Condo Blues: How to Make a Self Watering Planter Box

Sunday, April 30, 2017

How to Make a Self Watering Planter Box

Husband and I were cruising the nursery when an apache pepper plant caught his eye and we decided then and there to  grow peppers in our patio garden. Yummy!

Unfortunately the self watering planter I made from a plastic storage tub had different ideas and cracked when visiting the Land of Ice and Snow (although most people call it Winter.) I wasn’t surprised because I used a light duty storage container to make the first planter.

There wasn't any love lost because while the self watering planter worked great, having a plastic storage tub taking up space on my patio wasn't' very pretty. I promised Husband a new and more rugged planter box we won’t be embarrassed to have in our back yard.

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Self Watering Planter Box Tutorial

This is a quick and easy build because you are basically making a wood slip cover for an ugly self watering planter box. The self watering planter box doesn't need to be sturdy to hold heavy soil, which means I can skip using screws and bust out my nail gun. Pew! Pew! Pew!

I build my planter box from cedar because cedar is naturally pest and weather resistant. Cedar boards are fairly expensive but cedar fence pickets are not.  I bought my cedar fence pickets for about 2 bucks each on sale.

You will need:

One self watering planter  - I made my new one from an 18 gallon Roughneck storage tub

6 Foot wood trellis

Tape Measure

Cedar fence slats

2 x 4s

2 x 2s

Compound miter saw

Wood screws

Drill and drill bit

Screw gun

Nail gun and nails

Random orbit sander and sandpaper
Wood stain
Outdoor paint
Paint brushes

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links for your convenience. 

Step by Step How to Make it Tutorial


1. Measure the length and width of your self watering planter and add four to six inches to these measurements. My self watering planter is 20 inches x 18 inches

 I put my planter box on top of two pressure treated boards to lessen the chance of the tub freezing and cracking on  the cold concrete patio during the winter - I hope.

2. Use the compound miter saw to cut two sets of six cedar fence pickets for the front and back sides running the length of the planter using the measurements you took in Step 1. I cut my front and back pickets 25 inches long.

3. Use the compound miter saw to cut two sets of six cedar fence pickets for the two side panels that will run the width of the planter using the measurements you took in Step 1. I cut my side panel pickets 20 1/2 inches long.

 Hi everyone Lacey here! Please make sure you wear your safety glasses and take all saftey precautions when you are using power tools to build this project. As you can see, I had to keep a close eye on Lisa  to make sure she didn't hurt herself.

4. Use the compound miter saw to cut four 2x4 boards to make the four corner legs of the planter box. I cut my corner legs 18 inches long. I used pallet wood from my stash instead of 2 x 4s since the legs aren't going to hold weight, they are just there to make a box.

5. Use the nail gun to nail the ends of three cedar pickets to two of the corner legs to make the front panel of your planter box.

 I used a piece of wood as a spacer to keep the open space between each slat uniform

6. Repeat the directions in Step 5 to make the back panel of the planter box.

7. Use the wood screws and screw gun to attach the wood trellis to the inside back panel of the planter box. I used screws instead of nails to make sure the trellis is sturdy enough to grow heavy vegetables on it if I choose.

 If you are a better woodworker than me (and you probably are) you would have a straight line of screws instead of my wonky one shown here. Fortunately, it is on the inside of the planter box and no one will see it.

Tip: The staples holding the wood trellis together came apart almost immediately after I got it home. I drilled  small pilot holes at each cross section and screwed them together with small outdoor wood screws and a hand screwdriver because I didn’t want to risk accidentally splitting the wood.  It worked.

8.  Use the nail gun to nail the ends of three short cedar slats to the front and back planter box panels corner posts to make a box.  

 Congratulations! You made a box!

9. Put the plastic self watering planter inside of the wood planter box.

10. Cut 2 2x2 boards using the measurements in Step 3 and 2 2x2 boards using the measurements in Step 4. This will become the top lip of the planter box.

11. Use the nail gun to attach the wood trim to the top of the planter box.

Grow my pretties! Grow!

12. Optional: Sand the planter with the random orbital sander (I knocked back the rough fringes and left some texture instead of sanding it perfectly smooth) and use the paintbrushes to stain the planter box with outdoor wood  stain or outdoor paint if you like.

My unofficial Instagram poll (follow me @condoblues on Instagram pretty please?) was split down the middle about staining the box or leaving it unstained. I decided to paint and stain the cedar on my planter box when I saw my favorite color stain (color 50 cents on the mistint shelf) for sale at Lowes. I painted the top trim green to coordinate with the green pots I painted a few years before.

13. Plant, water, and watch the flowers grow!

If you'd rather buy than DIY, check out the following ideas - and more! - below!

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