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How to make a concrete planter

Create your own concrete planter in a few simple steps and save money

Concrete planters filled with flowers or foliage can add a decorative touch to any setting, whether as part of the garden or landscaping, or anywhere around the home. These planters, when cured properly, will last for many years. Use them outdoors or bring them inside for a unique addition to the décor.

The planter can be of any size and shape. To make a mid-sized square or rectangular planter, you will need to start with two cardboard boxes of different sizes. The larger box will be the outside form, while the smaller box will create the interior space of the planter. Allow for at least three inches between the box sides. This will be the width of the planter walls. You can line the outer box with plastic - a trash bag will do - if you want to reuse the box. Smooth out the liner or leave it wrinkled to create some interesting patterns on the planter's outside walls.

The outer box will stretch with the weight of the mixture. To prevent this, set up a barrier against each side of the box that will not give way, such as a frame made of scrap lumber or plywood.

Supplies for the next steps include:

-Dust mask
-Protective gloves
Note: cement will eat through latex gloves. Look for gloves that have a thick rubberized palm or use regular rubber gloves.
-Wheelbarrow or tub for mixing concrete
-Hoe or similar tool for mixing
-Trowel for scooping
-Dowel rod or wooden spoon handle for removing air pockets

-Vermiculite or Perlite
-Sand (note: #20 Builder's sand is best, but playground sand can be used if sifted first. You can also leave in the larger gravel for an interesting texture, but this will dilute the strength of your mixture)
-Fluffy fibermesh (note: purchase the cheapest air conditioning filters at your discount or home improvement store and break away the mesh from the cardboard. Not much is needed per planter)

Put on the dust mask - do not breathe in the cement dust as it can harm your lungs. Put together a mix of:

-1 part vermiculite
-2 parts cement
-2 parts sand
-2 handfuls of fluffy mesh for the entire project

Note: This recipe will create a planter that is sturdy but also very heavy.

Use the hoe to combine all dry ingredients. Add water as needed - and slowly - to reach a consistency of thick mud. If the mix is too dry or too wet, the planter will be unstable and probably break apart over time. Make sure all dry clumps of cement have dissolved.

You will have to estimate the total amount of mix for this project. If there is not enough to fill the box, make a new batch of cement and continue.

Set up your form in a shady spot. Temperature variables should be no less than 50 degrees and no more than 75 degrees for proper curing. It's the curing time that makes concrete strong - the longer the better.

Use a trowel to scoop the mixture into the box. Tamp occasionally to remove air pockets. Poke a dowel rod or the handle of a wooden spoon through the mix to help it settle.

Fill the bottom of the outer box with the mix to about three or four inches to form the base of the planter. Use short pieces of plastic pipe to set into the bottom for drainage holes. As an alternative, you can drill holes in the bottom after the planter has cured.

Now, center the inner box on top of this first layer. If you wish, cover the outside of this box with a trash bag to protect it for later use. You'll need to weigh the box down or it will rise and cave in as you continue filling in the sides with the concrete mix. Be careful when adding weight; the box should not sink into the wet mixture on the bottom. When the sides are full, level the sides and smooth the top edges.

The form must set for at least 24 hours, depending on temperature. Two days is preferable. Hot weather makes concrete set quickly; cooler temperatures slow down the process. Cover the entire form with plastic or wet rags. Mist the exposed areas once a day.

After two days, it is probably safe to remove the cardboard forms. Test the hardness by scratching the surface with a screwdriver. If you can make an indentation, leave the form in place for a few more hours.

When the concrete planter has hardened, remove the inner box and liner. Cut away the outer box or flip over and lift the box off the planter. The planter should remain in this position for about a week. Continue misting the planter once a day. This is the first curing stage.

The last part of curing takes three to four weeks for the best results. Leave the planter alone and in the shade.

Finally, leach out the lime in the concrete. Fill the planter with water and let it stand. Once a day, refill the planter with fresh water. After 7 days, the planter should be ready to use.

If you wish to add some character to the planter, take any shade of watered down latex paint and sponge it into the concrete. The planter can also be sealed with a spray-on water repellent.

Fill the planter as you would any other type of pot and you will have an inexpensive and decorative addition to the landscape.



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