Instructables

Easy to make concrete bowls and planters...

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For a quick, fun and very easy garden project, grab a bag of concrete, your imagination, and follow me!

Concrete planters and garden ornamentation are a wonderful addition to the outdoor setting around one's home. Often, such decor comes with a high price, enormous size and incredible weight which is not easily transported. The solution? Make your own.

While you would likely not fare well to dive right into large scale concrete landscaping, you can dabble a bit in a smaller project to begin with. Then, when you find how addicting this craft is, take it easy on me for suggesting it. So let's get started.

Curious about the intro bowl? See step five for details.
Curious about the frog? He is a real. Hyla versicolor have the ability to change colors.

Found a typo? Please, by all means, let me know. :-) I appreciate it!

Is your reply positive and constructive? I'd love to hear it.
Please refrain from being nasty or negative. That is not the purpose of this site.



 
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Step 1: Gather your materials...

Picture of Gather your materials...

What you will need:

CONCRETE - http://www.quikrete.com/index.asp

QUIKRETE® Concrete Mix (No. 1101) is the original 4000 psi average compressive strength blend of Portland cement, sand, and gravel or stone. Just add water. Use for any general concrete work. (Ver batum as posted on the Quikrete site) Resist the urge to use heavy duty concrete, as it is very chunky. For those familiar with mixing their own concrete instead of using a mix, by all means do so. We use Quikrete because it is available in our area and has proven to be of quality for the items I've made.

Though many home improvement stores carry ready-to-mix concrete in 80 pound bags, it is also available in other sizes, depending on your preference as well as ability to lug it around. Be sure to allow store employees to help load the larger bags into your car. There are many types of ready-to-mix available, choose accordingly. I prefer Quikrete (mainly because it is readily available in our area) and Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher, but these products are mere suggestions. Nothing is cast in stone. Yet.

COLORING - Not a necessary item at all, though coloring concrete is quite fun, and easy! Check out liquid cement colors near the concrete section of your local hardware store. A 10 oz. bottle will color quite a bit of concrete. If you want to maintain color consistency in your projects, consider making up large bottles of colored water for your project, and be sure to keep a lid on the container of mixed water. Shake well before using. Don't get carried away by dumping in more colorant than recommended, or your concrete will not set properly.

MOLDS - An endless supply of molds, containers and other ideas are available everywhere. Scour yard sales, thrift stores and other thrifty places for interesting shapes and sizes. Don't stick to bowls, use your imagination. You could even make your own. Try not to choose anything with great detail, as you may be disappointed. For finer detail, use Vinyl Patch mix, which has far less bumps and bits of rock, or use a good cement and sand recipe.

Just about any container can be utilized as a mold for concrete, provided you are able to get the finished product out of it. Bowls, cups, milk cartons, jugs, the ideas are bountiful. At present, I've found much delight in selecting unique glass containers from second hand stores and yard sales. If the finished item cannot be dropped or dumped out of the mold, after the concrete has fully set up, simply (and gently) tap the glass to crack or break it from your concrete creation, then rinse off the glass and be sure to take it to the recycling center.

Plastic, stainless steel and other materials release from the cured concrete easily when non-stick spray is applied to the mold prior to adding concrete.

NON-STICK COOKING SPRAY - Yes, release agents are sold specifically for the purpose of mold release when using concrete, but quite frankly, a cheap can of non-stick cooking spray works just fine. Use it generously to ensure your project will slide out of the mold. I've used both generic and Pam brand cooking sprays with success. Thanks to the many wonderful Instructable folks who have also suggested using other agents such as WD40 and perhaps even motor oil.

WATER - Necessary to mix with the concrete. Not too hot, not too cold, not too much, not too little. Perhaps my 'luck' has been the love of making mud pies as a child. Think Goldilocks, and mix well.

RUBBER GLOVES - Nothing fancy needed, but you should wear them. Be safe, not sorry. Concrete poisoning is no fun, and it's not pretty. I know this from personal experience.

