Tag Archives: DIY

Getting extra hands on with concrete

This garden has sparked us to try and do as much as we can ourselves including using a rain barrel, composting, building our own raised beds and trellis (trellises? trelli?) and even creating planters out of concrete. Everything you’ve read or seen online is true probably about making your own planters out of concrete — it’s really easy. Before it dries, concrete mixtures are quite forgiving and not really exact for the recipe so it becomes more of an issue of how far you let your creative mind flow.

We’ve used variants of a few recipes we found online but mainly this hypertufa recipe from Lowe’s. We went a bit overboard with materials and now have enough vermiculite and peat moss for the zombie apocalypse but hey, any time we want to make a pot, we’re ready for that too!

If you’ve never worked with concrete and are a bit leery of getting started with separate materials, just start with a bag of Quickcrete where all you have to add is water. You’ll get a different look but don’t have to worry about ratios and additional bags of stuff to be stored on the patio or garage.

Nerd note…cement and concrete aren’t the same things. Google defines cement: a powdery substance made with calcined lime and clay. It is mixed with water to form mortar or mixed with sand, gravel, and water to make concrete. And concrete: a heavy, rough building material made from a mixture of broken stone or gravel, sand, cement, and water, that can be spread or poured into molds and that forms a stonelike mass on hardening.

Project Photos

Small Buddha carving rests atop a concrete hand in a bowl filled with plants.
Wooden Buddha sits atop a homemade concrete hand in our repurposed fire bowl, now filled with red petunias.
Homemade concrete bowl resting on ground.
Hypertufa (concrete) bowl ready finally after curing, soaking, filing, sanding, and rinsing. Yes, I added drainage hole right after this shot…
Red spotted purple butterfly or Limenitis arthemis astyanax enjoying a cool day in the garden.
Red spotted purple butterfly or Limenitis arthemis astyanax enjoying a cool day in the garden, June 25. This was towards the end of the process when I had the pot sit in a spot in the garden that gets a lot of rain directly from the house.
Sempervivum and another unknown succulent started in hypertufa planter
Sempervivum (hens-n-chicks) buds repotted. This was the first bowl I did and the star shape was a glass candle holder for the inner mold. I had to break it to get it out — use plastic for molds!
hens and chicks succulent in concrete ball
Sempervivum (hens-n-chicks) replanted in DIY concrete ball. We used a flexible play ball for this shape, supported by sand for curing.

Some caveats we learned from the process:

  • Fully round shapes are difficult. The most precise mold we found was an 8-inch glass light fixture that we cracked off our finished globe. That’s not really kid friendly BUT if you don’t need exactly round, small flexible play balls will work just fine.
  • Almost anything can be used as a mold. For the hand we used a latex kitchen glove, turned inside out and sprayed with oil spray, and then supported it on a bed of sand while it cured.
  • If you don’t want to wear a particle mask, a well-secured bandanna around your mouth and nose will work just fine.
  • A 5-gallon bucket works well for mixing everything if you don’t have a flatter tub.
  • Glass inner shapes (like a candle holder) don’t come out easily. Stick to plastic unless you don’t care about destroying your inner shape.
  • It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities and want to make a billion things. Choose one simple pot to start with so you get a feel for the process.
  • Have a hose or additional rinsing water available in case you get wet concrete mixture on anything you didn’t intend to touch. You have a little bit of time before it’s super hard but if you get it on skin, it will itch or burn.
  • If you want to have a smoother surface, use less vermiculite/perlite and peat moss. So many different recipes that people have tried with success — just do an online search and see!

Additional Resources