How to Make a Leaf Bird Bath

Hi, I’m Gardener Scott. I love large leaf plants in my garden and one of my favorites is rhubarb. It’s wonderful to eat, but the large leaves are also wonderful for fun garden projects and I’m doing one today. So join me as I make a birdbath with a rhubarb leaf. This is an easy project that can be done by almost anyone. It’s pretty basic. We just take a leaf and cover it with concrete. And that’s really nothing to be afraid of. The tools are pretty basic. You probably have them already. And with the few steps I’m about to show you, after a few minutes, you’ve got a birdbath. I begin by selecting my leaf. I like to have one that’s relatively unblemished and as big as possible, and I found one in the back. So I’ll just separate it from the plant and we’re ready to start the birdbath. I took a piece of plywood, covered it with thick plastic, and now I’m just taking children’s play sand and making a mound on top of the plastic. You’re probably wondering why I’m using the sand. Well, the rhubarb leaf has a natural bowl already in its shape, which is why it’s perfect for making a birdbath, because we want the birdbath to have that bowl shape. But if we just try to put concrete on this, the whole thing is going to flatten out. So the mound of sand is to form a support that we can lay the rhubarb leaf on and now when we put the concrete mix on top of it, it won’t flatten out. It’ll retain that bowl shape. I trimmed off the stem. The sand is mounded to fully support and you can see wherever I press down on the rhubarb it’s pretty well supported by the sand underneath. This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but I find it does tend to make for a stronger birdbath and that’s to take hardware cloth and trim it close to the shape of the leaf. And I’ll put this into the concrete and it will help the concrete stay strong and avoid cracking. Wearing gloves and eye protection, I poured about half a bag of just generic concrete mix into this plastic tub and now I’ll start adding water, and with an old garden trowel I’ll mix the concrete. Add water a little at a time, keep mixing it, making sure you get all the dry bits at the bottom. And what you’re looking for is a texture kind of like thick oatmeal. Evenly moist throughout, but that will hold its shape on a trowel. And now I’ll use this trowel to take the wet concrete and gently lay it on top of the rhubarb leaf. And I’ll just place it at different spots trying to cover most of the leaf at this point. With about an inch of the concrete spread over the rhubarb leaf, now I’ll take the hardware cloth and begin to work it into the wet concrete. You do have to bend the edges of the hardware cloth to get it to match the shape of the rhubarb leaf and ultimately this birdbath. We’re just nestling it into the concrete right now. We don’t want to push it all the way in. Because it took about half of the concrete to cover the leaf initially, now that we have the hardware cloth in place, we’ll cover it with the remaining concrete. Now remember you don’t have to use the hardware cloth. You can use bits of wire, plastic, some type of support will definitely help out. But if you go without, the birdbath should be perfectly strong as long as it doesn’t endure a lot of stress. You want the concrete to be an even thickness throughout the entire leaf. The bottom will be a little bit thicker and that’s actually okay, but just keep patting the concrete. That will help work out any air bubbles and if you notice any spots that are a little thinner than others, you can add a little bit more of the mix. And then using the back of the trowel you can smooth out the concrete. This is the bottom of the birdbath. And if we just leave it in the exact shape of the leaf, it may wobble. So at this point I will make a flat section that’ll be the point that it rests on the ground so that it doesn’t wobble. Now, sand is one of the ingredients of concrete and anywhere that the wet concrete has dropped down onto the sand it’s going to lock up and get pretty hard when it comes time to remove this, so I give it a few minutes to set up, for the concrete to start to form, and then I’ll come back and I’ll start pulling away the little bits of the concrete that have fallen down on to the sand. And this is where I define the lip, how the final edge of the birdbath will look. And next I’ll cover the whole thing with another piece of plastic. This will help keep it moist during the curing process. I’m going to stick it in a shady spot and I’ll come back in a few days. The concrete has been curing for three days now and concrete cures best when it dries very slowly. If it dries too quickly, it can crack, so over the course of the last couple days, periodically, I would remove the plastic and then just with a spray bottle of water. Wet down the surface to try to keep it evenly moist as it cures. After three days, it’s strong enough to remove from the mold. And that’s what we’re doing now. The rhubarb leaf is still connected to the concrete underneath, but you can see that it has still retained that bowl shape and I think it’s looking pretty good. The concrete still has more time to cure and we need to remove the leaf from the concrete. Now, we can pull up the leaf at this point and most of it will come away from the mold. If you can get a hold of some of these big veins in the middle you might be able to pull out large sections of the leaf. And I just have a little stick. You can use a toothpick and begin pulling away some of these leaf sections. For now, I’m trying to remove as much of the leaf as I can and I can pull it out in pretty big chunks. There will be some pieces that might be left behind in the crevices and so what I found is to just let this dry for a few more days. The leaf has remained green and pliable because it’s been moist sitting underneath the concrete as it cures, but now that it’s exposed to the air and the leaf side is up it will begin to dry and when it’s dry, it also tends to shrink a little bit. So some of these veins that are stuck in the crevices that are hard to get out right now will be much easier to remove in a couple days when they’ve dried out. My birdbath has been outside now for about a week. The concrete is pretty much fully cured and those little bits of leaf that were left behind are fully dried and very easy to take out at this point. For the most part they just pull right out, all those pesky stems and veins now help the whole thing come out in one piece. If there are any pieces that might still be in here, but are hard to remove, I just use a small nail to get into some of the crevices. But this all looks pretty good. So now I’m ready to finish it. I take a small whisk broom to try to sweep out any sand particles and leaf particles that might remain at this point so that I can get an idea of what the finished bowl looks like. The deep veins of that leaf and the texture of it are now permanently ingrained on this solid piece of concrete and I really like how it has come out. I think it looks wonderful at this point. Some of the edges still have some of those sand particles set into the concrete so now I’m taking a wire brush and I’m just using it to try to tease out some of those sand grains. Also if I find any weak edges at this point, really thin pieces of concrete, I can just break them off with my thumb and forefinger so that what I’m left with is a very sturdy birdbath. I’ve got it cleaned up nicely I’ll turn it upside down to dump out any sand particles. It is pretty heavy so be careful at this point. And then I’ll take my broom and sweep out any last remains of stem or sand. And this bird bath project is now complete and it’s ready to go in the garden. For now the bird bath is going to rest beneath my plum tree. I’ll probably move it to another section of the garden after I take a look at it and figure out where it fits best. It has its raw concrete color at this point, and I’m considering using a concrete stain to color it so that it’ll blend in a little bit better with the plants in this area of the garden. A concrete stain or concrete paint are definitely options if you don’t like this raw concrete color. Also in this raw state when you put water into the bowl some of the lime will leach out and that can be a little hazardous to wildlife, so what I recommend is that you fill it with water. Let it sit for a few days and then dump that water out, then fill it again, let it sit, dump the water out and repeat that process over a few weeks. In that time the concrete will be fully cured any harmful agents should have leached out and then this birdbath will be perfectly safe for birds and any other wildlife that choose to use it. There you have it. How I make a birdbath using a rhubarb leaf. If you have any comments or questions please let me know below. If you haven’t subscribed to the Gardener Scott channel, you can do so now and if you like the video you can give me a thumbs up and share it. I’m Gardener Scott. Enjoy Gardening.

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