How to: Make a wooden raised planter for your balcony (any size)

by Amy Adams

Gardening even on a small scale is so rewarding and teaches you patience, allows you to practice kindness and caring as you look after your plant friends and it soothes the soul. I’m not sure that words have the capacity to really explain just how beneficial it is to keep a garden. It’s a balm, nature’s medicine that can cure stress and keeps you in the now, nurturing not only your mind but body and spirit too. When you get hooked and your budget is limited, you can still create the garden of your dreams. Today is part 3 of the urban gardening how-to series detailing how to make a wooden raised planter for your balcony, any size. Part one of the series on planning your balcony garden can be found here and part two garden focal points & building a simple fountain can be found here.

Wooden Raised Planter Box Instructions


Building wooden planter boxes is an economical solution to buying a multitude of containers to plant in and can meet your needs specific to the size of your balcony or terrace. You don’t need to spend a lot of money and can grow veggies or flowers. It’s all up to you. You only need the following to build them –

Step One: Gathering Materials & Tools

Materials

To build the boxes you will need –
wood boards (new or used*)
hand saw
wood screws
screw driver
tape measure
drill (optional but makes life just a little easier)
bar of soap (wet)

Go Vertical

If you want to go vertical with them you will also need –
more screws
chicken wire fencing
wire cutters
thinner wood pieces
jute string
staple gun and staples

*A note about using used wood – there are 2 things to consider when using ”used” wood. The first is that the life of your plant bed will be a bit shorter which generally should not be a problem and in fact recycling is great for the earth and for economic reasons.  However, some woods may be impregnated with toxins.  Generally known to be chemically treated are wood pallets – if you use them grow flowers, not edibles and at least line them with another material.

Filling the Boxes

liner – coir, fabric landscape liner or degradable plastic
stones or gravel
compost (optional)
seeds
plants

The planter shown in this article was built for a vertical application to grow 2 vining plants – cucumbers and nasturtium. Nasturtiums are great in salads (you can eat both the leaves and flowers) and the flowers not only are beautiful, they have a peppery taste. Cucumbers must be planted by seed or if you can transplant seedlings but only after the last frost. Be careful they are sensitive and tender when they are young.

The planter is quite a lengthy planter yet narrow. The climbing vines will produce food and provide much-needed shade. The dimensions are – (L) 300cm x (W) 30cm x (H) 20cm. It was also probably the easiest of the few that were built this year since the boards that were purchased came in 300cm lengths.  Using 4 whole pieces each at 300cm x 10cm for the front (2) and back (2) and then chopping up another for the sides (4) 30cm x 10cm with a piece leftover to be used for other boxes.

The pieces were all screwed together and small scraps of wood left over from other projects were used for added support at the inside corners and midway through the box.

Step Two: Building the Planter Box

The steps outlined below are for building the first frame, then repeat. The box I made was 2 frames for a height of 20cm. 30cm makes a very nice size box too and if you have the patience after having used my boxes for a few years, I would recommend 30cm H. So, make one box and then the other then you can stack them when they are done –

  1. gather your materials
  2. cut wood pieces to size
  3. drill holes on the points that will be fastened together (2 at each board end where you will start the screws, 1 above the other)
  4. screw the boards together – use the soap at the tip of each screw, it makes the screws turn easier.  Another little tip is to not screw them all tight at once, get them all in 3/4 of the way and then go back and tighten them up. also if the weather is tricky or you have just run out of strength and you are having a hard time to finish screwing the pieces together – have a coffee or tea and take a little break and try again later – you will be honestly amazed how much easier it is then.
  5. after you have completed each box, stack one atop the other
  6. using scrap wood or other wood of the same height of the box, in this case 20cm, fasten these with screws at the interior corners and midway if the box is long.

Voila! you are ready to either build a vertical extension or skip this step and get those boxes filled.

Instructions to go Vertical

If you decide to use chicken wire, wear good gardening or work gloves to protect your hands.

