How to Make a Hypertufa Garden Trough
Make a garden trough with all the character (but none of the hassle) of carved stone
English farmers of the 1800s used to chisel feeding troughs for their animals out of local granite and sandstone. Years later, creative gardeners adopted these old containers, covered in moss and worn by decades of exposure to the elements, as decorative planters. Few of these sought-after antique troughs are still available—and even if you could find one, chances are it would be too heavy (and expensive) for you to transport it across the Atlantic. But there's a quick and easy way to replicate the weathered look of these hand-hewn vessels yourself.
The key is a material called hypertufa, a mix of cement, peat moss, and perlite, products readily available at any home or garden center. The name comes from tufa, a natural porous rock that looks much like weathered stone. Combine the ingredients, add water, pack the mixture into a handmade mold, and set it aside to cure for a couple of days. When you pop off the mold, you'll have created a bit of the Old World, right in your own backyard.
You can build a hypertufa garden trough in a weekend and enjoy its beauty for years to come. In fact, the older and more weathered it gets, the better it looks. Here, garden expert Ken Druse takes us through the process, from casting to planting.
Building the Form
Building the Form
Trough forms can be made from plywood, rigid foam insulation, or two cardboard boxes, one inside the other. We used pine shelf board because it is sturdy and can be used again and again. To create the decorative recess, we glued beveled panels to the insides of the exterior form.
Our trough measured 17 inches wide by 24 inches long by 10 inches high. You can use the same method to build any size trough. For best results, the walls should be a minimum of 2¼ inches thick, and the trough should be at least 7½ inches deep.
The amount of hypertufa mix you will need depends on the size of the trough you're making. You can stretch or shrink the recipe if you stick to these basic proportions:
3 parts cement
4 parts peat
4 parts perlite
Water sufficient to make a firm, moldable mixture, plus a splash of liquid acrylic (about ¼ the amount of total liquid)
A handful of nylon reinforcing fibers