A few months ago, as I moved into my new home in Austin, I was feeling rather bold.

I had a bit of a deck that went out into a creek and loved it. But it needed something a bit more lush and romantic to feel truly finished. I had this one spot in particular along this fence that needed plants, and I couldn’t find a planter that was the right length and height that didn’t cost a bazillion dollars.

Then one night I was having a meal at one of my favorite local spots called Contigo, and I noticed a nice long and tall planter… quite a lot of them actually, all around the restaurant.

Where did you get those?!” I exclaimed to the restaurant people.

“Oh, the restaurant owner built them himself,” the restaurant people replied.

I got up from my picnic table and walked over to the planter in the parking lot and inspected it. Then I circled around it intently. Then I circled around it some more.

I can do this!” I exclaimed again to the restaurant people.

Okay, here’s your pig brain pâté,” they said.

And so I did it. I made my own planter. And while I’m not a carpenter by any means, and I encourage all of you carpenters to add your recommendations in the comments section below so we can improve upon this version, I thought I’d show you how I did it, in case you want to take matters into your own hands too one day, and make a planter for a few dollars, rather than a few hundred. Here goes!

Full directions are at the end of this post, but in summary you will need:

  • Two, 2 x 4 x 8ft pieces of lumber, both cut so that you have a total of 4 pieces that are all 27-inches long
  • Sixteen, 1 x 4 x 96-in pieces of white pine lumber, each cut at the end so that you have 16 pieces that are 83-inches and 16 pieces that are 13-inches long (Note: they are technically only 3 1/2 inches wide even though they are called 4-inches)
  • One, 2 x 11 x 81-in piece of board (you may have to find something slightly longer and have it cut at the end)
  • Box of 2 1/2-in nails
  • Stain and polyurethane combo, or paint
  • Paint brush
  • Plastic garbage1 bags or plastic drop cloth
  • A level
  • Optional: a handsaw, if you don’t have your wood already cut for you by the store where you purchase it
  • A measuring tape
  • A pencil

I made my life a little tricky because I had this big piece of wood already leaning on the side of the house and I decided to build around it. It turned out to be very hard wood and slightly warped, so if I were to do it again I would get softer fresh wood and start new.

The home hardware supply stores will cut your wood for you in most cases if you tell them dimensions… or you can measure…

And cut the wood yourself.  It makes your muscles very, very nice. At least in one arm.

These are the posts that will rise and hold the slats… you’ll see…

This is the base pine frame… I liked pine because it was cheap and soft.

This is going to hold the base board I have lying around.

Like so. Then it is going to get hammered on all corners for security’s sake.

Then in go the posts on all four corners.

Use a big heavy hammer my friends. Those light dinky ones are no use. Some more daring people might even use a nail gun. But they scare me so I stayed old fashioned with my trusty hammer.

So this is where we are now (wave to my Big Green Egg).

I need to work on my hammering skills. But mostly you can see that having a slightly warped base made it hard to keep things in alignment. Learn from my mistakes friends!

You can see at the far end that the pieces aren’t attached yet. They’re dangling. It would help to have a second set of hands help you hold up one end while you hammer the other. You’re going to have marks on the wood to help guide you but it still helps to have a second set of hands to steady things.

When all of the slats are attached, it will look like this!

That’s when you get this out.

You could use paint too, but I liked the idea of sealing it against the elements and also giving it a little stain.

You’ll want to use a few coats until it is the color that you want. You don’t really need to do the inside because it will be covered.

Then you’ll let it dry overnight. And then you begin to line it with planters fabric.

You want to make sure you’re liberal with it and overlap the lines so that it limits leakage.

Then you should add a few large rocks to the bottom if you have them so that it helps with drainage.

Then get out your soil. Fill it 3/4 of the way up, add whatever plants you desire, top it off and water, water, water.

I planted bamboo and since taking this picture, it has turned into a giant, lush, green wall. I love it, it makes me feel like I’m in a jungle.

The planter is not 100% perfect but that’s why I like it… it’s 100% mine.

 

You can make one to fit your space and customize the size accordingly using the same technique. To make one just like mine…

You will need:

  • Two, 2 x 4 x 8ft pieces of lumber, both cut so that you have a total of 4 pieces that are all 27-inches long
  • Sixteen, 1 x 4 x 96-in pieces of white pine lumber, each cut at the end so that you have 16 pieces that are 83-inches and 16 pieces that are 13-inches long (Note: they are technically only 3 1/2 inches wide even though they are called 4-inches)
  • One, 2 x 11 x 81-in piece of board (you may have to find something slightly longer and have it cut at the end)
  • Box of 2 1/2-in nails
  • Stain and polyurethane combo, or paint
  • Paint brush
  • Plastic garbage bags or plastic drop cloth
  • A level
  • Optional: a handsaw, if you don’t have your wood already cut for you by the store where you purchase it
  • A measuring tape
  • A pencil

To plant:

  • 1 roll of planters fabric
  • 6-8 bags of planting soil

Directions:

  1. Create a frame for the base by hammering together two 83-inch  pine pieces with two 13-inch pine pieces so that you have a narrow rectangle.
  2. Drop the bottom 2 x 11 x 81 piece of lumber inside the frame. Hammer the frame into the base piece on all corners.
  3. Add the four 2 x 4 x 27 pieces of lumber, one at a time to each corner so that they stand upright. Hammer them in on all corners so that they stay secure.
  4. With a measuring tape and pencil, mark the posts where you will add additional slats. Start at 1/2-inch above the frame pine board and mark 1/2-inch, 3 1/2-inches, 1/2-inch, 3 1/2-inches, etc until you reach the top of the posts. This will tell you where to nail the pine slats and ensure that they are even. You will be left with a slat that is 1/2-inch above the posts which looks nice.
  5. Begin nailing in the slats on all sides, making sure the pine boards go in the spaces that have been marked for them. It will help to have a second set of hands to help you hold up the one end while you hammer the other. Or a good clamp will work as well. Keep going until you’ve hammered in all slats. It may take a while if you’re hammering by hand rather than with a nail gun. Take some ice tea breaks and know that you’re getting some good arm muscle.
  6. Once it is fulling hammered together, lay some plastic garbage bags or drop cloths around the base. Stain the wood with a sealant so that it doesn’t get water damage. I combo stain and polyurethane is an efficient way to make it look finished and protect it at once. You really just need to focus on the outside, since the inside will have planter fabric and plants. Let it dry.
  7. Once dry, line it with planters fabric, drop rocks at the base for drainage and fill with dirt. Plant away!

Tips:

  1. Make a sketch of your planter and the dimensions first so you have a clear picture of how it will look and where all of the pieces will go.
  2. If you buy your wood from a large home repair store like Home Depot, they will cut your wood for you to your desired dimensions so you don’t have to do it at home with a hand saw.
  3. Use a soft wood if you plan to hammer by hand and use a heavy hammer to give you some weight when you bang the nails in. A dinky hammer won’t take you far and you’ll have a tired arm.

Enjoy my friends!

 

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