How to make an alpine trough

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Old stone sinks make perfect containers for alpines, but they’re hard to come by. You can easily make your own concrete lookalike; all you need are two strong cardboard boxes. One should fit inside the other, leaving a gap of around 5cm. Simply make a mould from the cardboard boxes and fill it with a concrete mix. Adding coir to the concrete mix will give your container a rougher texture, and the trough can be easily distressed with a trowel to give it a more aged appearance.


You Will Need

  • Bricks
  • Coir fibre
  • Cement
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Sand
  • Trowel
  • Card boxes (two)
  • Wire mesh
  • Wooden dowel

Total time:

Step 1

Mix together two parts sieved coir fibre, one part cement and one part sharp sand. Pour water into a well in the centre and mix it together to form a stiff paste.


Step 2

Using a trowel, place a 2.5cm layer of concrete into the bottom of the larger cardboard box. Ensure the concrete is spread into the corners.


Step 3

Cut a piece of small-gauge wire mesh to fit the bottom of the box. Place it on top of the mixture to reinforce the trough, and add a further 2.5cm layer of cement over the top of the mesh.


Step 4

Push 5cm-long pieces of wooden dowel into the base of the trough for drainage. Then, place the smaller box inside the larger one, leaving a gap of around 5cm. Add bricks to weigh it down.


Step 5

Insert sections of mesh along each side, cutting them shorter than the depth of the box so they’ll be hidden.


Step 6

Add cement to the sides of the mould to make a wall. Use a stick to push it into the corners. This will prevent air pockets from weakening the walls.


Step 7

When all the concrete mixture is in place, support the outer sides of the box with more bricks. Then cover the entire thing with a plastic sheet.


Step 8

After two days, when the concrete is set, remove the sheet of plastic and supporting bricks and peel the cardboard away from the sides.


Step 9

The sides of the trough can be aged by roughly scraping them with a trowel. After a week, use a hammer and large nail to push the wooden dowels out of the trough, leaving holes for drainage.