Category Archives for "Hypertufa How-To"
Many Gardeners “Age” Planters By Encouraging The Growth Of Moss
How to grow moss on your garden pottery, clay, terra cotta, concrete or hypertufa planters and the like is not at all difficult.
You’ll see by the following concoctions that all ingredients are readily available and the process is quite simple.
There are other recipes for growing moss that I have come across, but will not list them here as one or more of the ingredients are not something most of us readily have on hand. And there is no indication that these more involved techniques produce results any quicker than the ones I’ve listed here.
I’ve collected these “how to grow moss recipes” over the years and am pleased to share them with you.
Nice Looking Moss On Your Garden Planters Takes A LONG Time To Grow
Repeat these steps for each of the liquid ingredients listed:
Liquid Ingredient Options
Moss “Accelerant” Recipe … Maybe, Maybe Not
I’ve seen mention over the years where gardeners have been successful at accelerating the growth of moss by using a blend of honey and vinegar. As I have not personally tried this one, I will assume that the ratio of honey is much less than the vinegar. All I can say is experiment and see what happens, if you are so inclined.
Shade, Shade And More Shade … Then LOTS Of Patience
Moss grows best in shady locations. Think about where you would find moss in a natural setting – normally in a shady, cool-ish and damp location, right? Like the woods, or by shady areas next to a stream; or under a tree where it is shaded, damp and cool. Blazing hot locations are not the place where we would find moss! So think about this when you are deciding where to set your item to begin the “growing” process.
After you have applied your mixture to the item, place it in your specially chosen nice cool, shaded area. You’ll need to keep an eye on it and mist it often enough to keep it slightly damp. Again, just think about how moss grows in the wild. It is found in damp, shaded spots.
With any of the above recipes, nothing is so “set in cement” that a slight variance here or there will make much of a difference. This is not rocket science! Mix up the quantity you’ll need following the ratios given a closely as possible.
Let me say it one last time! The important thing is to keep your item in a shady and cool spot and to MIST it regularly. Then, PATIENCE is a must as moss grows very slowly. It may take a few months to over a year for moss to begin growing.
And you know, it’s not just hypertufa or concrete garden containers or clay pots that you can add moss to. There are so many wonderful ways you can utilize this technique. Think about this … you can even encourage moss to grow on stones, rocks, even your garden walls! You can really help Mother Nature along by using this technique if you want lots of mossy areas or items in your garden.
I wish you fun and the best of luck with this ‘how to grow moss’ project.
Liquid & Powdered Colorant Guides
Using the likes of concrete stains, liquid dyes, “dust-on” colors and other colorants can be a bit “iffy” as far as the outcome is concerned when talking about D-I-Y garden art projects.
The color you were hoping to see in your cured concrete, cement or hypertufa project didn’t materialize. I receive many e-mails with questions about “which type” colorant to use for “this type” project.
Good news! You have found the most thorough information pertaining to usage and application techniques for liquid and dry colorants currently available on the internet.
I believe you’ll find the necessary information needed to choose the RIGHT concrete stains and colorants for the DESIRED outcome.
The Most Thorough & Well Explained Information You Will Find Anywhere
The Color Products Reference Guides include:
I am extremely grateful to “Faux Bois” artist Donald Tucker for allowing me to publish the Guides on my web site.
I’d also like to mention that the “Holland & Tucker” line of concrete garden art items are distributed in Texas. Plans are in the works for reaching a larger audience via the internet. Tutorials in book and CD format, craft supplies, sculpting tools and such will be offered. Donald is determined to help keep the art of “Faux Bois” alive and well.
Again, you will NOT find any better nor more explicit information on concrete stains and hypertufa colorants than what you see here.
One Final Word
Please understand that specific color results can and will vary significantly based on a number of factors.
The Guides explain the variables. READ THEM carefully. Bottom line: EXPERIMENT FIRST!
