My papercrete adventure started in the Container Garden forum with a posting by TomTom on "How to make papercrete containers" http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/472203/ then continued on " . . . papercrete container #2" http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1227503/. I've been obsessed with this medium and trying different formulas and techniques.
The papercrete is very similar to hypertufa using shredded paper instead of peat moss and normally doesn't include sand, but it can be added.
I'll re-post here some of the pics I posted on those threads, but please check out the original threads for additional information, formulas, and techniques from others that are also experimenting.
I didn't think my first attempt at making a papercrete container was very successful until later. It was supposed to be a toad house, but the side walls slipped away (papercrete too wet and inexperience with set up). I decided to use it as it was to form the 'roof' on a toad house (made of bricks and rocks) and saved the piece.
I used TomTom's formula with a bit of red liquid concrete coloring. Ta dah, the Red Roof Toad House!
My next project included Styrofoam, a disposable plastic food container, paper towel tubes, and a drinking straw to form a mold and covered with a plastic shopping bag. Then I applied the charcoal-colored papercrete.
Da Pokey painted, with "Jail" sign painted on a flat stone and mounted with mortar. I had a small troll doll "Bandit" that immediately took up residence in the jail (he's looking out the window) . . . he was quite at home.
Regardless of the cement colorant used, the color fades as it dries. The papercrete shrinks a little as it dries and the forms can be pulled away fairly easily. The plastic drinking straws pull out easily too.
My next project was pretty ambitious for my lack of experience, but it's coming together nicely so far. I wanted to make my 92 year-old grandmother a succulent planter for her porch that she could easily tend to while sitting in a chair. I decided on a corner table with a papercrete top. I added buff-colored dye to the papercrete in hopes it would match her porch once completely cured.
I built the table frame from scrap metal to be finished in gloss black (to match her porch railing). Here's a pic of the table base frame.
I made a cardboard template to fit into the frame of the table top. I played around with a finished layout and decided to make the papercrete top in three sections for ease of forming and handling, and a broken section could be replaced without sacrificing the entire table top.
The table top turned into a miniature fairy garden. It will include a fairy house (back corner) with a patio in the middle and a small pool or shallow planting area (middle front). The side sections will each hold a 3" pot for annual flowers since succulents and seasonal flowers require different soils and watering conditions. The little pots will be surrounded by succulent planting beds.
This is the cardboard template for the table top cut into the three sections. I shaped Styrofoam to form the planting areas needed (approximately 3-1/2" high/deep) and secured them to the template with plain ol' Elmer's glue.
I added 1" wide strips of cardboard to the edges of the cardboard templates to contain the papercrete. I used Super Glue to initially attach the side strips and box tape for reinforcement. The center section is shown here with the papercrete already applied to the mold. I added a piece of wire between the two deep planting pockets and applied the papercrete around it to form a bridge for more stability.
The red pieces at the top of each planting pocket are drinking straws for drainage holes. They were cut to the thickness I wanted the papercrete to be. They made good guides to keep the wall thickness consistent. The edge is about 1" thick and the walls (around the form) were about 3/4" thick.
The entire form was covered with Saran Wrap to keep the papercrete from sticking to the form.
(Yes, I realize this looks like a Picaso version of a woman's torso!)
I made a big batch (for me) of papercrete to create the table top pieces and it was only enough to fill in the center form with enough leftover to make the fairy house. The second batch of papercrete was 3x bigger than the first, so I had plenty of papercrete to form each of the side sections, create two rectangular planter troughs, and two small acorn hut/fairy houses. I was up all night!
I always prepare a few small forms for pots or houses to use up any papercrete that might be leftover. Sometimes they are the best pieces.
I'll post the pics of the individual pieces and what I used to make them.
Here's the smaller of the two planting troughs. I placed a trash bag over a small plastic storage basket to use as a mold. I formed the bottom and started stacking and lightly pushing in on the sides as I built them up (about 1" thick). I poked the bottom with the handle of a wooden spoon to form the pot's drainage holes. The impression of the basket came out lightly, making a nice texture for the container.
