Friday, April 12, 2013

DIY: Raised Bed Planter

While the title of this DIY suggests that I made a raised bed planter, what it doesn't tell you is how raised it actually is.  This planter sits about 30" off the ground, and actually has legs on it.  I know, right?  That's really tall!

Finished planter! / Personal Picture

So, this may make you wonder, "why do you need a planter that tall?" Well, I wanted one for a few reasons. The first, was that I was going to plant some herbs, but I can't use my backyard to plant them, because that is currently the home to four large dogs, which are not smart (or are they?), and would probably eat all the herbs I planted.  The second reason was that we have a lot of rabbits and other small creatures in our neighborhood that would probably eat my plants, so by raising them up quite a bit, I eliminate the chances of that happening.  The last reason, was that I am planning on putting the planter in a temporary location, and will likely move it after my parents and my sister move out, so having a planter that can easily be moved was important.

With all of these considerations taken, I found the plan for this planter via Ana White, whose website is amazing!  She has plans for almost any project that you can think of.

I took a trip to Lowe's on Saturday, the same day I got all the supplies for painting.  Ana gives an excellent materials list, but there are some changes that needed making.  Additionally, her assembly instructions are not as detailed as they should have been, and a lot of the assembly left me puzzled, so I will be including my DIY tutorial below.


2 - 4"x4" Fir or Cedar post (fir is cheaper and lasts nearly as long)
2 - 1"x6"x8" Cedar boards. 
Select the boards that have the least amount of knots in them.  You'll thank me later.
2 - 1"x4"x8" Cedar boards. 
Select the boards that have the least amount of knots in them.  You'll thank me later.
1 - 1/4" Hardware cloth that is at least 24" wide.  This can be found in the landscaping section.  
16 - 2" Long hex bolts. You will likely find these in a bin in the hardware aisle.  Make sure you check every single one you choose to make sure they are all the same.  Some may have been placed there accidentally.
16 - Washers.  Make sure that these fit around your 2" Hex Bolts. 
Make sure you check every single one you choose to make sure they are all the same.  Some may have been placed there accidentally.
16 - 3/8" Threaded Insert Nuts. If you shop at Lowe's, these will be in one of the drawers of inserts in the Hardware section.  This is what they look like.
24 - 1.5" Galvanized Screws

1/2" Wood bit
Miter or Table Saw that has the capability of cutting a 4"x4" post.
Wire Cutters or Heavy Duty Shears
Staple Gun 
1/2" Staples for Staple gun

Hex wrench
Measuring Tape
Safety Glasses

Cut List:

Lowe's has a wood cutting service, as do most hardware stores.  They can cut the smaller pieces of wood for you for an additional cost, but it's really cheap. They currently do not have the capability to cut pieces of wood larger than 3" thick.  

Legs - Cut the 4"x4" into 4 - 32" posts.  Lowe's will not be able to make this cut for you. Their saws will not fit this size.  You will need a miter saw or a table saw to make these cuts.
Sides: Cut one of the 1"x6"x8" into two 48" pieces.
Ends: Cut one of the 1"x6"x8" into two 24" pieces.
Bottom slats: Cut the two 1"x4"x8" into six 24" pieces.
Bottom hardware cloth: Cut the hardware cloth into a 24"x50" rectangle.


Step 1: Gather all of your supplies and tools.

Make sure that you have everything listed above in the Materials list.  These are the tools and pieces that you will need to put together your planter.

Building supplies ready to go! / Personal Picture

Step 2: Cut your wooden boards.

If you were unable to have Lowe's or your local hardware store help out with cutting, you will need to make the cuts to your wood before starting any other aspect of the project.  Make sure you remember the golden rule of carpentry - measure twice, cut once.

Step 3: Sand down the corners and edges of your wood.

You don't want to get splinters when you're working in your garden, so spend some time before you start drilling and sand down the pieces of wood.  Spend extra time on the surfaces that will be showing, as you won't want any snags or large pieces sticking out on those.  

