1. Dry mix. Wearing rubber gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from caustic portland cement, premix dry hypertufa ingredients in a 5-gallon bucket. Use a plastic milk jug (cut into a measuring scoop) or coffee can to measure ingredients 1 gallon at a time. Thoroughly mix 1 part portland cement, 1 part sand, and 2 parts peat moss. Scoop out premix as needed for each project; store the remainder in the covered 5-gallon bucket.
2. Add water. Transfer 2 gallons of premix to a plastic dishpan or similar reusable container, and make a well in the center of the mix. Slowly add water, blending it with premix until mixture holds together but isn't sloppy (the consistency of thick mud). If the mixture is crumbly, add water; if sloppy, add dry hypertufa mix. Blend more dry mix if needed; once it's wet, it must be used.
3. Cover mold. If using a reusable mold, firmly press mixture into bottom of mold to form a 2-inch-thick base. Stand one or two dowels (depending on the size of trough) in bottom of container to create drainage holes. (If using a foam ice chest or box liner, see option below.)
4. Smooth. Continue pressing hypertufa mixture up sides of mold until trough is completely shaped (1-1/2 to 2 inches thick). Smooth and shape top edge using a trowel; mist with water to smooth.
Option: If working with a foam mold, press hypertufa on the outside of the mold first. Work up to the top edge, then allow trough to dry by wrapping in plastic and curing for two days at room temperature. After the outside of the trough has dried, unwrap it. Press hypertufa along top edge of trough and 1-2 inches down inside the mold. Smooth and shape top edge; decorate, if desired, as described in step 5. Re-cover with plastic and allow to cure. Finish as in step 6.
5. Decorate. the edge of your trough, if desired, with small shells or stones while the hypertufa is moist. Set the trough on a large sheet of plastic (or a garbage bag), wrap it up, and set it aside to dry for a day or two. The plastic allows the cement to cure properly and the trough to dry without cracking. Then unwrap the trough and remove the reusable mold. Remove dowels from drainage holes.
6. Dry. Scrape and score outside of trough with a wire brush to roughen it and make it look more like stone. Round off top edges and corners, if desired. Allow trough to continue drying and curing for at least 3 weeks outdoors in the elements. Finished hypertufa pieces are heavy as stone but not as heavy as concrete.
Continued on page 2: Planting a Trough