how to make a garden trough

how to make a garden trough

English farmers of the 1800s used to chisel feeding troughs for his or her animals out of native granite and sandstone. Years later, inventive gardeners adopted these outdated containers, coated in moss and worn by many years of publicity to the weather, as ornamental planters. Few of those sought-after vintage troughs are nonetheless accessible—and even if you happen to might discover one, chances are high it might be too heavy (and costly) so that you can transport it throughout the Atlantic. However there is a fast and simple option to replicate the weathered look of those hand-hewn vessels your self.

The secret is a fabric known as hypertufa, a mixture of cement, peat moss, and perlite, merchandise available at any house or backyard heart. The title comes from tufa, a pure porous rock that appears very like weathered stone. Mix the substances, add water, pack the combination into a hand-crafted mould, and set it apart to treatment for a few days. If you pop off the mould, you may have created a little bit of the Previous World, proper in your personal yard.

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You’ll be able to construct a hypertufa backyard trough in a weekend and luxuriate in its magnificence for years to return. Actually, the older and extra weathered it will get, the higher it appears. Right here, backyard professional Ken Druse takes us via the method, from casting to planting.

Step 1

Constructing the Type

Picture by Jennifer Levy

Constructing the Type

Trough kinds will be constructed from plywood, inflexible foam insulation, or two cardboard packing containers, one inside the opposite. We used pine shelf board as a result of it’s sturdy and can be utilized many times. To create the ornamental recess, we glued beveled panels to the insides of the outside kind.

Our trough measured 17 inches extensive by 24 inches lengthy by 10 inches excessive. You need to use the identical technique to construct any dimension trough. For finest outcomes, the partitions ought to be a minimal of 2¼ inches thick, and the trough ought to be no less than 7½ inches deep.


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The quantity of hypertufa combine you will have depends upon the dimensions of the trough you are making. You’ll be able to stretch or shrink the recipe if you happen to stick to those primary proportions:

3 components cement

4 components peat

4 components perlite

Water ample to make a agency, moldable combination, plus a splash of liquid acrylic (about ¼ the quantity of complete liquid)

A handful of nylon reinforcing fibers

Step 2

Apply Launch Agent

Picture by Jennifer Levy

To maintain the hypertufa from sticking to the shape, the wooden should first be coated with a launch agent. (For directions on making the shape, see the overview web page.) You need to use petroleum jelly or a bit of plastic sheeting. We brushed on a layer of melted paraffin. Later, any paraffin residue on the trough will be simply eliminated with a wire brush or flat putty knife.

Step 3

Create Drainage

Picture by Jennifer Levy

To make sure correct drainage, you may must create holes within the backside of the planter. Do that with a paper-towel spool or lengths of PVC pipe, lower into 4 2½-inch-tall items and spaced evenly towards the corners of the skin kind. Use a few of the melted paraffin to safe them.

Step 4

Combine Hypertufa Components

Picture by Jennifer Levy

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Carrying gloves, mud masks, and goggles, combine the cement, peat, and perlite in a big tub or trough. (For portions of all substances, see “The Recipe” on the overview web page.) Add the water and acrylic fortifier a bit at a time, turning the combination totally so it sticks collectively however is just not runny. Fluff up the nylon reinforcing fibers and add them to the combination. You must be capable to kind the fiber-reinforced combine right into a strong ball that does not collapse.

Step 5

Pack Hypertufa Into Type

Picture by Jennifer Levy

When packing the hypertufa combine into the shape, take care to not knock the drainage molds misplaced. Pack the combination tightly, beginning with the underside. If you’ve packed the underside to a thickness of no less than 2½ inches, insert the inside kind and start packing tightly up the perimeters. Shovel the combination in with a backyard trowel. Bear in mind, the tighter you pack, the stronger your trough might be.

Step 6

Tamp Down Hypertufa

Picture by Jennifer Levy

As you pack the hypertufa combination up the perimeters, periodically tamp it down with a flat piece of wooden to do away with any air pockets. Proceed including and tamping till the combination is flush with the highest of the outer field.

Step 7

Take away Trough from Type

Picture by Jennifer Levy

The trough will want no less than 24 hours to treatment sufficient to unmold. When you may’t scratch the floor with a fingernail, it is prepared. Take away all of the fasteners and take off the underside panel. Then take away the skin partitions, popping the boards freed from the paraffin with a backyard trowel. Push the partitions of the within kind towards the middle so that they collapse inward on themselves.

Step 8

End and Wrap

Picture by Jennifer Levy

When first unmolded, the trough will be textured. By going over the floor with a rough wire brush and flattening any sharp corners, you may add a whole bunch of years of “weathering” and impart an aged look. As soon as you’ve got distressed the trough, wrap it in plastic and go away it in a cool place to treatment for about 4 weeks, when it can have reached most power. Then it is prepared for planting.

Step 9

Begin Planting

Picture by Jennifer Levy

You’ll be able to fill your trough with nearly any rising factor. Historically, they’re used for rugged alpine crops, which thrive within the porous containers. Small and slow-growing, but with stunning flowers, alpines are well-suited for the restricted confines of a trough backyard. Good decisions are herbaceous perennials and dwarf shrubs and conifers. The necessary factor when selecting crops is to think about scale and rising habits; you do not need aggressive spreaders that can take over the trough.

The very best planting combination for alpines is natural soil with sand, grit, and small stones. A layer of gravel on the backside of the trough is elective however will enhance drainage. Earlier than filling the trough, put a small piece of wire mesh over every drainage gap to maintain it clear. And make sure to go away house within the trough for some native rocks—along with trying good, they imitate the alpine setting, defending crops from the ravages of wind and excessive temperature swings.

Talking of temperature swings, attempt to hold the trough shaded in winter to restrict repeated freeze/thaw cycles, which might do harm to crops and in addition shorten the lifetime of the trough.

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