The larger planting trough was another larger storage basket also covered with a trash bag. I used TomTom's technique of twisted newspaper ropes to add texture to the sides of the trough. I used the wooden spoon handle again to form the pot's drainage holes in the bottom.
The larger Acorn Hut fairy house was formed over an inverted small terracotta pot covered with a plastic bag and set it on a piece of tempered glass. I started at the base of the pot to form 3/4" thick house walls, leaving an opening for the door. I again used the handle of the wooden spoon to 'push' out the windows into a cloverleaf/triangular pattern. I mounded the papercrete on the top and formed the pointy roof and gradually worked it into a drooped point.
The smaller Acorn Hut was formed over a Styrofoam cup covered with a small plastic bag. It finally worked out, but I won't be doing that again! The Styrofoam cup would not hold it's shape on the sides and moved every time I applied a bit of papercrete (duh, I should have expected that). I felt lucky to have gotten the 1/2" thick walls and door formed, so I did not form the windows until after it dried. I used a Phillip's head screwdriver to lightly twist the holes through the walls to create the windows.
The Hobbit House or the fairy house that will be used for the table, was formed over a plastic food container covered with a plastic bag. I made a Styrofoam form for the arched door and Styrofoam circles cut to fit inside a paper towel tube for the windows. I put the house mold on another tempered glass panel so I could move the piece around while forming the walls and shaping the roof and eyebrow awnings over the door and windows.
Here are all the pieces from both batches of buff-colored papercrete, the table sections (in place in the table frame), table fairy house, and the various pots and houses . . . slowly curing in my basement.
The sections of the table top have continued to shrink, but at an acceptable finish for the pieces resting in place on the table frame. I'll begin to add the patio shortly and dress up the fairy house a little. There were a couple places on the side sections that wanted to crack, and a small corner piece broke off when I removed it from the mold (I was so impatient that I just couldn't wait another day), so I'll see about mending those.
I will experiment with using some type of oil as a release agent instead of using the plastic trash and storage bags. They make wrinkles and one dug into the papercrete (which seemed to weaken the corner that broke). I didn't mind the wrinkles as they were primarily on the insides of the pieces, but the table top sections will be seen until the plants grow to cover the table top. Still not so bad, but it might make a difference with the next project I do.
I been reading about leeching the papercrete (and hypertufa) creations in water to remove excess alkalinity making the containers more plant-friendly for species other than succulents. Anybody tried it?
Really? I figured a sealant would keep the container from draining as well as they do, but I can see what you mean! The sealer may protect plants from the alkalinity. I'll seriously think about the sealer option! Thanks for your input!!
I'm not a nosy toadlandlord, so I'm not real sure. They do visit often and play (or maybe hunt) in and around Toadville. I have to be very careful when digging in the raised beds, too. The toads love taking siestas down under, as well as, in any container sitting on the ground.
I spotted this big fella climbing out of the deep end of the Toadville resort pool!
Update: I'm still experimenting with papercrete formulas and almost have something simple and easy to use. I'll try to remember to post it here once I'm sure. Meanwhile, the big batch of papercrete I made to form the corner table tops, the acorn huts, and pots FAILED. Lesson: never make up a big batch of papercrete unless you have help using it up quickly!
At least I got to play with the mini garden enough to decide what I'll do differently when I make replacements.
Other pots using a different formula:
1-Chick pot, planted with hens & chicks and sedum
2-Assortment of small pots using bowls as molds
3-Chick pots and a tiny turtle
4-Oval pots with color variations and embedded "gems"
5-"Sweetie," one of my tiny papercrete houses; painted; acorn caps were used for the door and window awnings and the window boxes.
A couple of the small pots after planting:
1-Cement patio with chair & side table and fantasy flowers; planted with golden oregano and woolly thyme
2-Cement & flagstone sidewalk with boxwood basil and a sitting stone
3-Textured pot using TomTom's twisted newspaper trick; planted with Osberg iceplant, semps, and alyssum
Hi...I'm lurking...lol. If and when I get the time I plan on making all sorts of goodies, including one of those rhubarb leaf birdbaths...Sure hope I get the time...Thanks for the inspiration, keep up the good work...Kathy