Make Your Own Vietnam cement planters

Vietnam cement planters made from hypertufa are wonderful for displaying rock-garden plants or succulents. Over time, the hypertufa ages gracefully, collecting a patina of mosses and lichens. In this article you will find the recipe and instructions for making hypertufa.

The process I use to mold containers is much simpler that the usual box-in-box method that sandwiches hypertufa and some metal mesh in a frame. Instead, I simply pack hypertufa around an overturned plastic pot or planter. And because it’s so easy to work with, vietnam cement planters can be molded into many sizes and shapes.

photo

photo

Step 1

Measure and mix the peat moss, perlite, cement, and a small handful of reinforcing fibers in your tub. You’ll kick up plenty of dust at this stage, so be sure to wear your dust mask.

Add the water while stirring with your trowel. Test the consistency frequently, as it’s much easier to add water than it is to readjust the dry ingredients. When a squeezed handful retains its shape and doesn’t release more than a few drops of water, the mix is ready.

Step 2

Mold the mixture around the chosen object, which has been placed upside down on the plastic drop cloth. Avoid objects with a pronounced lip since it would make the object difficult to remove from the finished container.

rustic-chic-diy-concrete-planters-1

rustic-chic-diy-concrete-planters-1

Pack the mixture up around the sides of the object, tamping it down firmly to bond the hyper­tufa to itself and to avoid a crumbly texture. A 1- to 2-inch layer on all sides will create strong walls.

Flatten the intended bottom of the completely covered object for stability, and shape the sides to a desired form. Then poke your finger through the bottom to create a drainage hole.

Step 3

Wrap the vietnam cement planters in the plastic sheeting, and place it in a shady spot for about a day to let it harden.

Step 4

Remove the wrapping after the hyper­tufa has had a day to harden. The mixture will be firm but still soft enough to work with. Turn the container over, and remove the mold.

terrazzo pot

terrazzo pot

Brush the sharp edges and the smooth top, if desired, to give a rougher, more natural look to the vietnam cement planters.

Step 5

Rewrap your container, and place it in a shady place for another two days. Then unwrap it, and soak it with a hose periodically over the period of a few weeks to leach out the residual lime from the cement, which would harm plants.

Create an Alpine Trough with tall concrete pot

Select a right container

You’ll need to get a tall concrete pot for plants, making sure that it has a hole in the bottom for drainage. Tall concrete pot for plants is a mix of cement, peat moss, and perlite (some recipes add sand). You can find hypertufa troughs in many sizes: ranging from a small, 13-inch-diameter pot to a 3-foot-diameter bowl, as well as varying dimensions of rectangular, square, or even oval shapes. The beauty of concrete pot is the light weight of the finished trough, which makes it easy to move around, provided its size doesn’t make it unwieldy. Many garden centers carry an array of hypertufa pots. But remember: If you use a concrete pot the size of a bathtub, you’re still going to need a forklift or a few strong friends to move it.

concrete pot

concrete pot

Mix the soil

The soil for your alpine trough should be one-third organic and two-thirds inorganic. If the soil contains too much organic matter, it will be too rich for the plants, causing them to rot. Remember that alpine plants have adapted themselves to survive with minimal amounts of nutrients and prefer a well-draining scree (loose mountain stone) mix, replicating the soil conditions of an alpine environment. The best material to use is a mixture that contains one-third standard potting mix, one-third sand (bagged play sand works well), and one-third crushed shale or gravel. Fill the container two-thirds full with your mix.

Choose the plants

Because troughs are basically miniperennial gardens, many of the design principles are the same as when you are designing a garden that isn’t in a pot.

sizedCrevice trough

sizedCrevice trough

Place the plants

When removing each plant from its pot, I rip off half of the root-ball and slightly tease the remaining roots loose. This temporarily slows the plant’s growth. Because most troughs are fairly shallow, you can nestle each plant in at the proper soil level, with room below for the new roots to grow. The mistake most people make is that they cram too many plants into a trough (which is understandable because the plants are so damned cute). You want to place plants so that they are at least a couple of inches apart. You can also incorporate a decorative rock or two, which can fill a space that is temporarily empty.

Top dress the tough

Once you have finished planting the trough, you’ll want to mulch it with a thin layer of gravel. Small pea stone or crushed brick works well and sets off the plants visually in the trough. The gravel helps hold in moisture and heat, making the trough virtually self-sufficient. It is crucial not to use any type of organic mulch; the material is too rich and can promote rot at the plants’ crown. Once you’ve finished placing the mulch, you can lightly water in the plants. Because alpines don’t require a lot of moisture, periodic rainfall is usually the only subsequent water your trough will need. In fact, overwatering is the most common cause of a plant’s demise. Remember—carefree is the key here.

