Introduction: Cheap and Stylish DIY Concrete Pots
Make stylish garden pots fast for just a few cents!
I got really interested in gardening and purging my garage over the quarantine. So when I discovered a 50-pound bag of concrete I had laying around, I started searching for things to do with it to help my gardening endeavors. What I came up with is a method for making handcrafted and cool garden pots for cheap in almost any shape. This project is fast, affordable, hard to mess up, and in the end, you have a super cool pot for your garden, home, office, or dorm! Let's get started!
Step 1: Materials + Tools
- Fast Setting Concrete - 50 pounds for just $5
- Assorted containers - more on this in the next step but milk cartons, cups, and cardboard boxes are great
- Water (you'll only need a few cups worth)
- Container to mix concrete in (I use a rectangular plastic container)
- Object to mix concrete with (this could be a small shovel or stick)
- Cup to scoop concrete mix (I use a Solo cup)
- Cup to scoop wet concrete into outer container (I use another Solo cup for this)
- Masking tape or a Sharpie
- Something heavy to weight down inner container (this could be a workout weight, assorted hardware, rocks, or your hand if you have time)
- Mask (to protect lungs from concrete dust)
- Eye Protection (to protect eyes from concrete dust and splatter)
- Gloves (to protect hands from wet concrete)
- Drill or drill press with 1/4-1/2" drill bit (for making your pot's drainage hole)
Step 2: Choose Inner and Outer Containers
The containers that hold and displace your wet concrete are the most important part of the project as they will dictate the size and shape of your pot. The outer container is large and concrete is poured into it. The shape of the outer container dictates the shape of the outside of your pot. The inner container is placed inside the outer container and displaces concrete from the middle of the pot. The inner container makes the shape and size of the hole in the pot where your plant goes.
The Outer Container
When choosing your outer container, you should think about how you plan to remove the concrete from the container after it dries. Tupperware is pretty easy to bend and stretch until the concrete falls out. Another option is cutting the concrete out of the mold. This works well for containers like milk cartons or single-use containers. A cool aspect of this method is that by taping the cut mark closed, you can reuse the container!
Some awesome outer containers include:
- milk carton
- protein powder container
- cardboard box
- custom wooden mold (make this from plywood and 2x4s)
A good rule of thumb is that if the container can hold thick oatmeal, then it is a viable option for the outer container!
The Inner Container
When choosing your inner container, you should first consider the needs of the plant you plan to grow in the pot. Make sure to keep in mind the depth of the plant's roots and its width. It's much harder to cut the inner container out of the pot once it dries, so expect to only be able to use your inner container once. Make sure your inner container is rippable, bendable, or compressible, so you can get it out of the mold or you will end up with my wine pot pictured above.
Some awesome inner containers include:
- paper cup
- flimsy plastic cup
- Solo cup
- small Tupperware (you can actually use these more than once)
Step 3: Mark Height
Once you've chosen your inner and outer containers, you need to decide how the inner container will sit within the outer container. It's a good rule of thumb to keep the inner container at least 1/4 of an inch from the edges of the outside container.
Additionally, you will need to decide how deep the inner container will sit in the outer container. You should strive for at least 1/2 an inch between the bottoms of the two containers. The top of the inner container should be above the top of the outer container so that it stays exposed after the concrete is poured.
Once you've determined how the inner container will sit, use tape or a marker to note where on the inner container will sit level with the top of the outer container. This mark is super helpful because once the concrete is poured into the outside container, it is difficult to gauge how far the inner container should be pressed down.
Step 4: Mix Concrete
I didn't have much experience with concrete going into this project, so I was shocked to find out just how easy it is to work with.
But, before we start, let me remind you that concrete mix releases very fine dust that should not be inhaled, and wet concrete can cause chemical burns. Please wear a mask, eye protection, and gloves while working with concrete. If wet concrete does touch your body, immediately wash it off with cool water.
How To Mix Concrete:
- Start by scooping some concrete mix into the bucket you will use to mix the concrete.
- Next, add some water and carefully integrate the mix with the water using a stir stick or shovel.
- Dry concrete likes to hide around the edge of the bucket, so make sure to get your stir stick everywhere.
- Once all of your concrete is of the same consistency, check whether your concrete is too dry or wet. The best way to determine if your concrete is the right consistency is to do the sandcastle check. To do this, fill a cup with your wet concrete then flip the cup upside down and lift. The concrete castle should slump some but preserve its general shape.
- If the castle perfectly maintains its shape, add more water. If the castle totally falls apart, add more concrete mix.
Step 5: Pour
We will now need to work fast as the mix will become hard in 20 - 40 minutes.
Pour your wet concrete into the outer container until it's about 2/3 full or at a place where the volume of the inner container will displace enough concrete for the mix to reach just below the top of the outer container. Once poured, tap the bottom of the outer container against the floor to get the wet concrete level and get rid of air bubbles.
Then, insert the inner container into the concrete. I've found the best technique for this is to twist the inner container as you push it down. Once the mark on the inner container reaches the concrete line, place a weight in or on top of the inner container to keep it in place. Because we are using quick-set concrete, you can also apply weight by pressing down with your hand on the inner container until it sets enough for the inner container to stay in place when you remove your hand.
Tap on the sides of the outer container to bring air bubbles to the surface. This will increase the strength of your pot and make the sides smoother.
Leave your pot in a place to cure for 24 hours before removing it from the mold.
Once you've poured your concrete, spray your mixing bucket, wet concrete cup, and stirring stick with water. Do this in an area that drains and away from your grass as the water may kill it. If you have unused wet concrete, leave it on a plastic sheet or tray to dry.
Step 6: Remove From Mold
Once your pot has set for 24 hours, it's time to pull it out of the mold. To start, I generally pull out the inner container first. The best method I've found to do this is to squish or pull the sides of the inner container toward the center so that they come away from the walls. Once you've brought all the sides to the center, you should be able to pull the inner container out of the pot with some force.
The outer container can be removed similarly if it is Tupperware by pulling the sides away from the concrete until the pot pops out. With other outer materials, you will need to cut the side of the container to free the pot. I do this by making a cut from the top of the container to the bottom on one side using a Xacto knife. After cutting, you should be able to pull the sides of the cut away from each other enough that the pot can slide free.
Step 7: Sand + Drill Drainage Hole
Oftentimes, due to the pouring and shaking process, the top of your pot will be rough and uneven at some points. To fix this, use some high grit sandpaper to give a quick once over on the top of the pot. You can also sand the sides of your pot to get rid of irregularities.
Adding a drainage hole is vital to your plant's success. I've found the best method for this is to drill a hole in the bottom of your pot after you remove it from your containers. I'd recommend using a 1/4 to 1/2 inch drill bit. I used a 3/8 inch bit for the hole above. I used a hand drill, but a drill press is your best option if you have one.
Step 8: Make It Fancy
With your pot sanded and your drainage hole drilled, your pot is complete!
But if you want to make your pot extra fancy, you can decorate it with paint or mosaic. I really like the look of bare concrete, so I preserved it in my painted pots by covering areas with masking tape before painting. Be creative here or make this a fun activity for kids.
Step 9: That's It!
Add some soil and a plant or seeds and your pot is complete!
If you have any questions or comments about the process, please drop em below.
Let me know if you make one as well! I'm confident I've just touched the surface of what's possible with this technique thus far.
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