Make: Projects

2×4 Planter Boxes

So, what's a person to do when all of the barren soil in their backyard is harder than concrete that is next to it? Build planter boxes, of course!

  • By
  • Time Required: 45 minutes to 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
2×4 Planter Boxes

A local Sonoma County tradition is the Occidental Farmers market. It is every Friday evening, and this Friday was my first time attending. Surprising to me was the large amount of farmers selling not only fresh product from their farms, but also a lot of starts. I walked away with some winter squash, pumpkins, zucchini, long neck squash, two kinds of peppers, and some tomatoes.


Step #1:

2×4 Planter Boxes
  • Start with the lumber. At the Home Depot, I bought seven eight-foot studs. I had the lumber department cut them all in half for me. There was two reasons for this; first, I just had my car, and they wouldn't fit otherwise. Secondly, my goal with this project was to maximize the size of the beds to the length of the wood.
  • Sometimes with woodworking projects we can get a little too precise with things. This project isn't one of those. I don't use a square, and I measure and cut loosely. We aren't building a dollhouse here; we are building something that is going to sit in the dirt and weather. With that in mind, I counsel you, the dear reader: don't worry too much about the details. :)
  • With your new studs that are cut in half to 48 inches, take two of them, and cut them in half again to 24 inches. These will be the top and the bottom of the box.

Step #2:

2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes
  • Attach the first four pieces together into the basic box shape. Follow the photo for a guide. The shorter pieces should butt into the longer pieces.
  • When the basic box is built, add the legs to the corners.
  • When I built mine, I opted to have the legs a little longer than the sides. The reason for this was so that I could dig into the existing dirt and make it a little more secure. If you needed this built onto a slope, you could really accentuate this.
  • For those that don't know, 2x4s are actually about 1.5 inches x 3.5 inches. I made my legs eight inches long so they would be about an inch taller than the box.

Step #3:

2×4 Planter Boxes

With the legs in place, add the next row of lumber. With my boxes, I decided to make them two pieces tall. (About 8" off the ground.) If you wanted to make a taller box, or needed something that was going to have deeper roots, just make your legs taller, and then add more wood.

Step #4:

2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes

With the boxes done, take care to level out the ground where you want to place them. I dug up the ground a little bit, and removed all of the weeds that were there.

Step #5:

2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes
  • Next, get all the dirt to the backyard.
  • Make: Projects Top Tip: If you don't have a wheelbarrow, but you do a have a Burley Bike Trailer...

Step #6:

2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes2×4 Planter Boxes
  • After the ground is clear, add the soil to the boxes.
  • The nursery expert at the Home Depot had me use this concoction:
  • 3.5 cubic feet of soil
  • 1 cubic foot of steer manure
  • 1.5 cubic foot of potting soil
  • I raked it together loosely, keeping the potting soil mostly on top.
  • Make: Projects Top Tip: If you can't find a trowel, a taping knife will work. Once again kids, this ain't rocket surgery.
  • Don't it look good when it's all planted!

Step #7:

2×4 Planter Boxes

Last step, and the most important. Get yourself a Dr. Pepper to enjoy on the back porch. After all, you deserve it.

Jake Spurlock

Jake Spurlock

Web Developer at MAKE. I'm an Engineer. That means I solve problems.

Also, a geek, designer, HTML/CSS/PHP lover. Taker of photos, and sometimes skiing and biking...


  • Jake Spurlock

    Exact cost:

    7 – 2x4s: $15
    1lb wood screws: $5

    That is enough for the two boxes. Of note, the soil/manure mix was about $15 per box. I would say all said and done, about $25/box.

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