  1. cut the thinner wood pieces to the desired height and place on the ground
  2. cut chicken wire fencing (it comes in rolls) to the desired height in this case around 210cm – the width of the wire that was used in this project was around 100cm
  3. staple very well the wire to the boards – lots of staples please you do not want this stuff flying off your balcony
  4. screw the board/wire panels to the back or interior of the box – it is a lot easier if you have another person helping you with this part.
  5. add extra security if facing the railing by tying them with jute string to the rails here and there

You are almost finished.

Step Three: Filling and Planting the Garden Box

Don’t rush, savour this moment and take a picture to look back upon. Now –

  1. line the planter
  2. fill with stones or a little gravel or sand (make sure you lined it well if you are using sand or gravel) my preference is stone since they are too big to filter through my lining and drainage is important
  3. add compost (I use saved kitchen waste and as it is decomposing can be a little smelly but once covered with dirt it does not smell at all)
  4. add soil
  5. plant seeds with tender hands and a warm heart
  6. water and cover the seeds with the earth
  7. grow your plants!

This is a very rewarding project and watching the garden grow is nothing short of amazing. If you have any questions or if you would like to share any of your experiences, please leave a comment.

How to Garden Infographic

Step by Step – How to Build a Balcony Garden Raised Bed Planter

I’ve also created an infographic that details the process and have included it below. Feel free to share it on your own blog, Pinterest, Instagram or any of your fav social networks. I only ask that you do not remove the credit on the infographic and if you republish it on a blog, link back to this post.

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A variation of this post was originally published on my former gardening blog yourbalconygarden.yoyoro.net.


Video Planning a Balcony Garden

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Perennial bloom succession is most certainly something to look forward to throughout the growing season! During the long winter months snuggled up in blankets, wandering mind produces dreams and visions of lush foliage, colourful flowers blooming and trailing vines.



10 thoughts on “How to: Make a wooden raised planter for your balcony (any size)

  1. Pingback: Anonymous
    1. so sorry for the long time in replying – yes i do line the boxes and somewhat loosely since i dont want it to be air tight so it can drain a bit. i mostly have used the plastic bags that the soil came in as the lining and heavy duty garbage bags sliced so they are only 1 layer. Hope that helps and would love to see pics of your project – thanks for the comment.

    1. Hi Nancy wishing you success with your veggies growing on the balcony. I havent posted any pics in a very long time but can tell you that the reward is so great. This year tomitillos, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers were my primary veggies. Don’t get discouraged …for instance this year my tomitillos weren’t filling out their paperlike shells that appear first and then suddenly it seemed I had a massive amount of tomitillos ready to harvest.

      One other difficulty is learning the ‘climate’ on your balcony. My balcony faces south and there were a few days where I had to protect some of my plants from the sun. Please share some photos. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Pingback: Anonymous
  3. Hi, I was wondering about the drainage on a balcony. Does the water actually leak out of the box onto the balcony? If so, is there a way you direct it over the edge? I live in an apartment and have a shared balcony…I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate it much if I leaked all over the balcony!

    1. I actually happen to have a gutter off of my balcony – HOWEVER – water the fills the plant boxes really does get absorbed and used by the plants. Vegetables especially need lots and lots of water. Right now when it rains your neighbor below you would probably get more run off from your balcony. But there are things you can do to be sure that when you water it isnt getting wasted and running off – this year, I have added a few cut bottle tops and a few milk cartons with holes in the dirt and water directly in them so that the roots get direct access and i dont have to use as much water. Also and especially if your balcony faces south you can line it with one big piece of plastic without any drain holes or minimal holes since the intense heat will evaporate a lot of the moisture. If you are in a very wet climate it could mean root rot for some things. You can also use drought tolerant plants to keep things to a minimum. I would love to know more specifics about your balcony – is there an overhang? how big? etc. and maybe you can send me a picture to my email amyinro at gmail.com. I will be posting some pics soon of some of the changes that I have made on my balcony this year.

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