How repot container plants

 

Most healthy container garden plants eventually outgrow their pots. A good way to reinvigorate a rootbound plant is to repot it. In my former job as a greenhouse manager, I spent a lot of time repotting container plants.

Recognizing when it’s time to repot is the first step. Telltale signs include soil that dries out quickly or has become degraded; roots tightly packed within a pot or protruding from drainage holes; and water sitting on the soil surface too long after watering. Often a plant simply looks top-heavy or as if it might burst out of its pot. The best time to repot most plants is when they’re actively growing, in the spring or summer. However, plants can usually handle repotting whenever the situation warrants it.

mixed semp pot

mixed semp pot

The second step is to get a plant out of large cement pot. If a plant is rootbound, it helps to water the root ball thoroughly in advance. For plants in small to medium pots, invert the pot and support the top of the root ball with one hand. Put your other hand on the bottom of the pot and use a downward throwing motion with an abrupt stop. Many plants will slip out after one or two throws. If not, knock the edge of the large cement pot against a sturdy surface, such as a potting bench, still holding the pot with both hands. It may take a few good whacks to release the plant; be careful not to break the pot.

A plant ready for repotting should slide out with the soil in one piece. If much of the soil falls free of the roots, the plant may not need repotting. If it does, there will likely be a solid soil-and-root mass in the shape of the just-removed pot. Roots should be white or light-colored. Black, dark-colored, or foul-smelling roots are usually signs of a serious problem, such as fungal disease.

Roots packed tightly in a large cement pot don’t take up nutrients efficiently. To promote good nutrient absorption, trim the roots and loosen up the root ball before replanting. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears for this job, removing as much as the bottom third of the root ball if necessary. Don’t be surprised if what you cut off is a thick tangle of root tissue. Also make three or four vertical cuts about a third of the way up the remaining root ball.

JCRA container

JCRA container

Cut through any roots growing in a circular pattern to help prevent the plant from strangling itself with its own roots as it grows. If the roots are thick along the sides of the root ball, shave or peel away the outer layer. Or gently untangle the root ball with your fingers as if you were mussing someone’s hair. Do this along the top edge of the root ball, too.

The proper size of the new pot depends on the plant and its potential growth rate, how well it’s growing under current conditions, and the ultimate size desired for the plant. Rely on your own idea of what a healthy specimen of a particular species should look like. When in doubt, go with a pot the next size up.

To keep soil from leaking out the bottom of the pot, cover its drainage hole(s) with a paper towel, coffee filter, mesh screen, or pot shard. If you use a pot shard, place it convex side up to avoid sealing the hole. While it’s common practice to put gravel or charcoal in the bottom of pots, they don’t help with drainage and take up valuable space, so I don’t recommend using them.

To repot a small plant that’s easy to lift, put a few inches of moist soil in the pot and tamp it down lightly. Place the plant in the pot, centering it. The goal is to get the top of the root ball to sit about an inch below the rim of the large cement pot. If the plant is in too deep, gently raise it and add more soil. If it sits too high, remove the plant and dig out some soil, or just dump the soil out and start over.

Now, fill the space around the root ball with soil. I’ve noticed that there are two approaches to this job — “stuffing” and “filling.” Stuffers like to press soil in around a plant. Fillers like to fill the pot to the brim and let the soil settle in during the first few watering. I’m usually a filler, but I do stuff a bit at times, especially with top-heavy plants that need to be steadied. Whether you stuff or fill, leave some room at the top so the large cement pot can hold enough water with each watering to thoroughly moisten the soil.

IT’S EASY TO CARE FOR SEEDS PLANTED IN POTS

I plant most of my seeds—especially slow-growing perennials and annuals— in large cement pots. It’s easier to care for the seedlings and there’s no weeding. You can identify a slow-starting plant by checking the seed packet. If it advises starting the seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date, you have a slow starter.

Traditional advice is to plant seeds thickly in a flat or tray, then “prick out” individual seedlings for repotting into larger containers. But I prefer to start just a few seeds in 2-1/4-inch or larger cement pot, eliminating the need for transplanting altogether. I thin the emerging seedlings with scissors or just plant the whole cluster in the garden.

sunflower-seedling

sunflower-seedling

I use a commercial “soilless” seed-starting mix—a blend of milled sphagnum moss, vermiculite, and other sterilized components—so I rarely have trouble with damping-off disease, a fungal problem that causes seedlings to wither and die. To prepare for planting, I pour all but a small portion of the mix into a large cement pot and moisten it thoroughly with warm water. Next I fill the containers—plastic pots saved from my periodic nursery buying sprees—to 1/2 inch below the rim and gently pack the medium to eliminate air pockets. Containers recycled from previous uses should be first sterilized by soaking in a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.

