A DIY Old-World Concrete Garden Trough

I love anything that has an “old-world” look, and I’ve always admired the ancient-looking concrete water troughs that I’ve seen around Europe.  Many of them have been converted into garden art or planters that grace the gardens and town squares of quaint villages.

But, around here, concrete troughs usually have three significant disadvantages:  They are hard to find, they’re expensive, and they are very heavy.

So today, I’m sharing how I recently made my very own “old-world,” lightweight(ish) concrete trough.

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Starting With A Styrofoam Box

This project is not my brainchild.  I found the method years ago in a magazine – most likely Better Homes and Gardens or Martha Stewart Living.

What I loved about it was that these concrete-wrapped Styrofoam planters were lighter than similar planters made entirely out of concrete.  And it seemed like a great way to repurpose a Styrofoam container.

Back when I first came across the magazine article, I tried the method using a small rectangular Styrofoam box.  After many years, that smaller concrete planter is still holding up very well (although it’s actually too small to be of any practical use and has been relegated to the no-man’s-land behind the garage).

For this recent project, though, I used a much larger Styrofoam shipping box that had been taking up space in our basement for some time.  I’d been saving it because, measuring at 32″ X 13″ X 10″, it was just the right size to serve as the inner core for a small concrete trough.

But it was significantly larger than any of the examples I remembered seeing in the magazine article.

Would the method from the magazine work on such a large piece of Styrofoam?  I was going to find out.

The first step was to clean my Styrofoam container and pull off the strips of tape stuck to it.

Making Drain Holes

Since this cement trough would be used as a planter, I needed to put a couple of drain holes in the bottom.

Wrapping the Styrofoam Box With Wire Mesh

The next part was the hardest and most unpleasant part:  Wrapping the Styrofoam box with wire mesh.

I used galvanized, 23-gauge wire mesh (also known as hardware cloth) with 1/4 inch squares, similar to this product.

Galvanized wire mesh

Wearing heavy work gloves and long sleeves, I cut it to the sizes I needed with tin snips,

And then formed it as tightly as I could against the box, at times pounding it lightly into place with a rubber mallet,

And sometimes using a little wire to loop through and hold two adjoining sections together.

I did my best to make sure that any sharp edges were pointing inward.  I covered the entire box with wire mesh, lining the inside walls with it as well.

This all took a lot of time and, despite all my precautions, the wire did bite me a few times.

 

Covering The Wire Mesh With Concrete

I don’t remember exactly which concrete mix the magazine article recommended.  I chose to use Quikrete Sand/Topping Mix.  It’s actually meant to be used as a base for laying pavers or patching steps and walkways.  What I like about is that, when mixed with water, it has a smooth consistency.  It is for projects that will be under two inches (but not less than a half-inch) thick.  (For projects under one inch thick, it’s recommended to replace some of the mixing water with Quikrete Concrete Acrylic Fortifier.)

Wearing gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask, I just mixed small batches by hand (more on that below).

I wanted the trough to have a bit of an old-world patina, so I stirred a few drops of the Charcoal Quikrete Liquid Cement Color into the water that I used to mix the concrete.

The mixture looked darker when it was moist.

I applied it to the Styrofoam box with a trowel, making sure to press it firmly through the wire mesh and then cover the mesh completely.  I smoothed it as much as I could with the trowel.

Then I used a small whisk broom to level the concrete.

I followed that up by smoothing the concrete with a large drywall knife (because it’s what I had on hand), and it worked well.

But I was not going for perfection.  I wanted it to look a little rustic and handmade.

So why did I need to work in small batches?  Because the topping mix that I used can only successfully be applied to horizontal surfaces.  So, I could only do two “sides” at a time:  Whichever two sides were sitting horizontally.  And then that needed to sit in place and dry before I could reposition the trough to work on two more sides.

Needless to say, this project took me a few days to complete although, once I had my stride, it was only about a half hour of active time each day.  I covered the entire box, inside and out, with concrete.

At times, the project got messy and seemed to be spiraling out of control.

The bottom of the trough after cement was applied.

I was wondering if it would even hold up.

But it all worked out in the end.

 

The Result – And A Problem Solved

This new “old-world” trough helped me get a handle on the long-neglected herb container garden behind my greenhouse.

