Raise your hand if you've spent your weekend covered in dirt but have something pretty to show for it! This warmer spring weather has me ready to tackle a few projects to make our outdoor space more enjoyable and this planter was a great place to start. I've done raised beds and container gardens but this year I wanted to add a decorative, wooden planter to flank our house near the back door. It's designed so that it can rest against a wall and fill in some blank space but a pair of them in a straight line or at a right angle would work as great dividers in a yard or garden as well.
After visiting with one of the educated employees at Lowe's, I chose to use cedar over pine for two reasons. It's pest and insect resistant, which is important if it's going to be placed near your house. Pine is a favorite with termites and I didn't want to give them any reason to start chewing away at our rental. Cedar is also one of the more affordable non-treated options for outdoor use. It won't need to be replaced next season as it withstands rot and weathers nicely. It would've been beautiful left in its natural cedar color but I really wanted a black planter against our light gray siding. I knew paint would likely peel off in a year or two so I chose an indoor/outdoor stain in Ebony and applied two coats. The cedar took the stain so well you can hardly tell it's not painted. Winning!
The other best part about my design is that you can get all of your cedar cut to size at a store like Lowe's if you're patient and there isn't a long line behind you. The first two cuts are free but then each additional cut is $ .25. Since I don't have a place to store many power tools and gear at our house (no garage or shed), this is worth it's weight in gold. If you know someone willing to cut your lumber for you, maybe bake them some cookies in return for super precise measurements. And you'll want to be sure your front and back panels are cut evenly or your clean lined, mid-century planter will look a little more shabby-chic. Your end result will be a 3" x 4" planter with a planting depth of about 10".
1 - 1" x 12" x 10' cedar board cut into three 36" pieces
1 - 1" x 8" x 8' cedar board cut in half
2 - 1" x 2" x 8' cedar board cut in half
4 - 1" x 4" x 8' cedar board cut in half
3 - 1" x 3" x 10' cut into 4" lengths (keep the scraps for your interior support beams)
Step One: Rub a damp (not soaking) cotton cloth over your wood to help open up the pores to absorb more of the stain. Do this step for each piece before you stain it, not in one big batch or most of your wood will have dried before you get to apply the stain.
Step Two: Test your stain on a piece of scrap wood to make sure you like the shade and coverage. I was pleased with my first coat initially but wanted to see if a second coat would make a difference and it did. Once you're happy with your stain, apply a generous amount to your wood. I do suggest wearing gloves for this part as your fingers will get covered in it. Don't forget to stain the entire board as all sides will be visible from certain angles. I forgot to stain the opposite side of two of the large boards until the very end. You'll be able to do touch ups and a second coat once it's assembled but it's tricky to get full coverage in between the slats so I suggest staining everything before assembly.
Step Three: Make sure to wait the recommended drying time according to manufacturer's instructions before drilling. It's best to wait about 24 hours if you can. I may or may not have jumped the gun and started in after three hours but only because I knew it would rain the next day and I wanted to get my project finished before then.
Step Four: Place all three pieces of your 3' panels on a flat surface and mark 10" down from the top, short edge. Draw a line with a pencil. Then place one of your brackets about 3" from the long edge so that it rests just below your pencil line and mark where the screw hole will be on the 3' panel. Place another bracket 3" in from the opposite side and make a mark for the screw hole. These two brackets will attach your interior support beams in place. They are not going to provide much stability to the frame on their own but they will help support the weight of the dirt and plants.
Pre-drill pilot holes for the brackets but be sure you only drill about 1/2" into your 3/4" wood so you don't bust through the other side. Awkward! Put your brackets back in place and screw them in with the screws that came with them.
Place one of your 22.5" boards perpendicular to the 3' panel and center it over one of the brackets. Make a pencil mark where the screw hole is and then pre-drill a hole in your board. Repeat this with the second board.
Step Five: Use the same measurements to attach the brackets to the other side of the center panel but adjust them about 1/2" to each side so you don't screw into the screws on the opposite side. Finish up with the last two brackets on the third 3' panel.
Step Six: After you've pre-drilled all of your holes for your center support beams, screw everything together. It will not be sturdy enough to bear weight or move without help at this point. Also, your 3' panels should be stained on both sides but I forgot to do mine. Oops! I went back and took care of it after I assembled everything. You don't need to stain your support beams. They won't be seen.
Step Seven: Separate the rest of your cedar planks into two even piles so you know that the front and back sides will be matching. Set aside one pile. Place the other pile on top of your frame until you are happy with the placement of the different thicknesses. I spaced mine out about 1/3" apart and had the thinner planks up top and the thickest plank at the bottom with some variations in the center. You could even do this with the same thickness as long as you know how many you'll need to cover the same amount of space.
Make sure your top plank is flush with one of the side panels and pre-drill a hole through both. Attach your screw to secure it and then repeat with the opposite end. This will help secure your frame at the top while you continue working. For even spacing between your planks, insert the end of your paintbrush or use another tool to keep things consistent as you screw each plank to the frame. I suggest screwing in two or three planks on one side and then finishing up the other side of those planks instead of just doing an entire side at a time.
Step Eight: Once you've finished with the front side of your planter, carefully turn it over to the other side and repeat the process. To add further stability, you will want to add three screws down the center support plank on the back side. Adding these only to the back side adds support without interrupting the lines of your planter on the front side.
Step Nine: Stand your planter upright and make sure everything is looking straight. I had an overhanging board on one end so I sanded it down to be mostly flush with the 3' outer support.
Step Ten: Cut your hardware cloth to measure about 21" x 30". Fold it down into one of the planter boxes and staple it to the inside so that it is just under the lip of the top of the box. The wire should rest on top of the support beams. Staple it in as many places as you prefer. Repeat on the other planter box. I also suggest wearing gloves while cutting your wire and stapling it in as those edges can get sharp.
Step Eleven: Cut your landscape fabric to be about 36" x 36" long and fold it down inside your planter boxes. You'll have to do a little folding in the corners and tucking back at the top edges. It is almost like wrapping a present inside-out! It doesn't need to be too neat as it will all be covered in dirt but you do want to make sure there aren't gaping holes in the corners where the dirt could wash out. Staple the folded back edges as close to the top edge as you can and then staple down into the corners and in a few places along the bottom.
Step Twelve: Repeat with the other box and get your planter set up where you'd like it before filling it with soil and beautiful flowers or herbs. It's a heavy planter by itself but adding dirt will make it slightly top heavy. Be sure not to allow children to climb on it if they are eager to help water the flowers.
The cost of this planter came in at around $170 including the stain and brush but not including the soil and plants. It's still more affordable than purchasing similar sized planters from your favorite design stores as they can range anywhere from $120 - $370. You could also alter your design a bit for a shorter planter and skip the stain to cut off another $30-$50. Whenever I invest a little more money into a DIY project, it's usually because I know it's a piece that I'll use for years and I'm confident this planter will still be looking great this time next year.
I love the height and color it brings to this side of our house and I can't wait to have all of that green cascading over the sides in a few weeks! This is a great option for an herb garden, too, if you want something just outside your kitchen window. What would you plant in yours?
Photography: Rachel Denbow and Janae Hardy.