EMERGENCY MOLDS - So you've mixed a pristine batch of concrete, you've sprayed the mold and you're in the process of filling it. Whoops, not enough concrete! Quick, dump it out and reach for another mold. Keep one close by for this very reason, and don't forget to spray it first. It is better to make a bit more than to end up a bit short.

A POKER - You'll need something about the circumference of a pencil to poke out air bubbles.

A LARGE SPOON - Or any similar item to mix the concrete. My favorite? A skinny garden trowel. Keep your eyes off items in the utensil drawer of the kitchen unless you no longer wish to use it on food.

BUCKETS, MEASURING CUPS, MISCELLANEOUS 'TOOLS OF THE TRADE' - Obtain inexpensive tools and reserve them for concrete projects alone, as they will become tarnished with concrete. Don't be wasteful. Clean and re-use your tools.

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Ariana Morris2 months ago

Nevermind! I found the 1101 mix at Lowe's and today we filled 4 bubble bowls of varying sizes, having found those at Goodwill. I'm really hoping they turn out well but a little concerned we used too much water, as water was really pooling at the tops.

I'll share our finished bowls when they come out of the molds. Excited!

WUVIE (author)  Ariana Morris12 days ago

Ariana, such good news, what a great find, four bowls, whoo hoo! I have the same issue with the pooling water, I just keep gently sponging it off. Would love to see your bowls. :-)

houndog2g21 days ago

I love the ideas here!! I've molded concrete stepping stones, benches, birdbaths etc and have never done any kind of water bath for curing. I've never had a problem with cracking or crumbling.

MsheArt227 days ago

Very nice end result, that's a beautiful bowl!

DIYDragon2 months ago

ohhh nice. Now I need to find something suitable as a mould to make some big planters for my backyard. :-)

Ariana Morris2 months ago

Love your cover picture of the bowl, and I wanted to make one similar. I've made a couple of hypertufa projects and one cement/sand bowl (that, surrpise, looks like cement), but I really want a bowl exactly like yours. So, I found a 'bubble bowl' but I can't find the concrete mix that you used. I can't even find it on the quickcrete website.

Do you have any idea what I should mix for the concrete? I have portland cement, but how much sand and how much gravel should I use? Any clue? I have one shot at it since I only have found one bubble bowl.

I just love how your bowl looks like it was made of stone.

Tetrafish3 months ago

I had been wondering if something like this could be used like a mortar & pestle. Preferably something to keep outside (since it's heavy anyway) and to crush up egg shells to use in my raised garden beds for insect control (& here I find it :-). I think I'd use a larger bowl (like with the bowling ball) for the mortar, and a smaller globe for the pestle.

WUVIE (author)  Tetrafish3 months ago

Hmm. At first, I thought this was not such a great idea, but I was thinking about food consumption, with bits of concrete in the food, which is likely what would happen.

If you use one to grind eggshells for a garden, perhaps that would not be so bad, provided you were more or less tapping the shells into crushed form and not necessarily grinding then against the concrete. Sounds neat, though, I'd love to see a picture if you end up making one, and an update with regard to the eggshell crushing. Neat!

Homemomma1 year ago
What a fantastic Instructable! Thank you for sharing it with us. Heading out later today in search of molds, muahaha!
WUVIE (author)  Homemomma3 months ago

Looking forward to hearing good news from you. Hope you had fun and made a few great bowls. Loved your muahaha. :-)

hohum1 year ago
love the cat
WUVIE (author)  hohum3 months ago

LOL. She's all yours if you can put up with her attitude. :-)

awalters143 months ago

Im interested in making a bird bath. I like the bowl with the flower indention. I get that you use snack or vegy tray * the green thing in top picture* but im confused on how it would be put together with the cement to make the design. Can anyone explain? or possibly have a picture of the process to make designs in the dip of the cement bowl?

WUVIE (author)  awalters143 months ago

Hello A. Walters,

In step 7, it is mentioned that a glass votive was used to make the indentation for the flower in a small bowl, not a snack tray. :-) They are small glass trays usually about the size of a dinner saucer, squished into the concrete, then removed later, though it could also be left in the concrete to stay there.