Before: The chaos of my old herb garden.

Many of the herbs had outgrown their containers or weren’t getting sufficient water.  I moved the larger herbs out of pots and planted them elsewhere in the garden. Then I cleaned up with area a little, and my husband Chris and I leveled a new spot for the trough.

And then Chris moved the trough into the area we’d prepared.  He was able to pick up and carry the trough to its new location by himself.  Had it been a solid concrete trough, there is no way he could have done that.

Once in place, we found we still needed to do a little work to the area.  I was able to tip the trough on its end to get it out of the way and then muscle it back into place by myself.

It’s not super lightweight, but it is lighter than it looks.

 

DIY concrete garden trough

My cement work is not perfect, and the color isn’t completely consistent.  But, to me, these quirks give it a bit of character.  I am hoping that it develops even more of an old-world patina over time.

DIY concrete garden trough
After: A little order in the herb garden.

 

DIY Concrete garden trough

 

Different herbs need different soil conditions and moisture.  The herbs I chose for the trough all do well in rich, moist soil.

DIY concrete garden trough

From left to right, the herbs I planted are:  Chives, tarragon, cilantro, Thai basil, and Italian parsley.

How long will this trough hold up?  Only time will tell.  I will count myself lucky if it lasts as long as the first, much smaller piece that I made using this technique.

The good news is that (although I would not advise trying this) just yesterday Chris briefly stood on the rim of the trough to reach something on the top of the greenhouse.

And the trough held up!

 

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4 Fantastic Ferns

Here in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t walk in a straight line without bumping into a fern.  So I have always taken them for granted.

Sometimes, they just pop up in unexpected places in my garden, like this delicate beauty that planted itself in the middle of some mondo grass.

A mystery fern plants itself in front of an old bench.

I never really gave ferns much thought until recently when my mom, Erika, started collecting a variety for her sunroom.  And then we visited The Spheres – where ferns from tiny to huge, and from delicate to rugged, were thriving.

So now I’m fascinated with ferns.  And today, I am sharing some of my favorites.

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Southern Maidenhair Fern

Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) has a subtle, airy quality.  It is a houseplant, but it can thrive outdoors in moderate climates or seasons.  It is enchanting in mixed container gardens.

It looks so beautiful fresh from the nursery.  But, as the tag said on the first one I bought, it “can be a challenge.”

I found out for myself that you can’t just treat it like an ordinary houseplant.  I originally had mine on the counter in my dressing room.

Maidenhair fern

It had filtered, indirect light, which was a good call.  I watered it regularly.  But it started crashing anyway.  So I watered it more.  Then I moved it.  Then I started misting it.  But it was too late.

 

 

I bought a fresh one to put in one of the DIY moss pouches I made a few months ago.  It was tiny when I planted it but, unlike the first fern, this one has thrived.

Maidenhair fern

And I think I know why:  It’s the moss pouch.  I water the fern not only from the top, but from the bottom by adding water to the glass saucer that the pouch sits on.

Maidenhair fern

Then the water wicks up into the soil.  I water it every couple of days, so the bottom of the moss pouch is always a bit moist.  It could be that the plant likes the humidity caused by the moist moss, or maybe it likes having damp roots.  Whatever the reason, this seems to be working.

It’s a bit of extra work, but it’s such a charming plant.

Maidenhair fern

I took what was left of the first maidenhair fern I bought, the one that was crashing, and put it into a burlap pouch that I’d made for it.  So, that one is also getting the damp-pouch treatment right now.  The burlap pouch doesn’t look nearly as nice as a moss one, but it seems to be working.  The fern is finally making a comeback.

 

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern

This is a delicate and beautiful outdoor fern with triangular fronds.  Last summer, I got a small Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum) to tuck into a shady part of my garden.

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern

Then, in about February, I noticed that the plant had grown quite a bit – and was still looking fresh and amazing – in the dead of winter!

So I moved it to a large pot on my front porch.

It quickly rewarded me with a gorgeous display of new, coppery-pink fronds.

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern

And it still looks amazing now.  It gets morning sun and then shade for the rest of the day.

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern

It makes a wonderful statement plant.  I love the way the fronds drape around the rim of the pot.

