Background


Hypertufa is a tough, durable, lightweight, cement composite used in making pots, containers, sculptures and other structures in the garden. It was developed as a media to construct "troughs" for trough gardening. Trough gardening is a method of container gardening especially popular in England. At one time farmers used hollowed out stone troughs to water their animals. As plastic and metal containers became more popular, gardeners quickly grabbed up these stone troughs to use as garden decorations. Their popularity contributed to their scarcity to where original stone toughs are now very hard to find.

Stone troughs became popular gardening containers because they had a rustic, natural appearance that blended easily with the English garden. When filled with a good quality soil, they provided an excellent environment for plants that demand a well-drained media, such as alpines. Their chief disadvantage, when available, is that they were heavy.

Hypertufa containers are suitable substitutes for the old-time troughs. They can be constructed to resemble troughs, or any other type container (Fig. 1). Since they are molded to a form, or can be sculpted freehand, their appearance is limited only by the talents and imagination of the person making the container.

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Figure 1. A trough garden made from hypertufa.

The name "hypertufa" developed from tufa, which is a naturally occurring, lightweight rock. It forms in springs and other water sources rich in calcium carbonate. As the water evaporates, the calcium carbonate remains, often contaminated with iron oxide giving the tufa a red to orange color. Hypertufa shares the lightweight characteristic of tufa, but is man-made instead of naturally occurring.

The primary use of hypertufa is in the construction of containers. However, it can be used in many other ways in the garden. It can be molded into structures such as birdbaths and benches. Lightweight "rocks" can be constructed to decorate the garden. Hypertufa is easily worked into any shape, and when it dries it becomes very durable and weather resistant.

Hypertufa containers share many of the advantages of clay and plastic containers. Like clay pots, hypertufa pots are porous and absorb water from the media they contain. This aids in soil drainage. Water evaporates from the sides of the container, keeping the soil cool for longer periods.

Plastic pots are popular because the media dries slower than in clay pots, resulting in less watering. Like plastic pots, hypertufa pots will not dry too fast. Hypertufa pots are thicker than clay so the sides hold more water. Water contained in the larger pores of the hypertufa pots remains available to the roots.

The thickness of hypertufa pots helps insulate the roots from sharp temperature swings. Containers do not heat up as fast as plastic in the hot afternoon sun. Hypertufa is strong so it resists cracking in the winter when temperatures dip below freezing. Overall, hypertufa is very durable and will last many years with no care.


Gardening with Hypertufa

Materials
Recipes
Using Hypertufa
Final Curing and Aging

Horticulture Projects

 

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