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How to build raised planters and beds that will last many years and not cost a lot of money!

I have always loved growing my own vegetables but the problem was that rabbits and field mice would steal my tomatoes, peppers and more. I also have dogs and I found one of them pulling tomatoes off of my tomato plant and using them like a chew toy. So I needed a solution to where I could grow my vegetables and have them out of the way of the rabbits, field mice and even my dogs.

I already have a fence around my backyard, but it doesn’t keep out the rabbits which there are many of around my neighborhood. So what I decided to do was build some raised planter beds. I looked around at the various big-box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s and look for what types of wood work cheapest and what would be most effective. I saw that there were fence posts and are only $1.50 each but they were pressure-treated. Pressure treatment also includes chemicals like copper and anti-insect treatments that are pushed deep inside the wood in the treatment process.

white planter box
This is the planter box assembled and freshly painted and sealed with Killz exterior paint/sealant/primer.

I read up a lot about these treatments and basically found you shouldn’t be using this wood around plants with vegetables you plan on eating, unless it’s sealed and painted. I read up and found that all you needed to do was seal the pressure treated wood with Killz exterior sealant and primer and you are good to go. This protects the wood from insects, mildew and mold so it will last for many years and it also seals all of the pressure-treated chemicals so that they do not leach out into the surrounding dirt which could be sucked up by the roots of the plants you are growing. So basically, what I ended up doing was building 6 foot long by 2 foot wide by 2 foot high raised planter beds out of these fence posts and furring strips. I then sealed the wood inside and out and then I used a darker brown paint so they would look better in our yard.

To build each of the 6′ x 2′ planters it took:
8 6′ long, 6 inch wide fence posts
2 8′ long, furring strips
72 1 and 1/4 inch screws
1 gallon of Killz exterior sealer (white)
1 gallon of brown exterior paint

Once I built the first planter it actually became quite easy and it didn’t take that long to build each successive one. The basic steps are:

white planter box view down length
Here is another view of the white planter box down its length from the short side.

1) Cut the top inch off of each fence post. This will remove the top part that makes it look like an actual fence post and leave it looking just like a regular board. this is easiest done with a 12 inch sliding miter saw, but any saw (table or miter will work. You can also use a handsaw but it will take you considerably longer. I bought a great 12″ laser guided miter saw for $150 at Harbor Freight Tools.

2) Cut the furring strips in to pieces of 17 1/2 inches. For each raised planter bed you will need eight of these pieces. One for each corner and two along each side of the long 6 foot length sides for added strength and to keep the wood from bowing out due to the weight of the dirt.

3) Take 3 fence posts and screw a furring piece to each end. Use 2 screws per piece of wood and pre-drill all screw holes so the wood doesn’t crack. If you do not pre-drill screw holes into the pressure-treated wood I guarantee you are going to crack the work in many places. Make sure the extra 1/4 to 1/2 inch is at the bottom of every side. This will give the planter box/bed slight legs and make it easier to make it sit up right in your yard. My yard is fairly uneven and the little legs made it easier to make it so it was seated correctly and not at an angle or otherwise off.

Planter box filled with organic matter, dirt, top soil and wood chips to retain moisture
Planter box filled with organic matter, dirt, top soil and wood chips to retain moisture

4) Once you have all the long sides that you need which will be two for one planter, then you will take two extra fence posts and cut them into three pieces each. These will be used for the short sides. Have someone help you hold up for long sides and then (once you are sure they are square and proper) screw them in to the corner furring pieces. This will complate the box. Three pieces on top of each other like the sides. At this time strengthen the sides by adding two furring pieces cut to the same 17.5 inches and place them at 23 inches in on the two longer sides. You can also brace these by adding a cross brace cut to size from the same furring material and attaching it on the inside from one side to the other.

5) Next you need to seal the wood. A gallon of Killz exterior sealant and primer in white costs $15.99 or so at Walmart. This sealer only takes 1 hour to dry on a mild day. In the hot sun it can take less then 30 minutes for it to dry. Make sure you are not putting this paint on if there are any rain clouds out and about. This sealer is water based and will wash off if it is not completely dry. You don’t want to go through having to paint it or steal it all over again if you don’t have to.

6) Next, after the paint has all dried you can now paint a different color of exterior paint over the sealer and primer. Being that the Killz is a very effective exterior paint and sealer all in one, you don’t have to paint it if you want it to stay white. But, if you wish to paint it another color you can get a cheap gallon of exterior paint at Walmart for around $15 to $18 depending on if you pick flat, semi gloss or glossy. Flat is the cheapest at $15 and glossy is the most expensive at around $18-$19.

Finished and painted planter box filled with tomato and pepper plants
Finished and painted planter box filled with tomato and pepper plants

7) Once you are done with the paint and it’s all dried you can then start filling in the planter with dirt, organic matter, etc… for the best results I’ve found that first filling the planters with yard waste (grass clippings, bush trimmings, etc… provides great nutrients as they break down cluster reduces the cost and amount of dirt I need to fill in the planters. 6′ x 2′ x 2′ planters hold an inordinate amount of dirt (in excess of 500 pounds easy) so this is why you want to use as much yard waste as possible. Besides yard waste will eventually mulch and turn into great nutrients for all your vegetables.

Then you are done. In these planters I have found that I can grow all sorts of vegetables from tomatoes to peppers and they are too high for the rabbits and other critters to get at them. Also, my dogs know not to mess with them. Plus, I’ve found the plants grow much larger and have higher yields then if I just planted them in the soil. Plus they look really cool. And they are cheap and easy to build. The total cost for wood was around $15 for each planter. The cost of paint was $30 (one gallon of primer/sealant and one gallon of brown exterior paint). Then I used a $2 brush and 1/5th of a $6 box of 1 and 1/4 inch screws from Home Depot. The only other costs was 4 bags of top soil I placed on top of the organic matter and dirt and then one bag of pine bark nuggets to retain water for the plants.

What I love about my planters is I can stock them full of all the kinds of tomatoes and peppers that you can’t get at the local grocery store. My favorites are the yellow Jubilee tomatoes, purple heirloom tomatoes, pink tomatoes and red bell peppers. Being that red bell peppers are now a $1.64 each at Wal-Mart and that each plant grows at least 20 of these red bell peppers you can quickly see how I am saving money by growing my own vegetables. Now multiply that by 5 or 10 and you will see huge savings on vegetables for your family.

Sideways view of finished planter box loaded with tomatoes and pepper plants
Sideways view of finished planter box loaded with tomatoes and pepper plants

another added benefit is that organically homegrown vegetables just taste far superior to what you can get in your local grocery store. I don’t use any insecticides or sprays nor do I use chemicals in my soil. This always leads to larger and better tasting tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and more. Good luck and build some planters so you too can experience great tasting vegetables grown in your own raised planter/bed garden.

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