How to Create a Garden Container Out of “Free” Cinderblocks
Materials & Tools: cinderblocks (preferably free), stained glass scraps, marble gems, vitreous glass tile, found objects, latex paint, adhesive, sanded grout, wheeled nippers
You can create a beautiful flower/herb garden planter out of cinderblocks! I created the planter in photo at left with 6 small cinderblocks excavated from my yard. Since these blocks were relatively shallow I stacked them two high to make a deeper area for plants and soil.
The design I created is a meandering olive branch pattern that wraps around the whole container to unify the six parts. The white glass used for the background is from an unattractive amber and white 1970s-era glass lampshade. It most likely hung over a pool table in a finished basement with orange or green shag carpet… lovely!
I carefully tapped out the glass over a garbage bag, outdoors without the assistance of children or pets. Make sure you wear your safety glasses and be careful not to cut yourself because the glass will shatter with a lot of jagged edges. You will get some fairly large pieces that you will have to cut and shape with a pair of wheeled nippers. You will also get lots of little pieces to fill in odd spaces on your mosaic.
To create the olive branch motif I used black and purple marble gems which are flat on one side and easy to adhere. The brown branches and green border squares are vitreous (waterproof) glass cut up with my wheeled nipper tool. The green leaves are stained glass scraps.
Here are 6 steps to create a recycled cinderblock planter for your yard:
Step 1: alert your friends and family to be on the lookout for discarded cinderblocks. My husband just found the blocks in photo A by the side of the road. Lucky me! Free cats are also easily found by the side of the road. My husband found the one in the picture by the side of the road several years ago.
Step 2: brush off any loose debris and spiders and then coat your blocks with latex house paint to seal them and create a moisture barrier. Your free cat might help you brush off debris but is not helpful during the painting process.
Step 3: Glue your glass, tile and marbles to your blocks with indoor/outdoor, waterproof, non-toxic glue. Weldbond is a good brand that I like to use on all surfaces. I start with my border first and then create my main design, in this case olive branches and then I fill in the background after the border and main design are dry. Leave about 1/8” to 1/4” between pieces of glass for your grout lines. It is easier to work on small sections because when your glue is wet pieces can move around and get knocked out of place. This project took me several weeks as I worked on it a little at a time. After you have glued on all your tesserae (pieces of glass, etc.) wait about a week to make sure your adhesive is really bonded.
Step 4: You are ready to grout! Go to your local home improvement store or hardware store and buy a 10 lb. box of sanded grout. I like the 10 lb. box because it is easy to measure out small quantities and then store the rest in a dry place to use for your next project. Make sure you wear a dust mask to protect your lungs when the grout is in a powdery form. Measure out about 2 cups of dry grout and mix with a small quantity of water so that your grout is the consistency of wet sand. Using a damp sponge apply the wet grout to your mosaic and gently push it into the 1/8” to 1/4” cracks. When all the cracks are filled gently wipe off the excess taking care not to pull the wet grout out of the cracks.
Step 5: At this stage I like to wipe my brow and then sit and have a glass of wine and stare at flowers for about a half hour. You should choose whatever beverage you enjoy and go stare at flowers for about half an hour.
Step 6: Wipe the grout off the glass with a slightly damp to dry rag. Don’t wipe too hard because your grout is still damp and you don’t want to pull it out of the cracks. You want to polish the glass so that no traces of grout remain.
If you live in the Bay Area of San Francisco I also offer live mosaic classes. Check my website for class schedules and location or email me to add yourself to my list.