Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two Girls and Tufa

About a month ago, my friend, Mary, and I met at her house and made hypertufa containers. She had taken a class on how to create these interesting containers and invited me over to make some together. This was my first time making hypertufa, and I was excited to see how it was done.

Materials and Supplies

Portland cement
Peat moss
Perlite
Wheelbarrow
Tarps
Gloves
Apron or old clothing
Mask (if you are sensitive to cement dust)
Hypertufa forms (styrofoam, plastic, cardboard, wood)

First, she set out a wheelbarrow on a large tarp for us to mix the ingredients.


There are several recipes for making hypertufa, but we decided on the following recipe:
  
1 part Portland cement
1 1/2 parts peat moss
1 1/2 parts perlite

This recipe gives the hypertufa a granite appearance and is a bit lighter than some of the other recipes.


We thoroughly mixed all the ingredients in the wheelbarrow adding water slowly until the mixture was the consistency of oatmeal or peanut butter. The mix should hold together, be soft and malleable as putty, but not runny. We let the mixture sit for ten minutes to let the Portland cement react to the water.


We each made two hypertufa containers, one square and one round. The choice of containers was based on what forms we had available. Mary had large square styrofoam boxes from two Turduckens she had bought and used. As we found out, these were perfect forms for the hypertufa. They were strong and sturdy, and they had a top to cover the form.


We also used some inexpensive round plastic containers as forms.


The best forms to use are plastic, styrofoam, or cardboard because these are easy to remove from the dried hypertufa trough or container. Wood forms can be made to any form you desire, however be sure to line the wood with plastic for easy removal of the hypertufa container.

We carried the mix in buckets and plastic containers to our work area and began pouring it in our forms. The mixture must be packed tightly in the form to prevent air pockets. Sometimes it is helpful to use something to push against the side of the form.


We made a hole inside the form for planting and packed the mix very firmly.


The result is a very tightly packed trough.


We, then, covered the styrofoam boxes and put all the forms in separate trash bags. The trash bags seal in the moisture and allow the hypertufa to cure more slowly which makes for a stronger container. It is best not to move the forms because the hypertufa can be easily damaged at this stage. Because I had to bring my hypertufa home, we were very careful loading them into my car.

These must cure for about 36 to 48 hours in the trash bags. Remove the trash bags and the styrofoam tops. Now, the hypertufa must cure for about seven days uncovered and in the forms. Keep the hypertufa in a shady area away from rain to allow it to fully cure.

Remove the forms slowly and carefully. The hypertufa should be strong at this stage, but it is not fully cured. If you must use a knife or scissors to remove the form from the hypertufa, be careful not to damage the hypertufa container. For me, the styrofoam form came off fairly easily once I was able to pry the top corner away from the hypertufa container. The plastic was a bit harder to get the first cut, but once I did the plastic peeled right off. At this stage, the hypertufa is at a soft enough consistency to smooth corners or edges. Take a rasp or large screwdriver and gently smooth any corners or edges. Leave the hypertufa containers in a protected and shady spot away from rain for about three to four weeks to fully cure.

These planters are naturally porous and generally do not need any drainage holes for planting. I used the square one for planting pansies:


...and the other as a decorative addition to the herb garden. The water drains out over time.


Many people plant succulents or carve shapes and designs into the sides of the hypertufa and use them as decorative features in the garden. Next year, I may try some other recipes and other forms of hypertufa. Thank you, Mary, for the invitation and the lesson.



Note: The Sage Butterfly is featured in the Best of the Web series by Be @ Home. The Be @ Home blog offers ideas and tips on home and garden decorating and cooking. Some of their most interesting posts include Entertain in Your Own Backyard and Decorating With Garden Fairies.
©Michelle A. Potter

43 comments:

  1. What a great project and so well explained. Am going to give it a tweet out and also add to my Facebook. Would love to give it a go myself.

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  2. Those are awesome... what a neat project... Lucky you, to have a friend like Mary in having project fun... Are they heavy? They look gorgeous...

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  3. Tufa is a fun project to start making. I enjoy doing it. In architecture school we experimented on how light we could make the concrete to how strong it was after it was finished. So go ahead, have fun, the additives are endless.

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  4. How fun and fabulous! I keep thinking I want to make hypertufa containers at some point. When I find more time!

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  5. Sage, I have a friend who took a class, too. Looks like fun. May have to look into it.

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  6. Great walk through of the whole process, but I still can't get over the two turducken containers. I like how your friend rolls!

