How to Build a Decorative Concrete Garden Trough

Written by lee roberts
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Use decorative troughs in your garden as planters, water features or as art pieces. Combine cement with lighter elements to create hypertufa. Hypertufa troughs look as if they have weathered over the years. Hypertufa garden elements work well when you want to create Old World or rustic looks. The material is porous, so do not expect to be able to paint it to give your pieces bright colours or a sleek, modern look.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Perlite
  • Peat moss
  • Portland cement
  • Nylon concrete fibres
  • Mixing container
  • Rubber gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Wooden stick
  • Stiff wire brush
  • Sheets of plastic

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Select two cardboard boxes such that one nests inside the other with 1 to 2 inches of space between the sides of the two boxes.

  2. 2

    Put on rubber gloves and a dust mask. Mix two parts Portland cement, three parts peat and three parts perlite. Add a handful of nylon reinforcing fibres. Add enough water to generate a mixture that is similar in appearance and texture to cottage cheese.

  3. 3

    Add 1 to 2 inches of the mixture to the bottom of the larger box. Pack the hypertufa mixture in tightly. Pound air bubbles out with a wooden stick.

  4. 4

    Center the smaller box into the larger box. Continue packing the mixture into the larger box and around the outside of the smaller box. Press the material in until you reach the desired height of your trough, usually the height of the box. Smooth the top of the mixture with your finger or a flat stick.

  5. 5

    Cover the trough with plastic. Do not move the trough for 24 to 36 hours while it cures. Attempt to scratch the surface with your fingernail, and remove the trough from the mould when you can no longer scratch the surface.

  6. 6

    Push the sides of the smaller box inward and collapse the box. Separate the mould from the trough.

  7. 7

    Drag a stiff wire brush over the surface of the sides. Smooth out high spots. Round out sharp corners.

  8. 8

    Wrap the trough in plastic. Place the trough in a cool location for three to four weeks to finish curing.

  9. 9

    Fill the trough with water and allow the water to seep through the sides to leach out some of the lime the Portland cement added. Refill the planter over the course of 10 days.

Tips and warnings

  • Drill drainage holes into the bottom of the trough after the final curing. Alternatively, place cardboard tubes or small sections of PVC pipe into the mould and pour the hypertufa mixture around them to create holes in the finished trough.
  • Purchase nylon concrete fibres at home supply stores or through online stores specialising in concrete products.
  • Insert a rigid plastic liner into the trough in order to use it as a basin for a water feature.
  • To make your mould out of metal or wood pieces, coat the sides with a release agent, such as melted paraffin or petroleum jelly.

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