Bzzzz May 30th, 2012

I am a fool for heavy pots—I mean containers. Clay pots, iron pots, wooden pots, concrete pots. I like pots that won’t blow away in the wind and that make you think twice about rearranging the garden furniture.

So during this, My DIY Summer*, I vowed to begin my quest with my new-found fascination with concrete to try my hand at making some heavy pots. Thank goodness Lowe’s asked me to join their Lowe’s Creative Ideas bloggers group so I would have a deadline and a Lowe’s gift card as an incentive. You should check back here throughout the next few months, because there are more projects, giveaways and other bloggers’ projects to explore.

This rustic, but decorative, container fits right in with my garden decor. I found all the materials I didn’t already have on-hand at Lowe’s. The actual work time would, I would estimate, be about one hour. And the beauty of this project is that I now have the materials on-hand for other concrete projects. (I already have some started, so stay tuned for that.) Here’s how I did it.

Step 1. Assemble your supplies. Nearly all of these supplies can be purchased at Lowe’s. I give you the prices I paid below. My local Lowe’s gives military families a 10% discount, so bring your ID and make sure to ask.

Materials you will need include:

  • – Plastic storage containers or other containers to serve as inner and outer forms. Make sure there is about 1.5″ – 3″ between all the walls so there is enough concrete for strength. If you’re super-handy, you can build forms. I kept it simple for this maiden voyage into the world of concrete. ($13.72)
  • – Concrete mix (quantity depends on the size of the container) ($4.64)
  • – Oil (on-hand—from the kitchen)
  • – Water
  • – Chicken wire or other wire to reinforce the concrete cut to fit slightly smaller than each of the sides and bottom (on-hand)
  • – Wire cutters (on-hand)
  • – Mixing bucket (purchased previously – on-hand)
  • – Mixing tools (I used an old hoe and hand trowel)
  • – Safety mask ($2.53)
  • – Gloves ($6.80)
  • – Corks or other material to make drainage holes (I made a sacrifice and drank some wine. But only for the corks.)
  • – Decorative rocks ($6.84)
  • – Plants ($11.56)
  • – Potting mix (on-hand)
  • – Twigs (on-hand)
  • – A bit of twine, wire or string (on-hand)

Total cost for out-of-pocket materials I didn’t have on-hand:  $46.09. The real beauty is that I now have some of the materials to make other concrete projects. Stay tuned on that.

Step 2. Don your fetching safety mask and gloves before you even open the bag of concrete mix. Concrete is amazingly dusty and you don’t want to inhale this stuff into your lungs. If you get it on your skin, it is very caustic. Wash immediately and rinse with vinegar. Just wear gloves, okay?

Put the concrete in one area of your mixing container and the minimum amount of water called for on the concrete mix in the other. Gradually pull the dry concrete mix into the water, mixing thoroughly and kneading it with the tool. You want to mix it very thoroughly and not have any dry mix lingering at the bottom of your container or at the edges. Add water, as needed, but do not add more water than necessary to make a soft, clay-like mix. Too much water will make your concrete project susceptible to cracking and breaking.

Step 3. Oil the inside of your outer mold and the outside of your inner mold—the places where the concrete will touch. Start with a bit of concrete on the bottom of the outer container, covering the bottom and tamping down firmly to get good coverage.

Step 4. Add your chicken wire or other reinforcing material. Oil your corks or other drainage hole materials and insert them through the concrete. Make sure you clear the space below so you don’t have a concrete layer obscuring the hole. Add more concrete to cover the reinforcing wire and secure the corks.


 Step 5. Put the inner mold into place. Add the reinforcing wire on all sides and begin adding the concrete mix on both sides. Keep packing it in and packing it down thoroughly.

Step 6. Smooth out the top of the form. If you are adding decorative rocks, wedge them into the concrete mix and secure them in place. Wipe the rocks clean with a wet paper towel.  Once that is done, walk away for two days.

Step 7.   After two days, invert the container forms to remove your brand new planting container. Let is sit for another couple of days, spritzing it with water from time to time so it doesn’t dry out too quickly, making it more prone to cracking. Clean up the decorative rocks again with a moist cloth.

Step 8. Remove the corks and ensure your drainage holes are large and unobscured.

Step 9. Add your plants. I planted a Stars & Stripes Mandevilla vine—which seemed appropriate heading into the Memorial Day weekend—and a few petunias. The Mandeville vine will grow up to cover the tepee, with blooms all summer long.

Step 10. Create a tepee with the twigs, securing it at the top with twine, string or wire. Voila!


Lowe’s has some pretty cool Pinterest boards too. Go check them out.

*My DIY Summer was inspired by three forces: 1) A whole slew of new books about garden projects 2) The fact that my son is in college and tuition is expensive and 3) I still have expensive tastes, despite the fact that I am paying college tuition.



Posted In: Container Gardening, DIY, Gardening

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Bzzzz April 30th, 2012

A few years ago my then-teenage son convinced me to watch the movie Snakes on a Plane. It’s a movie about—you guessed it—snakes on a plane. Despite the fact that it was an incredibly stupid film, it gave me nightmares. But movie snakes don’t hold a candle to real, live snakes right at home.

This weekend I asked my husband to dispose of two ratty-looking topiary trees that were in large wooden containers on either side of the garage door. I watched from the kitchen window as he dragged them back to the compost pile. They were overgrown and pot-bound, so I wasn’t surprised when he tugged and pulled to try and extricate them from the containers. This went on for some time. I continued to watch as he stood with his hands on his hips thinking about the situation. Apparently reaching  a conclusion, I saw him start in on the containers with a mattock.

And then I watched as he hot-footed it back to the house.

“Those pots are filled with copperheads!”

Now, I didn’t go out to witness it first-hand. It’s not because I’m a big old scaredey cat. Oh, no. Rather it’s because I have complete trust in my husband’s powers of observation and reporting of the local wildlife. I mean, if he says copperheads are out there swarming by the dozens, I don’t really need to go out and verify it with my own eyes, right? A marriage must be based on trust.

I hope it didn’t violate any Maryland state wildlife laws, because I’m going to tell you right here that Harry screwed up his manly courage, went back out and committed mass snake-icide. He was running around with a shovel smacking at the ground, hopping around and looking very threatening. I was afraid of him. I think he got most of the little buggers. I got nightmares.

Okay, so that I don’t leave you with that horrible image I’ll share some garden photos to calm you down. Let’s talk a little bit about hellebores, shall we?

One of the reasons I adore hellebores as much as I do is that they give me hope in the bleakest months of winter. Regardless of what I do, these babies show their little heads sometime in January and gradually emerge from under whatever nature has thrown their way. I have seen them emerging from under a foot of snow, in the freezing rain and even in those dry winter spells.

I help them along by trimming off the damaged greenery from the previous year, allowing the plant’s strength to be concentrated in flowering. They reward me by blooming and blooming. The flowers hang on through spring and even into summer. These are plants that really pull their weight in the garden.

Bottom left: Helleborus orientalis

Now that they are well-established I am faced each year with relocating or re-homing hundreds of little hellebore orientalis seedlings. Frankly, it’s not a terrible task and I always find takers. I’m looking forward to the time when I have the same issue with the ‘Kingston Cardinal’ hellebores. Massed together, they make a very nice statement while also crowding out weeds and looking good almost the whole year long.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Kingston Cardinal’

Have you forgotten all about the snakes yet? Good. Whatever you do, don’t think about snakes. Especially don’t think about poisonous snakes in the garden. Dozens and dozens of swarming poisonous snakes in the garden.

(As always, click on photos to embiggen.)


Posted In: Container Gardening, Gardening, Nature and Wildlife

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