DIY Above Ground Garden Planters with Casters

This was my first foray into carpentry and I am HOOKED. I was so intimidated to buy wood and actually attempt to construct something and… it was so much easier than I ever expected.

And quick. It took less time to make these two garden planters then it did to write up these instructions. Not including painting time, it took 20-30 minutes to construct each of these planters.

For years I was frighten to work with wood. The idea of getting hurt and being intimidated trying to buy lumber in the hardware store were terrifying.

I have no idea what why I was scared because it was easy and safe (if the correct equipment is utilized).

I feel so empowered. Like superwoman. I don’t mean to toot my own horn but I feel pretty amazing. Yeah for me! And now I have a huge list of things I’m excited to construct. Just call me Angie the Carpenter from now on.

The idea of building planters all started after eyeing all the herbs and vegetables at the farmer’s market each week. We had big dreams to grow our own.

But our yard was lacking in resources. The entire back yard gets very little sun since one of our neighbor’s trees covers a majority of it. The place that was an option to start a garden was a cement area near our garage. Cement. NO dirt.

To complicate things even further, part of the cement area only receives sun exposure in the morning and the other part receives exposure in the afternoon. Most of the plants I intended on growing required full sun all day. So what to do? I couldn’t find any planters in the store that met our needs. I knew I needed to build planters to sit above the ground on top of the cement. Then idea of rollers came to mind. Rollers would allow the ability to move the planters as needed for sun exposure. Aha!

So there it was…the solution. Planters with wheels. And I was off to the hardware store.

Instead of going to one of the large chains like Home Depot or Lowes, I decided to test out a small little store called Anawalt I discovered near my house. Anawalt is actually a True Value store and is my new sanctuary. They are smaller than the big chains but they have the exact things I need to make craft and home improvement projects. And they were so helpful. The lumber cutting technician on site helped me plan out my project to best optimize my sheet of plywood and gave me advice on tools and strategies.

I created one 24” wide planter with 12.5” height and then made a 2nd planter that was narrower and taller (14” width x 17.75” height). I chose different dimensions on the planters so that one would tower above the other and have better visual appeal when the boxes were lined up next to each other. I also stained them different colors to give more distinction.

Both planters are 6 feet long. If you decide to make a planter like this, any dimensions you prefer can be chosen. It is best if plans are drawn out on paper first to optimize lumber planning and cutting.

Standard plywood sheets are 8′ by 4′ so plan accordingly. For example, I had originally wanted my 2nd planter to be 15″ width but in order to derive all my wood pieces out of one sheet of plywood, I reduced the width to 14″. Adjusting that one inch made the difference between using 1 sheet vs. 2 sheets of plywood which was a $35 savings.

Also, keep in mind that if 3/4″ plywood is used, the width of the side panels will need to be 1.5″ less than the large bottom panel because they fit inside the front and back panels. Since the front and back panels are both 3/4″ thick and there are two of them, that makes the width difference 1.5 inches. That might seem a little confusing but it is actually very simple and can be understood better later when you see the pictures of assembly.

Here is what was needed to make the 1st planter which has completed dimensions of 6′L x 12.5H x 24″ W:

1 Sheet of ¾ “ plywood. Cost = $25 or $35 each, depending on quality chosen. Cut plywood sheet into the following pieces: 1 piece 6′ x 24″ (Bottom) 2 pieces 6′ by 11.75″ (Front and Back) and 2 pieces 11.75″x22.5″ (Left and Right Sides)

4 Casters (Rollers) – Cost $3-$5 each, depending on type.

2” Screws

¾” Screws to attach casters

Wood glue

Total cost of 1st planter = $50.

—-The 2nd planter cost $40 because the lower quality plywood was used.

I originally wanted to use cedar because gardening experts recommended it. Cedar is usually cheaper than plywood but I could only find small planks. If large cedar sheets are an option at your local store, you might want to try it to save $$.

The helpful technician at Anawalt – True Value recommended plywood based on cost and durability. There were two types: one $25/sheet which which had a slightly rough texture and the second option had smoother texture and better quality for $35/sheet.

I went with the pricier version for the first planter to be on the safe side since this was my first building project.

Since I don’t have a truck, I had them do all the cutting so the pieces would fit in my car.

Time to build!

I don’t have a work table and was working alone so I used my patio table as a work station laying the large bottom piece on the table top and propping up one of the front/back panels up underneath it.

Lay Bottom on Patio Table and Propped Side on Stool underneth

Wood usually isn’t perfectly straight so make sure pieces align well before joining. This piece was slightly off on the corner but the rest was perfect so overall it was good enough to utilize.

Glue pieces together with wood glue. I used Gorilla Glue. Let glue dry a few minutes.

While the glue was drying, this clamp helped keep the pieces in place.

