One of the easiest things to do to embellish your flower garden and beds is to add stepping stones. They add a quaint charm to the setting and also give you a path to your flowers so that you don't trample the greenery or get your shoes clogged full of dirt.
Stepping stones are relatively easy to make, and you can let that suppressed artist in you loose by getting creative with the manufacturing of stepping stones. The first step should always be deciding what you want to accomplish in your garden. Lay out a rough sketch of your garden, and decide where to place your stepping stones. Going into the garden will give you an idea of what size to choose, too.
Step 1 - Choose Your Concrete
There are two types of concrete that you can use to make stepping stones. One, quick-setting concrete, is available at hardware and home improvement centers. The cheapest to buy is Quikrete, at about $2 for a 60-pound bag. It is, however, a bit pebbly, and you may wish to purchase a large sieve to filter out the larger materials.
The second is stepping stone concrete, available at many craft centers. This type of concrete is made especially for stepping stones, so it's a bit more expensive. The average cost for making one stepping stone is in the neighborhood of $5. If you are a perfectionist, or are only planning on making one or two stepping stones, then this may not be the right choice for you.
Step 2 - Mix the Concrete
The best way to mix concrete is to measure the concrete first and place it in the mixing tub. Add the water last — you want to end up with concrete the consistency of cake batter. If you have too much water, the concrete will fail to cure. It is much easier to get the proportions correct by doing it this way. Now is the time to apply the concrete dye of your choice. Directions for the correct proportions should be on the label directions.
When making stepping stones and working with concrete, it is essential that you use protective clothing. Concrete on bare skin burns. If it does get on bare skin, wash immediately with warm soapy water.
Step 3 - Mold It
It's a good idea to go to the local thrift store and purchase old serving tins or cookie sheets to work on. Spray this surface with WD-40, and place your mold in the center of the cookie sheet. Fill the mold halfway with concrete, using the old serving spoon you gathered for this task. Shake the tray around to dislodge any bubbles in the concrete. When it is half full, cut a sheet of hardware cloth in the same pattern as your mold, cutting it a little smaller than the actual size. Place this reinforcement in the mold, and again apply concrete until the mold is full.
Stepping stone molds can be made out of just about anything, from old cake pans to pizza boxes. The possibilities are endless. You don't need to work quickly with concrete, but you don't want to be disturbed in the middle of the process either.
Step 4 - Decorate
Allow the concrete five minutes to rest before adding your choice of decorations for the stepping stone. A few things you might consider are pebbles from a fish tank, old marbles, small mosaic tiles, stained glass, or old mementos. Keys and even old coins can be used. Decorate them with anything you can conjure up in your imagination. How about plastic glow in the dark images, such as moon and stars that are often used to decorate children's rooms? You can tiptoe through the tulips at night, and easily find your way. Or, check the thrift shop for old flower vases that are made of cut glass. Break them into pieces, and press into the concrete when it is time to decorate.
Allow 20 minutes of drying time before you attempt to write your name or a witty slogan in your stepping stone. If the imprint fills with water, then simply smooth it out and wait an additional five minutes or so and begin again. Allow 30 minutes of drying time before adding handprints or footprints.
Allow the stepping stone to dry for at least 48 hours. Turn the mold over, placing an old towel on the work surface. Gently tap the mold, and it will release the stepping stone. You can now paint the stone if you wish.
Be as creative or as simplistic as you wish. Let your imagination be your guide.
When placing the stones in your garden or on walkways that are high traffic areas, be sure to have them set deep enough into the ground so that they are not a tripping hazard. If you use them in a grassy area that might be mowed, also ensure they are deep enough. Making stepping stones is easy, and you are only limited by your imagination.