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A long time ago on a site far far away I posted a thread on using real soil for dioramas. As some places are best avoided, I thought I'd post a 'how to' thread in a much nicer place.

First off you need to pinch some of your garden floor – preferably without grass, flowers, trees or patios attached. This is best done in one of those rare phases in Britland called 'a dry spell'. At other times, the garden floor is normally called 'mud'. It's difficult to sieve mud and that is the first stage – to remove the crunchy bits called 'stones'. Please ensure there are no occupants residing in your sample. I'm mainly talking about inhabitants visible to the naked eye as the next step will inevitably murder millions of microbes – something someone on the previous site complained about! Not even the most dedicated Buddhist can go though life without marmalising millions of microbes on a daily basis.

Then you'll need to eat lots of takeaways to leave you with some foil trays which you need to fill no deeper than about inch or it'll still be raw in the middle.

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Next you need to cook it. You can use a microwave. If you do, forget about the foil tray step otherwise you'll need to buy a new microwave. I use the oven.

Recipe for cooking garden:

Ensure the house is free from any wives/girlfriends/other-halfs, as cooking bits of garden stinks the kitchen out for quite a few hours. Also, I wouldn't recommend putting it in with the Sunday roast as your din dins may end up tasting a little a lot earthy. There may be complaints/divorce proceedings.

set cooker to 200% or gas mark – I don't know I use electric, lets say really, really hot.

Cook for 40 – 45 mins or until golden brown.

Ensure it's cool before tasting. Errrm, maybe not.

When cool (and that can take a surprisingly long time) it needs to be sieved finer, but not too fine, you don't want it like dust. DON'T do this near any precision instruments/machines like and airbrush as someone not a million miles away did the first time. What a plonker that person is. :blushing:

Serve – preferably with a side salad. :ermm:

 

When I originally did this, I sieved the soil using this (which I normally keep paint brushes in) then sieved some of it even finer. I was just experimenting as I had even less of a clue about this than I do now.

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I tried using spray adhesive at first but it bubbled up menacingly and left it looking messy.

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So I tried smearing PVA onto the board and sprinkling the soil dust on top. It ended looking messy and much to uneven.

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Finally I tried mixing it with PVA straight from the bottle and troweling it on, which worked much better. Don't make it too thick as it'll crack badly as it dries. Having said that, if you want a 'parched earth' effect in your dio, it'll look great.

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Next I tried static grass. Yes I know the grass I used looks hideous – that's why I'm using it in the experiment because it's too hideous to use in a dio. It looks like you can't see any of the soil underneath, but the grass looks better than it does on bare board.

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I had a go at changing the colour of the soil with Tamiya acrylic paint – adding a few drops of black to the PVA.

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The end effect wasn't a particularly realistic colour (the bit on the right), but it proved that changing the tone is possible. I also had a look to see if glossing the dried surface would make it look wetter.

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I still wasn't happy about the look of the soil so I used the soil which wasn't very finely sieved and immediately it looked much better (on the left).

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This is the end result on my second dio.

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I hope that's been of some use to someone. I recommend doing a few experiments of your own before you use it on a dio – don't expect to stay clean.

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Without wanting to bring the tone down…. I have found that a good source of ‘side of the road crud’ for dioramas can be found from sieving umm, the crud from the side of the road outside the house. It’s very convincingly amorphous.

Gorbs, your second diorama looks excellent.

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