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

Tags: , , ,


Bzzzz May 15th, 2012

Some people are just born clever and handy.  These are the people who don’t fear the sound of power tools or those long, scary aisles of bits and pieces in the hardware store. They have DIY in their DNA.

Others of us need a little hand-holding, a kindly pep talk and a wee bit of a kick in the pants to convince us to put down the mail order catalogs and light a fire to get our creative juices flowing.

If you’re in the second category, there is no better garden DIY guru to get you started on a handmade life outdoors than Lorene Edwards Forkner, author of the newly released book Handmade Garden Projects.

Bold and beautiful author Lorene Edwards Forkner

Lorene is one of these people who just bubbles with enthusiasm. This is a woman who doesn’t fear the color orange, who hauls an old Airstream trailer into her back yard to use as a grown-up playhouse and calls it her “canned ham” and who has turned some old bedsprings into an amazingly artistic rusted outdoor statement—in the front of her home!

Several garden bloggers had the chance to visit Lorene’s garden last summer when she was putting the finishing touches on her book. We saw first-hand the results of her craftiness in her own garden. Now the book is released and everyone can see a bit of Lorene’s garden—and some clever and easy ideas for a handmade life outdoors.

Bamboo Edging - Photo by Allan Mandell

Handmade Garden Projects is as much an inspiration book  as a DIY recipe book. Before launching into the how-to portion of the book, Lorene lights the creative fire with a quick jaunt through three gardens heavy on the handmade. My only complaint is that she only gives you a peek at her “canned ham.”  (Since it’s so adorable, I’ll share you a couple of photos I took when I visited last year.)

Each project is carefully described with a list of materials, tools and other supplies needed. But the introductions don’t read like your usual how-to manual—many of which read like they were written by engineers. (Sorry, not all engineers. You know who you are.)

Featherweight Troughs - Photo by Allan Mandell

For example, when talking about her materials used to make her rugged steel trellis, she writes, “Incredibly strong, virtually indestructible, and beautiful besides, rock screen scrap is my favorite heavy metal.”

But she’s not just clever. She’s helpful too. She goes on to explain what rock screen is, sizes you can expect to find, where to look and the friendly reminder that “Unless your salvage yard can custom cut pieces to size, it’s best to keep an open mind, scouting for interesting pieces and suitable weights.”

Lorene's Airstream - Her "canned ham"

Projects in Handmade Garden Projects include pathways, stepping stone and edging ideas, trellises and supports, decorative accents, containers and finishing touches. None of them appear very difficult and most can be accomplished in an afternoon or a weekend, depending on how many times you stop for beer.

Interior detail of Lorene's grown-up playhouse "canned ham"

It’s a fun and useful book to set you on your path to a handmade life in the great outdoors. You can thank Lorene. She’ll be the one wearing orange, having fun and reveling in her own clever handmade garden.

Want to win this copy of the book? Leave me a comment by Wednesday, May 23, and I’ll select a winner through a random drawing!

Want to see other blog posts about Lorene’s book on the virtual book tour? You can visit them here where there are more giveaways.


Timber Press, publisher of Handmade Garden Projects, provided a free copy of this book for review.

UPDATE: The winner of Handmade Garden Projects is Mary Davis. Mary, I’m emailing you. Come on down! (Well, send me your mailing address anyway.)


Posted In: Books, Gardening



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