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
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    Tools List

    • hammer
    • Natural-bristle chip brush
    • latex gloves
    • dust mask
      Dust mask
    • eye goggles
    • bucket
      Bucket or pail
    • hand trowel
      Garden trowel
    • Coarse wire brush
    • 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