For thoroughly explained information on preparing Hypertufa Recipes, please click here for my article:
For more information about the wonderful art of “Faux Bois” (French for “false wood”) … the old and nearly lost art form of producing natural-looking wood textures for concrete sculptures please go to: The Art of Faux Bois
Though Not To Dissuade You From Using Hypertufa To Cast Leaves, I Do Want You To Be Aware Of Two Issues So You Won’t Be Disappointed When You Unmold Your Leafy Creation
Ok, so what issues am I talking about? They are:
If Either of These Issues are a Concern for Your Leaf Project, Here are Two Proven Solutions …
Add “Quikwall”® (by Quikrete) to your recipe as opposed to plain Portland cement. “Quikwall”® has fibers and a bonding agent in it and allows you to make stronger leaf castings. NOTE: “Quikwall”® may be difficult to find in your area; or
Apply a 1/2 inch layer of concrete mix on the leaf first and DO NOT smooth it out… leave it rough textured. Wait one day. Put metal stock fencing (or similar) over the back of the leaf and apply a 2 inch layer of hypertufa over that. This will produce a leaf with more detail and also will be lighter than a concrete casting.
Now, with the above being taken into consideration, if you DO desire your leaf to end up as “leaf-like” as possible, then I refer you to my page about leaf casting in CONCRETE. This method may provide the results you desire for your project.
Proper Preparation Techniques For Your Hypertufa Or Concrete Molds
Any hypertufa mold used in a project needs to be prepped before you can start patting on the mixture.
Why? Because the wet mixture forms a vacuum when it dries and, simply put, will stay pretty well stuck to your mold if you’ve not applied some sort of barrier or release agent.
The following products will do the job for you … as with most other hypertufa makers, you’ll have your favorite(s) on-up-the-road.
NOTE: Release agents are different to hypertufa bonding agents
Hypertufa adheres to wooden or metal molds!
Line these with plastic! If you don’t, you more than likely won’t be able to get the ‘tufa to release from the mold. And then it goes without saying (but I will) that you’ll ruin your project trying to get it to release from the wooden or metal form. I’ve read where a newbie ‘tufa maker used her expensive gourmet stainless steel cooking pot as a mold. She didn’t put a release agent on it and she could NOT get the cured ‘tufa off the pan. Ended up chiseling it off and finally gave up and threw out the now ruined pot!
Depending on the size and/or shape of a plastic mold, you’ve got a few choices you can use to allow the release of the hypertufa from the plastic.
Besides wrapping your hypertufa mold in plastic wrap, or large trash or garbage bags, you can use:
Spread a thin layer of any of these onto the mold.
Don’t worry. The oils will not harm the ‘tufa and will not be noticeable after a few weeks out in the elements.
Terra Cotta pots and planters for molds:
In the same range of difficulty as using wooden or metal molds, only the brave and/or experienced choose to use terra cotta items. WHY? Because there is a larger degree of difficulty when trying to remove the new hypertufa pot.
Without the right release agent, the ‘tufa will literally bond itself to the terra cotta.
(Yes, you can use plastic wrap if you want to which would make it easier to release.)
I have never used a terra cotta pot as a hypertufa mold, but from my extensive research, I can pass this suggestion along to you.
It seems more than a few “advanced” ‘tufa makers use this procedure: You MUST FIRST soak the terra cotta item OVERNIGHT in water.
Then apply a generous coating of the equal parts mineral oil/corn oil blend. Then pat on your hypertufa mixture.
By doing the “soak, then oil” procedure it is said that you will have no problem getting the hypertufa to release from the terra cotta.
If you want to make super tough artificial rocks use this no-fail faux rock recipe
This hypertufa recipe is an excellent choice for any garden art object you wish to fabricate that will come into contact with constant ground water/moisture; if you live in climates where you experience freezes and thaws; or where you will be walking upon the rocks (stepping stones).
1 part portland cement
1 part builders sand
2 parts peat moss
Acrylic fortifying additive
Optional: Concrete dye colorants (read more on hypertufa colorants and concrete staining guides)
Enough water to make a mud-pie consistency
The acrylic fortifying additive is a “must do” as it helps make the rocks stronger.
This product should be readily available wherever you are purchasing your Portland cement. (Quikrete’s brand is called “Concrete Acrylic Fortifier” and comes in 1 quart and 1 gallon bottles.)
