Making Your Own Containers

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Use different shapes and sizes of boxes to create a variety of planters.
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“Organic Gardening Techniques” by Nick Hamilton, is filled with expert gardening tips to help gardeners of all skill levels.

Organic Gardening Techniques(Companion House Books, 2018) by Nick Hamilton, offers gardeners insight for planting and growing various fruits, vegetable and herbs. Find your gardening niche with help from Hamilton and see how your gardens can blossom. This excerpt can be located in Chapter 3, “Organic Growing Methods.”

Coir Hypertufa Mix

  • Two parts coir
  • One part coarse sand
  • One part fresh cement
  • Yellow cement dye 

Other Materials

  • Two strong cardboard boxes
  • Chicken wire
  • Bamboo canes
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Wire brush

These containers are easy to make because they are molded around an existing pot (or a cardboard box, if making a trough). Due to its makeup, the tufa will need some strengthening. I always use pieces of chicken wire sandwiched in the center as extra support. The principles for making both pots and troughs are the same, so in this instance I will use making a trough as an example.

    1. Find two boxes that fit into each other so that there is about a 2-inch (5-cm) gap between the two, around the edges. The inner box needs to be of the size that you would require the internal dimensions of the container to be. Place the outer cardboard box on the floor in an area out of the way, but also frost-free if this operation is being carried out in the winter.

    2. Mix the hypertufa and put a 1-inch (21 ⁄2-cm) layer in the bottom of the box. I like to preform my strengthening wire (rabbit fencing) into the required shape, which is exactly the same as the boxes, only 1 inch (2 1 ⁄2 cm) smaller than the outer box and 1 inch (2 1 ⁄2 cm) larger than the inner one, so that it sits exactly between the two. It is also quite feasible simply to cut the wire into sheets the same size as the bottom and each of the sides. Bear in mind that the top edges of the wire need to be 1 inch (21 ⁄2 cm) lower than the top of the finished.

    3. At this point it is worth thinking about drainage, so cut about six 2-inch (5-cm) pieces of bamboo cane taken from the thick ends on the canes. Push them into the mix so that they are evenly spaced, until they hit the bottom of the cardboard box, which should leave about 1 inch (21 ⁄2 cm) sticking up. The next 1-inch (21 ⁄2-cm) layer of mix is then placed onto the wire base and leveled to the top of the bamboo canes. It is important to firm the mix well to eliminate any air pockets that would weaken the container when it is dry.

    4. The next stage is to place the inner box in position, on top of the finished base and in the center of the outer box so that the gap around it is even.

    5. It is now time to force the mix in between the two boxes, ensuring that the wire support is sandwiched in the center. It is again important to firm the mix well to eliminate air pockets, but be careful not to also force the cardboard boxes so that your container becomes misshapen. Placing bricks inside the inner box helps to overcome this problem, ensuring that the internal dimensions remain as required. As far as the outside of the container is concerned, a slightly uneven look to the trough seems very pleasing to the eye and not so “manufactured.” Leave for at least 48 hours to dry fully before removing the internal and external boxes. The canes are also pushed out at this stage, leaving nicely sized and ample drainage for the container.

    6. The final task is to remove the glossy areas where the hypertufa mix was in contact with the cardboard, making the container look older and not so new. This can be easily achieved by giving the outside of the trough or pot a light brushing with a wire brush. Do not get too carried away, otherwise the supporting wire may become visible. I also find that rounding the edges slightly gives the finished product a much nicer appearance.

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Reprinted with Permission from Organic Gardening Techniques and Published by Companion House Books.

Mother Earth Gardener
Mother Earth Gardener
Expert advice on all aspects of growing.