Karen

I like this instructable, however as someone who has experience building ponds I have to warn you not to place new concrete into ponds with live plants or animals. The lye that dissolves into the water can kill them. That's why concrete ponds are usually coated with liquid rubber, or filled with water, let sit for a week, drained and refilled a half dozen times to ensure the lye is diluted out. Cure it in plain water. Of course, small structures in a large volume of water may have no effect on livestock, but I wouldn't chance it.

timbit19855 months ago

Wow cool! I think you could make a really cool water feature with that sphere. Force a small circular water vase done the center of the sphere after you fill it, so you have a void for a submersible water pump. Use one of your bowling ball vases as a resevoir and you have a fancy water feature!!

Joni2U5 months ago

The large round globe one I would paint with glow in the dark paint and set in a garden.. If it was mine.. :) Awesome ideas thank you for sharing..

Growergirl5 months ago

Do you have to wait some before you plant into these since they are cement? Or do you have a treatment for them after they have cured so that plants do not burn from the cement?

sagesmoon7 months ago
I pour in anything and everything....LESSON: I've poured for years....but my last bag...I'd been sick with an ear ache for over a month, felt bad and didn't think clearly. NOW I have 3 items I can't get out. ONE a white, staight sided ceramic baking bowl I pushed into the top to make a concrete bowl.....yep, no spray and no liner...:( the other 2 are in metal & stainless pans....the one I figured would release because of the black coating on the inside of it, never has been a problem before....now for the other issue. This time I had the brilliant idea to "stack" for multi items. I poured in bottom container, pushed bowl/pan into the top, then I poured cement into that bowl, then I pushed smaller bowl into that. Yep, worked like a charm....except for the 3 I have to wait for Mother Nature to help me get out. They'll come out...lol.....eventually, may take a year or 6 months....IF you have suggestions, I'm all ears....I know, I know, should lined with plastic....believe me, Next time I feel so bad, I'LL WAIT till I feel better so I won't make such stupid mistakes...;)
Shinchan8 months ago
Do you think you could eat off of bowls made from concrete? Would it have to be treated? I have a plan to make a mochi usu (large mochi pounding mortar) from concrete but hesitant to do so if the concrete would leach out something into the mochi.
Mahalo for any info!
gerrielder1 year ago
Where can you find those bowls?
Try you local dollar/discount stores. They often have lots of plastic bowls & containers of different shapes really cheap that would work.
WUVIE (author)  gerrielder1 year ago
Hi Gerrielder,

And THAT is the question. :-) I've had good luck finding them in second-hand stores on occasion, thrift shops, yard sales and such. They are made by various manufacturers, but are a fad from days gone by pretty much. I'm constantly on the lookout for them. I've paid as much as $8.00 and as little as $1.00 at a yard sale, with the most recent from a second-hand shop for a mere $1.50.
bammabits1 year ago
Great article, but more pictures wanted! How did you make that really cool round edged bowl in your title photo? Thanks!
WUVIE (author)  bammabits1 year ago
Hi,

Actually, the very first step mentions the following:

"Curious about the intro bowl? See step five for details."

When you see step five, there are eight pictures.

:-)
Wonderful ideas; thanks so much. I've looked through all the posts; but can't seem to find the answer to someone else's question on how to make the frog.... are you willing to share that ?
WUVIE (author)  lovestogarden1 year ago
Hi there!
Oh, yes! The instructions for the frog are to live in a good environment, provide bugs and water, and refrain from using garden chemicals and pesticides. The tree frogs will flock to your home and stay forevermore. :-)
cclark11 year ago
I have often thought of makeing some of these I just never have actually had the courage to come up with a way to try it. Great idea useing the cooking spray as a mold release.

I will probably make me some here in a few weeks when I have the spair cash to grab a damaged bag of quickcrete at lowes. (They sell damaged bags at greatly reduced prices here at the local one.)

I do want to point out that you might want to reconsider sticking the cureing product in with your Koi. Cureing concrete wreaks havoc on PH levels in the water. I suspect your pond is large enough to absorb the PH swings with out really messing with the PH in the pond. But if you put something really large in there to cure it might just be bad enough to damage the pond.