If you are planning on using your faux rocks around a pond’s edge, MAKE SURE you carefully follow this information: How to Properly Cure Hypertufa.
You DO NOT want any leaching of lime into your pond’s water. Lime is very detrimental to plants and fish!
Make sure you’ve read this information on how to properly mix hypertufa ingredients.
As with any ‘tufa project, a successful outcome when mixing up this faux rock recipe is dependent upon the proper ratio of ingredients: Hypertufa Mixing Guidelines: Tips to Help You Avoid Unnecessary Mistakes
Get A Better Handle On The Whole Mixing Process
I continually try to provide clear and concise hypertufa information for you on my website. To that end, I found this short 5-minute video containing some top tips on hypertufa recipe mixing that I felt I should add to my site I believe it will give all you beginners a pretty good idea of how much water should be added into the dry ingredients.
You know, just about the biggest problem (next to hypertufa curing mishaps) encountered by beginning hypertufa crafters is the ratio of water required to get the right consistency. Though not completely in the category of “rocket science” (ha ha), nevertheless a concrete mixture is very dependent upon just the right amount of water to make it set, or cure, correctly.
If it is any consolation to those of you who might be reading this article because you are frustrated with hypertufa recipe problems … I can tell you even seasoned pros in the commercial concrete industry can make mistakes when they are blending up the dry ingredients with the water.
If you’ve ever seen crumbling or flaking sidewalks, commercial walkways or such … well there you have it. An improperly portioned recipe was mixed up and used!
Anyway, I certainly understand the value of being able to learn by watching, and with hypertufa that holds true for most of us, too. If you are like me, I can learn a new skill a lot quicker if I can see what I’m supposed to do, rather than read scads of written instructions.
Water Ratio Is Such A Key Factor For Successful Hypertufa Projects
Alright … Let’s Watch The Hypertufa Video
This video is provided by the “Garden Time” TV program aired in Oregon. In this video, you’ll get a good look at how to mix up a hypertufa recipe. More importantly, you’ll see how the demonstrators add and blend in the water.
I hope you found this video informative. I think it is. 😉
I do have to say though that I have one main issue with this video … there is NO mention about the 10-minute rest period after you get everything mixed up. Most all accomplished hypertufa crafters will walk away from their wet hypertufa recipes for about 10-minutes. This important step allows the dry ingredients to absorb the water. You’ll know if you need to add a little more water, or a little more of the dry ingredients, to end up with a nice working consistency.
This 10-minute waiting period has proved to be invaluable to my projects and has often meant the difference between a failure and a success. Read more about mixing so you can get it right: Guidelines For Mixing Hypertufa
The only other thing, though I know this video really focuses on the mixing process, is that you do want to add a drainage hole in the bottom of any ‘tufa container or trough that you plan to plant in. I will say however, you can see a big round drainage hole in one of the pots in this video.
Remember: Have Fun With All Your Hypertufa Projects!
Used For Fortifying Or Strengthening Hypertufa Recipes Or When Adding One Layer Upon Another Layer
If you are adding another layer of ‘tufa to a partially cured, or even totally cured layer of hypertufa, then you will most definitely want to mix in some bonding agent into your recipe.
In addition, if you want a relatively easy way to strengthen your hypertufa recipes, then the use of a bonding agent is an acceptable way to accomplish that.
A bonding agent is pretty much what I’ve just explained … it’s a substance or additive that helps make your ‘tufa (or concrete) recipe stick or adhere to an existing layer.
Commercially made bonding agents are located in the cement products isle at stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s.
A DIYer’s “Homemade” Bonding Agent
Since commercially made bonding agents can get a bit pricey, many frugal do-it-yourselfers have discovered that Elmer’s brand White Glue or Wood Glue can be substituted with great success (and again, you’ll save a little money, too). The basic chemistry of the Elmer’s brands is almost identical to the commercial bonding products.
Amount To Use In Your Hypertufa Recipe
The amount you’ll need to use is not set in cement (not to make a pun!) but in general … for every 10 cups of dry mix ADD approximately ¼-cup of bonding agent. I highly suggest you add it into the water that you’ll use to moisten your dry mix; make sure to mix the liquids together very well.
