How To (and Not) Build a Cedar Fence Picket Elevated Raised Planter.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

close up of plants inside cedar picket elevated raised planter
So, how to build an elevated raised planter using cedar fence pickets.  And also how not to build it.  Yeah.

And by that I mean, have a freakin' plan and don't just wing it.  Like me.

(Or grab a plan -- if you're not a subscriber, sign up and receive free plans here!  Subscribers will get a separate email, no worries.)

See, earlier this spring I picked up some wee lil' seed packets for radishes and romaine lettuce, not having grown radishes or um, any food in uh, decades.

I do pick up tomato plants for Mike every year aaaand, they usually die.  Not my forte.  Tomatoes nor food growing.

Who knows what deluded idea came over me to pick up these little seeds but I did.  From Dollar Tree* in fact so, no offense to the Dollar Tree, my expectations were low.  In fairness though, all of the flower seeds I bought there have grown!

Lo, after plopping seeds in some planters, they sprouted.  In fact, we ended up with a total of four radishes and the romaine is currently about six inches tall as I tippy tap type this.

Most of the radish seeds, while they grew, did not sprout radishes.

first radish of the season
We got this very perfect one to start!  It was taaasty!
But.  Heh.  So then Mike....

M:  Babe, you could make a thing and put food stuff in it to grow.

B:  glances skeptically at her beloved, images of rodents and bugs floating through her head

M:  Build a thing, let's do it.

Says the guy who keeps saying slow your roll on inventing projects.

So there it was.  I had a new project.  

And, as it was end of May/into June, if we wanted to grow anything this season, I had to get on it ayy-sap.

After perusing the interwebs a bit and Menards' website, and as always my goal is to keep costs low, I opted for cedar fence pickets.

Mike wanted it to be up off the ground, hence the elevated raised planter plan.  And really, up of the ground meaning no bending about, I'm in.

Off I ran to Menards with (ugh) only a general plan in my head:
The only plan I had was finished, it'd be six feet long by thirty inches tall.  Menards was out of six foot cedar pickets.  No worries, five it became.

cedar fence pickets, stainless brad nails and supplies
While there, I discovered they have a section of ripped bag stuff, ripped bag dirt, ripped bag compost, all marked down to literally to a dollar or five (depending on size) bucks.  Randomly piled up the cart with what I was hoping would be enough.

This was a math-free zone.  

Anyway, back home, I trimmed the dog ear ends off the pickets which left me with 59" boards.  Four tall for the sides....for an elevated raised planter, you're looking for 12-16" of growing depth.  Next, I decided the width and went with eighteen inches.

trimming dog ear off cedar fence pickets

So overall, my finished cedar picket elevated raised planter is around 60" long x 18" wide x 30" tall with the planter box being 14" tall on the outside.

All right.  Chopping the 2x3 into six 30" long pieces, I laid out one fence picket then glued and nailed it to three legs per side.  Two on the ends, one in the middle.  Tack tack tack, four pickets per side.

attaching cedar fence pickets to 2x3 lumber for long sides
Tack the picket starting with the center leg, then one end, then the other, then keep going.
Stood back, impressed with my quickness then acknowledged oh.  I have no plan here.  What am I doing and where do I go from here.  Dammit Becky.

two long sides complete
Two long sides complete here.
See, my goal was to keep pressure-treated lumber away from touching anything that would touch food.  The way I built the sides meant either the legs would be outside (no) or inside touching dirt.  

I kept going.

Cut the short sides at eighteen inches, tack tack tack into the corner legs to form a box.

attaching side pieces to long pieces
Flip the sides up upside down and connect the box together with the short side pieces.
Hm.  Ooooh-kay.  The bottom.

The bottom of course needed to be butch to hold the massive amount of weight the dirt provides.  Doooo Iiiii, cut the pickets to run parallel with the short sides or run them long?  I built no framing for the bottom.  Doh.  Doooo

adding in cross pieces and bottom
Here I am trying to figure out what I've done to myself.
So I jury-rigged in some framing, tacking 2x3's pickets and legs, then some cross pieces for structure and support and it's a total hack job.  The plans show what I did.  And this is when I started to mildly panic.

And, this is when I had to run back to Menards as I was short on pickets.  Math, dang it.

Meanwhile, I skootched this sucker into our agreed-upon yard location.  Right under our concrete solar lights.

placing cedar fence picket elevated raised planter in yard
Iiii mean, it doesn't look like a total hack job.  Right?
Back with additional pickets, I went long.  I had to trim one length-wise which I did exceptionally poorly on the band saw.  I did not glue the bottom pieces in, just tacked them with brad nails.  I did make sure there were gaps for water to run out.

inside the bottom of the planter
Next I loosely covered the pressure-treated leg parts inside the planter with some thick plastic drop cloth tarp remnants I had.  Sure it'll trap moisture but hopefully there are enough gaps in general for it to breathe.  

covering pressure treated wood with plastic, adding landscape cloth and mulch
Mostly, in general, and I should have mentioned at the outset ha, this whole concept, growing food, is an experiment and as such, so is this elevated raised planter.

Over that and throughout the inside of the box, next, was landscape cloth.

By the way?  Avoid messing with landscape cloth in any kind of breeze.  Only touch it on completely still, zero wind days.  Seriously.  It's almost as challenging as plastic wrap.

Tack tack tack with staples.

At this point I was proud of myself for working through the dumb problems I created for wing-it myself and huh, had myself a big cedar fence picket elevated raised planter box!

Time to haul out the dirt.  First a layer of cedar mulch to assist in drainage.  

In total, this held 5 1/2 cubic feet of potting soil and one .75 cubic foot bag of mushroom compost.  The dirt has since settled a bit so it can hold more for deeper planting.

Finally, it was time for the very best part of this project....the plants!  

planning plants in the cedar fence picket elevated raised planter
Growing in our schmancy box are sugar snap peas, red peppers, a pot of parsley, more radishes, more romaine, and some cucumber seeds.  I sprinkled some cedar mulch atop everything, not a lot, to help hold in moisture and keep pests away.

And guess the freakin' what.  Peas are actually growing on there.  Actual real snap peas.  The pepper plants have gotten bigger.  Tons of radish seeds have sprouted.  All the cucumber seeds did too.  Some of the romaine is going now.  

finished cedar fence picket elevated raised planter
Yes, I need to trellis the snap peas.
And I cannot believe it.  I am growing food.  So weird.

plants in cedar fence picket elevated raised planter
So while there's room for improvement to be made on this scheme, if you'd like free drawings (free!) of this cedar fence picket elevated raised planter, which I have drawn up for you posthumously and you are not yet a subscriber to this spiffy blog, click here.  Subscribers, don't forget, an email is heading your way.

cedar fence picket elevated raised planter

And there we have it!  Food!  In our yard!

corner of cedar fence picket elevated raised planter
M:  Babe!  This is awesome!  Look at that!  Wow!  Nice job!

B:  blushing and brushing my foot around

Mike's already anticipating a second planter next year and scheming up all sorts of ideas.  The guy who says pump the brakes on project idea inventing.  Hahaha.

No idea if that video is going to may disappear.

close up of cedar fence picket elevated raised planter

Anyway, have fun!

*The Dollar Tree link is a Dollar Tree affiliate link.  The pressure-treated lumber and cedar mulch are Home Depot links.  The cedar fence pickets and landscape cloth are Lowes.  The stainless brad nails, outdoor wood glue, plastic drop cloths, and staples are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.


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