Planting Fields

20 03 2013

As we usher in Spring, it will soon be time for planting. Fields of crops are an easy way to add a nice detail to any layout. They are also perfect for filling oddly shaped spaces of nearly any size. From backyard gardens to acres of farmland, these tips can be used in many applications, and even in multiple scales.

The fields you see here were completed on a pair of our full-width corner modules for our Lionel / LCCA FasTrack Modular Railroad over the course of two World’s Greatest Hobby shows.


After dampening, corrugated cardboard can be easily turned into the perfect base for farm fields.

Planting Rows

One of the keys to effectively modeling a planted field is maintaining even rows. Fortunately, there is an easy modelers trick that makes this easy. All you’ll need is some corrugated cardboard.

The corrugations will make perfect plant rows once you remove one of the face sheets. These smooth sheets are glued to the corrugated center. Fortunately, the glue is not very strong and is water soluble.  Spray a mist of water on one side of the cardboard. After the top layer is soaked, within a few seconds you should be able to easily pull it off the corrugated center strip. If it sticks and wants to tear, simply spray on a little more water.


Cover the cardboard with dirt to create the look of freshly plowed fields ready for planting.

Now all you need to do is glue the remaining cardboard onto your layout or scenery base. Some of our fields were glued directly to the wood top of the module. To create some subtle changes in elevation, others were propped up on a strip of foam core board that was handy. By softening the cardboard with water again, you can bend it to confirm to slopes and changes in the terrain to break that table-top look.

With the cardboard fields in place, the top is covered with soil first by coating with white glue and sprinkling on the turf. Then the scene is sprayed with alcohol and glued again with thinned white glue (50/50 with water). The alcohol breaks the surface tension and allows the glue to flow evenly.


Crops can be made from a variety of products.

You can begin planting your crops even before the thinned glue has dried, or you can wait. Apply another bead of full strength white glue to the top of a ridge and press on individual clumps of thicker ground foam. When one row is finished, go to the next.

If the foam clusters are loose, you can apply another alcohol / thin glue spread. You can vary the color and size of the foam plants or even use other materials to create a wide variety of crops.



A little drywall compound helps build subtle scenic contours. Don’t worry, it dries white!

Crops don’t grow without water. Even on a “flat” module, you can create the look of irrigation with some simple contours built up on the base. These can be done by raising portions of the terrain as described above, or by creating mounds and contours with a little drywall mud. You can learn more about creating a scenic base with water in mind, as well as mixing and applying this plaster coating in our display diorama pages.

To add a final touch, some simple culverts were made from aluminum foil. This is a great tip to make culverts for a variety of scenes or even pipe loads for your trains. Choose a bolt with a diameter that works for your job (not all pipes are the same size.)


These little drainage pipes are easy to make and add a nice detail.

Cut a rectangular strip of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap it around the bolt clockwise (this makes it easier to wind and “unscrew” the finished pipe.) The ends should overlap.

Now start at the end of the bolt and press the foil into the threads with your fingernail. When finished, twist the foil pipe off of the bolt just like you were undoing a nut. The resulting pipe has a great texture and scale thickness. You can carefully trim the pipes to smaller lengths with a sharp hobby knife.

The pipes can be pressed into the drywall mud while still wet to secure them into the scenery. You can also attach them to other surfaces with white glue.


Weeds, a dirt road and freshly turned earth are just the beginning of more details that can be added to complete the scene.

Details and Finishing Touches

These modules were finished using the same general scenery application techniques. This included some bare fields, ballast for the FasTrack, and an assortment of weeds and grasses to complete the look. You could easily take the details farther. Add a scarecrow, tractor, some workers in the fields – let your imagination grow!


The finished scene covers two of our full-corner modules. The field on the left has been left unfinished to help show construction techniques.



One response

24 03 2013
William (Bo) Burgess

Nice article. I’ve got an area on my layout where I just may be able to use the idea/tips offered here. Thank you!

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