Archive for the ‘Container Gardening’ Category

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.




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.)



Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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