How to Make Garden Stones
by Becky Yeager
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Imagine a yard where giant toads of every color beckon you Into he children's play area ... or where kokopelli, the southwestern flute player, plays contently amidst a sea of red poppies. Well, imagine no further! Grab your trowel and a bag of concrete and start mixing. It's time to make garden stones. Garden stones have a multitude of uses in a yard such as to form pathways, draw one's attention to special garden spots, add fun and color to the landscaping, and even introduce a personal aspect to the yard. They can also be used to decorate bare spots on walls or fences when made into wall hangings.
Once you start making them, you won't be able to stop. Surplus stones can be sold at local Farmer's Markets and/or given as gifts.
One of the best parts about making garden stones is finding the perfect mold that expresses YOU! Molds are typically made of plastic and range in price from as little as $3 to over $100, depending on the thickness and quality of the mold. The quality and thickness influence the durability of the mold and, hence, the number of times the mold can be used (7-infinite times). You can find a wide variety of molds at affordable prices from the following companies.
- Jacobson Plastic, LLC; Ph. (208) 237-4920
- LaBrake's Garden Path; Ph. (877) 909-5459
If you are on a budget, household items (e.g., cake pans, bread pans) that will support the concrete can be used as molds. Although these "homemade" molds will lack the fun pictures found on commercial molds, you can create a blank stone that can be decorated in any number of ways using paints or embedded tiles, glass, and rocks.
To make a garden stone, you will need the following supplies:
concrete mix (found at local hardware stores)
mold release (WD-40 or commercial release)
*If you are mixing concrete for several stones, a wheelbarrow may be used in place of the dishpan.
Making the Stone
Allow yourself at least 45 minutes to make a stone from start to clean-up.
- Preparing the mold: The mold must be clean and dry before beginning. Coat the inside of the mold with a light oil,such as WD-40. A commercial brand of mold release can also be purchased that will minimize the number of bubbles on the surface of the stone.
- Mixing the concrete: Don the gloves and mask. Put 15-18 cups of dry concrete in the dishpan. The larger the mold, the more concrete you will need. Gradually add about 4 cups of water while mixing with a trowel. If you want your stone to have a little color, add the desired amount of colorant to the mixture, typically about 1 tablespoon per stone. If a darker stone is desired, add a little more colorant. Mix thoroughly while adding small amounts of concrete or water as needed to achieve the desired consistency. The mixture should be a bit thicker than pancake batter. The correct consistency is important to ensure adequate strength of the dried stone.
- Pouring and shaking the stone: Using the trowel, place enough concrete in the mold to fill the bottom one-third. Shake the mold up and down to release any air that is trapped in the concrete. You will see the air bubbles rise to the surface. This is a very important step as air bubbles will cause the surface of the finished stone to be pitted. It typically takes about 50 vibrations to release all of the bubbles. Add more concrete until two-thirds of the mold have been filled. Shake again. Finish the stone by filling the mold to 1/8 inch of the top and shake a final time.
- Curing the stone: Leave the stone in a cool, dry place for 2-3 days. Avoid the temptation to turn the stone out of the mold too soon. Premature turning can cause the details of the design to break off in the mold.
- Releasing the stone: Time to see the results of your hard work! Gently turn the mold over onto a soft surface, such as grass or piece of cardboard. Shake the sides until you feel the stone release from the mold.
Finishing the Stone
Allow the stone cure for several weeks before painting and/or sealing. At this time, a number of methods can be used to finish the stone. The simplest technique is to simply rub a concrete sealer over the top and bottom surface of the stone. This will serve as a waterproof barrier to the external elements. If you choose to paint the stone, use a weatherproof paint such as Patio Paints made by DecoArt. If painted, an external finish must be used to protect the paint. DecoArt also makes an exterior finish. The possibilities for decorating your stone are endless. Tips and techniques can be found on several of the web sites mentioned above.
Now, the hard part ... finding that perfect spot for your garden stone! You will discover that you have hundreds of spots that deserve this special accent. A hobby is born!
Becky Yeager is a wildlife biologist, writer, and owner of The Spirit Goat (which specializes in goat's milk soaps and lotions) and resides in Nibley, Utah. She has sold her stepping stones at the local Gardener's Market for the past 3 years. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, www.spiritgoat.com.
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