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern

This plant also likes regular watering but, unlike the Southern maidenhair fern, not so much water that it needs a soggy pouch.

 

Feather Fern

Last spring, I put a fun DIY garden sphere together for my front porch.  It was planted with New Guinea impatiens.

New Guinea Impatiens

This year, I wanted a plant with a woodsy and structural look rather than something that flowered.

So I chose an Albo lineata feather fern (Pteris cretica albolineata).  I underplanted it with baby tears.

Feather Fern

I love the fronds poking through the sphere. They are fun and interesting.

Feather Fern

This plant needs ample water and bright, indirect light.  It’s actually more of a houseplant in my region, so when the weather cools in fall I will bring it inside.

 

Crispy Wave Fern

Last but not least we have the Crispy Wave Fern (Japanese Asplenium nidus).  The name says it all:  The fronds are wavy – and surprisingly crispy to the touch.  Not what you would expect from a fern.

Crispy Wave Fern

It’s a very unique houseplant – and a real superstar as far as oxygen production.

Since it tolerates low light, it sits near a north-facing window in my house.  Its rumpled, spiky structure is fun and different.

Crispy Waver Fern

When I remember, I water this plant a little more often than my other houseplants.  But if I forget, it doesn’t seem to matter.  For a fern, this one is fairly low-maintenance.

I have re-potted it several times now, and it quickly grows to accommodate the new pot.  The pot it’s in now is actually fairly large, but I’ll probably move it to an even larger pot at some point and let it get even bigger.

So these are my four fantastic ferns, and the best part is that all of them were affordable and easy to find at local nurseries.

Sources

The garden books that I have don’t begin to cover all the different ferns out there – let alone how to care for them or decorate with them.  I’m coveting this book by Mobee Weinstein, fern guru and frequent guest on Martha Stewart Living.

 

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Backyard Chicken 101 – Your Guide to Raising Chickens

I love that raising chickens is catching on as a hobby.  Hens are allowed in my city and, when I see a chicken coop in someone’s backyard, I am always tempted to try it myself.  A friend of mine with a healthy little flock of chickens has told me, more than once, that raising them does take research and preparation.  If the coop isn’t secure enough, chickens can easily be lost to predators – which of course would break my heart.

So I thought that this post, brought to me by a guest writer, would be a good starting point in learning all about raising backyard chickens.

The following is a contributed post.  For more information on my contributed posts, please see this page.

Backyard Chicken 101 – Your Guide to Raising Chickens

There’s nothing better than getting back in touch with nature.  And, during the lockdown, many people have been doing just that – by focusing on their gardens.

As a result, raising backyard chickens has become a popular new interest.  With a properly built coop, chickens can be fairly low maintenance. It’s a fun project for the whole family, and you’ll certainly notice the difference between home-raised and store-bought eggs.

 

Where Can I Keep Chickens?

A chicken coop can be built in any private outdoor space. Chickens are very resilient animals and in many cases can cope with both hot and cold seasons. The coop size and shape can vary, depending on your backyard and the number of chickens you will have. Use a little common sense when choosing the position in your yard. You’ll want to provide some shelter to protect them from the elements. Face the front, windows, and outside run to the south to make the most of the sunlight.

Building Your Coop

You can choose whether to build your own chicken coop or buy one. For a little inspiration, here is a selection of poultry homes and accessories. But if you want to tackle a DIY project this summer, you can build a home for your chickens yourself. It’s a good idea to build a one- or two-brick foundation under the edges of the coop to prevent predators from digging. Make sure all walls are sealed with good quality chicken wire. Here is the ultimate guide to building a DIY chicken coop.

What Do Chickens Need?

Chickens need a well-ventilated coop that won’t be prone to moisture. In the winter especially they will need extra dry bedding, hay bales, and a heat source. They are pretty tough in cold weather, but keeping them dry is key. Make sure they have plenty of shade and drinking water in the summer.

Chickens are omnivorous animals and can eat a mixture of ingredients, but it’s better to give them chicken feed to be on the safe side. Here is a guide to supplementing chicken feed.

