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How To Build A Hypertufa Trough - A Step By Step Guide

Mar 12, 2008
In this article I will explain in a step by step process how you can build a beautiful and practical hypertufa trough for your garden or patio. Hypertufa troughs are very plant friendly containers to use. This is due to there think porous walls which act as a reservoir between watering and allow air to flow around the roots. Hypertufa troughs also have a very natural appearance in the garden as they attract mosses and lichen.

Hypertufa is an artificial stone used as a substitute for the natural Tufa rock. There are various hypertufa recipes depending on what it is your planning to make. For our hypertufa trough we will be using the following ingredients:

2 Parts Portland Cement
3 Parts Sifted Peat Moss
3 Parts Perlite
Synthetic Concrete Reinforcing Fibres

Just a just a quick note to remind you that Portland cement is NOT concrete. Portland cement is an ingredient of concrete. Be sure to pick up the correct sack, they are heavy!

You should be able to get most of the ingredients at your local hardware store. The reinforcing fibres might be a little more tricky to find but should be available in your local masonry supply store.

To make a mould for our hypertufa trough we are going to use two cardboard cartons, one smaller than the other to fit inside it. There needs to be a 5-6 cm gap around all the edges so that the walls of the trough will be thick enough. For larger hypertufa troughs obviously you will need to increase the wall thickness.

Place the large cardboard carton on a piece of plastic sheet on flat ground. Place concrete blocks or other similar heavy items around the edge of the carton. This will stop the edges bowing out when the hypertufa mixture is added and the carton becomes damp.

You now need to mix the ingredients. This is done most easily with a wheelbarrow and a shovel. Measure out 3 gallons of sifted peat moss, 3 gallons of Perlite, 2 gallons of Portland cement and a handful of loosely packed reinforcing fibres into the wheelbarrow and mix throughly with the shovel. If you want to mix the ingredients by hand that's fine, but wear some tough rubber gloves.

You now want to add the water very gradually, so as not to make the mixture sloppy. You should be able to grab a handful of the mixture into a ball and it should hold together. The amount of water needed will depend on the dryness of the peat moss.

Take the hypertufa mixture and fill the large carton to a depth of 5-6 cm. Push small pieces of dowel or bamboo through the mixture to create drainage holes, these will be removed later. Make sure the mixture is compacted by using the end of a piece of timber to tap it down, especially in the corners and around the drainage holes.

Now place the smaller carton inside the larger one, making sure the gap is even around all the edges. Place a small amount of sand in the smaller carton to stop it from floating up and to support the sides. You will need to gradually fill up the inner carton with sand as you build up the walls of the hypertufa trough.

Build up the walls of the hypertufa trough gradually, making sure to compact the mixture as you go with the end of the timber. When the walls are at the desired height leave the trough for 24 hours.

When you come back to your hypertufa trough the next day, you should carefully remove the sand from the inner carton and the wet cardboard from the sides, inside and out. Don't worry about the bottom at this stage and don't try to move it as you'll lose your hypertufa trough.

Take a wire brush a rough up the sides and edges to give your hypertufa trough a more natural look. You can also score designs into the sides at this stage but be careful not to damage the trough as it will be quite fragile.

Now leave for a further week to cure and there you have it, a hypertufa trough for you garden or patio.
About the Author
Seb Brown maintains the website Hypertufa How To which contains lots of information on hypertufa, including different hypertufa recipes for different projects and how to make many different hypertufa objects including hypertufa troughs.
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