News & Upcoming Events

Organic Gardening

Saturday March 2 Larry Scislowicz will be presenting on Organic Gardening at the Samuels Library in Front Royal at 1 pm.

Larry operates the On Simple Grounds Farm and manages the Front Royal’s Farmer’s Market. Larry’s farm embraces the principles of permaculture and sustainable agriculture. His presentation will cover seed starting, composting, soil preparation and care, pest control techniques and irrigation. The address for the Samuels Library is 330 E. Criser Road, Front Royal, Va. 22630

Some New Resources

Came across these links on the site. Thought there might be some interesting information for you MG’s here.

Hypertufa How To

Hypertufa is a man-made version of a natural rock known as tufa, a very porous rock that was once used for stone watering troughs. It can be used for anything from a simple pot to elaborate garden art.

The items you will need include the following:

  • Large bin or wheelbarrow to mix the ingredients in
  • Hoe or trowel to mix and scoop with
  • Some type of mold; box, plastic bowl, bucket, bin or a wet sand mold
  • A release agent, either cooking spray or a plastic bag
  • Ingredients: Portland cement, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, sand
  • Fortifier (optional)
  • Colorant (optional)

You will also need

  • Heavy-duty water proof gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Dust mask
  • Old clothes and shoes that you don’t mind ruining

You should have everything ready before you start. If you are using the outside of a box, cover it with the plastic bag and be sure it is on a level surface, preferrably one that won’t need to be moved for a day. If you are using a bowl or bucket or other type of mold, be sure to coat it with the cooking spray.

There are many variations of the basic hypertufa recipe, but the three basic ingredients are Portland cement, some type of aggregate to keep the object from becoming too heavy, and water.
Portland cement is not the same thing as concrete, although it is one of the ingredients in concrete. You can use basic gray or white Portland cement if you would like to add color to your mix. You can pick up concrete color at the local home improvement store.

The aggregate can be peat moss, perlite, vermiculite or sand. I usually use two aggregates (peat moss and vermiculite) and Portland cement in three equal parts. This will make the mix light and porous.

You may want to add a fortifier. There are commercially made bonding agents, but they can get a bit pricey. Some people use Elmers white or wood glue. Whatever you use it must be water soluable. Do not use Gorilla Glue or similar products. If you add a fortifier and color you want to mix these with the water first.

Add all the dry ingredients in the wheelbarrow and mix thouroughly before adding water. Add water until you can roll the mixture into a ball and it holds it’s form. You don’t want too much water or it will affect the curing and compromise the object’s strength. Fill your mold or apply mixture to outside of box until about two inches thick. Smooth the mixture until it is an even depth across the mold. Once the piece has set, for about 24 hours, remove it from the mold and set it in a damp, cool place to cure for several weeks. The longer the cure time the stronger your piece will be.

Before planting in your new bowl, soak in clear water for a day, rinse, soak again for a day, then drain and let it dry. This removes any extra alkalinity from the piece. If you want moss to grow on your piece, either wait for nature to take it’s course or brush on a little buttermilk. You can grind up some moss and mix it with the buttermilk to speed the process further.

Now that you’ve mastered the basics there’s no limit to what you can make, only your imagination.


If you are interested in attending a hypertufa workshop contact the NSVMGA County Coordinator in your county.

What Is A Watershed?

A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is:

“that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.”

Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. They cross county, state, and national boundaries. In the continental US, there are 2,110 watersheds; including Hawaii Alaska, and Puerto Rico, there are 2,267 watersheds.

Click here for a fact sheet on Watersheds: 426-041_Watershed

Time to Plant Bulbs

Now is the time for planting many of our flowering bulbs for spring bloom.

Hardy, spring-flowering bulbs are planted in fall. Hardy, fall-flowering bulbs, such as colchicum, are planted in August. Tender, summer-flowering bulbs are planted in the spring after danger of frost. Lilies are best planted in late fall.

It is best to check correct planting depth for each bulb with a successful local grower or other good local source. Bulb catalog and reference book recommendations for planting may be either too shallow or too deep depending on soil condition. As a general rule of thumb, bulbs should be planted 2 1/2 to 3 times the diameter of the bulb in depth. It is important not to plant bulbs too shallow, as this will encourage frost heaving.

For complete information on bulbs, go to Virginia Cooperative Extension Here.

Stink Bug Update

brown_stink_bug_adultFrustrated gardeners send or bring pictures to the Extension office of their tomatoes, peppers and sweet corn covered with nymphs and adults of brown marmorated stink bugs. Each person was so frustrated by this bug they were ready to give up on gardening.

One gardener said they went out to their garden with a wet/dry vac and vacuumed off the insects, and then dumped the canister contents down the toilet. Actually this method is not a bad idea and some innovative person could develop a small garden vacuum that gardeners could easily handle in gardens which is lightweight and powerful enough. In entomology we have large bug vacs we use in the field to collect insects, but it would be slightly unwieldy around a vegetable garden.

Adult stink bugs are very active and starting to show up in and around houses at this point in the summer. The best thing you can do is vacuum them up inside. This fall, Zodiac Company is supposed to have an EPA label (sometime early this fall) for an ester form of a pyrethroid that will have a label for homeowners to use inside houses for BMSB and bedbugs.

Keep in mind, even though this will kill the bugs you will still have to sweep or vacuum them up after they are dead. Why not just use a vac and vacuum them up and skip the insecticide application? Still, people seem to like to spray bugs and I am sure this product will sell well once in the marketplace.

Source: University of Maryland Extension

American Pennyroyal

Getting to know Native Plants by Richard Stromberg

American Pennyroyal

Have you smelled a strong mint odor while walking across a field or through the woods?  You probably stepped on or brushed American Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides).  You usually don’t see this small plant (4-18 inches tall), only smell it.  Its flowers are small, about 1/16th of an inch diameter.

American Pennyroyal
American Pennyroyal

We grow many members of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae) for fragrance and flavoring besides the mints themselves:  basil, lavender, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme.  I think Pennyroyal has the most potent odor.