Screw the pieces together. It is important to wear goggles because small pieces of debris can fly up. These goggles cost $2. They are well ventilated and easy to see with. Be safe.

The BEST screws to use are these. Bronze ceramic coated. The True Value worker highly recommended them and said they would save me 2 hours on my project. He wasn’t kidding. Pre-drilling wasn’t necessary and the screws went in the wood like butter. I know this because I didn’t buy this type of screw for the 3/4″ screws (used to attach the casters) and had a much hard time with the cheaper screws. These bronze screws were about $2 more a box and worth every penny. They have a special top and come with fitted drill bit designed especially for these screws. The drill bit is included with purchase inside the box.

Screw the first screw in about half an inch from the end. Some of the glue might squirt out when the wood is screwed together.

Wipe off surplus glue with a rag.

Space screws about 12″ apart.

After the entire side was screwed together, I moved unit to the ground and repeated process with second side.

When I tried to attach the side boards, I realized the cutter at True Value forgot to cut off part of the extra salvage on the side boards. I was going to take the boards back to the store and have them cut it but then I had a better idea. I went back to True Value and bought my own hand saw and mitre box. The combined cost was under $15 and now I can cut my own boards!

I corrected the side board lengths with my new saw.

Then insert one side board in between front and back long boards making sure it fit properly. (This is where the 1.5″ width difference comes into play). Glue side piece in place.

Wait for glue to set a few minutes, then flip over and screw in about 6 inches apart.

Repeat process with last side board and when complete, flip garden box upside down.

On a box this size, casters need to be attached 12″ from the long end and 3″ from the short end as show below. This is good placement for bottom support. If casters are placed too close inside the center of the box, the box will tip over. (On the 2nd planter, casters were attached 2″ and 12″ since that box is more narrow).

Install each caster using 3/4″ screws. Please note, I don’t believe the bronze ceramic screws are available in short lengths like 3/4″ so it might be necessary to pre-drill.

I chose heavy duty casters that each held 90 lbs each. Since there are 4 of them, my garden box has the ability to hold 360 lbs.

There are quite a few models of casters to choose from. I picked casters that swivel on all sides. My garden boxes can roll to the left, right, back and forward. I also got brakes for the back two wheels. However, the area I placed my garden boxes is flat and the stoppers weren’t really necessary. The garden boxes are easy to push and roll but don’t roll on their own. If I make any of these again in the future, I might pass on the stoppers. (Both casters shown below have the ability to swivel and the caster pictured on the left has a stopper)

After all 4 casters are installed, flip box back right side up.

Yeah, almost done! Kind of looks creepy like casket right? Don’t worry…that will change once it is stained and the plants installed.

Drill holes in the bottom to allow water drainage.

Since the planters are wood, they need to be treated to withstand water and outside elements.

I also wanted to give mine some color. I originally intended to stain as opposed to painting to give it a natural look and let the wood grain show through. However, I only didn’t have any stain in the colors I wanted and didn’t want to buy more supplies so I used what I already owned which was paint. I created a “stained” look by mixing the paint with water. 5 parts water to 1 part paint. I tested a few colors on the underside of the garden planter and decided to go with Catalina by Behr which was a leftover paint sample.

The addition of water to the paint sample was perfect. It looks just like stain and the wood grain shows through nicely. One paint tester was just enough to cover the entire garden planter, even the inside.

I also finished off by sealing with a clear non-toxic water based sealer. Remember whatever you paint on your garden planter may eventually make it into your food so stay away from oil based or toxic products.

After planter #1 was completed, work on planter #2 (taller grey colored planter box) was started. Planter #2 was made exactly the same way except the completed garden box dimensions were 6′ L x17.75H x 14″W which meant cutting one plywood sheet into the following pieces: 1 piece 6′ x 14″ (Bottom) 2 pieces 6′ by 12.5″ (Front and Back) and 2 pieces 6′x17″ (Left and Right Sides).

The lesser quality plywood was also used for planter #2 which saved $10. Both types of plywood were good enough quality for a garden planter and the rougher texture on the cheaper plywood didn’t bother me – I actually don’t even think it is noticeable now that they are both completed and stained.

The 2nd planter was stained the same way using a paint tester diluted with water. The label on the paint tester rubbed off but I’m pretty sure the color was Dark Cavern by Behr.

Being able to move the boxes around is very convenient. I usually keep them in this position and only move them occasionally to control sun exposure.

However sometimes I like to play with the layout and change things up a bit.

I love that the casters make the garden planters appear to float above the ground.

And being able to roll them away from the wall and walk behind them is great. Sure will come in handy in the future when I am grabbing handfuls of basil for pesto!

Please stay tuned next Monday to see how I filled up my garden planter and used recycled water bottles to assist water filtration!