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Alpine Trough


I thougt that some of you may be interested in my attempt at making an alpine trough out of a polystyrene fish box.

The first stage was to remove the lip on the top edge

I found that a bread knife worked well – alternatives would be a hacksaw blade or a pad saw (which I found after I had finished)

The top and bottom edge roughened up – shown here resting on the lid – to show the effect.

The next stage was to roughen up the faces of the box – again I found the bread knife useful

The whole box was finished – afterwards a light sanding with medium grade sandpaper – removed all the loose particles.

I also took the time to create the same effect down on the inside of the container – this will be visible once filled and planted up.

Next, was to turn my attention to drainage. For this I used a spade bit on a very slow speed and the end of a wooden spoon to remove the debris left inside the hole.

Not sure if this is drainage ‘overkill’ or not – but I thought that if there wasn’t enough it would be kind of difficult to remedy once I had finished.

The next stage involves the use of a hot air gun (paint stripping tool) – care must be taken when using this. I also chose to do this outdoors as fumes will be created.

Before and after shots

The time came to get creative with the paint. Too hand I had beige, black and white masonry paint. Since I starting this wee project, I’ve found that no major DIY stores or trade paint centres stock sample/tester pots of masonry paint. Ideally I would have liked dark brown – but at the cost of £25 per tin, I felt that for this project I would make do with what I had. As the lid lying around redundant I thought that it would be beneficial to have a play around with different colour combos. I am NOT artistic and I can’t even draw a decent matchstick man!!

I chose a beige base – the reason for this – I want to site this on the gravelled area in my garden and therefore I thought it would be a complimentary colour.

Beige base

To add texture or not – some sites advise mixing sand or using textured paint – I was given a tip by Bjs to try adding some fine peat – but as buying peat would have meant adding another expense and not making this ‘cost effective’ I decided that should I attempt another – I will invest in both dark brown paint and peat. So for the purpose of my attempt – I just dolloped the paint on and kind of hoped for the best :)

Again, not forgetting the inside edge….

After leaving the paint to dry out for a while – I added some black to the corners and edges which I hoped would create a ‘weathered’ look.

The paint was then left to dry for a good while – I used a dry/soft paintbrush to blend in and soften up the colours – I think it worked ok…..

I left the entire thing to dry for a couple of days – here it is finally out in the garden

Filled with a layer of drainage on the bottom and growing medium – I gave it a good water as I wanted it to settle before I planted it up.

Here is it all planted up – a couple of stones added for effect and a layer of gravel on top.

In spring time I’m hoping that I have some lovely pink Meconopsis x cookei ‘Old Rose’ flowers. I’ve been told that they are hardy enough – but need to watch out for ‘winter wet’ so I have since provided them with their own little personal cloches until I can source a sheet of perspex.

Thank you all for reading. It’s been a learning curve and I’m hoping to do another.

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Well done thats a great job

11 Nov, 2012


That is brilliant Scottish!!

11 Nov, 2012


Very well done,Scottish..go to the top of the class ! I think it is brilliant,as should be very proud :o)

11 Nov, 2012


I`m impressed Scottish, well done....

11 Nov, 2012


That is lovely. We found the paint was very expensive too but it is a very easy way of camouflaging the fish boxes. This looks great. I'll look forward to seeing it next spring.

12 Nov, 2012


A very methodical job with very impressive outcome,love the colour mix fits very well with your existing slabs.
Just a case of waiting for the end result wont be long.

12 Nov, 2012


Very impressive,S,looks so attractive.

12 Nov, 2012


Hi Angie ..Interesting blog.
Good clear photos to fit the descriptions.
Well done :o)

12 Nov, 2012


Hi Scottish, I think you made a great job of your alpine trough. I was surprised at how stone-like the effect is in the end...not because of your work...but because I couldn't imagine it when you said you were going to do it. I suppose you have to be careful where you site the finished article as it would be very difficult to move without damaging once filled? I look forward to seeing it next year, so don't forget to put some more pics on, and I do hope the poppies flower in it, as it will be such a great place to see them :)

12 Nov, 2012


Bother ! lol :D I wish you had written this last year, because I threw a nice polystyrene box away LOL !
It would have made a lovely alpine trough.