I used medium grit sandpaper, and sanded down the edges and the flat ends of all my boards, but not on the 4"x4" posts.  If you'd like to do those too, feel free. My saw didn't leave anything sharp, so I didn't feel the need to do that.  

Step 4: Layout your planter.

On a flat and level surface, lay out what your planter would look like if it was placed upside-down. 

This will help you figure out if you have enough space to work, and how the pieces will fit together.

Start with the 4"x4" posts, and stand them up on one edge.  

Posts on their ends. / Personal Picture

Your end boards will go against the two posts, on the outside.  You will want the boards to go off the side of the post about 3/4" so that when you put the longer side boards up, they will meet at a 90 degree angle around the post.  

Short side board up against two posts. / Personal Picture

After you have the side boards up, make sure that your width is accurate by placing one of the bottom support 1x4 pieces across the bottom to make sure they fit.  

Longer side boards added on, and layout tested with the bottom support boards. / Personal Picture

Repeat this step on the other side of the planter.

Step 5: Measure your drill holes for your posts.

Since you will be using 2" Hex Bolts on the post, you will need to stagger the holes that you drill so that they do not interfere with each other in the center of the post.  

Use your measuring tape, mark holes using your pencil at 1.5" and 4" from the bottom of your post, at 3" from the left side.  Rotate your post to the right, and then mark holes at 1.5" and 4" from the bottom of your post, at 1" from the left side.  This will make sure that your screws do not touch each other in the center of your post.  

Step 6: Drill holes in your posts.

Using a drill with a 1/2" bit, drill holes where you marked the measurements.  Your holes only need to be 1.5" deep, since your hex bolt will be going through another board as well.  To help make sure you do not go in too deep with the hole, you can make a mark on the drill bit using a marker or a piece of tape.  

When drilling, make sure your board is held down securely, either by using a work bench with a clamp, or by applying pressure with your leg over a flat surface, like a bench.  Drill straight down into the wood and try to keep it as level as possible so you don't break the drill bit.  

Step 7: Screw in the Threaded Insert Nuts

For every hole that you drilled into your posts, you will need to add in an Insert Nut. These will help make sure that your hex bolts stay in securely.  

Using a large flat-headed screwdriver, manually screw the insert nuts into the holes. Make sure that they go in straight, and screw them into the wood until they are flush with the surface.  

Holes drilled and getting ready for the insert nuts. / Personal Picture

Insert nut flush with the surface of the post. / Personal Picture

Step 8: Measure your drill holes for your side boards.

First, measure the holes for the long side boards.  Using your measuring tape, mark holes using your pencil at 1.5" and 4" from the top of the board, at 3" from the right side.  Make sure you mark the holes on the side of the board that will be showing on the outside of the planter.

For the shorter side boards, mark holes at 1.5" and 4" from the top of the board, at 1.75" from the right side.  The reason for the extra 3/4" is because the short boards have a slight overhang from the side of the posts.  Make sure you mark the holes on the side of the board that will be showing on the outside of the planter.

Step 9: Drill holes in your side boards.

Using a drill with a 1/2" bit, drill holes where you marked the measurements.  Your holes will need to go all the way through these boards since the hex bolts will also be going into the posts.  Make sure you drill the holes from the side of the board that will be showing on the outside of the planter towards the side that will not be showing.  This will help prevent the board from splintering on the side that will be showing.  

When drilling, make sure your board is held down securely, either by using a work bench with a clamp, or by applying pressure with your leg over a flat surface, like a bench.  Drill straight down into the wood and try to keep it as level as possible so you don't break the drill bit.  

Drilling through the side boards. / Personal Picture

Step 10: Check your hole placement.

Line everything back up, like you did in Step 4, and make sure that the holes that you drilled in the boards match up with the holes in the posts.  

