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Build a concrete planter and slab on the south side of your house to save energy and improve the environment. Position the planter so that it blocks the summer sun from shining on the slab. The plants with cool the air near your house in the summer and the sun will shine on both the planter and the small slab in the winter. This will produce a warm air buffer against the cold. Select tall deciduous plants to shade the slab since the sun is higher in the sky in the summer.
Also, a quick note on mixing the concrete. The proper amount of water in the concrete mix is critical. People often make it too wet and the concrete will begin to crumble in a year or two. Mix the concrete so that, if you make a groove in it with a trowel, it holds its shape and the surface is smooth If the groove surface is rough, add a little more water. Remember, you can always add more water, but you cannot take it back out so take your time mixing and testing the consistency.