About the SFMGA

Monday, June 18, 2007


These charming stone-like troughs are fun and easy to make and become a charming addition to any garden. Plant them with cacti, succulents, herbs, or any small or alpine plants. The containers will last for years outside. Try this version:

  • 2 parts Portland cement (not a cement mix)
  • 3 parts vermiculite
  • 3 parts peat moss sifted to remove twigs & debris
  • Water

For a mix of 10 qts cement and 15 qts each peat and vermiculite, use about 3 gallons water. Combine the dry ingredients in a large trough or pail; blend thoroughly. Add water slowly, stirring well. Add enough water so the mixture is like cottage cheese and holds its shape. If it's too wet it won't hold its shape in the mold.

Molds can be anything from plastic and clay pots to cardboard boxes lined with plastic. Hypertufa looks great in rectangular shapes that tuck in a corner of the garden or patio. Be sure the bottom of your trough is flat no matter what mold you use. Packing the mix into a plastic pot insures the bottom of the trough is flat.

You can remove the bottom of a cardboard mold and set it on a flat surface to cure. Pat and press the mix inside the mold, making the walls proportionately thick to the size of the pot. Too thick is better than too thin while still allowing enough room in the trough for the necessary planting soil.

Press the mix to remove air bubbles. Use a dowel or stick to poke drain holes in the bottom of the trough. You can also drill those later when the trough is fully cured.

Place the trough in a dry place and cover it loosely with plastic. Mist the trough a little each day so it cures slowly. The slower the cure, the tougher the pot. This can take 1-3 weeks. Carefully remove the mold as soon as the mixture is dry enough, in 28-48 hours.

When the trough is dry you can use a wire brush to shape and smooth it to your liking. Open drainage holes with a screwdriver. Fill your trough with appropriate soil. Plant with small plants and decorate the surface with bark, rocks, colored stones, art objects.

It's a good idea to experiment with a small pot before tackling a large trough. Remember, a large trough will be heavy, so consider curing it in the spot you will ultimately place it.