I have done some of the DIY hydrolic concrete and styrafoam backgrounds in a few of my fish tanks. (They look marvelous from the get go, more so when they are covered in growth, and weigh next to nothing) The cure time for them to stop effecting the PH levels was well in excess of a month. Most people that do 'oystercrete' for marine aquariums cure it for several months with daily/weekly water changes.

All that being said one of the most clever ideas I saw for that kind of cureing was to simply load the items in the tank of your toilet. So the water gets changed every time you flush the toliet. The water changes help speed the curing process apperently.

Any way thanks for the great information and keep tinkering away!

- Clark
(Frequently Z-man12 around the net)
I have been wanting to do something w/ concrete. I have been digging into my pins on Pinterest to decide which project to start and came across your Instructable. Have you ever done the hupertufa containers w/ the concrete, peat moss and perlite mix? I was actually ready to start on some but we're locked inside w/ Hurricane Isaac making his way to us. So I won't be playing in concrete for now. I know that I've seen something you've done before. Did you do the inside out tire planters on another website a few years back? I know I've seen Wuvie somewhere besides instructables. Well maybe you'll enlighten me. If not, thanks for the great ideas and instructable. I w/ be trying this and w/ let you know how it turns out.
WUVIE (author)  hardwarechick1 year ago
Hello Hardwarechick,

My sincere apologies, I tend to forget about the comments section, and I really do need to check on them more often. Thank you so much for the wonderful compliments! I actually haven't tried hypertufa, though it sure looks fun! Yep, that was me and the tires. That seems like soooo long ago. Hope you will give these a try, and definitely hope you will share. :-)
I was just reading thru some of the older comments and I couldn't stop. So many great ideas. I have been making hypertufa containers. I don't know if you're familiar w/ it but if not, you might like the change. It's 1 part concrete mix, 1 part peat moss and 1 part perlite (from the garden center). Everything else you described is done the same exact way but this mix is very light weight. I think it's used to make troughs for succulents in arid climates but I use 2 sizes of buckets and pack the mix in between the two buckets(about 2" thick) or you can make your own forms. Laminated boards work really well. Just like your mix, you have to lube it up so it w/ release. The curing is the same and I drop mine into a koi-less pond. Everythings the same as w/ yours but I also use dowels to make drainage holes. I would do an instructable but I've never even uploaded a photo before and wouldn't know where to start. Of course, you may already know about this mix and I'm rambling on about it. Anyway, I'll be watching you for more great ideas. Thanks.
Oh and once its finished its PH leeching its totally safe. (At least the hydrolic type cement.) Unlike what seems to be a common opinion. If it wasn't there would be a lot of guys with some very dead reef/fresh water tanks out there. My self included. I have some things that a few bits of copper in the water would kill in a few days. None of them have shown any signs of ill effect over the last year plus.

Oh and I don't know if you have seen it or not by hydrolic concrete is a very fine premix. If some one is looking for something fine and smooth I think it would be excelent.
hoka1 year ago
I am inspired! Thanks to you and Libbie.
WUVIE (author)  hoka1 year ago
Aww, Hoka, Libbie said 'Thank you!'
And I thank you, too. :-)
donalddon51 year ago
I am inspired. Thanks.
WUVIE (author)  donalddon51 year ago
Donald, thank you so much. If only the weather would cooperate, we could be outside making more of these right now! :-)
ccannon71 year ago
I am absolutely intrigued with these projects. Where was all this wonderful info when I was physically and financially able to do them? Or when I lived in a house instead of this 502 square foot apartment?...... sigh! I'm bookmarking and saving all this info just in case I ever get to live in a real house again. You have inspired me to release that creative spark that I have kept locked away for the last 12 years. Thanks
WUVIE (author)  ccannon71 year ago
Hello! Thank you so much! I hope you won't allow your small quarters to keep you from these projects. Perhaps on a smaller scale, but you can definitely make some wonderful things. Hope you will give something a try. Thank you again for posting, I hope you keep that creative spark!
bajablue1 year ago
lol... I WUVIE your work... all of it!!! ;-D
WUVIE (author)  bajablue1 year ago
Aw, thank you so much, Bajablue! :-)
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