Grow Your Own Food is an information series on Gardening in Canada that covers every aspect of growing your own food at home. I help you every step of the way so that you can have the garden you dream of. This series was originally written for and published on Food Bloggers of Canada.
This month we have 2 very neat projects for creating some spectacular outdoor containers. For the first one we will be working with concrete to design a Hypertufa pot. The second is a bit different, we will be making Faux Stone Planters. Both projects are inexpensive, are gorgeous additions to your garden and will inspire you to create all sorts of cool pots!
For our first project we will be making a Hypertufa pot. The list of ingredients and supplies are as follows.
We will need:
- Portland cement,
- peat moss, perlite,
- thick rubber gloves to mix the cement mixture
- something to make drainage holes (something to create a plug that will be removed once the planter is dry)
- drill (optional but a great alternative to create drainage holes)
- a dusk mask – The mixing part of our project will be a bit dusty, if you are so inclined
- a large container to mix the concrete
- a mould to form our pots in
- oil, Vaseline or heavy plastic to line out moulds with
- a large garbage bag used to dry and cure our pots in
Making Drainage Holes
You can use anything to make the holes. I used a wine cork placed in the bottom of my container to create the drainage hole. It’s easy to cut out of the concrete once the pot is dry. Alternately, you could use a drill to make the holes in the dried container.
Choosing and Preparing the Mould
I am using a medium size plastic bowl but I plan on making some nice rectangular and square forms for future Hypertufa containers. (I have a feeling I will be making them on a regular basis.) You can use any type of container, select one with a shape you love. For your first Hypertufa pot go a bit smaller, it will be easier to make and you can really learn the process with minimal stress
One thing to note is you do not want to use a container with a lip on the inside, you will never be able to remove the concrete container from the mould and will have to trash the entire project.
If you are using a plastic mould oil down the inside with oil or Vaseline to aid in the removal of the Hypertufa container. If you are using a metal or wood mould line the inside with a sheet of thick plastic first. This helps in the removal of the finished container.
Workspace and Supplies
I mixed my concrete in a large container and had everything set up on a table outside.
I found Portland cement at The Home Depot, the bag is heavy so take someone with you to load it if possible. One bag will be enough to make many project so don’t be too concerned about the size of bag that it comes in.
Perlite and peat moss can be found at any hardware store or garden centre.
The ratio is 1:1:1.
The recipes is:
1 part Portland cement
1 part peat moss
1 part perlite
Using a large container measure out equal parts of the ingredients, estimate how much mixture you will need for your size of container. Add the water slowly as we are looking for a certain consistency in the mixture. The goal is to be able to squeeze the mixture so that it holds together easily and just a touch of water will drip out.
Test the consistency as you go to avoid adding too much water. If you happen to have too much water in your mix, add some Portland cement to tighten it up, add a handful at a time and mix it in, then test. Once you have good consistency allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes while you assemble your mould.
Forming The Pot
Starting at the bottom of your prepared container, begin to pack the mix into the mould, being sure to make your drainage holes. Next, pat the mixture up the walls of the container. You can leave the centre hollow, shaping it with your hands or you can use a smaller container and place it inside the container to create the middle. If you do use a second container be sure to oil the surface well before placing. I used a container to form the center of my pot. It was sitting a touch unlevel so I weighted it down with a few heavy stones.
Drying and Curing
When you are happy with the thickness of the walls we want to place the Hypertufa someplace to dry and cure. The goal is a slow cure so we are going to place our containers into a large garbage bag, this holds in the moisture for a nice slow dry. Let it set for 24 – 36 hours. You can test it for dryness after 24 hours. Try and scratch it with your nail, if you can make a mark it is not fully dry. Give it another 12 – 24 hours. If you do not make a mark it is ready to unmould.
Unmoulding the Hypertufa Planter
If it is being stubborn you can use a rubber mallet to tap the outer container to release it. If you want to give the surface a bit of texture you can use a wire brush to scratch the surface. Have fun with it!
Once you have some experience you can start making larger containers!
Faux Stone Planters
Next up is our cheater container, the finished product is similar to rough stone and we can play with colour a bit in this project.
For the faux stone planter we will need,
- a Styrofoam coolers
- exterior paint in stone colours
- a paint brush
- rubber gloves
Once I started shopping for Styrofoam containers I was able to find them everywhere, from grocery stores to my local hardware. I went with a smaller cooler for my first project but have since picked up a larger one for my next faux stone planter.
I bought a small can of exterior latex paint in a medium grey. Our goal is to make it look like stone so keep that colour palette in mind when shopping for paint. I used a one inch paint brush, don’t spend too much money on the brush as it will get quite gritty and you will only be wanting to use it for outdoor projects. The sand can also be found at the hardware store or in some garden centres.
Preparing the Workspace
You need to do this project outside as it is messy! Set everything up on a table, on the lawn is best as we will have sand everywhere. Cover your table with a sheet of plastic to protect from paint drips.
Creating A Faux Stone Container
Using a sharp knife cut drain holes into the bottom of your cooler.
We will start on the inside of the cooler then work in sections. Taking your brush paint a thick layer of paint over the entire inside of the cooler. Now take a handful of sand and wipe it over the painted surface so it sticks well, repeat until the walls and bottom of the cooler are fully coated. To contain the sand I did this over a very large steel bowl to catch the excess sand.
Now we move to the exterior of the cooler. I found it easiest to work on one side at a time. Once all 4 walls were done I placed the cooler over the bowl to cover the bottom.
Set aside to dry. Depending on where you live and your temperature, that will dictate your length of dry time. It has been very humid here so I left the paint to dry for 24 hours.
We do this entire paint and sand process 3 times to create a nice rough surface on the cooler. The layers of sand do not need to be even or completely cover the surface. Think about creating uneven layers to add to the visual texture of the planter. Another way to be creative is to use 2 colours of paint to add extra depth and variation.
Once the final coat is dry your faux stone planter is ready to be planted and placed on the patio or in the garden.