This is the most difficult part of the planter.  Chances are, that your measurements will be slightly off, so you will need to make the hole a little larger to accommodate that.  Don't worry about making the hole larger than the head of the hex bolt.  You will be using washers between the board and the bolt, so as long as the hole in the wood isn't larger than the washer, you will be ok.

Keep checking the hole placement until they all line up.

I had to make a bunch of adjustments to my holes too.  You could avoid this issue if you had clamps  or vices and could put your post and board together and then use a drill press to drill through both boards.  But, chances are that you don't have one of those.  

Step 11: Attach your hardware through the side boards.

Once your holes line up, start screwing in the hex bolts using a hex wrench.  Make sure you put a washer over the bolt before you start twisting it into the side boards.  

Screwing in the hex bolts, washers attached. / Personal Picture

Don't put the bolts through all the way.  You want them to show through to the other side a little bit, but you also want to be able to have enough space on the bolt to thread them into the posts.

Hex bolts just showing through the other side of the board. / Personal Picture

Step 12: Attach the side boards to the posts.

Once all of your side boards have hex bolts and washers on them, start attaching them to the posts.  It is easiest to both side boards to one post, then do the post that is diagonally opposite, so you end up with two "L-shaped" pieces of the planter.  

"L-shaped" pieces of the planter attached together with the bolts. / Personal Picture

Once you have the two "L-shaped" pieces put together, you can attach the longer side boards to the remaining posts.  

Side boards attached on the other posts.  / Personal Picture

When all of your bolts have been tightened, flip over the planter, and check everything for sturdiness and for whether or not it is level.  Just be mindful that you likely won't get everything to be perfectly level - that's ok.  If you need to straighten out the legs a bit, loosen some of the hex bolts, and move the legs around, then tighten everything one last time while it is standing on the legs.

Leveled out planter! / Personal Picture

Step 13: Cut your hardware screen.

Using a pair of wire cutters or heavy duty shears, cut a 24"x50" rectangle from your roll of hardware screen.  The metal is very sharp, so use caution when cutting this.  

Hardware screen and wire cutters. You can tell what has and hasn't been snipped yet. / Personal Picture

Step 14: Attach the hardware screen to the bottom of the planter.

Flip the planter back over so that the legs are sticking straight up in the air.  

Making sure that your screen is centered vertically and horizontally, use your staple gun to staple the screen to the center of all four sideboards.  

Once the centers are done, you can continue along the length and width of the screen, attaching it to the underside of the planter.

You will need to use your wire cutters or heavy duty shears to make a 4" cut at each corner of the screen so that it fits around the planter.  I suggest that you don't remove the 4" piece, and instead, just staple it along the inside of the planter leg.  

Step 15: Attach your support boards to the bottom of the planter.

Lay out the 1"x4" boards that will be supporting the bottom.  Space them out evenly, but you don't have to be neurotic and measure. 

Using your 1.5" galvanized screws, screw the boards into place.  

Bottom support boards attached. / Personal Picture

If your boards have knots at the end, try to avoid them.  The knots in wood are always the hardest parts, and they don't like being hammered or screwed into.  I found this out the hard way.  

I tried to screw (and hammer a nail) through the knot. You can tell where the screws broke off in the wood and where the nail started to split the wood.  Knots are hard! / Personal Picture


Flip your planter back over and admire your work! You're done!

Inside of the planter bed. / Personal Picture

You have some options now as to how you want to keep the soil in. I plan on using newspaper, since it's biodegradable, recyclable, and cheap, but you may want to use something else, like planter liner, or coconut cloth.

The whole planter! So excited and proud of this project! / Personal Picture

All that's next is to line it, fill it with some potting soil, and fill it up with delicious herbs!

I'm so excited to have finished this project, and I can't wait to actually start using some of the herbs from our own garden!


Amandab said...

Thank you for posting this! My husband and I are making one today :)

David said...

I hope you see this 2 months later. . . I'm coming here because I found this project on Instructables. I rent an apartment, and can't tear up the yard, but I miss gardening, so-- voilá. Raised bed garden (that I can take wherever I move!).

