This post was first published on Faire Garden on blogger December 25, 2007. It is also available on wordpress under the same date. There was some interest in the hypertufa mixture recently over at Marnie’s at Lilacs and Roses so this seemed like a good story to be recycled while we are having some quality family time.  Enjoy.

This is the first trough I made several years ago. It had just been planted with a heather, sedums, ferns and moss at the time of this picture.
The plants filled in nicely. Ajuga was added.
A winter shot with the heather blooming. The other plants are dormant.
All looking good. The heather needs pruning to give room to the smaller guys.
This is the second trough made the next year. Its heather planting is overtaking the heucheras and dianthus.
A close up of trough number two showing moss, heuchera, sedum and a coleus that seeded itself.
The heather was lost  damaged with the late frost this year. Japanese blood grass was added for color. A small piece of the heather is hanging on at the left back corner. Impatiens volunteer seedling blooming.
I am no expert at this, but here are instructions to make your own trough.
Making a Trough
Select two plastic tubs that fit inside each other with a 2-3 inch space on each side, or build forms from wood. Line the larger form with plastic. Mix together equal parts; sieved sphagnum peat moss, perlite and portland cement in a wheelbarrow. I use a five gallon bucket to measure. Add water, a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency of oatmeal. Do not make it too wet. At this time you may add cut up fiber mesh, colorant and/or bonding agent. These items may be found at a building supply. Mix well. Fill the lined form to a depth of 2-3 inches. Insert dowels or something in the bottom to make drainage holes that can be later removed. Place the smaller form on top of the mix, centered. Fill in sides with mixture. Cover the entire form with plastic and let set out of direct sunlight for at least one day, maybe two. Be patient. I have ruined many attempts at trough construction by unmolding too soon. Carefully remove the top mold and plastic, then remove the trough from the bottom mold. It should be firm but allow you to clean up the edges with a knife, file or wire brush. I sometimes use gloved hands to round the edges. When satisfied, cover the whole thing with plastic and let cure for at least four weeks. At the end of that time, fill with a free draining potting mix, I use cactus potting mix, and plant. This is the fun part, experimenting with the plantings. For more and better instructions on the how to, search the internet for hypertufa information.
Remember, have patience and have fun!
Here is one of many links found by googling *hypertufa trough intructions*. To read this article from Fine Gardening magazine, click here.
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24 Responses to Troughs-Recycled

  1. fairegarden says:

    Happy Thanksgiving day to one and all across the globe! I am so very thankful for every single one of you on this special US holiday. I was thinking that this old post, I had been blogging less than a month when it was written, might be something you would enjoy, but realize that for those of you in winter mode that you cannot run out and make your own trough now, the temps need to be warmer. Maybe bookmark the link to the article at the end for a summer project. BTW, that is some dry writing! HA

    In the meantime, the turkey is in the oven, the house is relatively clean, the plan is falling into place for the rest of the food and there is NO FROST! Hooray! If you want to leave a comment, don’t feel that you have to, I will get back to reply whenever there is time, it might not be for a couple of days or it could be immediately, but thank you for stopping by.


  2. linda says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Frances! You are much more organized than I am. I still have plenty of cleaning to do this morning. Thankfully the Lawn Man is the chief cook around here. My jobs besides cleaning are appetizers, beverages, and sweet potatoes (and eating all his good cooking!)

    I remember this post. After seeing what hypertufa planters sold for at the nursery this year, I’m even more tempted to give making them myself a try!

    Hi Linda, the same good wishes to you and yours. There are always those last minute chores, aren’t there? Eating as a job is one of the best! Do give the trough a try, you could start with a small one that is liftable by one person instead of the giant one I started with! HA Next year I am going to make lots more, they are so fun to plant.

  3. Zoe says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Frances, from this side the Pond, eat drink and be merry; I hope you have a wonderful time with your family

    Zoë xx

    Hi Zoe, thanks so much, we will I am sure. Your lovely wreath (I miss the green man!) was perfect for the holiday. It would look lovely as a centerpiece on the big table!

  4. tina says:

    I printed it out this time. You are a pretty good trough maker in my book. Have a great day!

    Hi Tina, thanks, happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Printing it out is the way to go. I have a couple of magazine articles that I pulled out and filed many years ago that I refer back to. Each one had a slightly different recipe, so I don’t believe there is only one way to do it. I do think it best to not use any sand, and do sieve the peat moss so there are no weak spots, and give it plenty of time to set up. Good luck with it.

