The Plant Goddess and I have learned that, between us, we are capable of Great Things, and even Cheap Great Things. We can make stuff. A couple weeks ago we made our second batch of excellent enormous stone-looking pots, which we figure cost us about $3 each.
The first batch happened in the fall of 2008, so this time we were Experienced and just had to re-assemble all the ingredients: cement, peat moss and perlite, plus the left-over bag of little soft fibers made of polyester or something you are supposed to add to “bind” the mix.
We bought these fibers from a local concrete supply place, one of those shops where you walk in and the testosterone is pretty intense and you become some kind of “little lady.” But the Plant Goddess and I had already gone through these delicate difficulties of the concrete shop the last time we made pots. After that I had put the hard-won little packet of left-over fibers someplace extra special for next time and so now it was lost. Then in the very nick of time I found it. But then I forgot about it again and we didn’t put the miserable fibers into the mix until the second half of the day’s pot making.
In this way the fibered pots became a “control group,” something I learned about in ninth grade science, and we were testing whether little polyester fibers from macho concrete supply shops are necessary or are just another silly idea, like needing cream of tarter in the baking powder biscuit recipe. (You’ll never miss it.)
So here is our secret recipe for awesome pots (don’t tell anybody):
Mix 1 part Portland cement with 1.5 parts peat moss and 1.5 parts perlite (and a small handful of the fibers mentioned above, if you remember). Stir it up then start stirring in water until you can squeeze a handful of the mix and a little water comes out between your (gloved) fingers. Let it sit for 10 minutes then pack it into the mold. (We spray the insides of the molds with Spam first. And we used a two quart measure for one “part” in the measurements.)
Cover with plastic and let it sit for a couple of days, then (carefully, because this is fragile-time) tip the pot out of the mold and keep it out of the sun for about 3 weeks. Rain is good to wash the cement chemicals out. If you don’t have rain rinse the pots a lot with water. (If you make pots in the fall you can just leave outside all winter and they will for sure be clean.)
For more recipes and more careful pointers to forget to actually do look online for hypertufa pots. (The Plant Goddess and I actually just call them tufa pots because hypertufa smacks of something radioactive or possibly a situation that requires medication.)
And don’t let any how-to pages insist on fancy molds or even molds that need support on two sides. We just mix up a batch of tufa mud, line the inside of a big plastic garden pot with it, stick our fingers through the holes in the bottom so it will drain, and that’s it for molding.
As of today all the pots look terrific. (If the fiberless ones crumble I might let you know later, or I might not really want to talk about it.) They are all still hardening.
I’m including some pictures of ones from the first batch all planted up last summer. They get mossy, and that is just so exciting for some gardeners! (Other gardeners pour Clorox on it.)
I like to position the pots right in flower beds. Even a smallish one creates a sense of statuary, stone and elevation change all in one. And planting them, each like a little miniature garden, is one of the highlights of the spring. I put in a mix of things, like alpine thalictrum and tiarella with baby tears as a ground cover and spilling over the sides. (The Plant Goddess sometimes plants a whole pot full of basil or just one stately little sweet bay tree.)
Anyway, making pots is very Martha and popular and it has the Women Who Run with Delphiniums (WWRD) stamp of approval as a project to keep you off the streets, which is good because you really are much happier in your garden.