When the pots are ready, I snip off a corner of the seed packet (or its interior glassine envelope of seeds) and carefully shake three or four seeds into each pot, allowing at least 1/2 inch between each of them. The tiniest seeds can slide out too quickly so, for better control, I fold a small piece of stiff white paper in half, pour the seeds into the strip, and dole them out by lightly tapping the paper strip. If the seeds are large enough to easily see, I use my fingertip (making sure it’s dry so seeds don’t adhere to it) to push each seed gently against the moist, soilless mix, so it makes good contact. Instead of burying the seeds, I use a sieve to cover them with a thin layer of the reserved seed-starting mix. If the seeds require light to germinate, I don’t cover them at all. I then make a label with the plant’s name and date, and push the marker into the large cement pot so that it doesn’t protrude above the rim.

If I expect the seeds to germinate within a few days or weeks, I cover the pots with a sheet of plastic wrap, glass, or clear plastic to preserve moisture, and check daily. When sprouts appear, I remove the covering. I start a lot of seeds, and don’t worry about providing them with bottom heat to speed germination—I just try to keep things simple. If the seeds are likely to take a long time to germinate—some stratified seeds may spend months in a pot before sprouting—I don’t bother covering them and just take care to keep the soil moist.

How To Planting Rosemary Plant

How To Planting Rosemary Plant

Once the large cement pots are planted, I set them on a cookie sheet or other shallow tray for easy transport to a cold frame or other seed-starting area. The trays also make bottom watering easier. It’s important to keep the seed-starting medium moist to speed germination; I use a very fine mist to water the pots from above, or pour water into the tray and let the pots soak it up from the bottom.

The Perfect Pot

Every time I step across the threshold of another garden center in search of a new, I feel like I should proclaim, “Hello. My name is Danielle, and I’m a potaholic.” Maybe then the staff would save me from myself. Many years of planting container gardens have left me with quite a collection of pots: some glazed, some terra-cotta, one or two concrete pot—all beautiful in their own way. But I’ve learned the hard way that not all container materials are created equal.

lettuce-herb-birdbath-containers-web

lettuce-herb-birdbath-containers-web

Each year, after dragging the last oppressively heavy cement garden pot around my garden, I vow that I will invest in lighter pots or in those that can withstand my climate so that I don’t have to move them if I don’t want to. These days, you can find synthetic pots that look just like real terra-cotta, stone, or metal at a comparable price. I’ve come to realize that looks aren’t the only thing to consider when choosing a container. The climate in your area and your brute strength are factors to consider, as well. Here’s a closer look at the variety of container materials available.

With recent advances in manufacturing, container material options are more diverse than ever. The classic look and aesthetic appeal of terra-cotta, for instance, is often duplicated in fiberglass or plastic. Deciding which one of the three options is the real thing isn’t as easy as you might think.

Wondering which pot is which in the above photo? Scroll to the bottom of this page to find out.

Terracotta pot

strawberry.detail

strawberry.detail

Terra-cotta’s classic look is what many other materials attempt to re-create. The downsides of this material are that it is heavy, breakable, and vulnerable to cold weather. Terra-cotta pots are made from baked clay. The porous nature of this earth-based medium allows air and water to pass through the walls of the pot; this promotes healthy plants by staving off root rot and disease caused by overwatering. However, this can also cause the soil to dry out quickly, which means more watering. Also, if water remains in the clay during freezing weather, the pot can flake and crack. Terra-cotta baked at higher temperatures is the most durable because the clay becomes harder and less permeable. For a high-quality pot that will last for years, look for an even, reddish brown hue and thick walls.

Large ceramic garden pots

heucher-cinnamon-curls_2

heucher-cinnamon-curls_2

With such a wide variety of colors available, glazed pots can be integrated into nearly any setting and are purchased primarily for their bold good looks. These ceramic  garden pots are actually just typical terra-cotta covered in a glaze. But glazed terra-cotta tends to hold up better to weathering than regular terra-cotta because the clay is baked at higher temperatures, resulting in stronger, less-permeable pots better suited to handling changes in weather. When glaze is baked onto the outer surface, it seals the exterior of the pot, making it even more resilient. The terra-cotta is still exposed on the inside of the pot, so some winter protection is required. Like their unglazed cousins, these large ceramic garden pots are heavy even when empty and will break if dropped.

Fiberglass pot look as good as real thing.