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  7. Great idea. You are very creative.
    Have a lovely day.
    gr. Marijke

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  8. Looks like fun - can you use something other than peat moss? Over here, at least, gathering it is destroying important wildlife habitat so I wouldn't want to use it.

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  9. I have always wanted to try this and you have inspired me to take the next step. I have some decorative mushrooms made from hypertufa that are really cute in my woodland garden.

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  10. @Greenearth Thanks! It was a lot of fun, and the end product is so nice.

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  11. @virginia Thanks, Virginia. We had lots of fun, and it was very easy. The hypertufa is quite heavy when it is wet, but once it is dry it is not heavy at all. Some of the other recipes make heavier hypertufa, however.

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  12. @gardenwalkgardentalk.com Thanks, Donna. That sounds like fun to experiment with different recipes for strength and lightness. I am looking forward to experimenting with it some more.

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  13. @Indie It does take some commitment of time. I want to make some more...maybe next spring and summer.

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  14. @sherryocala I have wanted to do it for years, but never got around to it. I am glad Mary took the class and was gracious enough to share what she learned.

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  15. @Ann, aka Amateur Bot-ann-ist Wasn't that a great idea? They were so perfect for making the hypertufa.

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  16. @marijke Thanks, Marijke. I hope to get more creative with them as I learn more.

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  17. @Janet/Plantaliscious I don't like using peat moss either because of the environmental problem. I try to use it very sparingly if at all. There are several other recipes that do not use peat moss, and I will do a post soon with some of those other recipes.

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  18. @Karin / Southern Meadows I always wanted to try it as well. I am glad I got the opportunity because now I want to make more. Good luck!

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  19. Like several other readers, I've always wanted to make my own hypertufa containers and have just never found the time. Your post makes me realize I need to start scouting and saving suitable molds now so I'm ready to make some for next spring.

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  20. That is a very interesting post! I hadn't heard of tufa before...so many possibilities!

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  21. How fun! I love how they turned out. Hmmm..... now you've got me thinking!!!

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  22. What a fun project to do with a friend. I've read about this process before but have never gotten around to trying it. Your square container is just lovely and I like the more rocklike appearance too.

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  23. This looks like a fun fall project. Thanks for being so precise with the instructions! Gonna see if I can wrangle a couple of friends into trying this!

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  24. You are the best! I've been thinking for ages there should be a way to do this and now you've solved the mystery. Thank you thank you thank you. Alison

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  25. Probably one of the coolest things I have ever read!

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  26. We've made these (our recipe uses sand instead of perlite) and they are so easy and so natural looking... those purple pansies are a perfect complement to the natural stone look!

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  27. I've always wanted to do this, but wasn't sure about using peat moss. I've read about using coconut coir in place of the peat moss. The pansies look awesome.

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  28. I have been meaning to try this. You made it look so easy!

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  29. Great tufa work. It's one of these things I've been meaning to do for over a decade, but never quite make time for. You've reminded me of how worthwhile it is.

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  30. @Debbie/GardenofPossibilities I never realized it was that easy and that the ingredients were so readily available. I, too, am scouting for molds...looking for some interesting designs...

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  31. @Mrs Bok - The Bok Flock Thanks, Mrs. Bok. I like the look of the containers...so natural in the garden.

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  32. @HolleyGarden I have been thinking a lot as well...what to create next, hmm-m-m-m...

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  33. @Marguerite We had a lot of fun doing it. I am curious to see what kind of look the other recipes create.

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  34. @Cat That is such a good idea...to have several friends or family around making hypertufa....just think of the possibilities...

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  35. @alison@thisbloominglife Thanks, Alison. I always thought it was much more difficult than it was. Have fun!

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  36. @Cathy and Steve I am looking forward to trying other recipes as well. I bet the sandy texture is really nice in the garden.

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  37. @GirlSprout The peat moss is controversial, and I want to try some of the other recipes to see how they turn out as well. I like the idea of using coconut coir instead of peat moss...seems very similar in texture.

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  38. @Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens It really is very easy. I always thought it was a bit more complicated.

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  39. @Cally Thanks, Cally. I had put it off for a while as well. I am glad I finally got around to it. Now, I want to make more...

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  40. So happy you have had the tufa adventure. Careful you may become hooked.

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  41. @Tufa Girl Thanks! I think I am hooked. The ease of it with that wonderful end product is truly addictive.

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