  5. Monica Milla says:

    Love the troughs and love the heather. It’s such a wonderful plant, with such color variations in foliage and flowers (as well as a different fall color), but its not known so much in the U.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

    Hi Monica, thanks and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. The heathers are something of a rarity here, but shouldn’t be as they are a great evergreen addition to the garden. I have several scattered around and was happy that they do well in the troughs, for they are perfect there as a miniature evergreen tree!

  6. Lzyjo says:

    Hi Frances, I just wanted to commend your commenting. I don’t think I have ever left a comment on your blog without receiving a reciprocating comment in return, you are truly a much beloved gem of the garden blogosphere, and with good reason.

    Your troughs look amazing, beautiful variety. I’ve always wanted to make them, but never had the gumption, even though everyone insists they are easy.

    Happy Thanksgiving Frances!

    H Izyjo, what a nice thing to say and a very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. If I have missed coming back to your blog to comment after you have visited me, I apologize, for I have been trying to do that but did not always. Now there are so many blog posts to read, it was not always so, that it is impossible to read them all, and they are all good too! So I go to the ones that leave a comment first, then try and get some more in. Still not enough time to do it sometimes.

    I would not say that the troughs are easy, but they are doable by anyone who can mix and stir a batch of the stuff. It is a craft that cannot be hurried, and no shortcuts but so fun to plant up and they look great. Maybe start with a small one using plastic bowls that fit inside each other to begin.


  7. I’ll have to come back and read this when I don’t have cooking to do!

    Hypertufa is something that really interests me.

    Thanks…and Happy Thanksgiving!


    Hi Cameron, thanks and happy Thanksgiving to you too. Don’t worry about reading blogs today, too much other real life stuff going on for some of us! The hypertufa is extremely rewarding, I should make more of them myself. They are the most fun thing to plant up, like working in miniature!

  8. Recycling is always a good thing, be it in the garden or on your blog. 😉 Happy Thanksgiving Frances, wish we celebrated it here too. Don’t eat too much turkey! 😉

    Hi YE, thanks so much, few people saw those beginning posts, I didn’t have the blotanical thing figured out yet, so they are kind of new, right? Well, no, I didn’t think so, I can tell by the photos and writing that they were kind of boring even though the subject was a good one. A base line attempt to measure later works. HA You can still have a big turkey dinner and be thankful for it anyway too. Thanks for visiting.

  9. Lola says:

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING, FRANCES. I like the trough. It seems like an easy project to do. It makes for a lovely place to have a sedum garden or cacti.

    Hi Lola, many thanks to you. The troughs are so fun and planting them is the best part. Sedums and cacti are great in them too. Hope your holidays were the best ever.

  10. Hi Frances~

    The trough makes a nice background for the plants. A beautiful and simple design to showcase the plants. I like it! I will have to try to make some of these some day.
    Enjoy today!

    Thanks, this type of planter does show any plant to its best advantage. Start with a smaller one to get the hang of handling the mixture and work your way up! 🙂 Hope your holiday was the best ever!

  11. Brenda Kula says:

    Oh my, how beautiful! And so natural-appearing. I may have to get Robert started on such a project withe me.

    Hi Brenda, thanks, hope your holiday was wonderful. Your new doors are looking so fastastic too. That Robert could do anything, he would be a great help on the trough project too!

  12. Amy says:

    This is something I would love to try someday. I LOVE the look of hypertufa troughs. You’ve done a beautiful job planting them up with such a nice mix of shapes and colours.

    Hi Amy, thanks, you would love having a trough. They are really fun to plant up and not something where you would twist your leg, well hopefully! 🙂 Hope your holidays were the best.

  13. Barbarapc says:

    Frances, I’ve been lucky enough to visit gardens all over North America & would say that your trough gardens are among the best I’ve seen. The latest ones were at Iseli nursery in Oregon – all evergreen plant material – very interesting. Hope you and your family had a lovely Thanksgiving.

    Hi Barbara, wow, thanks! Those photos are nearly a year or more old too, they actually look better now. All miniature evergreens would be wonderful, I do plan to make more and would love to have a little forest like that, way cool! We did have a wonderful holiday with the family and hope you did the same with yours.

  14. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Every time I see one of your troughs I get inspired to make one…only to not get it done. sigh~~ Yours are so beautiful Frances.