Your main concern is that whatever product you use, it must be WATER soluable. Do not use urethane glues such as “Gorilla Glue”. You’ll have very bad results because urethane based glues expand as they cure.
The only other step you want to make note of if you’re using a bonding agent is to first thoroughly WET the surface of your hypertufa object before you apply the new layer. Hose it down or spritz it well with water … get it really wet. This helps your new layer adhere even better.
We’ve even got some suggestions on bonding agents if casting a leaf using hypertufa.
That’s about it! There’s nothing complicated about using an additive of this type.
There Is A Procedure For Correctly Combining Your Hypertufa Recipe’s Ingredients
There is no sense in making mistakes during the mixing process. As with most things in life, we certainly can learn from others mishaps (you can also take look at a hypertufa mixing video here). I truly want you to avoid unnecessary guesswork so that your ‘tufa garden art project turns out a success.
So, that being said, let me share some important guidelines to follow.
To give you an idea of “how much hypertufa does it take to make a …?” Alright, here is a loose rule-of-thumb:
If you’re mixing up a large quantity of one of these hypertufa recipes, divide the mixture into smaller batches to make it easier to blend.
Measure the dry ingredients into a large container such as a wheelbarrow. Use a shovel, concrete trowel, garden hand trowel or similar for mixing.
Make sure all ingredients are thoroughly blended before adding water. Mix and blend more than you think you need to!
How Much Water Is Enough … Or Not Enough?
Add The Water Slowly … You Can Always Add More
How do you know what is enough or not enough water? There is a pretty good test you can do and I’ll get to that in a second. I just want to mention this for your benefit:
There are many variables that will affect the amount of water needed for each hypertufa recipe. It might be that the peat moss you’re using on a current project is much drier than what you used on a previous project. The humidity may be much lower/higher than the last time you did a project.
The APPROXIMATE amount of water needed MAY or MAY NOT be 1 to 1-1/2 parts water (in relation to the dry ingredients “parts”). Be on the safe side, slowly add your water to your thoroughly blended dry mix. Add water until you have a damp mixture. One that is not crumbly but also not oozing with water.
Next, take a 10 minute break from the whole mixing process. Let the water “soak in” a bit. This is an invaluable suggestion … so do it!
After your 10 minute break, begin to blend and stir everything again. Make sure your hypertufa recipe is equally moistened.
Test your mixture for the proper consistency by taking a handful of mix. Squeeze it into a ball that will hold together when you open your hand. A little bit of water can slightly ooze between your fingers.
Remember that this mixture must be able to cling to your mold and stay put and not start sagging.
Coir Is A Workable Substitution If You Don’t Want To Use Peat Moss In Your ‘Tufa Recipe
I received an email from a gentleman in the United Kingdom asking me, “I am very interested in your excellent site and in particular hypertufa. I am based in the UK and peat is a no-no environmentally. Can you recommend a peat substitute for a hypertufa recipe?”
I was able to tell him that yes, I could.
As a matter of fact I have a hypertufa recipe I shared with him that uses coir, also known as coconut fibers, that works quite well.
What is coir?
But I did ask him why peat had become a “no-no”. After all, there is so much of it in the world it certainly is a “renewable” plant/product, and I have read that Canada, for instance, does practice controlled harvesting.
His reply was “[there’s] still plenty of peat around in all purpose compost here and you can still get peat, but it’s known as being an unsustainable resource and all the big retailers have policies to reduce and eradicate it over the next few years.”
So, that being said, I decided I ought to post this coir hypertufa recipe on my website, because it might be of help to other crafters that want to try a variation on a “true” hypertufa recipe, or for those folks in the U.K. who have difficulty finding garden grade peat moss.
Coir Does Not Decompose As Quickly As Peat Moss
I have to mention that you need to be aware that coir isn’t going to decompose as quickly as peat moss does. To be honest, I think you will be waiting quite a while longer for it to do so. Door mats are made of coir. If you’ve ever used one, you’ll know what I mean about it not decomposing quickly.