Safety

It’s recommended that hens be kept on your own property, and in a suitable outdoor space. If you’re renting, it’s very important you speak to your landlord first. If you’re looking for a new place to live, remember to check on which animals are allowed, and are a good fit, for any property you are interested in.  It’s also a good idea to check with previous owners or your realtor. For more advice on plans for your future home, contact https://altrua.ca.

Chickens are not cuddly pets, so be careful when handling them. Many people tame their birds to be very comfortable with human contact, but always wash your hands after handling them, and be especially careful with toddlers. Here is a health and safety guide about the risks involved.

 

 

Commitment

Like any animal, chickens are a commitment.  After lockdowns are lifted, life will become busier again.  So, before you commit to raising chickens, be sure to have an honest conversation with yourself about whether you will have the time to care for them in the future.  It’s also good to have a plan for who will care for your flock when you and your family are away on vacation.

But, if you do your research and take the proper steps, there’s no reason that you and your new feathered friends can’t coexist in harmony. Take good care of them, and they will provide you with delicious eggs all year round.

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

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Upcycling An Ugly Plastic Box

A few days ago, I was looking for somewhere, anywhere, in my crowded garden to plant a couple of squash seedlings that I’d started in my greenhouse.   But my planting beds were already so crowded that the only space left for the seedlings was along the driveway fence line.

A Place In The Sun – But With A Problem

A while ago, Chris had cut back most of the bamboo growing along the fence line.  But the roots remain – in a dense mat that makes it impossible to plant anything.  And adding a soil mount for the seedlings, so close to the driveway, would have been messy.

So they would need to be in a container – preferably something wide, but not too high, so they could safely spill over the sides and creep along the ground.

I didn’t have a container like that, so I started looking for a box – something cute since we would be seeing it every day.  But the only thing I could find was a plastic garbage box – an old, extra box that our trash collectors didn’t want to take back.

It would work, but I would have to dress it up!

 

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

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First of all, the box needed drainage.  Chris drilled five drain holes in the bottom.

 

Now I just needed to find a way to conceal its ugliness.  I remembered the used burlap coffee sacks that my Mom had purchased at a local plant nursery.  She’d given me a few of them.

 

Yes, one of these sacks would do nicely.

 

 

Wanting to save the more attractive sacks for other projects, I chose one with simple bold lettering.

Burlap coffee sack

 

The bag had some interesting woven seams.

Burlap coffee sack

 

Sadly, I would need to remove most of the seams to make the fabric fit around the box.  But I did keep one nice woven seam intact.

I cut the fabric to roughly the size I needed, leaving a generous amount of excess fabric so that I could position the graphic lettering exactly where I wanted it to go.  (A few leftover coffee beans fell out when I did this.)

Projects using burlap

 

Then, I just wrapped the burlap around the box and pinned everything for sewing.  I pinned the burlap so that it would wrap very snugly around the top of the box, but I wanted the bottom to look a bit slouchy – like a burlap sack.

 

 

On the bottom, I gathered and stitched the fabric at each corner.

Burlap coffee sack

 

The fabric would wrap around the bottom of the box by a couple of inches on each side.

Why didn’t I just cover the entire bottom with burlap?  Because dirty water draining from the box would soil the burlap.

I hemmed the top edge of the burlap wrap just to keep it from unraveling, and then I folded the burlap over at the top of the box.  Since I had sewn the top to fit snugly, this fold-over is all that is needed to keep the fabric from sliding down.

projects using burlap

 

To make the look more interesting, I positioned the lettering to read vertically instead of horizontally.

The lettering is running in a straight line vertically, but I must confess that I was not very careful about making sure that the cuts and seams were straight.  This is no doubt the most slapped-together, slipshod sewing project ever to emerge from my sewing room.  But since it’s supposed to look like a slouchy burlap sack, that doesn’t even matter.

 

The Result

The squash seedlings look happy in their new home.

Burlap coffee sack

 

And the burlap doesn’t just sit there looking pretty:  It will also help to shield the black plastic from the hot summer sun – hopefully keeping the soil and plant roots from overheating.

The one woven seam that I saved helps to carry off the “slouchy sack” look.

Burlap coffee sack

 

But how will the burlap look once it’s been hit by weather?  I found out almost immediately.  The very night after I put the container in the garden, rain and wind kicked up.

The next morning, the rain had stopped and the burlap was drying quickly.