My question is because I'm not very good at match. If you're using a 1/2" drill bit, and 3/8" threaded insert nuts, then what is the guage of the bolts? 2 inches long, and how thick?

I'm so excited to get this built (by then, I'll probably only be able to plant next year's garlic-- cue sad trombone)

Mands @ Rhody Life said...

Hi David!

The bolts are 3/8" thick. The 1/2" drill bit is used for the threaded inserts. Because the inserts fit the 3/8" bolts in them, the holes drilled into the wood have to be big enough to hold the threaded inserts tightly, which once you add the threads onto the side, it comes out to just about 1/2". If you take a look at the link to the threaded inserts (in the materials list above) you can see how much the threaded part of the insert sticks out on the outside. That's why the holes drilled needed to be so much bigger than the size of the bolts I used.

It's kind of hard to explain, so please let me know if this is still confusing.

I hope that you find the time and desire to make this! I have loved it so far!

kim dever thibodeaux said...

This is EXACTLY what I was looking for to grow succulents. I think I will add wheels so that it can be easily relocated. Thanks for sharing!

Jesse said...

I'm making two of these for my wife for Mother's day this year! This plan was one of the better documented ones -- thanks for all the effort.

I found that Home Depot didn't carry non-metric threaded insert nuts, and Lowe's only had 13 of them. To make the two planters I'm planning on, I'd need 32. So I went with 5 1/2" lag bolts, washers on both sides, and a lock washer under the nut on the inside of the planter. I have yet to cost it out to see which option is cheaper.

Some notes regarding the wood, from my recent experience today...

Although the sign at the box store says the board is 8' long, that's the length before it's dried. I got out to the car and noted there were four boards that were shorter than they should have been by varying amounts, and after gearing up for a confrontation with the saw dude (it was off by more than the advertised 1/2" margin), I realized that of course, the last cut from the board wouldn't be the correct length due to shrinkage.

So when you plan your wood purchase, you'll have to by a few extra boards to ensure all the cuts are the correct length for the planter.

In addition to checking for minimal knots, also be sure to check that all the boards you have selected are straight. I pulled a few down from Home Depot shelves that had such a bad crook or bow that they would never be usable even in this fairly forgiving project.

Not sure if it's a geographic thing or what (I'm in Massachusetts), but don't be surprised if neither Lowe's nor Home Depot carried any cedar 4x4. However, Home Depot carries a nice 4x4 fir AND had a table saw that had no issue cutting it to size.

The Lowe's only had a panel saw, but since I had to go Lowe's after Home Depot to check for those threaded insert nuts, I picked up those extra boards and the fellow there cut it for me 5m before closing, and was down near the floor ensuring he got the length right. Panel saw kinda chewed up the board a bit, but what do you expect from a panel saw. Fortunately, it's nothing a file and sandpaper can't clean up.

Thanks again for this tutorial,


Anonymous said...

What is the purpose of the hardware wire and landscape cloth? (I'm new to this, have never planted in a box). I thought the cloth is used as weed barriers on the top of dirt. I"m guessing it has to do with drainage issues, but still not sure about the wire. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I used 3/8 x 3" Lag bolts/screw instead and they worked like a champ. Less stress than using the nuts and the measurements are still good to go. They come in bags of 12 and are much less expensive as well.

Marina Kingston said...

Raised Bed Planter DIY share here is so cool and interesting it can be worth going after these planters as shared about them at too. Surely going to get these materials and try planting.

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Good resources.
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what did you find plants well in this? what kind of soil did you use?

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Andrew said...

Hey Manda,
This is great and I want to make one. But I'm replacing a weaker version I made a while ago from a table soccer table. I was wondering, 1) should I treat the wooden sides and slats to prevent rotting? 2) are the screes that hold the base slats enough or would L-shaped brackets be better (uglier for sure), 3) how about diagonal struts to keep the legs true?
I should say I'm making mine deeper, 18cn (7").
Andrew, Perth Australia


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