A Cookbook Approach to Hypertufa

Make Your Own Rock, Troughs and Basins by Pam Ingle pingle@viagrafix.com

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If you've ever attempted building a waterfall, or stream, you will probably know just how difficult it can be to find just the perfect rock. If you're lucky enough to find one, you also may know how difficult it is to tranport. You may resort to buying them at a quarry or hardscape business, but they can be pricey, to say the least. One solution to the problem might be to make your own rocks. You may not fool Mother Nature, just maybe a few neighbors. Not only can you make rocks, but you'll find this technique can be used to make troughs, basins, mini ponds, fountains and even birdbaths. Although the process is a little like making pie crust, it is more effort. Consider recruiting a helper before you begin. English Garden troughs became popularized in the 1930's. Made from from tufa, a porus rock, they were originally made for watering livestock, later adopted as planters. The demand exceeded the supply, so a man made substitue, hyper tufa was developed, to simulate tufa. Tufa, or Calcium carbonate (in the form of Calcite or Aragonite, depending on crystallization) that forms in caverns from precipitating water while trapping in organic matter, such as leaves, twigs, and moss. http://www.minerals.net/mineral/carbonat/calcite/calcite.htm The birdbath pictured below, is a great example of how hypertufa can be used today.

and this will allow you to flush it out. The moisture allows moss and other plant material a better chance of making it. You'll find all sorts of recipes for hyper tufa. There are a number of variations in the individual recipes. or both. or stream. for small water elements in a japanese like garden. a mask over your mouth and nose. I used a kiddie pool. Your stream will need frequent cleaning. to suck up the rinse water as you go. or a few real rocks. Why can't we use it to make or own rocks. Use caution around the pond. as well as some texturing tools. before it empties into the pond. while your are cleaning and rinsing. their is some heavy work involved. I like using black poor quality potting soil and a little heavy clay soil in mine. You can use a wet dry vac. besides lugging the bag of portland cement home. extra sand. and everyone tends to stick with what works best for them. If you plan to use this in a new waterfall. sand. we should discuss a safety concerns. or a sump pump. like an old scrub brush. Before we go too much further. or lungs. Consider wearing safety glasses. or even mini container ponds. We like the appearance and sticks well to liner and rock work. you will likely find at home. you can add this. or a trough made for this purpose. so be sure that there is liner to prevent water loss. to catch the rinse water. and a bucket will be helpful. Here are three recipes for hyper tufa that you may like to try. or to simulate antique horse troughs carved from stone. One suggestion might be to use large scrap of liner. and channel it away. as will your water fall. using portland cement. to carry it out and away before it hits the pond. to avoid that string of pearls look. and to form basins in the stream. but could cause serious injury to your eyes. You will also need a flat wide container for mixing it in. a cement mixer. You will need to rinse the material when finished. "stone" basins. but the results are similar. Most of the equipment you will need. as with making pie crust. cement materials have quite a lot of lime in them. or for other pond related applications? Although you may save your back by making your own rock. so that bits or chucks of mortar don't fall in. Hypertufa Recipe for Troughs. Another thought. to stamp with. This is not only hard on your hands. purchased in the fall at Wal-Mart when they were cheap. wire hardware brush. I've also found that the addition of some ground up leaf mulch. and plant containers. The third is one that Elizabeth Law used to cover a bathroom sink. staked to the sides.Hypertufa is a concrete like material that you can make yourself. The first one is the standard one used for making rocks. and little twigs gives it a nice appearance. First. so plan to cover the pond. but not into the pond. Another consideration is of course your pond. and peatmoss. A trowel. if you breath it in. With a little planning and about less than $30. it tends to wick water. with or without rocks. plants and the fish. shovel and a water supply. Since it has some organic matter. The second is one we use for mortar around the coped edge of the pond. It can be used as an edge treatment. and rubber gloves. or Rocks: 1 part portland cement (don't use concrete redi-mix) . You will also need hoe. you should definately consider adding a bottom drain at the base pool.It has become popular to use it to form large plant containers. Most often you will see it used to form basins. or at least find a way to prevent the contaminated water from falling in the pond. You can use a wheel barrow. might be to use a shop vac.

