Posted by: andy idsinga | March 21, 2010

Building planter boxes

In this post I’m sharing some planter boxes that our family built – part of our urban gardening activities.

We’re planting veggies in these boxes and if all goes well we’ll have enough to share with our friends and neighbors :)

These planter boxes are VERY EASY to build – even if you’ve never built anything. You can do it!
Here are the planter box plans in google sketchup format. If you don’t have google sketchup you can get it here for free: Google Sketchup Download.

If you put these boxes in your front yard, near the street or sidewalk they provide a nice place to sit for neighbors strolling by. You could even put up a small sign inviting them to sit there :)
When the boxes are in the front yard they provide you the perfect opportunity to yak with your neighbors, watch the kids play – create community! Oh, yeah, you get to snack on the veggies you grow (ummm – the freshest tomatoes!).

I’m gonna be hassling the kids: “don’t you dare eat any of these here tasty veggies! (smile , wink, wink as I throw em a pea, bean or tomato)”

What kind of wood ? UNTREATED WOOD!

  • Green Douglas Fir. I used this for mine – as did my neighbors who have boxes that are 5+ years old. It will eventually rot, but I’m told (and see) that they hold up quite well. It is very affordable.
  • Cedar (aka western red cedar, aka red cedar). This is excellent material because of its natural resistance to the elements. Its smells great.
    It is much more expensive than Douglas Fir.
  • Recycled wood is a good choice IF AND ONLY IF you know it has not been treated, painted etc. If you don’t know where the wood has been, it might not be a good choice for a box where you’ll be planting veggies you want to eat.

Here is a diagram of the planter box (click to see a larger image):

Referring to the diagram:

  • You should change the lengths of the box sides (the 96″ and 36″ dimensions) to fit the place you’ll be putting your box.
  • The boards that make up the box sides are all 2×6 boards stacked two tall. If you want, you can substitute a single 2×12 board.
  • The top parts (aka “seats”) are make up of 2x4s on the long sides and 2x6s on the short sides.
  • Use 2 1/2″ long #8 wood screws to attach the the 2×4 side braces to the 2×6 boards that make up the long sides of the box.
  • Use 3″ long #8 wood screws to attach the the 4×4 end braces to both the long and short sides of the box.
  • Use 3″ long #8 wood screws When attaching the tops / seats to the box sides. I drove the screws from the bottom, (at an angle) at side and end braces, but you can also just drive the screws in from the top. Its easier to drive them in from from the top but a little less attractive to have screws in the seats like that.


  • To cut the boards you need a hand saw or a circular saw.
  • To drive the screws you should buy a cordless drill. An average quality 12 to 18 volt drill is just fine for many drilling tasks.

The most important part of building the box is how the corners fit together. Note that in the photos I use a 2×4 for the end brace, but in the diagram I show a 4×4. You can use either, but the 4×4 is better because it provides more surface for attaching the sides at the corner and will be stronger.

Here is a photo showing the corner of one of the boxes I built.

Here is a photo of the inside corner that shows the screws that attach the short sides of the box the end brace.

Here is a photo of the side braces attached to the box side.

Here is a photo of three finished boxes. On my boxes I used a router to make a “fancy” (it’s not that fancy) edge on the seats. This is totally cosmetic and optional :)

If you’re interested in urban gardening you may also like this post: In support of urban gardening.



  1. […] As a final note, I wanted to let you know that with a little encouragement from my wife and inspiration from my neighbor – I built some planter boxes for our own urban garden. They’re the boxes at the start of each video :) [Update] Here is a post I did on how to build planter boxes. […]

  2. […] Planter Box Progress – things are growing In my last post I shared the details of the planter boxes that we built. […]

  3. Hello. I am about to start a planter box project. Thanks for the Sketchup plans! I notice that you did not use 4X4s for your end braces in any of the pictured boxes but instead 2X4s. Does it make a difference?

    • Hey – you’re welcome.
      Yeah – I used 2x4s for the end braces because I had a lot of 2×4 material hanging around. They work just fine – but the 4x4s will be stronger. The additional strength is valuable if you end up moving your boxes around to find the best light etc.

  4. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the knowledge share. My wife wants a planter box and I was searching the internet for a good design. I came across your blog on planters and was very pleased. Great job.

    Kind regards,
    Chris Jackson
    Livermore, CA

  5. Thanks for the design, very functional and attractive, however I have just one question. I could not find anywhere, (may have been overlooked) if there is a bottom to these boxes or do they just sit on the ground or deck?



    • hi Marty – no bottoms to the boxes. They’re just sitting right on the ground.

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