Introduction: Large Outdoor Planter From a Recycled Shipping Crate

We started a bunch of tomato plants from seed this year and had an over-abundance of success. Every seed was successful and was overcrowding the garden. So, while sourcing pallets for another project, I came across a few shipping crates that looked useful so I grabbed one.

I tried to take the crate apart but it was so well put together, it would have ruined most of the wood forcing it apart. Instead, my wife suggested it looked pretty good as it was and would make a good planter. Here's how the project went...

Step 1: Materials and Equipment and Approximate Cost

Materials and Equipment:

Shipping crate - free

deck stain (dark brown) - from the "whoops" paint section at Lowes for $0.50.

Palm sander and sand paper

Drill with 1 1/2 inch hole bit

dirt - two wheelbarrow loads full for this one. You could use potting soil, but I had dirt left over from a landscaping project.

2 bags of mulch - $1.99 per bag

3 tomato plants - from seeds collected last year

3 tomato cages - I already had these or you could use stakes or sticks with something to tie the plants to the sticks (I've found ribbons made from old T-shirts work well)

Total Cost - $4.48

Step 2: Step 1: Prepare the Crate

1) Obtain the crate - this could be very easy or hard. Check Craigslist for your area or other sites. Also, look behind industrial buildings but ask before you take something. I've found most places are very nice about giving these away because otherwise they have to pay to have them removed. However, taking them without getting permission is stealing. Also, look for the pallet treatment code. Yours should be marked and do NOT use one that is marked as methyl-brominated. Mine were marked as heat treated only. In my case, these were custom built and were heat-treated but not treated with any chemicals. Also, it helps to know what was shipped in them and to avoid anything that contained chemicals. It's not usually the case that shipping crates are used for shipping chemicals but it's best to be safe.

The particular crate I found was well built with pine 2x4's and 1" plywood and with 4x4 feet. It was solid as a rock!

2) Prep the crate by sanding down any rough areas and drilling drainage holes in the bottom. I knew that this crate wouldn't last forever as a planter so I didn't spend too much time sanding to perfection. I also drilled 1 1/2" holes in the bottom for water drainage.

3) Apply stain/sealant. I used a brown stain/sealant that is meant for decks on mine. I found a pint for $0.50 at Lowes in the whoops section...score! I actually wasn't too concerned about the color but brown works. I also applied it to every surface, inside and out, to protect it from the elements.

Step 3: Prep Your Ground Site

Because this baby is very heavy without dirt and rocks I knew this would be a static planter. Therefore, I prepped my location ahead time knowing that I wouldn't be moving it. I chose a sunny location near the deck for ease of picking and watering. I removed all the turf and actually replanted it in a bare spot in the yard. This was then covered with some topsoil and two inches of mulch (two bags)

Step 4: Place Your Planter and Fill

I then placed the planter in place being careful to put it exactly where I wanted it because I knew it wouldn't move. I then put the following in:

1) Landscape cloth stapled to the inside. This is mostly to keep the dirt and rocks from falling out the bottom.

2) A few inches of rocks for drainage

3) Dirt mixed with compost from my yard to the top

Step 5: Plant Your Tomatoes or Other Plants

I chose to plant tomatoes but anything could really go in here. The depth of the planter really lent itself to putting the tomato cages in. We also had an overcrowded tomato bed and transplanting a few of them over was easy. I think it looks great and will look forward to a bountiful harvest!! I can't look forward to a wonderful summer of salsa and caprese salad.

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