the goal is the same. You may want to insert a piece of tubing. this is like making a pie!) Add the liquid. Optional additives: concrete dye. If you've ever made pie crust dough. Another approach. or for a bowl look. with no large particles. (Remember. to give it a woodsy look. A sturdy box. and chisel away on the exterior the get a more natural effect. Mix the dry ingredients together. use an old plastic salad bowl. I like the natural look and use the "black" peatmoss (the kind that dries like a rock). where it may be walked on. a little at a time. and help prevent leaching of lime into the pond water. that will freeze and thaw. might be to dig a hole in the ground. so that it's well integrated. liquid or powder Using acrylic fortifying additive will help to better adhere this to liner. you know that it is much easier to add a little more water than to add more dry ingredients. Basin or plant container: To make a basin or through. We've also added small bits of peasize gravel. if you plan to circulate water through it like a fountain. making sure that it's at least a few inches thick. Mini-Pond or Water feature: . just like pie dough. using a hoe. for a free form look. Which ever recipe you use. I urge you to use this if it will be come in contact with pond water. Remove it from the box. with clods broken up Water or acrylic fortifying sealer Elizabeth Law's Recipe: (of Dublin. Don't forget the protective gear! Use a shovel as your measure. Work it into a homogenous mass. or along the edge of the pond. and sprinkle in some sand. you will need a form. It is also a good idea to use this if you will be using it where it will be in contact with ground water. with lined with plastic.1 part builders sand 2 parts peat moss Water or acrylic fortifying additive. to make it a little lighter. For best success. it's a good idea to to start with a small batch. Ireland) 1 part portland cement 2 parts sand 1/2 part peat moss Elizabeth used this recipe when she covered an old bathroom sinks for use as basin planters. no matter which recipe you use. make it stronger. will do. This is next one we've adapted for use in our stream and along the pond edge. Pack it in. You'll need to cover this with some plastic and allow it to cure slowly. an oil pan or whatever. Hypertufa Mortar "Mud Mortar" Recipe: 1 part portland cement 2 parts builder's sand 1/2 part peat moss or "cheap" black potting soil 1/2 part clay soil. You may want to replace some the peat with vermiculite. black or brown. line it with a some plastic. or leaf mulch.

ie/~emal. A good resource for information on this is the book on container water gardening by Helen Nash and Greg Speichert.esatclear. and paint it with laytex paint when finished. you want coat the inside with Thoroseal. and seal it. Then I coated the surface with Polybond and allowed it to dry. sand and sieved peat in proportions of 1--2--1/2 until it was quite moist but not *runny*. and allow it to firm up. the size of the finished exterior. Rocks: Make your own rocks by hand packing it in the desired location. Carefully remove it. Cover it with more plastic and allow to cure for a couple of days. This provided a better surface for applying hypertufa. Thoroseal comes in black. before it gets too hard. I removed the taps and gave the sink a good wash down. you will need to cure it. Line it with plastic sheeting. white or gray. Elizabeth Law of Dublin. and just pack in the hypertufa. or by scratching or chipping some away. to give it a watertight finish. I mixed Portland cement. This was most useful for additional planting using the tap holes. to get an even thickness of about 3 inches. and texture the exterior with a wire brush. If big pieces of the hypertufa fell off I re-applied a fresh mixture to those places. Cover with some plastic. To make these troughs I was lucky to get hold of two slightly cracked bathroom basins (sinks). Use Hyper Tufa as an overcoat: At "A Small Irish Garden". I painted the whole . Choose a container to use as a form. Ireland has some wonderful information: "In the background of the above picture is an old bathroom basin that I covered with hyper tufa to make a trough. I pressed handfuls of the mixture on to the basin until the top part was covered. Don't forget that if your pond water will come in contact. When it was covered and well dried I made a small quantity of 1 to 1. but you can just get the white. Then. http://www. Texture it with some rocks. and old scrub brush.If you plan to make a small pond or basin with this. I left it about a week and brushed it hard with a wire brush. sand and cement mixture and fixed small plastic plant pots to the region under the holes left by removing the taps. wearing gloves all the time. or UGLI. there is no need to do the bowl as this will be filled with compost. It has got more seasoned looking now as the photograph was taken in June. This dried enough in a few days to allow me gently turn the basin over and repeat the process on the underside.

