Wow, I’m still in shock Travis and I made not one but TWO garden boxes!
In case it wasn’t clear from my Instagram stories, the Yokota family loves to eat. I know that I can get all the girls excited about a project when it involves food. I’ve been pinning container gardens for some time and finally decided to go for it this spring. It’s an amazing way to feed yourself and your family healthy, organic food and save a ton of money in the process.
I wanted to start this project last year and we ended up creating the mid-century modern walls instead. I’m really glad we got all the materials right in the nick of time. Just shortly after, the shelter in place order was placed in CA.
It’s been such a roller coaster of emotions! So focusing on an outdoor project really helped Trav and I release some of our anxious energy. It really feels good to construct and build something. Don’t get me wrong – it’s never easy because we are doing these all for the first time.
In addition to building the container garden boxes, we used Vigoro soil and pea pebbles to refresh the Secret Garden side yard. Of course, if you don’t feel like growing veggies, these DIY containers are perfect for flowers too. We got lots of big happy lavender, rosemary and pretty trailing plants for our mid-century modern wall planters as well. The selection truly impressed me. And I was so thankful we got just in time!
Look how fresh and beautiful this is! I love that everything feels healthy and vibrant for the season ahead, especially since we’ll be spending so much time out here.
Ok, you’ve waited long enough, let’s dive right in!
DIY Garden Box
You will need these materials:
- seven (7) 1” x 4” x 8 ft boards
- two (2) 2” x 6” x 8 ft boards
- two (2) ¼” x 3½” x 8 ft boards
- two (2) ¼” x 2” x 8 ft boards
- exterior pocket hole screws 2”
- exterior construction screws 1¼”
- exterior construction screws 2”
- exterior construction screws 2½”
- brad nails 1¼”
- brad nails 2”
- wood glue
- galvanized steel mesh ¼” x 2 ft x 5 ft
- plastic sheeting 3.5 mil or thicker
- stainless steel staples
And this tools & equipment:
- countersink drill bits
- miter saw
- table saw
- nail gun
- clamps (two for 15” length and if possible two 46”)
- pocket hole jig
- wire cutters
- staple gun
- box cutter
The final size of this box was 47½” long x 15¾” tall x 16½” wide, but of course you can adjust this to your needs or preferences. Also, we used pine, but I later wished we used cedar as it’s appearance will age better. If you choose cedar you can use cedar pickets which are only 6 feet long, so adjust material quantities or the size of your box accordingly. Most importantly, if you are planting fruit or vegetables, DO NOT use pressure-treated wood as the chemicals can contaminate the soil.
Start by making the panels. First cut four (4) 1” x 4” x 8 ft boards into eight (8) pieces 45” and two (2) boards into eight (8) pieces 15½”. Rip the seventh board into two (2) 1” x 2” boards, then cut into ten (10) 12½” pieces to be used as crosspieces. If you don’t have a table saw to rip boards, you can always just buy 1” x 2” boards.
Make one side panel by taking four (4) of the 15½” pieces and laying one on top of the other lengthwise. Secure these together by gluing and nailing two (2) of the 12½” crosspieces over the panel approximately one board space (around ¾”) from either end of the boards. You can use any one of the other pieces as a spacer for this. This space will form the joint where the front and back panels will “lock”. Also, the top of each 12½” piece should be flush with the top of the panel leaving approximately 1½” of space at the bottom, which is where the 2” x 6” pieces will fit for the floor. Note that the glue tends to make the pieces slide on one another so be careful of slipping while nailing. With the panels assembled, reinforce the crosspieces with 1¼” exterior construction screws.
Repeat the same steps for the other side panel, then repeat the steps using the 45” pieces to make the front and back panels. For the front and back panels you’ll also add a third crosspiece in the middle of each.
Now assemble your panels into a box by fitting the corner joints of each panel, then clamping the panels together. The panels should fit such that the length of the box is now around 46½” while the sides remain 15½” across. While clamping makes sure the bottom of the box lays flat on the ground and that the corners are as close to right angles as possible. Now glue and nail the panels together with the 2” brads. Then reinforce with the 2” external construction screws entering from the side panels into the crosspieces of the front and back panels. Be sure to predrill with a countersink bit since you will be covering these screws later. Also, predrilling will help prevent any splitting of the wood.
For the box floor, cut the 2” x 6” boards into seven (7) pieces approximately 14” long. At this point, it’s best to double-check this length since with all the assembled pieces there may be some discrepancy in the measurement. Then drill two (2) pocket holes into each end of each piece. You’ll set your pocket hole drill bit and jig to 1¾”. Turn the box upside down. Place the end and middle floor pieces on the bottoms of the panel crosspieces, then use the 2” exterior pocket hole screws to secure each piece into the bottom of the front and back panels. Each piece should be flush with the bottom of the box. Now set and screw in the remaining four-floor pieces. There should be ½” to ¾” space between each board for drainage.