Projects using burlap

 

Later that day, when the sun came out, the plants and the burlap had made a complete recovery.

Burlap coffee sack

 

But I’m not kidding myself:  I’m sure that, by the end of the season, the burlap wrap will be looking very rustic.

More Burlap Projects to Come

If you saw my recent post, where I transformed a burlap coffee sack into a cushion cover, you probably think I’ve become a one-trick pony.

It’s just that burlap can serve so many purposes – and even solve problems like the one I had with these squash seedlings – or when I needed inexpensive light-duty window shades for my greenhouse.

projects using burlap

 

So you’ll probably be seeing more burlap projects from me as I work through those wonderful bags that Mom gave me.

Burlap Coffee Sacks

Burlap coffee sacks are affordable and fun.  A huge selection of burlap sacks, and the crafts made using them, are currently available on Etsy.

I especially love the selection at The Burlap Farm By Kris.

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

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A Spring Garden Update – And My Favorite Ornamental Tomato

Like many of us, I’ve had more time than usual lately for spring garden clean up.  So, even though my garden is still far from perfect (and probably always will be), today I’d like to take you on a little tour.  Then, once we’re done, I’ll introduce you to my favorite ornamental tomato.

So pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and let’s get started.  I have a ridiculous number of photos here!

First we head to . . .

The Greenhouse

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Until recently, our little Sunglo Greenhouse was packed with plants.  Some were brought in from the garden last fall to overwinter.  Some I bought in pony packs and moved into larger pots until the weather warms.  And I started a few seedlings.

Sunglo lean to greenhouse
The greenhouse was a crowded, chaotic mess – but in a good way!

This place is my little sanctuary, and I love any excuse to be in here.  We’ve made some fun additions to the greenhouse over the past few years:  The vintage-inspired trouble lights that my brother made, the burlap shades that I made, the simple potting sink that we installed – and the brick pony wall  and bed spring trellis that we added to the exterior.

The succulents that I propagated from cuttings last fall have taken root nicely.

Succulents
Succulents overwintered in the greenhouse.

 

Succulents

 

And now that the weather has warmed a bit, some plants are finally ready to go back outside.

Some of the succulents didn’t go far.  Now they are just outside the greenhouse.

 

Sunglo lean to greenhouse

 

Succulent garden
Succulent container.

 

But it will be at least another month before I trust the weather enough to put the tomatoes outside.  I’m still using my Tomato Tips from Mr. B and having success with that.

 

Our Orchard Mason Bees

We enjoy doing our part to help native bees, and this is the time of year when our orchard mason bees are out and about.  Their active season is only a couple of months long, and they have a lot of work to do in that time.

Orchard mason bee
An orchard mason bee on a flower.

Since they don’t have a hive or a queen, these little guys and gals are very docile as bees go.

They wait patiently in their little bee “apartment house” (actually a nesting block) for the weather to warm enough so they can fly.

Orchard mason bees
Wake up little bees, it’s time to fly!

They have been pollinating our fruit trees for us.

The Back Patio

The back patio is our favorite place in warm weather.  A patio heater helps us extend our enjoyment of the space.

 

Bluestone patio

Around the corner from the patio, a barberry shrub is in bloom.

Barberry

 

On the other end of the patio, a Corsican hellebore is spilling down from the raised bed.

Corsican hellebore

 

Nearby is this little beauty:  A geranium called Brocade Fire.  I just brought it out from the greenhouse.  So cute even before it blooms!

Brocade Fire geranium
A fresh Brocade Fire geranium in a lion pot that’s seen better days.

 

 

Near that is our most-used birdbath:  A cast concrete base (made and given to us by my Mom) with a pot saucer on top.

birdbath

 

It stands near our little green shed.

garden shed

Time to move on to . . .

The Shade Garden

green garden bench

The shade garden is always a mix of things I planted and things that planted themselves.

birdbath

 

Sometimes it leads to chaos and sometimes to a surprising color tapestry.  I try not to be too controlling here.

birdbath

 

The Front Porch

On the porch, we are still enjoying the new burlap coffee sack seat cover that I made for the bench.

burlap coffee sack repurpose

 

Next to the bench, a jasmine vine is blooming and giving us some wonderful fragrance.

