Instructables

How to Make a Garden Trough (Hypertufa Planter)

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Back in 1800s, crafty English farmers used to chisel feeding troughs for their animals out of local granite and sandstone. Nowadays, creative gardeners have adapted these old containers, which are now covered in moss and worn by decades of exposure to the elements, into decorative planters that would make an excellent addition in your garden.

However, trying to obtain one of these centuries-old planters yourself might prove expensive and tricky. Luckily we've discovered a way to create this planter all on your own with materials you can easily obtain. Here's a quick and easy way to replicate the weathered look of these hand-hewn vessels yourself.

The key is a material called hypertufa, a mix of cement, peat moss, and perlite, products readily available at any home or garden center. Just combine the ingredients, add water, pack the mixture into a handmade mold, and set it aside to cure for a couple of days. When you pop off the mold, you'll have created a bit of the Old World, right in your own backyard.

See more planter ideas from This Old House
 
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Step 1: Overview

Picture of Overview
Time: 1 weekend
Cost: $50

Supplies You Will Need:
1. Form materials: pine shelf board, plywood, foam insulation, or cardboard boxes will work. Beveled panels for decorative recess are optional. (See Overview)
2. ½-inch multi-purpose screws
3. Releasing agent. Melted paraffin or petroleum jelly will work.
4. 2½-inch-tall PVC pipe pieces. Paper towel spool pieces will also work.
5. Cement: (5-9 for hypertufa mix; See "The Recipe" in Overview)
6. Peat
7. Perlite
8. Liquid acrylic
9. Nylon reinforcing fibers
10. Plastic sheeting
11. Wire mesh
12. Seedlings
13. Soil

Tools you will Need:
1. HAMMER
2. PAINTBRUSH
3. GLOVES
4. DUST MASK
5. GOGGLES
6. BUCKET OR PAIL
7. GARDEN TROWEL
8. COARSE WIRE BRUSH
9. MALLET
10. SMALL PIECE OF SCRAP WOOD

RECIPE:
The amount of hypertufa mix you will need depends on the size of the trough you're making. You can stretch or shrink the recipe if you stick to these basic proportions: 

• 3 parts cement
• 4 parts peat
• 4 parts perlite
• Water sufficient to make a firm, moldable mixture, plus a splash of liquid acrylic (about ¼ the amount of total liquid)
• A handful of nylon reinforcing fibers

Building the Form:

Trough forms can be made from plywood, rigid foam insulation, or two cardboard boxes, one inside the other. We used pine shelf board because it is sturdy and can be used again and again. To create the decorative recess, we glued beveled panels to the insides of the exterior form.

Our trough measured 17 inches wide by 24 inches long by 10 inches high. You can use the same method to build any size trough. For best results, the walls should be a minimum of 2¼ inches thick, and the trough should be at least 7½ inches deep.
Ariana Morris2 months ago

Are the liquid acrylic and nylon fibers really necessary? Would they be necessary in other, smaller projects? What makes them necessary in this?

Beautiful project and I am looking forward to experimentation.

haystrevor403 months ago

Diggin it! Made a rounded one using a small punch bowl inverted and just slabbing the hypertufa mix on. Placed in garbage bag to slow the cure and used it for planting succulents. Have actually seen some really nice hypertufa planters embedded with moss. Thanks for the post. Excellent Mother's Day idea.

BG_instructs4 months ago

inspiring