Introduction: DIY: Urban Forest Garden

DIY Urban Forest Garden is a chair I designed for my Senior Year End Show.

Forest gardening is a term coined by Robert Hart in the 80's and is a sustainable and low-maintenance way to grow food, not only for yourself but also for the small animals around you!

The chair allows individuals to sit and reflect on the beauty of nature and to become engaged in the symbiosis taking place right outside our homes. The concept for the chair is to create an ecosystem that is beneficial to both humans and small animals, that truly surrounds you by nature.

In the fall and winter months, the chair and its surrounding shrubs become a shelter for birds and small animals. In the spring and summer months, the chair becomes a hub of activity with blooming flowers, bursting with life and color.

Join me as I show you how I built my chair and explain how I chose the flowers and shrubs that went into my garden.

This is a DIY so get ready to tinker and play!

Feel free to adapt this idea to whatever makes the most sense for your space.

Step 1: Building Your Forest Garden Chair

To build your chair you will need the following materials, and a buddy to help move the chair as you put it together.

Item (Quantity)


  • 8-foot 2x4's (7)


  • 1-inch outdoor screws (28)
  • 2.5-inch outdoor screws (46)
  • 3-inch corner brace (7)


  • Miter saw (1)
  • Drill (1)
  • Measuring tape (1)
  • Pencil (1)
  • Clamp (1-3)

Step 2: Picking Out Lumber

**When picking out lumber, refrain from using a chemically treated wood as that can leech into your garden.

Here are a few things to consider.

1. How much do you want to spend?

Lumber comes in different types of wood.

The 2x4's used in construction tend to be a little ugly but are often the most economic.

Cedar 2x4's is very appropriate to use for outdoors but tends to be more expensive.

2. How long do you want your chair to last?

Construction 2x4's can last 1-2 seasons depending on your region's climate.

Cedar is naturally resistant to decay, rot, and insects so it will last 3-5 seasons again depending on your climate.

3. What are some the temperature fluxations in your region?

Look closely at the weather patterns in your region. Wood shrinks and expands depending on the temperature, this will affect the lifespan of your chair.

5. What does your space allow?

If you own a home or rent you might have access to different spaces. Make sure that if you're buying cedar to build your chair that it will be worth the investment.

Here's what I did:

I chose to use construction 2x4's because it was a more approachable price point for me as a student. Right now, I am renting and only plan on being in my current apartment for 1-2 years. I live in Chicago, where we have snowy winters and humid summers which mean lots of fluctuation. My apartment offers me access to a yard which is great but I'm not sure what a future apartment will offer me. I am totally okay knowing I will enjoy my chair for 1-2 years and then can happily rebuild it depending on the constraints of my new place.

Step 3: Measure and Cut

Use the Guide provided to help label the cuts and understand the way the chair connects.

Start by measuring the 7 post that makes up the back of the chair. Begin with the tallest (1) and label as you move your way to the shortest (7).

The 2x4 post should measure as follows:

Back of the Chair:

#1. 72 in

#2. 66 in

#3. 60 in

#4. 54 in

#5. 48 in

#6. 42 in

#7. 36 in

Second, use the remainder wood to cut the pieces for the seat and the footrest.

Seat Support:

#8. 22.5 in

#9. 18.7 in

#10. 18.7 in


#11. 36 in (front, attaches to #1 and #7)

#12. 33 in

#13. 29 in (attaches to #2 and #6)

#14. 24 in

#15. 18 in (attaches to #3 and #5)

#16. 11in (back, attaches to #4)


#17. 36 in (attaches to #1 and #7 at 2.5 inches from the ground)

Step 4: Add Hardware

Now that you have all your pieces cut out, you can begin assembling the Chair.

Start by making the seat

Gather pieces #11- #16 ensuring that they are centered, arrange them so that they descend from wide to narrow. You can keep them in place by using a few clamps if you have any.

Next, gather the seat support pieces #8- #10

On what will be the bottom of the seat, begin by placing the longest piece along the center of the seat and drilling two 2.5 in screws next to one another along the 6 boards that make up the seat. Then move to the right and left repeating along the 5 boards that it covers.

Make sure the support is securely attached to the seat and that the pieces are nice and centered. When drilling into the seat be careful not to over drill, unless you want screws poking you when you sit!

*I accidentally broke one of my pieces and had to play with what I had a little, but that's the great thing about a DIY. Feel free to make any changes as you see fit!

Next, attach the 3-inch corner brace, one to each of the backrest pieces #1-7 the corner braces will each use 4 of the 1-inch screws. The brackets determine the height of your seat, my advice is to measure your favorite chair to determine the height.

Attaching the backrest

Using a level surface, begin to attach the backrest to the seat as shown in picture 3. The front or widest part of the seat attaches to #1 and #7. Use two 2.5 in screws parallel to one another to secure each backrest piece. Use the brackets to help you hold the seat in place. Once the backrest has been secured you can start to secure the brackets to the seat.

Continue to move backward securing each piece in place.

Last, attach the footrest to the bottom of #1 and #7.

Step 5: Test It Out!

Make sure to test that the chair is level to the floor as you go to ensure that you're on the right track!

You're also going to want to sit on it a few times just to make sure it feels right, make tweaks as needed. When I made mine with my brother-in-law we had to tighten up some brackets in the back and add a little glue to the seat where we had a small gap.

Step 6: Pick Your Garden

For your forest garden, you're going to want to have:

  • Shrubs,

I had a blueberry bush and two rose bushes.

  • Vines,

I had a young purple clematis.

  • Ground cover,

I had a mixture of small flowers and mossy plants.

  • Herbs,

I used cilantro, chives, lettuce, kale, red onions.

Step 7: Building Your Garden

I had to showcase my chair indoors so a garden bed made sense. I just made a box using plywood and four

1x 6's that I cut to the perimeter of my plywood.

Start by filling your garden box with soil.

Next place your chair in the middle of where you're going to plant your garden.


  • Vines in the front
  • Shrubs in the back
  • Herbs on one side of the garden
  • Ground cover is used to cover any remaining empty spaces

Step 8: Enjoy!

I am so excited to take everything home after the show, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Gardening Contest 2017

Participated in the
Gardening Contest 2017