Jasmine vine

 

The little myrtle, which I’ve spent years training into a topiary, also came out of the greenhouse recently – with a ride-along lobelia that grew longer all winter.

Myrtle topiary

 

I made a hanging garden sphere last spring and planted it with New Guinea impatiens.  This year, I wanted a simple and woodsy look.  So now the sphere is home to an exotic fern.

DIY garden sphere

 

Oh dear, I’m being told it’s time to wrap up the tour.  Eddie has been watching us from the window, and all this activity has interrupted his beauty sleep.

“This tour has gone on long enough. Get in here and feed me!” – Eddie.

 

I’ll feed you in a minute, Eddie.  First, let’s quickly talk about . . .

My Favorite Ornamental Tomato

Last spring, I bought a little Indigo Rose tomato seedling.  I had never grown one before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

It grew into a large and hardy plant, and it bore shiny and intriguing plum-sized black fruit on dark foliage.

They didn’t really look like tomatoes, and visitors kept asking what they were.

Indigo rose tomato

 

The fruit started out green, but the side exposed to the sun turned black as it matured.  The back, shaded side of the fruit remained green, and then it turned red as the fruit ripened.  So I knew (after I looked it up) that if a tomato was black and red, it was ready to pick.

They took a while to ripen.  We harvested our first tomatoes in August.

 

Indigo rose tomato

 

 

The flavor was just average.  But we had very little, if any, split or rotted fruit on the vine.  And they were such gorgeous little tomatoes.

I loved the little flower-like pattern left where the stems had shielded the fruit from the sun.

 

Indigo rose tomato

 

I wondered if the inside would be black as well – or maybe a crazy mix of black and red.  But it was just a pinkish red.

Indigo rose tomato

 

They added interest to salads and appetizers.

Caprese appetizer
A simple caprese appetizer with cherry tomatoes and Indigo Rose tomatoes.

 

Sadly, with many local stores currently closed, I haven’t been able to find any Indigo Rose seedlings or seed packets this year.  But vendors, like this one on Etsy, are offering seeds.

I hope you enjoyed the tour.  Thanks for coming along today!

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

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A Burlap Coffee Sack Repurpose

My previous post, called “Survival Sewing,” featured DIY cloth face masks and a DIY paper towel alternative.  But in today’s feature, I’m sharing a survival sewing project of a different kind:  One that lifted my spirits during these strange times.

On a recent sunny day, I took a socially-distanced walk around the neighborhood, and I noticed something:  People sitting in their front yards, on their front porches or stoops, in their driveways, or even on parking curbs.  Instead of enjoying the privacy of their back yards, they were sitting anywhere they could see other people – and be seen by them.

I’ve never appreciated my front porch more than I do right now.  But the cushion cover on our bench needed to be replaced.  So, I decided to sew a new cushion cover using something that would remind me of travel – specifically Hawaii:  A burlap coffee sack that we’d purchased at a coffee plantation on The Big Island.

Burlap coffee sack

 

 

 

Transforming a Burlap Coffee Sack Into a Bench Seat Cushion Cover

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Here it’s important to mention that the sack was brand new and had never been used to store coffee beans.  Had it been a used sack, I would have needed to wash it first.

I would like to say that the burlap sack measured at exactly the right dimensions and I could just slip the cushion into it and be done.  But of course that was not the case.

I needed a plan.

Fitting the Coffee Sack to the Bench Cushion

I ripped out the seams of the sack until it was one flat piece of fabric.

burlap coffee sack repurpose

I love the graphic on this piece, and I cut the fabric so that the portion with the graphic could center perfectly on the cushion.

Then I cut another piece measuring the same size for the bottom of the cushion.

These pieces would, when sewn together, be wide enough to wrap around the cushion.  But they were too short to cover the entire length.

A Simple Solution

For me, simple is always best.  So I decided to sew a new cushion cover with a nice outdoor fabric.  Then I would sew the sides of the burlap sack together, leaving the ends unsewn, and just slip it over the new cushion cover like a sleeve.

