Gee, most people think of beaches when summer hits. I think of what I can do with concrete! Silly, maybe, but I like the permanence of these projects and the rather inexpensive supplies. It’s also time to admire the wonders of nature and make use of the gardens bounty, meaning my Rhubarb plant. If you don’t have access to any Rhubarb, you can also successfully use the large leaves from the thistle weed. They are in huge abundance at the side of the roads. They are jus a bit fuzzier in final texture. I’ve used them when I didn’t want to sacrifice too much of my plant.
I am sure you realized that you need concrete, but it’s even easier as you don’t need to mix anything. The ready-made “Quikrete” mix is perfect for the job, and it comes in a size that I can lift! It’s available at most home improvement stores like Home Depot And Lowes.
You will also need some basic gear:
- A bucket of some kind to mix in
- Rubber Gloves
- Stir Stick or shovel
- Rhubarb Leaf
- Place to form leaf (I have an old garbage can lid full of sand, but you could use the ground in a pinch)
- Drywall Fibreglass Mesh & Scissors
Start by getting your “form” ready. The more finicky you want the end product the more planning… To get a natural curvature form the damp sand under the leaf. Be careful don’t break the leaf. At this point you can use a mound if you want to make a bowl.
To have a nice smooth curve at the edge, I form the sand around the shape. Don’t get sand on the leaf. The veins are facing up.
I also get the drywall mesh ready so that I have it at hand when I have “concretey” hands. I cut a bunch of strips that are about the length and width of the leaf.
Now it’s time to get the concrete mixed
I add what looks like it would cover the leaf, ½ bucket or less. You’ll get the feel after doing one. This concrete is meant to be quite thin. I have some that are barely 1” thick and many years old.
Add water slowly, mixing deep into the bottom. At this point you probably would like a labourer, depending how many you are making.
It is usually ready when it doesn’t have standing water on top, and holds shape a bit when stirring.
It’s now just a matter of glopping the concrete onto the leaf. No rocket science here! However, the trick to a very detailed imprint is the “slapping”. The pros have agitators that vibrate the cement to get rid of voids and air bubbles. You have you hand! Slap, slap, slap… It also makes the water come to the top, which is a good thing, I’ve been told.
I like to stay just within the edge of the leaf. Keep it on the thin side as you will be adding another layer. Perhaps about ½” or more.
Once covered, criss-cross the mesh paying attention to getting it over the main stem area. Since the main stem (artery) is thick, it is also the weak point since it will leave the biggest void. It’s even best to mound up extra thickness there.
Now just add your other layer, covering the mesh enough and smoothing out.
Good job! Now it’s time to let it do it’s thing. If it’s going to rain, cover lightly to prevent washing away prematurely. After a few hours you will feel that it has hardened. It may not be ready to life, but if you wet it, it strengthens the concrete. It also helps if it’s too sunny. Apparently concrete likes to be wet. I usually wait til the next day to flip it over .
Note the sandy texture on this one. I should have slapped it more! Pretend it’s someone who needs it!
You can continue to wet it to strengthen and help ease the veins out. Isn’t nature wonderful?! And now it’s permanent. Concrete leaf stepping stones perfectly suite the garden, always look right and will also get a patina over time. Look into some of my other concrete projects…