    Hi Lisa, thanks, sorry you have to see the same post over again, HA. What a nag, right! Make that trough, Lisa! LOL Seriously, I hope your holiday was wonderful and you gave Luna a good ear scratch for me. 🙂

  15. Cinj says:

    I love them! Where in the world did you find such great troughs anyway?

    Hi Cinj, thanks, I do hope you had a wonderful holiday with your friends and family. I made these troughs myself, the recipe is at the end and a good link for more explicit instructions too.

  16. Kathleen says:

    I missed this the first time around Frances so I’m glad you recycled it. I read Marnie’s post and was oogling that hypertufa birdbath photo she posted (that sold for $300.00!!!). I’d love to make one of those ~ would that be skipping hypertufa 101 and shooting right to the advanced level??? Your trough is gorgeous and right up my alley with the interest in container gardening that I’ve cultivated. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving day.

    Hi Kathleen, thanks and hope your day went well too. You are so crafty that you probably could skip levels and go to the advanced, but I would advise making at least one small one first. 🙂 That birdbath is wonderful and such a good use of the mix too. We should all make one!

  17. Gail says:

    Good morning! I love this post and were it warmer I would love to start making a few concrete birdbaths, mosaic pieces and a trough or two! Now that there is more time the weather is not cooperating.

    Is the gang still there? What a joyful noise it must be to have a houseful of children and grandchildren. Have a wonderful weekend Frances….hope to talk with you soon. gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Later on do try some hypertufa projects, they are really fun and rewarding. I need to do more too. Hope your holiday was enjoyable for you. The Brokenbeats remain, sleeping in, but will be leaving today. The Financier has left for his golf match so not much left to do here but the clean up and relax and get back into the garden! The weather was glorious, thank goodness and all had fun outside.

  18. mothernaturesgarden says:

    The troughs are great, Frances.

    Hi Donna, thanks. Hope your holidays were wonderful.

  19. Jen says:

    We just put a trough in our school greenhouse and this post has given me lots of inspiration about what we can put in it(besides the vegetable seedlings that are being planned for it.) I’m going to save these directions and maybe even try to make one when I feel adventurous.

    Hi Jen, thanks. Hope your holiday was a happy one. The trough at school sounds like a great way to teach the kids about gardening, have fun with it. Do try your own though, you could get more adventurous with the plantings in that one too. 🙂

  20. Meems says:

    Frances, I remember this post and admit I had never even heard of this type of planter when I first read it. I’ve learned so many things blogging and this is one of them. This type of planter is not for sale down here so it would be really fun to try this when I get enthused creatively- maybe after Christmas??? The link you supplied was also very helpful and interesting. You’ve got me thinking…

    Hi Meems, yes, you have been a loyal reader from way back, thanks! Even here, if you can find one for sale, it is way too much money and too heavy. It is much more practical to make it yourself. I do plan on making more next year when the weather is warm. They look so good in any type of garden.

  21. Rose says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Frances. I first saw a few of these containers at a gardening workshop this past spring, but I didn’t make it to the session demonstrating how to make these. They would be perfect in my rather primitive garden; I might attempt making some next year. Your choices of plants look terrific in yours!
    Hope you are enjoying your holiday.

    Hi Rose, my pleasure. I thought it might be of general interest and know that few saw it the first time around. I have several old posts like this that might get the rerun treatment. 🙂 This is a doable project, start small to get the feel of it. The most fun is planting them up. Our holiday was great, hope yours was too.

  22. Racquel says:

    I love these hypertufa troughs. They are such a great way to display an assortment of perennials. Thanks for sharing how you made yours with us Frances! 🙂 Your plantings look great by the way, I really like that Japanese Blood Grass.

    Hi Racquel, thanks, you can’t go wrong with the blood grass anywhere in the garden. It does well in containers that get no extra water too, even during our drought. Those troughs have been by far the best of the container plantings here. Most others are failures or disappointing at best.

  23. Patsi says:

    Hope you don’t mind…
    You’ve inspired me so much that I did a post about you and your troughs(by way of Shady’s meme). Come visit when you have a chance.


    Hi Patsi, of course I don’t mind, I am highly flattered, thank you so much. I was inspired by your post’s photos that you had found. That one on the left looks intriguing! And Marnie’s birdbath still has my brain thinking of ways to make one like it. Inspiration all around! 🙂

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