It looks lovely with you Scottish, and I hope you'll show it again when the plants are flowering next year :o)

12 Nov, 2012


Thank you all for liking my work -
Drc and Paul - I'm very pleased first time I've ever tried anything like this.
Bloomer - Cheers - I'll go to the top of the class should it survive winter and grace me with flowers :)
Lincslass - thank you x
Sheila - thank you for liking - I found your blog whilst doing some research for this - so thank you for that too :)
Snoop - there will be no lettuce!! :)) We are not big veggie eaters therefore I find growing my own just isn't worth all the time and effort. It was good too save some baubies - those stone troughs are expensive.
Brian - thank you too - spring isn't too far away, so just hope the plants survive.
Meadowland and TT - thanks so much for liking.
Karen - TBH - I wasn't sure I was going to be very impressed with it either - that fact that it has cost me nothing is a bonus. A tip I found on the web for lifting is to slide planks underneath for support. It is very light compared to the real thing.
Hywel - sorry I'm 12 months late - maybe you'll find another and give it a go.

12 Nov, 2012


I'll have to look for one Scottish :o))
And the thing was, I'd had the one I threw away, for many years before I threw it ... lol :o)

12 Nov, 2012


Sods law eh!!

12 Nov, 2012


Yea :o( Just the sort of thing that happens lol :D

12 Nov, 2012


Goodness me that is really clever, one would never believe it was made from polystyrene, excellent project, and very clear instructions and photos, looking forward to seeing future photos, well done you.

12 Nov, 2012


Hi Scottish
Great blog- I love it! How creative!
Will you have to take care to only lift/move it when empty, as it may break with the weight of grit & soil?
I like the stones on top and love the flower choice, please post a pic once they bloom!

12 Nov, 2012


I tried to get hold of a poly box last year and gave up but will try again now after seeing yours. Great step by step blog and the finished trough looks brilliant :o))

14 Nov, 2012


thanks DD2, Sarah and Annella...
Sarah - got a tip from internet about putting a coulpe of slats of wood below to lift - that should work. It isn't very heavy but your observations are right.
Annella - Try your local fishmonger or Morrisons - one of my neighbours works for Morrisons and I was asking him yesterday how they get their fish. He's told me they still use polystyrene, so you may get one there.
I managed to source a really large one the other day - only trouble is that it is absolutely stinking!!!!! I haven't yet managed to sweet talk one of the drivers to take it home in a van for me - I don't want to put it in the car :))

14 Nov, 2012


Do what I did Scottish and take along black bags to put it in to. As soon as you get it home turn the hose on it.

14 Nov, 2012


Thanks Scottish, I will ask in there :o)

15 Nov, 2012


What a fantastic job Angie, want also to do like that:-)))

3 Jan, 2013


I've enjoyed reading this again, how's it looking now? Still had no joy with finding a poly box but I keep looking.

10 Jan, 2013


It's still looking great. The Meconopsis died back and I worried for a wee while - but new growth has started, so obviously just needed settling in. So far it doesn't seem like it's been affected by the frost either.
I managed to get another 2, quite square shaped, I've done one already and planted it up - when I get a spare afternoon or two, I'll do the other.
I do hope you find one.
You can buy boxes on the likes of Amazon - but then that defeats the purpose of recycling - but still the cost is much cheaper than a stone trough!

10 Jan, 2013


Well, aren't you a clever girl. I would love to do this but have a 'thing' about touching polystyrene - that squeaky noise goes right through me! I have to say though, it looks great. I do love recycling/upcycling.

28 May, 2014


Thanks TB - it's cotton wool that give me the heebie jeebies ;)

28 May, 2014


Yes, that can be funny stuff too and I don't like chalk squeaking on a blackboard or under my nails, or silver paper touching a filling! Ugh!

28 May, 2014


Annella try your local fishmonger or the fish counter in a supermarket. Take along a black bag (bin liner) as they can be a bit whiffy. A good wash with washing up liquid and plenty of water should get rid of any smells.

28 May, 2014


Better still try the butcher they don't smell as bad and they are are twice as thick and strong.

2 Jun, 2014

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