Friday, July 06, 2007

Hypertufa For Your Garden

Years ago I read an article is some house related magazine and thought to myself "Self, one day you are going to try that." The article mentioned hypertufa garden planters. If you need to know what hypertufa is, you can check the link. If you don't believe any of this you can check this link and this link just so you know that I don't make this stuff up! Well, some day has arrived.

I decided to make a large planter and needed a mold. I looked around the house and settled on one of our lovely "City of Dayton" recycle waste containers for the basic shape with a kitty litter bucket for the inside impression.

Most people use cardboard boxes but I wanted to be able to make additional planters if I was happy with the result. I lined the recycle bin with a plastic construction grade garbage bag so as not to ruin my lovely blue bin with the city logo on it.
My recipe consists of 1 part Portland cement, 1.5 parts sifted peat moss (you need to get the big twig bits out), 1 part perlite and 0.5 parts sand and a pinch of polypropylene fibers. I used a shovel to measure the parts and mixed it all in a wheel barrow. This is masonry not rocket science. Here is what the mix looked like when I put it in the wheel barrow

and here is what it looked like after it was dry mixed.

I added enough water to make the mix malleable and not to dry or too wet and put an inch of the stuff in the bottom of the lined bin. I then placed the kitty litter bucket in place and added more of my cement mix around the edges. I had to mix up three batches in order to make enough for this project because I am lousy at guesstimating volumes. When done it looked like this

and then I pulled the bag over the top to allow the thing to cure and retain the moisture as it does so.

After a couple of days I removed the planter from the bin by lifting out the plastic bag. I did this because I needed the bin for trash collection on Thursday! While I was at it I removed the kitty litter bucket too and allowed the thing to cure for one more day before I took a wire brush to it to roughen up the surface and make it look like rock. I also gauged a hole in the bottom with a short handled dandelion plucker to allow for drainage. I would have used a screwdriver for this task if there was one sitting on the back porch. At 4 PM on Thursday it looked like this.

This puppy is about 9 inches tall by 16 inches or so long and isn't too heavy due to the fact that I used perlite as an aggregate. I stuck it back in the bag to cure and went around to the front of the house to look at a smaller one that I made about three weeks ago.

The Portland cement costs about $5.00, sand is $2.50, the peat moss was a little over $6.00 and a huge bag of perlite cost $12.00 from a florist. The perlite will be the hardest thing to find. I am guessing that I could make about 7 of these large planters for $25.00 which is good because the little ones sell for about $30.00 each at Meijer.

So go off and be good gardeners now and make some pots to plant your herbs in. In a few weeks when I make the sink for the small powder room you will realize why I am experimenting with this kind of stuff!


Anonymous said...

check this one out....

jake said...

Very interesting! Im attempting to do the same sort of thing by condensing styrofoam mixed with some type of solvent (hopefully a citrus based one) and make new pots from it. Ive got enough styrofoam from my tablesaw packaging, I can make pots for my whole city!

Anonymous said...

What a great idea, our terra cotta pots have cracked each winter, this would be a good alternative.

StrawBoss said...

Hey Gary, you beat me to the draw. That's the next (or one of) project I want to try. Do the pots seems really strong? I'm making 3 large ones.
Was just in OH last week. I had outstanding weather for the 4 days I was there. Will wonders never cease?
Hi to the fam!

Gary said...

To answer "Strawboss's" question;

These things are pretty soft for the first few days and harden with time. I remove them from the mold within two days and attack them with a wire brush to roughen the surface and round off the edges by day 3. After a week I take them out of the bag and allow them to dry out a bit. They get lighter in color and weight with time, too. They are pretty cool. I suspect that by next year we will have a dozen of these things around the yard!
I needed something to put the jumping cholla in!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a source for mason's lime in the area. In the Urbana area, I can only find finish lime. I want to try my hand at tuckpointing my very old house.

Gary said...

Snyder Brick and Block sells 50 lb bags of masons lime for $7 a bag. Each bag will make you approx. 2 five gallon buckets of lime putty. If you don't need 50 lbs. I suggest you make the putty because it will be good for longer than lime powder in the bag which has a shelf life of 6 - 12 months. Lime putty will keep for much longer.

Anonymous said...

Good job!

There are so many things people can use that's around they're house that can be used for molds for hypertufa pots. Your pot looks great. I love the age look that hypertufa brings. Something people should think of before throwing away any containers is can it be used for hypertufa containers later on. Like you said it's cheap to do and you can save money by doing it yourself rather then buying them plus your able to make it look how you want.
People should definitely try hypertufa once and see how fun it really is.


Jamie Boyle
Hypertufa Gardening Enthusiast