Got a free Saturday afternoon? Then roll up your sleeves and get ready to flex your creative muscles by building your very own wooden planter. Maybe you’re a seasoned woodworker with some scrap lumber you need to use. Maybe you’ve never touched a saw in your life. Whatever your skill set, building a planter is a simple project that you’ll be proud to display.
A little planning goes a long way to ensure your planter turns out beautifully. Consider the types of plants you’ll be growing and the aesthetic you want to achieve. Will you be growing ornamental plants or herbs and vegetables? Do you prefer a rustic look or a more sophisticated finish? These factors will help you plan your project and select the right supplies for the job.
Gathering all of your supplies together before you begin the project will ensure you’re not missing anything so you won’t have to make a hardware-store run in the middle of your build. ● Four 4" x 22-1/2" x 3/4" boards ● Nine 4" x 7" x 3/4" boards ● Two 5-1/2" x 7-1/2" x 3/4" boards ● 28 1-1/4" exterior screws ● River rocks (0.10 cu. ft. of coverage) ● Tools: saw, power drill/screwdriver, tape measure, and pencil ● Finishing supplies: sandpaper, stain or paint (optional), sealant, paintbrushes.
If you have scrap lumber lying around, a wooden planter might be a good way to put it to use. Otherwise, you’ll need to decide on a type of wood that’s right for your project. Chemically treated wood is weather resistant and low in cost but isn’t food safe so you wouldn’t be able to grow herbs, fruits, or vegetables in the planter. Untreated woods like cedar, white oak, and cypress are naturally durable and food safe but may cost a bit more based on the species you choose.
Age-old wisdom says to measure twice, cut once. That’s good advice for any project, and it will help to prevent costly errors. Measure out the correct length for each board and mark it with a pencil. Measure again to check for errors, and lay out the boards to ensure the pencil marks line up correctly. When you’re confident that the boards are marked accurately, use your saw to cut the wood to size.
Pilot holes are holes you drill prior to screwing to help prevent the wood from splitting. Position them 3/8” from the edges of the boards. Begin with the 4” x 7” boards and create a pilot hole in all four corners of each. Line up the short edge of each 22-1/2” board against the short side of a 7” board to form a 90-degree angle. Mark the 22-1/2” boards with the position of the pilot holes from the shorter boards and drill pilot holes into the end edges of the long boards.
Screw one 7” end piece into the edges of two 22-1/2” side pieces. Add another end piece to the opposite edges of the side pieces. These four pieces will form a rectangular frame. Assemble the remaining long boards with two more of the 7” boards to create a second frame.
Stack the two frames on top of each other and attach them by screwing the 5-1/2” x 7-1/2” boards into the end pieces of each frame. Drill pilot holes in the bottom edges of the planter by lining up the remaining 4” x 7” boards, leaving 1/4” of space between each. Screw these boards into the edges of the long boards to form the bottom of the planter.
“Use a hand sander or sandpaper to smooth the interior and exterior surfaces of the planter. Start with a coarse grit to eliminate rough edges, splinters, and other spots that could be unsightly or a hazard to your hands. Go over the boards again with fine-grit sandpaper to leave the wood silky smooth and ready to stain or paint. If you love the natural look of wood, you can simply apply an exterior sealant to give the planter a layer of protection from the elements. You can also stain the wood to match your deck or trim or to complement your decor style. Feeling artsy? Paint the planter with colors and designs to give your space a pop of personality. After you’ve stained or painted, a coat of sealant will help protect the beauty of your work.
Well-draining soil is essential to the health of your plants. Waterlogged soil can prevent the roots from getting adequate oxygen, leading to problems like stunted plant growth and root rot. Thanks to the 1/4” gap between each of the bottom slats, you have a drainage system built right into your planter. To finish it off, add a layer of river rocks to the bottom. This allows the water to drain freely while preventing your soil from literally slipping through the cracks.
Place the planter in its permanent or long-term home before filling it so that it doesn’t become too heavy to move easily. Then add potting soil, fertilizer, and any other nutrients you might need based on the plants you plan to grow. Fill the planter up about three-fourths of the way to allow room for the plants. Top it up with extra soil once you’ve planted your seedlings.
Your handcrafted planter is complete and ready for use; now all it needs is flowers, herbs, vegetables, or other plants to bring it to life. Whether you’re transplanting from another pot or starting from seeds, be sure to follow USDA hardiness zone guidelines for planting the right plants at the right time to give your miniature garden the best chance of success.