Master gardeners’ big San Benito event is set

April 26, 2018

HARLINGEN — Just look at it as a way to get your hugelkultur on.

Hugelkultur, a German-inspired technique for raised-bed gardening and composting without irrigation or fertilizer, will be demonstrated at the upcoming Gardeners Market in San Benito Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Also on the agenda of the Cameron County Master Gardeners’ “Gardeners Market” is hypertufa, a way to make garden pots from Portland cement and old towels.

The annual event has grown each year, and event organizers say this year will be bigger than ever since the garden party has been opened to specialty plant and garden vendors.

“This year we’ve decided to add an extra component to that and that is to invite vendors to our plant sale,” said Jennifer Herrera, Texas A&M University Cameron County Extension Service horticulture expert. “These vendors that we are seeking are bringing gardening materials, garden art, gardening tools, planters and more.”

Visitors to the free event on the Cameron County Annex Building parking lot will be greeted by a huge selection of tropical, sub-tropical, perennial, native, cultivated, butterfly nectar plants, herbs, vegetable plants, shrubs and trees offered for sale.

Most plants have been donated from the gardens of Texas Master Gardeners or were propagated during educational classes they taught.

“We’ll have a ton of native pants available,” Herrera said. “We’ll also have some educational material to help guide the selection of native plants and also we’ll have master gardeners on hand to help consult, not only on just natives but those plants that attract birds and butterflies to our area.”

The event draws hundreds of fans of backyard gardens here in the Valley, many of them drawn by the prospect of free expert advice from professionals.

This year an ailing plant and pest clinic will be offered by Dr. Olufemi Alabi, TAMU AgriLife Extension plant pathologist specialist, and Danielle Sekula, TAMU AgriLife Extension agent on integrated pest management.

Organizers request that everyone who comes for a consultation secures insects and/or sick plants in sealed plastic bags or closed containers to avoid spreading pests or diseases, “and we’ll help identify them,” Herrera said.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the nonprofit Texas Master Gardeners to fund education programs the gardeners conduct year-round.

So what’s the deal on that hugelkultur?

“Hugelkultur is a method of composting that’s been around for quite some time but it’s certainly a new concept here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Herrera said. “We do have one of our master gardeners who is a specialist in composting, so she’ll be conducting some composting demonstrations and we’ll have examples of hugelkultur composting.

“Hypertufa is a mixture of three to four ingredients — you’ve got Portland cement, peat moss, vermiculite and it is a kind of clay mixture that creates a cement pot, a light cement pot,” Herrera added. “We’ll have demonstrations of those and we’ll also have mixtures available for sale.”