I could leave the ends of the burlap sack unsewn because it had lovely selvaged edges that were showing no signs of wanting to unravel.

burlap coffee sack repurpose
Burlap sack selvage edge

 

For the cushion cover, I would use this beautiful Sunbrella fabric that would coordinate nicely, both in color and in texture, with the burlap sack.

burlap coffee sack repurpose
Burlap coffee sack with Sunbrella outdoor fabric

Off to the sewing room this all went.  I made a cushion cover with the Sunbrella fabric and then a simple slip cover with the coffee sack.

 

The Result

It worked!

DIY Burlap cushion cover

 

DIY Burlap cushion cover

 

I paired it with a throw pillow that I’d found at an outdoor market in Hawaii.

DIY Burlap cushion cover

 

I was going for a look that said “staycation” rather than “shelter in place.”  For a different look, perhaps during the holidays, I can use the red Sunbrella cushion cover without the coffee sack.

But for now, I’m enjoying this little bit of Hawaii on our front porch.

 

DIY Burlap cushion cover

 

 

We also hung a string of chili pepper lights as a little socially-distanced “hello” to neighbors.

 

For some added entertainment while sitting on the porch, we hung a little house that contains nesting material to attract birds.

Nesting material house

 

And next to our front door, a Himalayan maidenhair fern is thriving.  It was so tiny when I bought it last summer.

Himalayan maidenhair fern with cyclamen and primrose.

 

We humans might be experiencing a pandemic, but nature still goes on.

Burlap Coffee Sacks As Art and Textile

Burlap coffee sacks are affordable and fun.  My Mom gave me some used coffee sacks that she bought at a nursery, and I can’t wait to wash them and start using them for crafts.

A huge selection of burlap sacks, and the crafts made using them, are currently available on Etsy.

I especially love the selection at The Burlap Farm By Kris.

 

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
Entertaining
My Dressing Room Remodel
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
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The June Bug Diaries
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Exploring

 

 

 

 

 

Escape To A Tropical Garden

“Strange days have found us.” – Jim Morrison

It seems that we have all suddenly stumbled into uncharted territory.  I hope that you and your family are safe and healthy.  My community has been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 virus, and my hat is off to local authorities for the thoughtful way that they are handling the situation.

One thing I keep hearing, and that I have chosen to believe, is that fresh air and sunshine have disinfectant qualities.

So since we have been mandated to stay home anyway, I’ve been getting a jump start on spring garden clean-up.

This pile of mulch isn’t going to spread itself

 

Of course what we should not do right now is travel.  We had travel plans that had to be cancelled.

So this post combines what we can do right now (garden) with what we can’t do right now (travel) to bring you . . .

Design Inspiration From A Tropical Garden

On our most recent visit to the island of Hawaii, we toured the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.  This world-class botanical garden was the brainchild of Dan Lutkenhouse, and it is the result of years of planning and hard physical labor by Lutkenhouse and his team.

Touring the trails of this garden, it seems there is a surprise around every corner.

A basket fern grows on a palm tree

 

Cannonball Tree

 

 

There is also inspiration.  It struck me that the things that make a good tropical garden so interesting are the very things that make almost any garden interesting.

Structure

Structure can be found in the most unexpected places, like root systems.

 

 

Or unique trunks.

 

Going Vertical

Vertical gardens are trending with us humans, but Mother Nature still does it best.

Although, here, Mother Nature probably does have a little help from the garden caretakers.

 

Anthurium on a tree trunk
Orchids nestled in trees

Scale

One of the most dramatic elements in any garden design is scale.  In a tropical garden, it’s easy to feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

 

Sometimes, to get a real sense of scale, you have to look up.

 

Undergrowth

Undergrowth brings contrast to a scene and provides the eye with a reference point for scale.

 

Undergrowth on the island in Lily Lake

Pattern

Pattern can bring a sense of order to a garden.  Here, natural patterns are everywhere – especially on leaves.

Pemba palm

 

Specimen Plants

In contrast to scale, it’s always nice to have interesting details for the eye to zoom in on – like points of color and unique specimen plants.

 

Phillipine orchid

 

Pitcher plant

 

Ramshot Croton

 

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed our mini tour of this fabulous garden.  Photos don’t do it justice.

Sadly, it’s time to go . . .

