We overhauled the back yard last spring. The beautiful circular planters that replaced our pool 8 years ago were not working for us – lots of wasted space, paver bricks that had settled awkwardly, and trouble with weed suppression on the paths between the planters.
I wanted something simpler – raised rectangular beds, off to the side of the yard. I looked into raised bed kits made of cedar at the hardware store, but the quality of the boards was awfully low for $100 a pop. Also, the design made it so that 3 boards were stacked upon one another on each side, and the mechanism for holding them together was not very sturdy. It was clear that there would be gaps.
We decided to DIY. We would’ve needed two 4’x8′ kits to provide the space we wanted to cover, so my goal was to create two cedar planters for less than the $200 the kits would’ve cost.
The sides were made of 1x8x12 cedar boards. We cut each into two pieces (4 ft and 8 ft) – Home Depot provides one free cut per board. The staffer who made the cuts lined up the boards on the saw two at a time so that the lengths were exactly the same for each box. Each planter box requires 2 long boards, so our project took 4 boards.
The sides are held together at the corners using pine 2x3s. Pine was our only non-treated, non-cedar wood choice. I didn’t want chemicals anywhere near the vegetables, but I wanted something a little cheaper than cedar. A pine 2×3 stud is less than $2. You can cut it into 7″ pieces and have enough to make 2 full planter boxes. To assemble, we used 2-inch #12 wood screws. Two screws on each side of the corner, as shown below. Each box will take 24 screws.
There is a cedar cross-piece in the center to add extra strength and stability once the box is filled with dirt. This also made the planters easier to move around while we were getting them placed in the yard. To save money, we got a narrower board for this – an 8-ft length of 2×6. Home Depot cut it in half for us. Each planter box requires a 4-ft length, so our double planter only needed a single board. These pieces are held in place by small pieces of 2×3 – just like the corners of the box.
Putting the boxes together was so easy! We don’t own clamps, so it was a 2-person job. One person held the pieces in place while the other drilled and installed the screws. Even though we are not very experienced with doing handy projects, we knocked out each box in less than an hour.
Before placing the boxes in the yard, we put down a thick layer of newspaper to kill the grass. We had it extend beyond the borders of the boxes to provide a weed-break. We also dug a small moat around the boxes for this purpose. That was not our best strategy – that moat did not drain very well, so we had standing water most of the summer. Also, that gap allowed access to the bottom of the fence for little bunnies, who were happy to gain access to our crops. This year, we will plant marigolds or other pest-repelling plants in this border area.
Our rabbit fencing was installed around the edges of the box. This was simple to do, and the vining vegetables used the fencing as a trellis.
However, critters were still able to squeeze in between the fencing and the cedar box. This year, we are going to try installing the fencing inside the planter box before we plant.
The veggies loved their home. Beans, corn, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, greens, and herbs thrived. The pumpkins were a little disappointing, but that seems to have been universal in Illinois during the 2015 growing season.
- 1″x8″x12′ cedar board (Qty: 2 per box, 4 total for our project). $19.53 each. $78.12 total
- 2″x6″x8′ cedar board (Qty: 1 – makes 2 boxes) – $15.57
- 2″x3″x8′ pine stud (Qty: 1 – makes 2 boxes) – $1.82
- #12 x 2″ wood screws, package of 50 (Qty: 1) – $7.56
Our project total was $103.01 for both planter boxes. Doing a single box would’ve cost about $65. We ended up with a much higher-quality product at a much lower price by purchasing the materials individually instead of in a pre-fab kit.
The design was so easy to use and, so far, to maintain. We’re really looking forward to planting this year!