by Mary Jane Wilkie

You may have noticed the planters outside some entrances to Fort Tryon buildings and wondered about their origin. As a test, our hard-working, dedicated Garden Committee created them and filled them with dried foliage last fall. The test has been successful, and we residents will soon have the opportunity to join the Committee in making more.mj_planters-in-window

The planters are made of papercrete, being a mixture of soggy, shredded newspaper, cement, sand, and gravel. Papercrete was patented in 1928, revived in the 1980s, and now re-revived at Fort Tryon Gardens. Its advantages are low cost and high performance. Visit to know more about this unusual building material.


mj_erniedeliaGarden Committee member Ernie DeLia is the prime mover in this project. To learn more, several of us joined him recently to make planters. You need:

  • Shredded newsprint (this is the main ingredient; two Sunday New York Times are sufficient for a 1x1 ft. square pot)
  • Rubber or plastic molds (of any shape), e.g., mop bucket, dishpan, container of some brands of kitty litter, large bleach bottle
  • Cement, sand, gravel
  • Water for mixing + mineral or vegetable oil to line the molds;
  • Rubber gloves

First you let the shredded newsprint soak in water for two days. Then you add the cement, sand, gravel, and mix it by hand (or using Ernie’s giant egg-beater, which is an attachment to his power drill). When the mixture is the right consistency, you press it to the walls of the pre-oiled mold, about 1 inch thick. The action is similar to pressing dough into a pie pan (taking only slightly more exertion).


Once the planter is the height you want, you let it dry for about two weeks. Then you coax it out of its mold, and leave it to dry completely (about a month). The planter is then ready, and is sturdy, holding up well in inclement weather. If you are interested in making and adopting a papercrete planter for your entrance, contact the Garden Committee by e-mail at "gardens at," via the Facebook group, or on the Fort Tryon Gardens website group.

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Mary Jane

Mary Jane Wilkie has been teacher (music, children’s theatre, Spanish, and ESL), had a corporate career (sales and marketing), and a career as a translator. She has given workshops and presentations on various music and spiritual topics, and has published articles on children and music. She has been music director of high-school musicals and director of children’s theatre workshops. She currently works as an independent contractor, deriving most of her income from recruitment for a national non-profit. She also served as a Fort Tryon Gardens board member beginning in 2015.

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