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Hybridtufa: Hypertufa

The easiest way to get started with hypertufa is by making a small trough garden.  Creating a a small trough garden is a manageable introductory project.  It  doesn't require a sophisticated mold and you can complete an entire project in less than two hours.

Indoor Mini-Trough Garden

This is a small section from a book titled "Hybridtufa: Adventures with Hypertufa and Papercrete"  that I am currently working on.  It provides detailed directions on how to create you own mini-trough garden.

Ingredients List (Hypertufa Recipe #1)
1 part cement (1-cup)
2 parts sifted peat moss ( 2-cups)
1 part perlite (1-cup)
~ Water (about 1 and 1/4-cup)

Additional Material
~ Shortening
~ Mold - A small rectangular plastic mold. Approximate dimensions: 5Ĺ-inches long by 4-inches wide   and 3-inches deep.

Equipment List:
~  Rubber (waterproof) gloves
Dust Mask
Spoon (optional)
Wire colander
Mixing Container

Step 1: Prepare the mold by coating the inside of the mold with shortening.

Step 2: Measure all the ingredients, less the water, and mix them together in the mixing container. Make sure you have enough mix to finish your project. When you add water the volume of mix will shrink because the water will compact the peat moss and cement.

Step 3: Add water, small amounts at a time. You want the mix to have a stiff consistency, not runny. Add small amounts of water at a time

Step 4: Take a small handful of hypertufa mix and spread it evenly along the bottom.  For this size trough, the bottom layer should be between 1/2 and 3/4-inches thick. Use the rest of the hypertufa mix to build up the sides.  Again, the thickness you are looking for is between 1/2 and 3/4-inches.  If you find that using your hads and fingers is difficult, try using the back of a spoon to form the hypertufa mix against the sides and bottom of the mold.



 Step 6: After the 5 to 7 days of drying, carefully take the trough out of the mold. It will still not be fully cured and can still easily break so use care when handling it. Turning the mold upside down and gently tapping the edge of the mold on a hard surface should make the trough slide out.

Step 7: Using an old pairing knife, screwdriver, or drill, make two drainage holes on the bottom of the trough. These should be about ľ-inch in diameter and evenly spaced.  Twist the knife while applying pressure and you will be able to drill a hole.

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Step 8: You probably donít want something that looks like it was made in a plastic mold. So carefully roughen the outside of the trough to give it a "chiseled" look. Remember that the traditional English Troughs were carved out of tufa rock - that is the look you are after. An old spoon, a fork, or a stiff brush work really well. Try scraping in the same direction to imitate the look of chisel marks made by a stone mason.


Step 9: Let your trough age and weather for about 2 to 3 weeks.

Cement contains a lot of "free lime", which can be toxic to many plants. If you have ever seen white powdery residue on new cement structures, that is the free lime leaching out. Before planting your trough, this free lime has to leach out. The easiest way to do that is to put the trough outside and let it weather naturally (providing it rains in your area). If it does not rain frequently, just water your trough daily with about 1/2 gallon of water for about 2 to 3 weeks.

Step 10: The ultimate reward for creating your trough is planting it and enjoying it or years to come. For this Indoor Mini-Trough garden, I selected two plants that will complement each other quite well. An African Violet that provides a great focal point and color and a Variegated Dracaena to add height and contrast.


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