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  • Make your own planters with ease

  • In 19th-century England, gardeners discovered that old water troughs carved from stone and used on farms made great planters. Unfortunately, there was a finite supply, so some people started carving planters from tufa rock, a soft, naturally occurring limestone. Then someone came up with what is called "hypertufa," a mixture of Portland cement and various additives, which can make very attractive, organic-looking planters.
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    • How to mix hypertufa
      Most hypertufa recipes call for either perlite or vermiculite. Perlite is popped volcanic rock and does not retain water. Vermiculite is popped mica, and it does retain both water and nutrients. Bo...
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      How to mix hypertufa
      Most hypertufa recipes call for either perlite or vermiculite. Perlite is popped volcanic rock and does not retain water. Vermiculite is popped mica, and it does retain both water and nutrients. Both come in fine, medium or coarse powders.

      Recipe 1: 1 part Portland cement, 1.5 parts perlite, 1.5 parts peat moss. Or replace perlite with vermiculite.

      Recipe 2: 3 parts coconut fiber, 2 parts Portland cement, type I or II, 3 parts perlite

      Recipe 3: (for heavy-duty) 2 parts cement, 2 parts perlite, 1.5 parts peat moss, 1.2 parts coarse sand plus Fibermesh. This recipe is good for stepping stones or larger items into which you want to impress decorations, such as shells, rocks or glass.

      Spraying Pam or using petroleum jelly on the plastic will help a mold to release, but it also leaves grease stains that are impossible to get out.

      You can find the coconut fiber and perlite at garden centers and Portland cement at construction or lumber stores. Portland cement comes only in 94-pound sacks, will not keep and becomes hard quickly, so plan to make a lot of hypertufa pots — or have a party.
  • In 19th-century England, gardeners discovered that old water troughs carved from stone and used on farms made great planters. Unfortunately, there was a finite supply, so some people started carving planters from tufa rock, a soft, naturally occurring limestone. Then someone came up with what is called "hypertufa," a mixture of Portland cement and various additives, which can make very attractive, organic-looking planters.
    Hypertufa planters are porous and lightweight, which makes them ideal for growing plants. They are easy to care for, take only a few hours to make, and an 18-by-18-inch planter costs about $4 in materials.
    Jim Clark of Wimer discovered hypertufa on the Internet and decided to try it.
    "I'm semi-retired, and I just like to be doing something," he says. "It's basically just an old man playing in the mud."
    Clark sells his creations at the Rogue River Sunday Market. He makes stepping stones and birdbaths as well as planters of various shapes and sizes. He makes his own molds and incorporates found items. He finds baskets make particularly attractive planters.
    "Hypertufa's so organic," Clark says. "They actually support life — moss and lichens grow on them — and they patina up very pretty in about three years."
    Master Gardener Katie Denton of Grants Pass has been teaching people how to make hypertufa planters for about 10 years, after she taught herself.
    "I'm not an artist," Denton says, "but it looked like something to do that would be fun and inexpensive."
    Her beginning class through Josephine County Master Gardeners lasts about an hour and a half, long enough to make one, basic, 18-by-18-inch project. People can bring their own molds or use one of Denton's cardboard boxes lined with plastic. "Hypertufa is a slow-setting material," Denton says, "so they can take it home and still work with it. It takes about 10 days to really dry."
    Early hypertufa pots were reinforced with chicken wire, metal or rebar. Denton doesn't use them because the metal eventually makes rust stains on the pots. Coconut coir also is suggested, but Denton says it gets slimy. Instead, for added strength, she recommends using Fibermesh, a fiberglass reinforcement sold by companies that make concrete.
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