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Modeled after ancient stone troughs used to hold water and feed for livestock, these troughs are made from hypertufa, an artificial stone product. Easy to make, these cool containers work in any style garden. Beth Jimenez and Amelia Lane, owners of Lasting Impressions in Raleigh, show you how to make inexpensive hypertufa troughs. Once you learn the secret to making these containers, you may not want to stop. A grouping of containers of various sizes makes a striking garden collection.
You may have many of these supplies on hand. The remainder can be found at a building supply store to make a trough that measures 16x16 inches.
Tape measure or ruler
Sheet of 2-inch-thick foam insulation boards
Eight 3-1/4-inch nails
Rubber or latex gloves
Quikrete Portland cement
Reinforced concrete fibers
3/8-inch-thick plywood board (2x2 feet)
Sheet of plastic or trash bag
Wire brush or screwdriver (optional)
Using the serrated knife, cut insulation into two 16x6-inch pieces and two 18x6-inch pieces. Assemble these four sections into a square or rectangle, depending on how you join the ends. Insert two nails through the insulation material -- one near the top and one near the bottom -- of each intersection.
Test Garden Tip: For a rectangle, assemble as shown with the 16-inch section outside the 18-inch section. For a square, assemble with the 16-inch section inside the 18-inch section.
Mark a line at least 2 inches from the bottom as a guide to the depth of the hypertufa; this will mark the thickness of the bottom of your trough. Note: If you create a larger container, you'll want a deeper layer of hypertufa to give your trough more support.
Put on your gloves and measure 2 gallons cement, 2 gallons perlite, and 4 gallons peat moss. The amount will allow for some left over material to make trough feet. Mix the dry ingredients in your wheelbarrow with the hoe.
Test Garden Tip: Add 1/3 cup of reinforced concrete fibers to give your hypertufa trough more strength. Find them at building supply stores.
Slowly add warm water to the wheelbarrow. Start with about 3 gallons and mix it well with the dry materials. You should end up with a consistency like cookie dough or a graham cracker crust. It should be wet enough to adhere so it doesn't crumble, but not too wet to ooze water. It should be wet enough to hold together when compressed, but not oozing water.
Set the mold on the plywood board. Begin packing the bottom with the hypertufa mixture, using your previously marked line as a stopping point. Working a small area at a time, use your hands to firmly press the mixture into the bottom corners and up the sides, making sure to mash one section into another for seamless adhesion for a strong trough. Continue up the sides until the sides are covered by a 2-inch-thick layer. Spray water as needed to keep the mixture moist while you are working.
Test Garden Tip: The plywood board serves as the bottom of the mold and makes transporting the trough easier.
Your trough should dry in about 48 hours. After it's dried and hardened, carefully remove the tape and nails and pull the sides of the mold away from the trough.
Store the trough in a shady area to cure for 30-60 days. The hypertufa trough gets stronger every day. Your container can be left out in freezing temperatures as long as it is off the ground.
Test Garden Tip: Spraying with water often decreases the duration of this process to about 30 days.
Use any leftover mixture to create feet for your troughs. These feet will keep your trough off the ground.
Test Garden Tip: Or use extra hypertufa mix to create garden sculptures, such as toadstools.
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