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Make Your Own Hypertufa Container - July 8th

Master Gardeners and Herb Society join forces at Halifax Farmers Market

            The Southside Master Gardeners will be joined by the Southside Virginia Herb Society for a make your own hypertufa container and some tasty herbal treats at the July 8th Second Saturday event at the Halifax Farmers Market from 8 to 11 AM.  The $5 cost for the hypertufa container will cover all materials and supplies needed for you to make your own container to take home.  The children’s activity is free.

            Hypertufa is a funny sounding word.  It is the name of a process of making garden containers, ornaments, sculptures or stepping stones using Portland cement, perlite and peat.  The process is easy and fun!  The process was developed to substitute for volcanic rock called Tufa used to make Alpine troughs that is no longer available.  Don’t let the instructions below overwhelm you.  We will have everything you need and will coach you through the process.

            The first step of the process is selecting a mold.  Generally you can find a useful mold around the house.  Cardboard boxes, Styrofoam ice-chests, plastic containers of any shape,

plastic or metal garden planters and baskets. We’ve even used a torchiere lamp shade.

            Step two is making the mix.  Don a dusk mask and plastic gloves for protection.  In a 5-gallon container or wheelbarrow mix two parts Portland cement, three parts perlite and three parts peat moss.  Masonry stain can be added for more color. Make sure all is well blended with no lumps.  Slowly add water to moisture the mix until it is the consistency of oatmeal. 

          Line the mold with a plastic bag to start the third step.  Don rubber gloves and pour mixture into the bottom of the mold 1” deep.  Start working the mixture up the sides of the mold until bottom and sides are covered with 1” of mixture.  Using a wooden dowel, make a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.    

            The final step is finishing the pot.  Remove the mold after a few weeks.  Smooth any rough edges with a file.  Gather your patience to allow curing for several months.  Then plant the container with succulents like sedum or sempervivum (hens and chicks). These drought tolerant plants can take the heat, humidity and sunshine of our Southside summers.  Water weekly allowing the water to drain from the pot.  The container and plants will be fine outside during the winter.

            The Southside Virginia Herb Society will be on hand to discuss the importance of herbs.  They will have herbal treats to taste and a display on how to make herbal vinegars. 

            Both groups will be on hand to answer your gardening and herb questions.  There will also be fresh produce, organic meat, eggs and baked goods for sale by the regular vendors plus the indoor market with crafts, herbal soaps and salves, collectibles and yes, even some barn quilts.  Hoping to see you on the 8th!

Caption for picture: You can make your own hypertufa container similar to this container at the Halifax Farmers Market on Saturday July 8 from 8 to 11 AM.  The $5 cost will cover the supplies and materials. This hypertufa was made using a basket as the mold.


Landscape for Life Offered this Summer

Landscape for Life Offered this Summer

            The Southside Master Gardener Association decided to offer the ever popular Landscape for Life during the summer for the first time.  Our goal is to give teachers a chance to take some garden training during their summer break but the class is open to anyone.  Landscape for Life is based on sustainable landscape practices.  Think of it as a mini-Master Gardener training.  The six classes will start on June 16 and be held each Friday from then until July 28 with the exception of July 7th during Independence Day week. It will be held in the undercroft from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Halifax. 

            The Landscape for Life series starts off on June 16 with an introduction to soils by Kathy Conner Cornell.  Most times we don’t give soil any thought.  Soils are everything to the plant.  It is through the interaction of roots and the soil that plants receive their nutrition and water.  Healthy soils are the basis of a beautiful garden.  Bring a small baggie of soil from your garden to the class.

            Water quality will be discussed on June 23.  Stormwater management is very important no matter where you live.  We need to garden and manage runoff in ways that protect our waterways.  You will learn special techniques to properly manage rainwater in your landscape.

            On June 30th Kathy will review how to determine the right plant for the right place.  It is important to avoid invasive alien plants that disrupt our natural habitats.  Native plants can often be a good choice in the sustainable garden but not necessarily the only choice.  You will learn what to consider as you make the best plant selections for your garden. 

            We will have a special speaker on July 14th.  A strong design is the backbone of any landscape.  You shouldn’t put a shovel in the ground until you’ve assessed your space and determined what functions you want your landscape to serve such as play area, private area or entertaining area.  The design development will be an ongoing project but to help with the plan a guest speaker will guide you through the basics of landscape design principles.

            Materials, normally thought of as hardscape, will be discussed on July 21st.  In the landscape, hardscapes are often used for things such as fencing, arbors, trellises or pathways.  This will be a fun session chock full of ideas on how to use repurposed/recycled materials to define areas in the garden.  A main way we can recycle and repurpose is to compost.  We will guide you through the steps to create black gold that is so important to our soils.  Kathy will lead a presentation on Integrated Pest Management.  Using chemical pesticides should be the last resort for garden pest problems.  The IPM method details the steps to be taken before ever reaching for a pesticide and what improper pesticide use is doing to our wildlife especially bees.

                        The last class on June 28th will be devoted to each member’s personal design and their specific issues.  Some designs will be discussed in the class and everyone will have the opportunity for a personal consultation.  You will leave the program feeling confident that you can have the landscape of your dreams and help protect the environment for enjoyment of future generations. 

            There will be a $25 fee to cover the materials for the 6 sessions. Participants are encouraged to attend all sessions to get the maximum value out of the classes.  However if this just doesn’t work into your schedule, individual classes will have a $5 fee.  The fee is for a family – husband and wife, parent and mature child or friends.

            Advance registration and payment is required.  Space is limited.  To register go to the Halifax Extension Office to pick up an application form or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request an application form.  Mail completed form and check made out to SSMGA to Halifax County Extension Office, PO Box 757, Halifax, VA 24558.  The six classes will be held on 6/16, 6/23, 6/30, 7/14, 7/21 and 7/28 at the St. John’s Episcopal Church, 197 Mountain Road, Halifax.  For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the extension office at 434-476-2147, option 0.


Caption for picture: It is important to have sustainable landscapes that attract pollinators such as these beautiful butterflies feasting on butterfly weed.  If you are interested in learning how to garden with nature, sign up for the Landscape for Life being offered by the Southside Master Gardener Association.



Taste & Tour Halifax Farmers Market

Local Authors at the Library


Children's author Crystal Day will be reading her book 'Mason the Bull" at the South Boston Public Library on June 26 at 10 am. The book has a very informative web site,, which provides information about Crystal Day, as well as information for teachers and a link to purchase copies of the book. Children of all ages and adults are invited to Crystal's program to hear her read from her book "Mason the Bull."

Danville author Barry Koplen will be reading from his works of poetry on July 20 at 6 pm at the Halifax Public Library. Barry has written a number of books, including both poetry and non-fiction. His books are available for purchase on Amazon. Make plans now to hear Barry's reading on July 20 at 6 pm at the Halifax Public Library.

Jay Stephens


Halifax County South Boston Public Library


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