Back to Reality

Please stay safe, dear reader.  And remember that, even at times like this, there are silver linings if we look for them.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
Entertaining
My Dressing Room Remodel
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel

 

Exploring

 

 

 

Cute DIY Moss Pouches

No special skills are required to make these cute and natural-looking moss pouches.  And the fun thing about this project is that it is not an exact science.  If something ends up crooked or a little lopsided, it just adds to the natural look.

But if someone is looking for perfection, this may not be the right project.  When the plant is watered, the bottom of the moss pouch gets soggy – and a bit of the soil residue can even leach out.  For that reason, these moss pouches should be kept on a saucer.

Making the Pouch

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I started with a 12 X 7 piece of sheet moss (specifically, Instant Green Supermoss) and a similarly sized piece of light-duty landscape fabric.

I removed the paper backing from the sheet moss to expose the grid.

And I placed the landscape fabric over the grid where the paper backing had been.

Then I folded the moss and fabric in half so that the moss was on the inside and the landscape fabric was on the outside.  Then I pinned the sides together.

On the bottom part, where the fold was, I cut each corner at a 45-degree angle.

Then it was time to stitch.  This project was messy, with little bits of moss coming off of the sheet.  So there was no way I was going to put this into my lovely little sewing machine.  I would stitch it by hand.

Because the grid that the moss is adhered to is somewhat loosely spaced, there wasn’t much for a thread to hold on to.  So I needed to use a fairly thick thread.  I used embroidery floss (in a mossy color) and a large needle.

And I found out the hard way that, for the stitches to hold, I would need to tie big, secure knots at the beginning and end of every run of stitches.  I double- and triple-knotted everything.

With this in mind, I simply stitched up the right and left sides of the pouch and left the top un-stitched.

At this point, it looked a little like a pocket.

Now it was time to turn it right-side-out.  Because the moss tended to shed from the sheet when disturbed, this had to be done very carefully.

Now I had a moss pouch with a landscape fabric inner lining.  It was not yet ready to stand on its own, but I had a solution.

I folded the top of the pouch (approximately an inch of it) inwards all around the opening.

And then I stitched four evenly-spaced pleats into the top.

 

Simple inward-facing pleats in four locations

This was to make sure the top would stay folded inward, and it would make the pouch more likely to stand on its own.  It also gave the pouch a cute little inward curve at the top – while still providing room to place the plant and soil inside.

I coaxed and manipulated the bottom of the pouch a bit, and it was almost standing on its own – but not quite.

So I tried the simplest thing I could think of:  I placed a generous handful of decorative pebbles inside.  This weighted the bottom of the pouch enough to solve the problem.

Then I just carefully packed in some pre-moistened potting soil mix and planted a cute little Himalayan maidenhair fern and few birch twigs.  All done!

DIY moss pouch planted with a Himalayan maidenhair fern

 

At this point, with the added pre-moistened soil, the pouch was fairly stout and heavy – and it was standing on its own very well.  Still, I probably wouldn’t trust having it around rambunctious kids or pets.  Nor would I plant it with a large, top-heavy plant.

Now, it’s worth mentioning again this these moss pouches are not watertight.  When the plant is watered, the bottom leaks, so I placed them on a saucer.

 

 

I’d made several attempts at these pouches before I came up with this simple design.  So I put my earlier prototypes to good use.

I used one of them as a vase wrap:  I placed a little spike frog inside a baby food jar, added water, and placed it inside the moss pouch.  Then I added tiny cut daffodils and some twigs.

And this all went into a cute little cage I’d found recently at a thrift store.

DIY moss pouch in a decorative cage

 

The Result

I love how unstructured and natural these moss pouches look.  It’s fun to combine them with a few home decor pieces for an interesting mix of nature and refinement.

 

They will be nice for St. Patrick’s Day and then they’ll make an easy transition into Easter decor.

My smallest DIY moss pouch holds a Lemon cypress cutting and sits in a vintage dessert bowl

 

 

 

DIY moss pouch planted with a small cyclamen

 

They would also be cute as gifts or to use in the garden.

 

With the right plants and decor, I could see these moss pouches looking good in just about any season.

But how long will they hold up and actually look good? That I don’t know yet, but we will see.  One reader suggests misting the sheet moss daily to keep it green.  That makes sense and is certainly worth a try!

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

 

Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!

 

Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
Entertaining
My Dressing Room Remodel
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design