Much like the new breed of plastics, fiberglass has an uncanny ability to look like terra-cotta, cast stone, or even metal. Fiberglass containers are molded from a viscous polymer laced with fiberglass strands, which lend strength to the thin liquid, allowing for clearer details and textures than those possible with plastic. Fiberglass is fairly light and rigid, so it is easy to reposition if you find a better place for it. Although production quality has improved in recent years, fiberglass pots still have a tendency to flake and chip when overhandled or when subjected to prolonged weathering. Some companies are experimenting with hybrids of fiberglass and other materials, a clay and resin mixture applied to a fiberglass skeleton, for instance. This process makes it possible to simulate the look of terra-cotta or cast iron even more successfully.

Growing lavender in a concrete pot  

The countryside of southern France is legendary for its fields of lavender (Lavandula x intermedia Provence) grown for the perfume industry. In North America, lavender is a shrubby perennial grown for its flowers and fragrance, but it also serves as a landscape item for its beauty and ability to stand heat and drought. In parts of California, is it used in islands of commercial parking lots, which attests to its toughness.

EnglishLavenderStarts520

EnglishLavenderStarts520

In a formal garden, lavender may be clipped to form a low hedge or an aromatic border along a path. In a rock garden, a single plant or just a few plants may be used to great effect as an accent. And, of course, lavender is a natural choice for any herb garden. The cool, gray-green foliage contrasts nicely with its own flowers, as well as dark green herbs and other plants.

Lavender also grows quite well in big concrete pot. In the Deep South, it actually does better in concrete pots, as it benefits from improved drainage and air circulation. While the plants thrive in arid Western climates, they are usually considered annuals in the South. get from cilantro is that it moves through its life cycle so quickly, especially in spring. If you are lucky enough to live in a mild winter climate, fall and winter give you the longest season to harvest. Once you understand this fast little plant, it’s easy to manage. Give it its own patch in the garden where you can harvest, then ignore, then harvest again. Harvest while it’s low, let it get tall when it wants to, then cut off the tall plants after the seeds drop to get it out of the way. This makes room for the new plants that start themselves from the fallen seeds. Or, of course, you can set out new plants every 3 to 4 weeks for as long as we have them in the stores, but the harvest and ignore technique will get you through the in-between times.

LAVENDER POT

LAVENDER POT

Set out plants 12 to 18 inches apart in an open area with full sun and good air circulation. Plant lavender in well-drained, slightly alkaline soil with a pH between 6.7 and 7.3. You can add builder’s sand to the soil before planting to increase drainage, which is vital because lavender will not tolerate excessive soil moisture or humidity. To further improve drainage, plant lavender in a raised bed, along a wall, or near the top of a slope. In an herb or perennial bed, ensure good drainage by planting lavender on a small mound. Lavender flowers bloom in summer; you can clip faded blooms to encourage continued blooming throughout the warm season. Prune lightly to promote branching, especially in spring once the plants show new growth.

Sprinkle bone meal or other phosphorus-rich fertilizer around each plant in the fall to make it stronger and more winter hardy. Work the fertilizer into the first inch of soil, or let the rain soak it in.

Growing-rosemary in a cement pottery

Rosemary is a woody-stemmed plant with needle-like leaves that can commonly reach 3 feet in height, eventually stretching to 5 feet in warmer climates unless clipped. In zone 8 and farther south, rosemary makes a good evergreen hedge. In zone 7 and colder, try growing rosemary in a pottery cement you can bring inside in cold weather. You can even train rosemary into topiary shapes. Plants are tolerant of salt spray, making them a good choice for pots on the beach.

cement pottery

cement pottery

Rosemary will grow into a lovely large landscape shrub if planted in a good pottery cement.

Set out rosemary in spring, planting seedlings 2 to 3 feet apart; you can also plant in fall in zone 8 and south. Plants are slow growing at first, but pick up speed in their second year. While rosemary tolerates partial shade, it prefers full sun and light, well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil at planting, and reapply in the spring. Keep the soil uniformly moist, allowing it to dry out between waterings. Mulch your plants to keep roots moist in summer and insulated in winter, but take care to keep mulch away from the crown of the plant. In the spring, prune dead wood out of the plants.

Dees-Rosemary

Dees-Rosemary

Whiteflies, spider mites, scale, and mealybugs can all bother rosemary, as can powdery mildew and root rot, particularly in humid regions. To prevent mildew and rot, be sure your plants enjoy good drainage and air circulation. In zone 7 and northward, extreme cold will kill the tops of the rosemary plant. In areas where it is likely to be hurt by winter, plant in a protected spot such as one near a south-facing masonry wall and away from the prevailing winter wind; also mulch to protect the roots. In zone 8 and farther south, rosemary needs no winter protection.