It was this time of year when I met four friends for a special project. Like the witches in Macbeth, we knew we would be toiling over mysterious brews. But, instead of bones, blood and magical herbs, we worked with cement, feathers and sand. We didn’t chant to create spells either (well, maybe silently) but were intent upon creating Hypertufa planters for our gardens, patios, walkways and front steps.
HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF TUFA?
I had no idea that “tufa” is actually a volcanic rock. It was used in England in the 1800’s to make troughs for feeding livestock. But smart gardeners of the times began to use the troughs for garden planters. And lo’ they were beautiful, so they learned to make clever imitations called Hypertufa.
HOW ABOUT FAKE TUFA?
HYPER-tufa (Fake Tufa) is still sought after today and can be very expensive ready made. You can buy it in good garden centers or you can make it yourself with a mix of cement, peat moss, sand and a few other things. The end result is an artificial rough textured, aged looking stone in almost any shape from any mold.
Do you want to try making your own Hypertufa? Doing it with friends is fun and is much like making mud pies, so be sure to wear old clothes and rubber gloves! And doing it in a garage or shed is good too. You do not want to try this inside and it is certainly not a kitchen project.
The recipe below worked for us, but of course there are no guarantees.
- Mold(s): Can be of anything sturdy enough to support the weight of the mixture (even heavy cardboard). The bottom should not be larger than the top.
- Lightweight plastic sheets like dry-cleaning bags, or garbage bags cut open
- Small lengths of wooden dowel 1/4 inch in diameter
- Scoop(s) – One and two quart capacity
- Rubber gloves
- A Wheelbarrow
- 10 Quarts Portland Cement
- 15 Quarts of Vermiculite (or Perlite)
- 15 Quarts of Peat Moss (sifted to remove twigs)
- One large handful (about 1 cup) Fibermesh
- About Three Gallons water
- Measure the dry stuff and mix it up (with gloved hands) in the wheelbarrow. Add enough water to make a goo that’s wet enough to work but not drippy (texture of cottage cheese). Keep adding water to the right consistency. Now, place the mold upside down on a sheet of plastic. Cover with another piece of plastic and smoothly tuck it under at corners.
- Starting at the bottom (which used to be the top), press the goo firmly onto the mold. Make it about 2 inches thick, covering the top (used to be the bottom) last. Pat to a smooth surface.
- Now insert dowels into the top (which will become the bottom) to provide drainage holes. After about 4 hours, wire brush the surface to desired texture.
- Cover your still upside down planter loosely with plastic, and for a few days, keep the surface wet by lifting the plastic and misting. In about a week remove the plastic and let the planter sit 4 or 5 more days uncovered. Then carefully remove it from the mold. Voila! You now have an Old English Garden Trough or a special garden pot made of Hypertufa.
My friends and I now have various versions in our gardens. They not only look beautiful, natural, and can be left out all winter, they evoke happy memories of a bewitched party of grown up friends playing in the mud.