Large tall planter box

Large tall planter box DEFAULT

How to Build a Planter Box

How to Build a Planter Box

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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.

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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


  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!


  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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What to Put in the Bottom of a Large Planter

Large planters can take bag after bag of soil. Not only is all that soil expensive, but it's heavy. Your planter can become difficult to move when filled with that much potting medium. The weight of the soil can compress and compact the soil, affecting drainage and root growth. To solve these problems, try different materials to fill the bottom of your pots.

Preparing Your Pot

Before you add anything to your pot, you need to make sure it has at least one hole in the bottom to allow for adequate drainage. Even if you're adding materials to the bottom of your pot to help improve drainage, it's still a good idea to have a place for excess water to go. If it drains out of your soil and into a layer of gravel or other material, that water can quickly become stagnant and foster root-killing bacteria and mold growth.

Light Materials

If you have an especially big planter to fill, light, bulky materials are your best bet. Examples include plastic drink containers, milk jugs, crushed soda cans, foam packing materials and plastic or foam take-out containers. Wash the items well to make sure no food residue remains and fill the bottom one-fourth to one-third of the container with the filler. You can use a combination of items to get the best fit. Just make sure the items won't rot. You can also use foam craft balls and blocks from the floral section of a craft store, but these items can be pricey, especially if you need a lot of them.

Other Options

If you don't mind a heavier pot, you can use gravel, river rocks or broken pieces of pottery as filler in your planters. Lighter natural options include sphagnum moss, coconut fiber and sharp, gritty sand. If you use moss or sand, they can compact and become part of your soil, so they may not be appropriate for some types of plants and planters but may work in a pinch if you already have them on hand. Hydroponic sections of gardening stores sell clay balls and other soil-less media appropriate for planting that you could also use as filler.

Tips for Using Filler

Because your filler should take up at least one-fourth to one-third of your pot, you need to make sure it's healthy for your pants and able to stand the test of time. Use materials that are inert, and that won't react with soil, recommends The University of Illinois. Avoid materials that break down easily, such as newspaper, cardboard and paper cups. They'll make your soil settle and sink over time and they can introduce bacteria and mold into your soil as they break down. If you use large, bulky items to provide filler, a sheet of mesh or landscaping fabric over top of them can help keep your soil in place.


Writer Bio

A Jill-of-all-trades, Lillian Downey is a certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, certified clinical phlebotomist and a certified non-profit administrator. She's also written extensively on gardening and cooking. She also authors blogs on nail art blog and women's self esteem.

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Potting soil is not cheap, so whether you are using a large planter as a statement piece for a smaller plant or for a large tree, in most cases you do not need to fill the whole planter with soil. Pot fillers are also a great opportunity to recycle non-biodegradable trash like plastic. 

So what should you use to fill the bottom of a large planter?

First, research the plant or ask your local garden center what kind of depth the plant or tree’s roots need. That will give you an idea of how much potting soil you will need. We recommend using a high-quality potting soil and not garden soil as soil outside can be contaminated with weeds and other substances that will not help your plant.

Once you know about how much space will be leftover depending on the depth of soil you need, you will be able to choose a filler. 

Lightweight Filler for Pots

If your large planter is made of clay or another heavy material, chances are you will want to go with a lighter weight filler. If the planter is being placed in a more permanent spot, this may not be important to you. The lightweight filler is also good for large lightweight planters that you may want to move occasionally. 

Options for Lightweight Pot Fillers

  • Recycle Plastics
    • Plastic Water/Soda Bottles
    • Plastic Milk Jugs
    • Plastic Grocery Store Bags
  • Reuse Packing Materials
    • Packing Peanuts (You can put the peanuts in an empty potting soil bag to keep them more secure and better contained if you decided to repot. Also make sure they aren’t the kind that dissolve when wet.)
    • Styrofoam Blocks
  • Unused Plastic Pots Turned Upside Down
  • Recycled Crushed Cans
  • Natural Materials
    • Wood Chips, Pine Cones, Leaves, Sticks (These materials will break down over time but work fine for seasonal planters.)
  • Recycled Cardboard, Newspaper (Also for short term use only.)

Heavy Pot Fillers

There are a few reasons you may want to fill your large planter with a heavier filler. Maybe you have a tall lightweight planter that you want to make sure is more sturdy, especially when using it for a tall tree. Maybe your planter will be in a public place where it could get bumped into or stolen. Heavy materials will also work for more permanent installations. Whatever the reason, these are some options for heavy pot fillers.

Options for Heavy Pot Fillers

  • Broken Pieces of Ceramic, Brick, etc. 
  • Cinderblock
  • Large Rocks
  • Wood Logs

Other Tips

Make sure the filler materials are sturdy enough so when you add the soil it will not shift. It is also a good idea to add a piece of landscaping fabric on top of the filler to prevent too much soil from falling through the cracks.

These are just a few ideas, but you can get creative with other fillers, just use whatever you have lying around. Usually, there is no need to go buy a filler, chances are you already have items you can recycle. 

Have you used other materials you liked? Let us know in the comments.

Where to find large pots online

Looking for large pots for your plants? You can buy these trendy FeatherStone large lightweight planters online, or if you’re a designer or reseller you can order them wholesale directly from us.


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Box large tall planter

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How to Hack an Outdoor Planter For Indoor Decor!

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