If you love making things for your garden, you will love concrete. Concrete is durable, inexpensive and easy to work with, making it the perfect medium to make birdbaths, stepping stones and planters.
I am always on the lookout for items to use in the process and often check out flea markets and yard sales for inexpensive things I can use to mold useful and beautiful items for my yard and to give as gifts to those who also appreciate a little out-of-the-box thinking.
Lately, I’ve been making leaf impressions to use as outdoor bowls or decorative objects. I’m working my way up to attempting a leaf impression birdbath or an impression to add to a water feature.
In the past, I’ve recommended a couple of books: “Concrete Garden Projects” and “Creative Concrete Ornaments for the Garden.” Both would be a good place to start researching decorative concrete work.
I use an inexpensive quick-crete product that is type 1/11. Concrete is mixed using a variety of ingredients, which can vary for the item you are making. An easy planter could be made adding perlite, vermiculite or even peat moss to the concrete mix.
Making a leaf-shaped dish:
1. Start by building a mound of grit or sand that is roughly the same shape as the leaf and dampen it to make it firm. Kind of like making sand castles when you were young.
2. I use a sheet or two of plastic wrap over the top of the sand. Then place the leaf on the mound you’ve formed, underside up so the leaf veins are showing. You can use an old paint brush to oil the leaf if you want.
3. Mix the concrete. This is where a little practice comes into play. There are various recipes, again depending on what is being made. I mix three parts sand, one part cement and approximately one part water. I also use an acrylic fortifier that is a liquid mixed into the water. This helps to make the concrete stronger and helps bond the mixture together.
After mixing the sand and concrete together, add the water and mix all together to the consistency you want. Cover the entire leaf in an even layer. Build up the leaf edges so the definition will be strong and ensure a neater appearance.
4. Pack concrete over the entire leaf. Try to ensure the thickness is uniform all over. Cover project with a plastic cover like a garbage sack or part of a plastic tarp.
5. Leave the concrete to set for four to five days, depending on the size of your project. Remove the leaf carefully and use a file to shape the dish edges.
6. The leaf should have left a clear impression in the concrete, making a pretty dish or water feature.
Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.