Introduction: Make Your Own Urban Farming Micro-planter
Here is a step-by- step guide to building your very own micro-planter out of reclaimed pallet wood or similar small wood scraps. I am building these planters as part of The Sustainable Human Project to trade for some of the food and goods that I cannont currently get, as I attempt to go 365 days of only eating food that is grown within The Sustainable City boundaries.
There are several simple rules in place for The Sustainable Human Project and short term patches in the food basket will come from this circular economy story around repurposing wood from the local construction site of the SEE Institute into urban farming tools and planters to be used in bartering and local trade with TSC residents (trade for essential food items I require). There are long term stories to come out of the designs for these woodworking barter items that will tie into Sanad Village (the Autism Centre in TSC), with the empowerment of People of Determination for self-reliance and development of life skills.
The choice to keep the design simple, only glued, with minimal cutting by choosing 1"x 4" pine boards has been intentionally done to make these easily replicable, with accessible materials and construction techniques.
This little planter is specifically sized to hold 1 of the live 4 inch potted herb/ veggie plants that the residents of The Sustainable City get as a monthly allowance from the community greenhouse Biodomes. There are endless size variations on sizing this planter and you can build it longer or wider to hold more (just add on 5" incriments). The wood we will use lends itself well to minimal cuts to build this cool "micro-planter"
Step 1: What You Will Need
All you really need is a saw (can be a hand saw), ruler, some sandpaper and glue to build this micro planter, but if you want to make things easier, add a mitre saw, or a mitre box and some clamps to help hold the wood. We will use pine 1"x4"s or reclaimed pallet wood as they are very cost effective, and well sized to minimize cutting. The wood of the finished project will be sealed with a coat of furniture wax to help with water protection.
Step 2: Cutting the Pieces
Cut the 1"x4" into pieces as shown, pretty straight forward with the 2 end boards at 5” in length, the 2 side boards at 6.5” in length, and the 2 bottom pieces at 6.5” in length.
You will use a 1"x2" for the top trim and cut the ends at 45 degrees with a 5” inner length. The inner length dimension is important, have a look at the picture below to see which measurement this refers to.
Step 3: Gluing the Pieces Together
The glue up of this is the tricky part because if you choose to use pallet wood, your pieces will most likely be cupped (slightly “c” shaped when looking down the end of the board). This will add to the rustic urban farm look of the planter but is a bit hard to deal with. Clamps help. The glue process is done in stages, patience here is key, but if in a warm place like we are here in Dubai, a couple of hours of drying time is plenty to move from one stage to the next.
Wipe the excess glue off with a damp rag as you go before the glue starts to harden. It saves time in the sanding stage to clean it up now instead of sanding it off later.
Step 4: Get Your Corners Right
Make sure you think about what order the corner boards will be be glued in to ensure the planter has a square inside dimension of 5”. This means the ends of the 5” pieces are glued to the longer 6.5” side boards as shown in the pictures above.
Step 5: Adding the Top Frame, Sanding, and Wax.
The 1"x2" cut into the feet and the top frame finishes things off and helps gives this shrunk down micro-planter the look of what would be used for large version planters in urban farms and community gardens.
I will bet your 1"x 2" wood will not be straight or even the same width when you get it, so making these 45 degree top frame corners match up perfectly while keeping the frame square is near impossible. Corner clamps are great, and a little cheat that I use is to take some glue and sawdust from the cuts, and mix it together to make a little wood filler paste to fill in any cracks on the misaligned joints. When dry, the filler will sand off nicely and match the rest of the wood.
Gluing the frame parts on will be the next-to last last step, then a quick final sand by hand (using 80 or 100 grit sandpaper) and a layer of furniture wax (I use Langlow brand) is applied to all. Use an old rag and generously wipe on the wax, and let dry outside as the wax is kept soft with turpentine so the wax releases a lot of fumes while drying..
Step 6: The Finished Micro-planter
There you have it! Add a 4” potted plant into your micro-planter and enjoy! Be aware that these planters are not waterproof and the gap between the 2 bottom boards will let any excess water drain out. This is a good thing for your plant and to avoid any issues with unwanted leakage onto surfaces, I recommend watering your plant in the sink and popping it back into the micro-planter once it has drained off a bit.
Visit www.thesustainablehuman.com for more interesting stories around DIY urban farming, eating local, and how to "grow" a sustainable community by growing food together.