Handy Homemaker: DIY Planter Boxes

If you’re like me, you aren’t made of money, and saving money is always something I keep in the back of my mind. I also love projects. Needless to say, these two traits often clash and sometimes my budget loses out. By the time spring had arrived, my desire to take on another project was already in overdrive. I wanted to make my yard look as nice as my neighbors yard, complete with perfectly manicured flower beds and nifty little gnomes. My yard is more akin to a wild jungle from Where the Wild Things Are.Budgetary issues made me hesitate, though. I’d already laid new floors in the living room and kitchen, repainted the walls for the third time in two years and decided to plant an organic garden on the side of the house.Getting the OK from my other half was surprisingly easy, so long as I could stick below a 30 dollar budget since I’d already purchased chickens earlier in the year (more on that at a later date). Their upkeep had been taken out of my summer project budget as well.

I almost snickered at the restriction. Not a problem. How much can a few flowers and a planter cost? Confidently, I hopped over to Home Depot’s website and punched in planters. In a split second my idea of an inexpensive project went right out the window. To my dismay, all the planters seemed to be either way too expensive or far too small.

Several hours and many Pinterest pins later, I had an idea for something inexpensive that would do the trick. Craigslist has a whole host of free items that just need to be picked up. To name a few, I found free wood decking, lumber pallets, scrap flooring, all-wood furniture and children’s toy chests. Most planters require wood, so this was good news for my plan, but due to the generosity of a next-door neighbor and a little ingenuity, I found a substitution for the wood idea.

Free red bricks, conveniently located next door, proved to be a sturdy option to driving to get lumber, so I decided to build a planter box from that. I’m a rebel that way. Totaling all of my project costs, including plants, brought me to a whopping $20. Want to see how? Read on!


  • 2 50-pound bags of Black Kow organic manure, $4.98 a piece
  • 4 Hapi-Gro 40-pound Top Soil, $1.49 a piece
  • 6 Oriental Lily Bulbs, $2.98 for 3 (buy one, get one free)
  • 4 Wild Irises (I replanted these from elsewhere in my yard)
  • A Sunday advertisement newspaper

Step One: Preparing the Ground

Scope out your yard and figure out where you want to place your planter box. Remember, a lot is going to depend on what kind of plants you want to put in your bed. Lilies are flexible, so I chose a mostly sunny place for mine in the front yard that has at least half a day of sun.

After I chose the right spot, I used my garden hoe to loosen the soil for the roots to grow. Here is what it looked like finished:

Next, I put down the newspaper and wet it lightly with a garden hose to keep it from blowing away. Why newspaper? According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, newspapers serve two purposes, one, to keep weeds from worming their way up into the pretty new soil, and two, it encourages earthworms to come have a love fest in your garden, which is great for the soil. With the ground prepared, I was good to go!

Step Two: Building the Planter

After some experimentation, I found that my bricks stayed up much better if I made an interlocking pattern in a circle with them instead of just stacking them. I laid bricks in a circular pattern and offset the next row to cover the gaps between the bricks of the first row (see picture). Each brick is roughly two inches thick, so you can gauge how many rows you would want to make yourself. I chose to make my bed eight inches thick, aka four rows.

Now I had the planter ready to receive my soil and compost.

Step Three: Adding Soil and Compost
I took two bags of topsoil and mixed them with one bag of Black Kow in a wheelbarrow. This is the labor intensive part. Either with a shovel or your bare hands, be prepared to sweat a little bit as you churn the bags until they are evenly mixed. Next, I poured the wheelbarrow (full of soil) into the planter.Repeat that with the other bags until all your soil is in the planter.
Step Four: Plant!This is the important part. I planted mine too close the first time around and had to dig them back up. Most bulbs, plants, and shrubs will come instructions that tell you everything you need to know about planting. Do yourself a favor and follow them.In the end, you will have a nifty DIY project that looks pretty and has your neighbors staring at your yard.Have anymore tips for us to try out? Share them below!

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