and make a drainage hole.

Getting Started

Getting Started

Finished!

Finished!

More Hypertufa Artisans

More Hypertufa Artisans

After you finish molding your hypertufa, the waiting begins.  Carefully fold the garbage bag over your hypertufa and then fold the plastic tablecloth on top of the garbage bag.

Wrapped and Waiting

Wrapped and Waiting

Ms. Fogle emphasized that you should not tinker with your hypertufa for at least three days.  After three days, you may remove the form (go slowly; note: after a tugging gently, mine popped right out).

Ready to Remove the Form

Ready to Remove the Form

 

My Hypertufa!

My Hypertufa!

You can use a steel brush to smooth the surface (Ms. Fogle says that she usually doesn’t bother with this step: “I’m not fancy, I’m lazy”).  And then, after that, you need to let the hypertufa season.  In other words, let it sit for a month or 45 days covered in plastic (you may want to spritz it with water occasionally during the curing process).  Then you can burn off any fiber mesh “whiskers” (Ms. Fogle uses a grill lighter; if you have a blowtorch, go for it).  Finally, allow the container to weather outdoors for several weeks.  This is not a quick process, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait!

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Hypertufa Workshop This Weekend!

This Saturday, March 29, 2014, the good folks at Columbus Botanical Garden will show us how to make custom hypertufa containers.  For only $35 ($40 for non-members), you will learn how to make your very own piece of outdoor art!  The workshop is 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.  Bring rubber gloves, a large garbage bag, and a form (e.g., a plastic Rubbermaid container—make sure it’s smaller than one cubic foot).  Sign up online: http://columbusbotanicalgarden.com/event/hypertufa-workshop-2/ or call the Columbus Botanical Garden for more information – 706-327-8400.  Hope to see you there!

Image

Photo courtesy of Columbus Botanical Garden.

If you can’t make it to the workshop but are interested in learning more about hypertufa, check out:
http://www.marthastewart.com/268091/pots-with-a-personal-touch-hypertufa:
http://www.lowes.com/creative-ideas/woodworking-and-crafts/make-hypertufa-pots/project

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Happy New Year! Recycle Your Grease!

Happy new year, y’all!

To my dear sweet loyal readers who keep asking me when I’m going to start writing again: I solemnly resolve to do a better job of blogging this year.   2013 was a great year for gardening, and I spent so much time playing in the dirt that I neglected to tell you about it.  There was so much to do!  Tomatoes and beans and okra and cucumbers and eggplant and peppers and zinnias and dahlias and coleus, oh my!  I even started learning how to put up my vegetables using the boiling water bath method.  And I promise to tell you all about my adventures this year.

My main purpose for writing today is to let you know about a wonderful event in Columbus, Georgia this weekend.   Get 2014 off to a great start by participating in the Grease & Pharmaceutical Recycling Event!  The event is sponsored by Columbus Water Works, Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission, and the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Department.

What: Bring your old cooking grease/oil (in any household container) and unused or expired medications (prescription or over-the-counter).
Where:  Either Columbus K-Mart (Macon Road or Airport Thruway)
When:  Saturday, January 11, 2014 from 10 am to 2 pm
For more information, contact Gwen Russell at 706-649-3454.

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Become a Master Gardener!

Hello!

I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch this summer.  One word: weeds.  It’s Sisyphean out there, y’all.  I promise to update you soon.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Chattahoochee Valley, there is a new Master Gardener class coming up this fall.  Download the application here http://www.columbusga.org/Cooperative_Extension/.

From our Extension Agent, Jennifer Davidson:

The Master Gardener program is an education volunteer training program to extend the knowledge of the land-grant university to the local area residents through volunteerism for Cooperative Extension.  Join us for the first multi-state combined program through The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Classes are hosted in Columbus, Georgia.

Return applications to UGA Cooperative Extension, Columbus Office, 420 10th Street CCG Annex, Columbus GA 31901 by August 12, 2013, 5pm.

Notification of acceptance/non-acceptance will be mailed on August 13, 2013.

There will be a mandatory orientation meeting on August 20, 2013 at the UGA Cooperative Extension Columbus Office.