redi-mix is a mixture of portland cement. The folks at Aqua Art recommend and have this available by the gallon. which gives it its texture. Mix some up in a bucket and sponge it on. and forming the lip of basin pools. cement and peat to use so I am sticking to what worked for me! Remember that this is not a job to do if there is frost around as it affects the hardening process. Allow this to sit over night. rinse off the dirt and put it on. with a proven track record. Spritzing with beer is another way to get moss started. Use of redi-mix instead of portland cement will result in an undesirable gravelly. I would suggest doing it in the summer. Getting it exactly as you want it will doubtless take some experimentation. Put on several coats or this. I can't say this is completely safe.surface with live yogurt to encourage the growth of lichen and moss. it will be the source of considerable alkalinity until completely cured. One way is to simple get some in the woods. Use white vinegar and water 1:4. adding one part of mortar to each 1/2 part of portland. can be used in place of water in the mix. We have found it necessary to build up the sides of the stream to prevent run off water from entering the pond. is White Mountain Laquer. along your stream. mix it with buttermilk. As the plug hole provided a good means of drainage I just put some small stones over it prior to adding compost. It is helpful for hiding the liner in the stream. Curing: Curing will take care of itself. Quikrete Acrylic Fortifyer and Sealer. Note that portland cement is not concrete redi-mix. Keep it moist and it will start to grow before you know it. you can tear us some moss into little bits. White portland cement is available at masonry supply stores. also leaves small holes for water to travel through. You can apply the coats about 1 hour apart. allowing to dry in between. concrete-like texture. remember that it is porous. and keep from raising the pH of your pond. The peat moss. and paint it on. but I have used it with no problems. but it disipates soon. or spray it on with a CLEAN garden sprayer (do not use one that has had pesticides or other noxious materials in use). rinse well. Moss can stay moist. Container Gardening: . and the fact that it also holds some moisture. sand. When dry. Another product. Moss: You can wait for moss to start growing on it's own or you can help it along. over time. Note also that concrete dyes may work better with white portland cement rather than the standard gray. You may have a little foam initially. and sealed. and gravel. rather than fry on a sunny afternoon. Or. Sealing: It's a good idea to seal it with a clear acrylic or laquer especially if it will come into contact with pond water. There are dyes available that can also be added after it dries. There is much discussion about the best proportions of sand. However you end up using hypertufa. here are some tips." Mud Mortar: We've used this as mortar to adhere real rocks at the edge of your pond. or to form basins in the stream. to help make it fish safe. I love the natural appearance. and recommend 4 coats or more. than rinse with plain water. Like any concrete material. You may use a mortar especially for rock work. but if you'd like to speed up the process.

moisture-retaining plastic containers. If used as planters. If you're a purist. It may seem obvious . so carefully consider wher you will be placing containers on other surfaces. you can still use sturdy.but does that charming trough hold water or leak like a sieve? Test it before planting.) Found objects can make wonderful planters when you match the plants to the container. consider replacing some of the sand or peatmoss with vermiculite in making the container. including the lovely bench below.plant and pot . which can be inserted into the troughs. Yes this is a little messy. that are so intriguing. available at many garden centers throughout the USA. The weight of the tufa container. Drainage is not as much of an issue. so be prepared to water often. at http://www. Use bricks or stones as feet. put it on a rolling platform before you add soil or water. A carelessly positioned wild strawberry (even in a container) can take over the garden while you're on vacation. Instead of waiting 20 years for your concrete container to age. or they will crack when it freezes. (Just think what happens to your sidewalk in the fall when it rains. You may need to sealit. . and of the soil is something to consider.until next season. even daily during hot summers. Just be certain you understand exactly how they propagate and watch where you place the pot.com and find out about how to buy your own! They have a wonderful variety of stone-like garden vessels. covered by pot shards so you don't wash away all the soil when you water. give it a head start on patina by staining it with wet leaves.Containers dry out more quickly than a traditional garden bed. Also. Dwarf varieties of many aquatic plants are available that can be used in container ponds. you may want to add a drainage holes. or placed by a pond. Simulated stone container should be fine left out of doors without this problem. Mosses and tiny wildflowers are wonderful in a hollow log. Store them . Containers are a great place to try some of those fearfully rampant plants like mint. to elevate pots that sit on flat non-porous surfaces to assure air circulation and dependable drainage. Mulch the soil surfaces of your containers to help conserve water and make them look tidy. by filling with water. Use types of plants that will adapt (even thrive) in containers. although it is a consideration. Begonias and impatiens add color to a covered porch or beside a mature tree.stonesmith. Most terra cotta containers must be brought inside for the winter. so you may want to visit Stonesmith Garden Vessels. Containers are a great place for tender bulbs that you would have to lift from a garden. If you will need to move a large pot or basin at some point. Many of the pictures display here are from their website. lightweight. Use plenty of vermiculite or other material suggested by your supplier to keep the soil light and airy. Layer gravel and coarse sand at the bottom to keep plant roots from rotting.

Just don't get too carried away! HTML by Pam Ingle Top of Page Return to Pond Construction Bonnie's Links created by Bonnie Lee Hill. blhill@mfire.webspace4me.net/~mikehill/pages.com last modified on December 10.html .aux/pond/hypertufa/hypertufa. 2002 URL: http://www.

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