Introduction

How to Make a Garden Trough
Photo: Jennifer Levy
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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.
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    Tools List

    • hammer
      Hammer
    • Natural-bristle chip brush
      Paintbrush
    • latex gloves
      Gloves
    • dust mask
      Dust mask
    • eye goggles
      Goggles
    • bucket
      Bucket or pail
    • hand trowel
      Garden trowel
    • Coarse wire brush
    • mallet
      Mallet
    • block wood
      Small piece of scrap wood for tamping

    Shopping List

    1. Form materials
    Pine shelf board, plywood, foam insulation, or cardboard boxes will work. Beveled panels for decorative recess are optional. (See Overview)

    2. ½-inch multi-purpose screws

    3. Releasing agent
    Melted paraffin or petroleum jelly will work.

    4. 2½-inch-tall PVC pipe pieces
    Paper towel spool pieces will also work.

    5. Cement
    (5-9 for hypertufa mix; See "The Recipe" in Overview)

    6. Peat

    7. Perlite

    8. Liquid acrylic

    9. Nylon reinforcing fibers

    10. Plastic sheeting

    11. Wire mesh

    12. Seedlings

    13. Soil