Introduction: Instructables Vertical Moss Planter

Step 1: Supplies

Materials Needed:
  • 2 X 4 X 8, ~ 115" total
  • (8) 2 1/2" #8 wood screws (I chose to use black oxide because I liked the color)
  • (32) 3/4" #8 pan head screws (also in black oxide)
  • Steel sheeting (~3/32"), enough to cut out (2) 9.5" X 50" rectangles
  • Variety of moss*
  • (2) 8qt bags of potting soil
  • Chicken wire (1" weave) ~ 9" X 47" 
  • Spray bottle

Tools Used:
  • Jointer (optional)
  • Planer (optional)
  • Chop Saw
  • Router
  • Rotary Sander
  • Drill
  • Tin Snips/Wire Cutter
*I purchased a moss variety online for $40, which seemed semi-affordable. You can also find moss in your backyard or forage for it in the forrest. Local nurseries might have moss for a bit cheaper as well. 

Step 2: Make the Frame

Joint and Plane (optional)
The 2 X 6 I had was a little rough around the edges, so I decided to pass it through the jointer and planer a few times to square things up and smooth things out. If your lumber looks pretty square and/or you don't care 100% how perfectly square your frame is, this step can definitely be skipped. Also, if you are using engineered wood (plywood) you will definitely skip this step.

First, run the board through the jointer (face down), only taking a very small amount off with each pass (1/32"). Once the face of the board looks smooth and even, pass the board through the jointer with the edge down. You will want to double check the jointer is set at 90° before doing this. Now you have a face and an edge that meet at 90°.

Next, pass the board through the planer. Make sure you are planing the side that didn't go through the jointer. Plane the board  down to 1.5" thick.

If you don't plane your boards, leaving them at 1.75" is fine, you'll just have to alter your other measurements throughout the process.

After planing wood, it is recommended to let the board rest for a day or two. Planing relieves a lot of stress and moisture from wood. If you want precise cuts, letting the boards rest before you cut the boards down to size is a good idea. I let my boards rest overnight.

Using a chop saw, cut the boards into the following four pieces:
(2) 47" long
(2) 9.5" long

If you didn't plane your wood and you're working with a raw 2  x 6, use cut your wood into these dimensions:
(2) 46.5" long
(2) 9.5" long

Using the router table, I routed a 1" (deep) X 1/4" (wide) ledge into both of the 47" pieces. I used a 1" router bit and set the fence on the router table to 1/4". 

The purpose of this ledge is to create an area to easily attach the chicken wire. It wouldn't hurt anything to make the ledge wider than 1/4". It would actually make the stapling easier if you made the ledge 1/2" wide. 

Now it's time to assemble the frame. For assembly you'll need the (8) 2 1/2" wood screws. Align the frame, drill the holes for the screws, then screw it all together. I used 8 screws total, 4 on each end, 2 per joint. See notes on photo. 

Once the frame was assembled, I used a hand held rotary sander to smooth out any rough spots and remove remaining pencil marks from earlier measuring. Make it splinter free! 

Now, the frame is finished! Onto the next step...

Step 3: Cut the Steel Back and Front Plates

I used the OMAX 60120 Water Jet to machine the front and back steel plates.

The back steel plate measures 50" X 9.5". This was very simple to machine with the water jet. I simply created a rectangle with the desired dimensions and saved it as a vector file. Then I opened the vector file on the water jet, made some adjustments and then cut the rectangle. 

The front steel plate was slightly more complicated because I chose to cut out the word 'Instructables' in the steel. Once I had my vector file with the word Instructables inside a rectangle, I opened it up on the water jet. This was more complicated because I wasn't just cutting out a rectangle, but all of the odd shapes around and within each letter were cut out too. I just had to be extra careful when choosing my cutting path that I didn't damage the nozzle of the water jet. The final dimensions of the front steel plate was also 50" X 9.5". 

There is a lot of creative freedom to be harnessed in this step -  to cut something entirely different out of steel. You could do designs, other words or sayings, etc.

Step 4: Attach Back Plate

First, I marked where I wanted to drill holes on the steel plate. On the long side of the rectangle, my first hole started at 2" and I made a mark every ~9.2" until I reached the 48" mark. On the short side of the rectangle I made two marks, 2" in from each end. 

Next, I clamped the steel plate to the wood frame and drilled holes at all of the marks. I made sure to drill all of the way through the steel, but not very deep into the wood. Make sure you use a drill bit that is the same size as the screws. 

After drilling the holes I attached the plate using the 3/4" #8 screws. 

Step 5: Add Dirt

Turn the frame over, so the back plate is facing the ground. 

Now, it's time to add the potting soil. I used about 1 1/2 8qt bags of potting soil. You want to fill the potting soil to the bottom of the ledge that is routed into the frame. 

Pack down the dirt a little bit with your hands.

Step 6: Attach Chicken Wire

Lay the chicken wire over the dirt filled frame. Using a staple gun, attach the chicken wire to one long side of the frame, stapling it to the ledge. Trim the chicken wire to size (of the rectangle) using tin snips. Staple the other side of the chicken wire to the ledge on the other side of the frame.Don't worry about stapling the chicken wire on the short sides of the frame, it isn't necessary.

I decided to make some of the chicken wire holes a bit larger in places. I laid the front steel plate over the frame. Using tin snips, I made some of the holes larger (in random places around the letters - see photo). I wanted a few larger areas to secure the moss. 

Step 7: Plant Moss

Tearing off chunks of the moss, place it on top of the chicken wire. Don't worry about getting the moss right up to the edges of the frame, this part will be blocked by the steel plate. Try to plant different types of moss next to each other, giving the planter some variety in color and texture. While you're placing the moss on top of the chicken wire, tuck some of the moss under the chicken wire, securing it in place. 

Once you have planted all of the moss, give it a good, healthy dose of water. The moss and dirt will both soak up a lot of water, so you don't have to worry about it seeping out the bottom. 

Step 8: Attach Front Plate

Using the same measurements as the back plate, mark and drill holes on the front plate. I set the front plate on top of some scrap wood while I was drilling the holes. I didn't want to get metal and saw dust all over the newly planted moss. 

Place the front plate into position on top of the frame and attach with the same screws as you attached the back plate. To keep the plate from shifting around while you're screwing it in place, attach the four corners first, then screw in the rest of the screws. 

Step 9: Water and Wait

Keep the moss planter horizontal for a week or two before you leave it vertical. This will allow the moss to settle a bit and secure itself to the chicken wire. 

Water it every couple days with a spray bottle. 

If you want the steel to rust faster, wipe it down with some rubbing alcohol. Steel sheeting is often coated with oil to prevent rust. The rubbing alcohol will remove any of this oil, making rust happen faster. You can also take a little sand paper to the steel to increase the speed of rusting. 

The steel has been rusting really nicely. There are quite a few really bright orange areas. The moss has turned a bit brown though. I'm not sure if this is due to overwatering (I did get pretty excited with the spray bottle in my hopes for more rust), or not enough sun/too much sun. I figured the moss didn't need much sun because it's a shady-moist forest kind of plant. 

If there are any moss experts out there I'm open to advice! 

After 2 weeks, I turned the planter vertical. All went well and the moss and dirt didn't come spilling out. 

Step 10: Voila!

Now, I just need to find a proper home for this beauty!

And hope that it greens back up again. 

Notice the cute little leaf that sprouted! I don't think this leaf belongs to the moss. It will be interesting to see what else sprouts!