Penny’s Garden Tips…..


Many of you are avid recyclers, so I tried to find ways to reuse some of the plastic we discard. I came across a few I thought I would share with you.


If you aren't happy with your soaker hose, you can try this. Poke holes along the bottom edge of a half-gallon plastic jug. Bury it about six inches in the ground so that the opening is exposed. Fill the jugs with water. The water will slowly trickle into the ground.


An effective way to store your twine is in a half gallon, or a gallon plastic jug. On the side of the jug cut a square flap big enough for the ball of twine to fit through. Punch a hole in the cap and feed the twine through it. Replace the cap. The handle makes it easy to carry or you can hang it on your belt.


You can reuse your laundry detergent bottles and turn them into a watering can. To start, rinse the jug thoroughly to get all the soap out. Then drill or poke holes in the cap, about ten to twelve holes. Now you can decide to sprinkle or pour the water on your plants.


I hope some of these interest you. Maybe we can keep some of the plastic out of the landfill.


"THERE ARE NO GARDENING MISTAKES, ONLY EXPERIMENTS.' Janet Kilburn Phillips, garden writer

Penny’s Garden Tips…..


I happen to belong to the Valley of Virginia Herb Guild. We have a meeting once a month, and last month it was at my house. We usually have some type of program. We decided to do hypertufas, which are handmade concrete planters. I thought maybe you would enjoy trying your hand at them. We had a lot of fun mixing the ingredients and forming them into a container.


The basic recipe is as follows: 2 parts peat moss, sifted. 1 part Portland cement, break up any lumps.           1part brick mortar (masonry mix). 1 part perlite - optional. Sand - optional.

The instructions are too long to print here, but if you do a search on the internet for Hypertufa you

will find a wealth of information.


Here are a few links:




Penny’s Garden Tips…
I decided to write about those "darling little chipmunks" that are invading my yard. I counted 12 on my patio last week. They are voracious pests and just love black oil sunflower seed. I'm quite sure they have hoarded away at least 25lbs. by now. Yes, I should probably be doing something to get rid of them, but I enjoy their antics at the feeders. How they can run with their cheeks packed so full is beyond me. Never the less, there are some things you can try to rid yourself of them.
They say to plant your bulbs at their deepest recommended depth, but I think they are crafty enough to find them. You could just plant daffodils, but I'm sure you would rather plant other things, too. You can sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper, but you have to reapply if it rains. You can also spray with predator urine. There is a product called Shake Away which contains fox urine.  All of these ideas may work, but they may not. I prefer to share my garden with them. There is nothing more fun than watching these little creatures romp all over my patio!

From our Newsletter:

From our Newsletter:

Harvest Now for Seed Swap
by Karen Lyons

It's been a long, hot, dry season. Don't throw in your gardening trowel yet. Fall is the perfect time to collect seed for next year. Check out these references forsome tips.

We're going to try something a little different this year. Please drop off your harvest at the Help Desk in the Extension Office along with your name, the identity of the seed source, and anything special you might want the recipient to know. The sooner, the better. We will process and package the seeds for the January event. You can also mail them to me if you prefer: 170 District Court, Lexington. They need to remain dry in transit.

Monarch Season at Wide Sky Farm
by Anita Tuttle

A love of gardening seems always to lead to other loves. While working at Bath County Pumped Storage Station (Back Creek) in the mid-80’s, part of my assignment was to check various instrumentation flung throughout the many hundreds of acres. I became entranced by the native flora and left the power company to pursue horticulture at Virginia Tech. Even amongst horticulturists, I was an oddball. Manicured gardens weren’t my thing; instead, I wanted to know how to produce native meadows. I got my chance to delve into that study during grad school.

Tending my plots at Tech and my many gardens before and since, I’ve always been fascinated by the interaction of native plants with the surrounding fauna. I’m still taking baby steps on the path to understanding, but I have been able to observe a few things along the way. I’ve learned a bit about monarch butterflies.

When I was a kid (a hundred years ago), monarch butterflies were fairly common, like several other species that are now in trouble. As the earth has picked up the pace of change, scientists around the world are paying more attention to all manner of species that are struggling to maintain viable populations. Most Master Gardeners are cultivating more native species in order to provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other critters. The rally cry for the past few years has been ‘Milkweed!’ As we have learned, the various species of milkweed are the lone food source for monarch caterpillars. So we plant Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) in our sunny, dry spots in the garden; Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata) in our wet spots, and maybe even allow Common Milkweed (A. syriacus) to fill in areas on the margins of our properties.