The reason peat moss is an integral ingredient to a “true” hypertufa recipe, is that when it decomposes, it leaves pits and crevices. This mimics real Tufa rock. So you must understand that the finished look of your garden art object made from this recipe will be different looking from a true ‘tufa recipe. Oh, it’ll hold up just as well, it’s just as time goes on, it may not resemble real Tufa as much as a peat moss based recipe would.
Hypertufa Recipe With Coir
2 parts coir (coconut fiber)
1-1/2 parts perlite
2 parts Portland cement
Enough water to make proper consistency
As with all hypertufa recipes, these measurements are not exact, and it may take a little experimentation to get a recipe you’re happy working with.
Good luck with this project and remember … Have Fun!
Start With One Of These Hypertufa Recipes And Learn The Basics
Here are 4 proven, reliable and time-tested hypertufa recipes that will help assure your next project will be headed for a successful outcome. These have been used by scores of hypertufa novices and artisans alike. I’ve also included mixing tips and guidelines to help you cut out any guesswork.
There is one “ingredient” missing from these recipes … your expertise. However, the expertise is really rather simple to attain. Obviously, the more experience you have working in hypertufa, the better you will become at knowing when your ingredients are blended to the proper consistency and are ready to be applied to your hypertufa mold.
It Takes Just a Little More Skill Than Making a Mud-Pie
You’ll do just fine on your very first project by following all the directions, but once again, practice does make perfect. So, through experience you’ll get the hang of:
If you’ve never tried working with hypertufa, then click here for a Beginners Hypertufa Recipe. I really suggest you start with this recipe. It’s a little more affordable because you don’t have to make a big investment in the various ingredients.
The following hypertufa recipes have two things in common — Portland cement and peat moss. Also note that the ratios of one ingredient to another may vary in these recipes. Please follow the directions, OK? Thank you. I want you to be successful, remember?
Portland Cement is NOT Concrete
I’ll repeat this so you understand fully … Portland cement is NOT concrete! Portland cement is an ingredient of concrete. Concrete is a composite building material made from the combination of aggregate and a cement binder. I don’t want you buying and lugging home the wrong 30lb., or worse, 80 lb. bag of product.
Also be aware that Portland cement is available in grey or white. Grey seems to be just fine for most projects. White lends itself well to a granite look — just make sure to use small or medium size perlite in your mix. White would also be your choice if you are using cement/concrete colorants. **Start by adding one cup of powdered colorant to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Learn to Make These & Then Tweak To Your Heart’s Content
Note: “Part” = whatever container you are using to measure the dry ingredients. Use the same size container for all ingredients! This keeps the proper ratio needed for each recipe.
Basic Hypertufa Recipe A
1 part Portland cement
1½ parts peat
1½ parts perlite
This recipe is suggested if you want the ability to carve a pattern or design into the ‘tufa. It is workable while still quite damp. This would also be a good basic “granite look” recipe. (Use white Portland cement.)
Basic Hypertufa Recipe B
1 part Portland cement
1½ parts peat
1½ parts vermiculite
Vermiculite, instead of perlite, will add a little extra weight to your object. There is also a little sparkle to the vermiculite, which can be a nice touch. This recipe is also carvable as the one above.
Hypertufa Recipe For Added Strength
1 part Portland cement
1 part sand
1 part peat
1 part perlite or vermiculite
Note this is using an equal ratio of all ingredients. This mixture will give you a stronger ‘tufa. It will be a bit heavier than the first 2 recipes. Your choice of sand (textures vary here, too) will affect the final coloration of your object.
Hypertufa Recipe With Fiber Mesh For Added Strength
2 parts Portland cement
2 parts perlite
1½ parts peat moss (or you can try a hypertufa recipe using coir as a substitute for peat moss)
½ part coarse sand
1 large handful nylon fiber mesh
Please be aware that the fiber mesh product might be a bit hard to find in your area.
You may get a blank stare from the sales clerk when you ask for it. It’s used in commercial concrete applications, so … if you’re having trouble finding some, seek out your local ready-mix concrete company. They should have the fiber mesh already bagged, available to sell for about $10/bag. One bag will last you a looooong time.
In case you’ve not yet read Hypertufa Safety Guidelines please read it before you even think of starting to mix up any hypertufa recipe! Thank you.