Making garden stepping stones is easy and great fun. In fact, as mentioned on Page 1, you can involve the kids in making them, but be sure to keep safety foremost in mind (for both yourself and the kids). To that end, let's begin with a list of safety tips and safety supplies that will come in handy.
Safety Tips and Supplies for Making Garden Stepping Stones
- When lifting concrete (whether it's still in the bag or already fashioned into garden stepping stones), keep a straight back, bend your knees and cradle the load up against your torso (wear old long-sleeved shirt and long pants).
- Concrete dust can be caustic, so wear protective eyewear, gloves and a face mask.
- Tight-fitting children's gloves will come in especially handy if you want a child's handprint to adorn your garden stepping stones.
Making garden stepping stones requires little in the way of materials. In the materials list I supply below, #8 is optional: a small piece of chicken wire can be placed into the middle of your mold-mix so that concrete cures around it; the result is a more durable garden stepping stone.
Also optional is #9 (since it pertains to decoration). I tried a concrete coloring agent on one of my garden stepping stones (see picture, above right, where one of the garden stepping stones is darker).
Using more than one mold will greatly expedite the process of making garden stepping stones. Not only does each garden stepping stone have to "wait its turn" if there's only one mold, but you'll also have to mix separate batches of concrete. When searching for molds of a suitable size, remember that garden stepping stones should be about 2" thick and 16"-18" wide.
Materials for Making Garden Stepping Stones
- Pre-mixed concrete
- Wheelbarrow or tub
- Vaseline or cooking spray
- Chicken-wire fencing
- Concrete coloring agent, patio paint, or decorations to press into the concrete.
Steps in Making Garden Stepping Stones
- Find mold(s). Commercial molds are available in craft stores, but you can also improvise. I used a saucer from a large plastic plant container.
- "Grease" the inside of the mold with vaseline or cooking spray for easy removal of the garden stepping stones after the concrete dries.
- Pour some pre-mixed concrete into a wheelbarrow or tub for mixing.
- In mixing concrete, just add a little water at a time. Thrust the shovel underneath the concrete and fold it over on itself, distributing the wetness.
- Continue adding small amounts of water and mixing until all the concrete looks the same and it achieves a consistency that is neither dry nor soupy.
- To test the consistency, use the blade of your shovel like a knife and try to cut a shallow channel through the surface of the concrete....
- If too dry, the channel walls will be crumbly; add more water and mix.
- If too wet, the channel fills in with water; add more concrete and mix.
- When the concrete is ready, pour it into the mold(s) you've chosen for your garden stepping stones. Tamp it down as you go to remove air bubbles.
- Using a short 2x4 (or something similar), screed the excess off the top.
- Approximately 45 minutes later, you can press decorative elements into your garden stepping stones (e.g., marbles), if you desire, or make those ever-popular hand prints!
- Repeat for other molds (if working with more than one).
- Allow 2 or 3 days of undisturbed drying for your garden stepping stones (premature moving of the molds may cause cracking).
- When you're ready to remove the garden stepping stones from their molds, gently flip the molds upside down and tap all around on them, lightly. Eventually, you should be able to lift the molds off the completed garden stepping stones.
- Now let the concrete finish "curing" for another week before subjecting your garden stepping stones to any rough treatment (such as walking on them).
Now that we have garden stepping stones with which to work, on Page 3 we'll discuss using them in the landscape....