Here at Dovewood, we needed a plant container of a very specific size that wasn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg. I remembered Geoff Hamilton using a Hypertufa mix to make a planter. I did a little research and found his recipe in his book (You can get yourself a copy through this Affiliate link – if you buy I will earn a small commission fee) Gardeners World: Practical Gardening Course and thought we should have a go. So here’s something you can try at home……….
The recipe for the Hypertufa mix
1 part Cement
1 part Sharp Sand
Actual quantities depend on the size of trough you want to make. You will also need some wire mesh or Chicken wire
Step One – Construction of the ‘Mould’
We decided using cardboard boxes was not (a) practical or (b) easy to find boxes of the correct dimensions. My husband made an outer and an inner ‘box’ out of plywood. He constructed them in such a way as to make them easy to dis-assemble, to remove the container when it was finished.
Note the fixed pegs in the base of the larger one which are screwed in place from the underside of the box. These were knocked out of the trough when it was completed. They are there to make the drainage holes but it would be possible to drill through the finished hypertufa if you prefer.
My job was to cut lengths of Chicken wire to size, to strengthen the base and sides
The Hypertufa was mixed up on a board using a shovel.
We put about one inch/25mm of the mix at the bottom of the larger box. Then put the wire on top of that before adding another layer of the Hypertufa mix. When it was nicely levelled, we placed the inner box centrally and the vertical section of chicken wire in between the two boxes
PLEASE NOTE YOU REALLY SHOULD USE GLOVES WHEN HANDLING WET CEMENT! (Ahem! Not like someone we know!)
Holding the chicken wire in place we carefully ‘spooned’ the Hypertufa down between the two boxes. We found poking it down with a piece of wood made it easier to ensure that there were no air pockets or bubbles. And we made sure that the wire was well bedded into the hypertufa mix. This makes sure we wouldn’t have any showing on the outside of the finished article!
When we had filled the sides and levelled the top, we weighted the inner box down with bricks. It was left overnight for the whole caboodle to set.
The next day we deconstructed the inner box and took the outside wooden box apart to reveal our new planter
At this point, the Hypertufa mix is set but not hard. You can brush the sides lightly over and shape the edges or even carve into it if you want. You must do this within the first 24 hours otherwise it becomes too hard to do by hand. The planter will be completely hardened off after 7 days.
The New Planting Trough
This photo is of our first attempt at using this method to make a plant container. We were thrilled at the way it turned out. It’s the perfect size for our purposes, and it should weather down nicely. The Trough is totally in keeping with the style of our garden. It is now in position above the Bug Hotel we have made – you can read How to make a Bug Hotel here