building planter boxes

November 2011 / building

After a few years in our condo we hadn't done much with the back patio. Just a BBQ, and that was really about it. The back wall was about 10 feet high so it felt like you were in a box.

We decided that some big vertical plants were what we needed - something that would grow pretty tall, and have a bunch of green. Best case is that it'd block part of our view from our bedroom window (on the second floor) out into the parking lot that our place backed onto.

So, the plan: bamboo (it grows fast) in boxes. We could find any planters that we liked so I was going to build them.

As is the diy custom, I'll start with the finished product:

tall redwood planter with bamboo in it

I bought a bunch of redwood, and started turning it into boxes. Pretty simple boxes, really. Our "extensive" research showed that bamboo needed at least 36" of soil to reach full height so that's what we went for.

cat walking across wood planks in a courtyard

I cut the pieces to length, and matched the colors. Most of what I had was lighter in color with a few rich red pieces. I tried to make a gradient with the darker pieces at the bottom. The cat approves.

planks lined up in a courtyard, with pots resting on the end pieces

I glued the cross-pieces on to start with, although I ended up screwing them in later. The glue helped to keep them steady while I was drilling pilot holes and screwing the screws. Later I found out that glue was might have been enough on it's own?

You can also see the bamboo that we bought. We got the bamboo up in Marin at Bamboo Sourcery. At the time we only had a coupe so we rented a truck, but the rental place screwed up and gave us a minivan that we proceeded to cover in dirt. In retrospect there must have been a place in San Francisco that sells bamboo, but if you're up that way Bamboo Sourcery was great.

an assembled redwood planter box

It's not a great picture, but the top was looking pretty bare. I got some little 1x2 strips of redwood and tacked them up top. These started pulling up immediately, even in the picture up top.

You can also see how I cut the top of the supports to make them not as noticeable. This was a ton of work with my box miter, redwood hearts cut very very slowly.

a redwood planter

I don't have an image, but the bottom was a 3/4" piece of plywood angled towards one end of the box with 1" holes drilled out for drainage. I covered the inside with heavy trash bags (which you can see here) to keep the water from ruining the wood.

an almost finished redwood box

My favorite picture of the construction. The box is done, except for varnishing. We wanted the boxes to stay as they were (instead of silvering like redwood does normally). After a bunch of research I bought Epifanes spar varnish, specifically Epifanes Gloss Clear Varnish (and Epifanes Thinner). Six coats and the boxes looked great!