For the feet, use the remaining 2” x 6” wood to cut four squares around 3”. Secure the feet to the four corners of the box with the 2½” external construction screws from the bottom of the foot into the floor. Be sure to countersink so that the screws do not contact the ground. For this application, I used galvanized screws, though stainless steel is probably best due to the potential for the screws to sit in water and rust after watering or rain. In researching planter box designs I didn’t come across a plan where the feet are screwed in from the bottom, probably for this reason. But because in the middle of this project I made a significant change to the design and materials used, this was really the only good option remaining to make the feet sturdy. The good news for us is that our boxes are sitting on 2-3 inches of gravel, so it’s a lot less likely to ever be sitting in a puddle.
To prepare for adding the trim, sand the corners and top of the box. Sand to make sure boards are flush so that the trim will go on evenly. Make sure to sand before adding the lining or the plastic will get in the way of your sanding.
But before adding the trim, line the box next, otherwise the trim makes it harder to get the lining in place. I found this out the hard way. Start by cutting the galvanized mesh to fit the bottom of the box. It should be around 45” x 15½”. Be sure to cut space for the corner and middle crosspieces. Staple the mesh in place. Then line the box with the plastic sheeting making sure it fills in all four edges and corners before stapling at the top of the box. Cut away the excess plastic. Then with a screwdriver poke holes at the bottom between the floor boards for drainage. Note that I didn’t staple anywhere below 1” from the top, but I imagine it would be fine if you did. My main reason was that I didn’t want any holes in the plastic other than the drainage holes.
For the corner trim, cut the ¼” x 3½” into eight (8) 15½” pieces. Use your table saw to rip a 45 degree angle on one length of each piece for an angled fit where the two pieces meet at the corner. If you don’t have a table saw it’s fine to just have the two pieces meet where one overlaps the other. Glue and staple the pieces to the corners, two pieces per corner.
For the top trim, cut the ¼” x 2” into two (2) pieces 47½” and two (2) pieces 16½”. Then use your miter saw to cut 45 degree angle corners. Lay the pieces across the top of the box. Then glue and nail.
Now you’re ready to start planting!
Now that you know how to build it, I wanted to share the WHY for a project like this.
Growing your own fruits and vegetables encourages us to slow down, connect with nature, and really appreciate our food.
It’s also a huge growth opportunity for the girls. Together we’re taking on the responsibility to nurture our little plants from seed to flowering stage to bearing fruit. They’re learning about biology firsthand and fostering patience and observational powers by noting the slow and steady progress.
In the time of Instacart and Netflix-binges, it’s actually refreshing to experience delayed gratification. We can hold onto the fact that good things come when we lay the proper foundation.
Add to that the money we’re saving by not buying fresh produce and the exercise and fresh air we get in planting and caring for the plants, it’s a serious win-win-win.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
INVEST IN VEGETABLES
Rather than planting directly into the ground, we created container gardens. This maximizes our output in our small yard and gives us more control over the growing conditions.
As luck would have it, some of our favorite vegetables including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and peas grow easily in containers. As much as I love pumpkins or zucchini, these vines tend to sprawl and need lots of space, more than a container garden can provide.
We decided to start with tomatoes and green beans – delicious and versatile veggies popular with the whole family.
HERBS & FRUIT
Herbs also grow wonderfully in garden containers. We got basil, Thai basil, rosemary, and two different kinds of thyme! Did you know thyme is a wonderful ground cover? Plus they’ll give our garden the perfect Southern France fragrance to match our Secret Garden theme.
Finally, strawberries are absolutely the top pick at our house. So it was a no-brainer to get a few pots of live strawberry plants at the Garden Center. The strawberries already came home ready to grow into luscious red berries for us to enjoy!
PLAN YOUR APPROACH
We plan to grow some veggies inside first as the environment isn’t conducive for seeds. Due to shelter in place, I was only able to get seed packets for a few of these varieties. But starting from seed has that element of magic to it – especially for Natalie, who’s doing this for the first time – and gives you greater control over which varieties to grow.
From what I researched, the most successful indoor growing involves a hothouse with lots of pampering. We don’t have a hothouse but the girls started the seeds in smaller pots and will watch them start to sprout in our sunny window sills. Then we’ll transfer them to the garden containers once they’ve started to sprout.
Don’t forget to invest in quality potting soil. Remember, it’s your food’s food, the foundational nutrition for what ends up on your plate! We went with from Vigoro, which has a careful mix of nutrients tailored to fruit and vegetable growth.
And even black mulch is important to keep weeds away from our flower beds!
We got plenty of lavender and rosemary from Vigoro to plant a very full and happy garden box, that is for sure. Even though it seems like a lot, a garden design rule is to buy a little more than you think. A full container is very inviting and fresh to enjoy.
Here’s to planting seeds and having faith in the future, even in stormy weather <3
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