The class fee of $175.00 and a mandatory background screen will be due at orientation on August 20, 2013.(Class fee includes: Textbook, name badge, certificate, Master Gardener Shirt, and  field trips to Auburn, AL)

Classes will be held Tuesday and Thursday 9am to 12:00 at the CCG Annex, 420 10th Street, Columbus, 31901 (unless otherwise specified)

FOR APPLICATION:

CLASS SIZE IS LIMITED

Upon acceptance into the program you will be required to complete a 20 session (twice a week for 10 weeks) training program that will cover topics ranging from landscape design, propagation and turf, to different programs such as nuisance wildlife control.  You must volunteer at least 50 hours of service to the program after completing the course.  Volunteering can be in either state, Georgia or Alabama.

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Columbus Tour Of Gardens

Come check out the wonderful gardens on the Columbus Tour of Gardens! http://www.columbusga.org/keepcolsbeautiful/pdfs/TourGardens.pdf. June 8 until 2; June 9 12:30-4:00. You can buy a ticket for $25 at any garden.

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Hazardous Waste Recycling Saturday!

The fine folks of Keep Columbus Beautiful and Columbus Consolidated Government Public Works are sponsoring another hazardous household waste and electronics recycling day!
When: Saturday, March 16, 2013, from 9 am to 1 pm
Where: Columbus Consolidated Government Recycling Warehouse located at #25 22nd Avenue (across from Dolly Madison Bakery, directly behind the Summit Service Station.)

MXI Environmental Services and Atlanta Recycling Solutions will be on site to collect the materials.

Common household hazardous items that will be collected:

Paint and solvents
(Latex paint, oil based paint, furniture strippers, paint thinners, etc.)
Lawn care chemicals
(Fertilizers, pesticides, pool chemicals, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.)
Cleaning products
(Bleach or products containing bleach, ammonia or ammonia-based products, all purpose cleaners, furniture polish, spot removers, scouring powder, oven cleaner, bath cleaners, bug spray, etc.)
Automotive products
(Motor oil, oil filters, gasoline, anti-freeze, lubricants, car batteries, brake fluid, transmission fluid, car wax, metal polish, etc.)
Florescent light bulbs

Electronic equipment will be collected:
Computers
Printers
Copiers
Fax Machines
Consumer Electroincs
**Televisions will NOT be accepted

Last year, I cleaned out the shed, where my predecessors left a few cans of paint:

20130314-112948.jpg

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Home & Garden Show This Weekend!

The Ledger Enquirer Home & Garden Show is this weekend! There will be lots to do, including a great lineup of speakers on the Columbus Botanical Garden Stage. The show is at the Columbus Trade & Convention Center from 9 to 6 Saturday, March 2 and 10 to 4 Sunday, March 3. Admission is $2. And guess what! I will be there to impart some knowledge about herb gardening — come see me at 3:00 on Sunday at the CBG stage for “Thyme in the Garden.” There will also be exciting presentations on organic gardening, moss gardening, landscape design, ornamental grasses, and tropicals (Saturday) and daylilies, mixed containers, and combination planting (Sunday). I hope to see you there!

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Columbus Arbor Day Event Canceled

I just got word that due to the glorious rain, the Arbor Day celebration in Columbus will not be held tomorrow, February 23, as previously scheduled. I’ll let you know when I hear about a new date.

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Celebrate Arbor Day in Columbus!

I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post!  It’s been busy at work and with site visits.  Mama cashed in on her Christmas present (two days of yard work), so I had to do that. Plus, my sister had a new baby girl, so of course I had to go visit, and I am smitten.  Isn’t she the most precious thing?
EAM 20130201
Enough excuses!  It’s back to work with an important announcement. Next Saturday, Keep Columbus Beautiful and the Urban Forestry and Beautification Division will celebrate 35 years of Columbus Georgia as a Tree City USA.  There will be tree walks, bucket truck rides, free tree seedlings, interactive nature activities, environmental exhibits, and much more!  Country’s BBQ will be on site, and the The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia will be selling Girl Scout cookies.  Don’t miss out on the fun and fellowship!
Where: Lakebottom Band Shelter, Cherokee Ave., Columbus GA
When: Saturday, February 23, 2013, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
Contact the Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission office for more details. 706-653-4008.

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