The awe and wonder of seeing that first batch of monarch eggs – for the keenly observant- is almost beyond description. To see those exquisite, tiny, voracious caterpillars wreaking havoc on otherwise lovely plants demands a level of altruism from the gardener, watching their efforts end up as fecal pellets. And the damage increases to the planting with every millimeter of growth by the caterpillar.
There can be few moments spent with Nature that are more a privilege than to be present when a monarch butterfly emerges from the pupa.

The adults will play in the garden and sample from your wide palette of nectar sources. Depending on the timepoint in their season, they might mate and beget more caterpillars. The milkweed plants are tough and recover well enough to feed another brood. As the days grow shorter, your monarchs leave your garden with travel plans for Mexico. Over the next few to several weeks, the monarchs all across the eastern seaboard will follow the same flight path.

I arrived at Wide Sky Farm near Buffalo Gap in Augusta County five years ago. The house was surrounded by six or so acres of woods. I had that timbered the winter of 2014. Since then, I have wrangled brambles, nuked invasives, and brush cut the area with a 6” blade on the end of a weed eater shaft. It hasn’t always been an aesthetically pleasing process. My neighbors have had more graphic descriptions. Two years ago, in 2016, my injuries and physical therapy sessions began to pay dividends. The monarchs found my meadows on their journey to the south.

Last year, I noticed that the monarchs began migrating September 19. They came in waves, settling on the meadow flowers and clinging there for long minutes before rising up and heading south again. This year, migration began on September 18, but was rather halting due to the many and various storms we’ve had in the area. Friday morning, September 28, the drizzle and fog cleared by 11:30 in the morning. I began counting the monarchs. By 1:00 PM, I had numbered 200 and quit counting. On the successive days, I reached 200 in an hour’s time. Wide Sky Farm is situated well for a flyway with long views to the north and south. In just a few years’ time, the monarchs have made this place a waystation.

The three flowers I have in abundance are: Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum laterifolium), Frost Aster (S. pilosum), and Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis & spp.). I didn’t plant any of those; the native seedbank here gave rise to the meadow flowers once I eliminated the competition. As you plant your own gardens, keep in mind that while milkweeds produce the next generations of monarch butterflies, the native asters and goldenrods are the fuel that takes them home for the winter.


Upcoming Programs:

Programs originally scheduled through May 31 have been cancelled.

Past Programs:

February 2019 Program "Run On/Run Off-Protect Your Property and Streams", by David Bryer and Phyllis Fevrier


Run On/Run-off- Protect Your Property and Your Streams:   Managing Mother Nature's rainfall, too much or too little, can be challenging.  The Rain Garden presentation will discuss how to make mother nature work for you.  Rain Gardens are designed to handle fluctuations in precipitation, all the while protecting Virginia's waterways and making your personal ecospace a better place to live.  The presentation will cover rain garden siting, designing, building, planting and maintaining and whether one is right for you.  Definition of a rain garden-  natural or manmade shallow depression that temporarily holds water runoff.  The water is then absorbed by plants and infiltrates into groundwater in a controlled manner.  This version of storm water management helps improve water quality.  Click Here for the program slides.

April 2019 Program "Creating Habitat and Food Sources for Monarch Butterflies", by Anita Tuttle

June 2019 Program:  "Hill House Farm and Nursery"

Hosted by Janet Davis

June 27, 7 pm in the Piovano Room at the Rockbridge Main Library

Hill House Farm and Nursery website:

Continuing Education Opportunities/Area Gardening Events:

(Local opportunities in a larger font and Bold)


Following are some online continuing education opportunities:

Smithsonian Gardens has lots of great webinars available for viewing. Below are a few:

“Designing Gardens – Foliage First” webinar by Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulturist Janet Draper.

“Top 20 Native Shrubs for Sun and Shade” webinar by Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulturist Alex Dencker.

“Selecting and Planting Fall Bulbs” webinar by Smithsonian Gardens’ horticulturist Christine Abelow.

There is always the VA Cooperative Extension webinar archive: “How to get the most out of your Hydrangeas” is the most recent one.

The Ecological Landscape Alliance also has a number of interesting webinars. There is a fee of $10 for most of them.

Monday, Sept, 14 at noon there will be a webinar on “Deer-resistant Native Groundcovers”

The Maryland Extension Master Gardener program has a number of educational webinars:

The Maryland Native Plant Society also has some good webinars:

Another sources of webinars is the Xerces Society’s website:

Wednesday, Sept 30 at 12:00pm: Master Compositor online course from Vermont