Introduction: Thyme Garden

If you are a bit of a cilanthropist this Instructable is for you. Sage advice follows on the construction of a timely indoor/outdoor herb planter.

Hopefully this planter will grow on you over time and is the most stylish vertical garden ever - hands down! :)

I have provided a how-to for two options - shelves and box planters that will sit on the same supports. Choose whichever suits your needs or both if you have thyme!

If a planter is not mint to be in your life, perhaps this instructable could be used to make a book shelf or little library.

Step 1: Materials & Tools


Cheap grandfather clock with battery mechanism (I got this one off my local second hand website for $5)

Wood for shelves, beading, box planters and shelf supports


Wood glue



Potting mix

Heavy plastic bags

Stones for drainage/stability

Plants of choice - I have made a herb garden but you could do whatever you want so long as they dont get too tall! Plants that don't mind the shade might be a good choice given they are living on shelves.



Measuring tape and pencil

Square edge

Circular saw

Hand saw

Battery drill





Step 2: Clock Deconstruction

This will depend on your clock, but you need to remove the weights, pendulum and door. The weights and pendulum are generally not used in battery clocks and are only for decoration. If they are used you will need to either change the clock mechanism or incorporate them into the design if you want the clock to work.

This clock came apart into three sections so I removed the top section with the clock in it to make sanding and painting easier.

Remove the front face from the bottom of the clock to use this area for planting.

Step 3: Shelf/Box Planter/Support Preparation

Measure the interior length of the clock body and calculate how many shelves/box planters you want and what spacing. I have two about 220 mm apart.

Mark the shelf/planter location on the body of the clock.


Measure the interior width and depth of the clock body for the length and width of the shelves.

Mark out the length on the section of wood you have for shelving. Make it slightly smaller than the actually width so you can get it in easily. The shelf will be sitting on supports on either side so it does not need to be exact.

Cut and sand the shelves.

Box Planters:

Measure the interior width and depth of the clock body for the length and width of the boxes.

Calculate how high you would like the planter boxes to be - taking into account the heigh between the supports that you have already marked on the clock, and the height needed to adequately provide for soil.

Mark out and cut a base, two ends and two sides for each planter. Sand.


Measure the depth of the clock body and mark out this length on the wood for the supports.

Cut two lengths for for each shelf and sand.

Step 4: Shelf Supports

Hold the supports onto the side of clock body with the top of the support on the line where you want the shelf to sit. Draw a line to mark the bottom of the support up the sides of the body.

Remove the support and add a line down the middle to show where your holes need to be drilled.

Drill two holes on the middle line.

Apply wood glue to one face of the support and press it between the top/bottom lines in the clock body.

Use clamps, or get someone to hold it for you, and screw one screw in from the outside.

Repeat on the other side.

Put the shelf in on top of the supports and make sure the shelf sits flat. Put second screw in on both sides.

Repeat for second shelf.

Step 5: Shelf Construction

Hold the shelf in its position on top of the beading and draw a line on beading to indicate where the two pieces will join together.

Drill three holes into this section of the beading and hammer nails so that the point is flush with the wood.

Apply glue to the relevant edge of the shelf and nail the beading on. Wipe off excess glue.

Leave to dry.

Repeat for second shelf.

Step 6: Box Planter Construction

Drill three/four holes in the base section for drainage (if required).

Construct the planter box using the same technique as the shelves:

Hold the bottom against an end piece and draw a line to indicate where the two pieces will join together. Drill a couple of holes in the end piece.

Apply glue to the relevant edge of the base and nail the end peice on, repeat for the opposite end.

Wipe off excess glue.

Repeat the process with the sides of the box. The sides are nailed to the end pieces as well as the base.

Leave to dry.

Step 7: Lower Planter Preparation

Drill holes in base of clock for drainage.

Measure up how high you want the planting space to be.

Measure this length on the front panel and cut.

If you want a piece at the top to cover anything structural or ugly that may be visible, measure this and cut it from the other end of the front panel (so you have a finished edge on both pieces).

Apply wood glue and weigh (or clamp) the two pieces down.

Leave to dry.


I glued this section because there was no meaty wood to screw or nail the pieces onto. Your clock may be different!

Step 8: Preparation and Painting

Use a reasonably high grit sandpaper and sand the entire clock. I used 220 grit. This is to provide a slightly roughened surface for the paint to adhere to better.

Wipe the clock down with a damp cloth and leave to dry.

Paint! I wanted to make the clock look better and provide a bit more contrast between the green of the plants and the wood. I chose a dark red, and then went a shade lighter to allow for the dark brown of the wood veneer. If i was doing this properly I would probably have put a primer on first and stuck with my original colour, but I also wanted a bit of the wood grain to show through so didn't want to use too much paint. I used a test pot - it did not require a lot of paint.

I used small brushes for the detail around the clock face and a normal house brush for the larger panels.

The shelves/planter boxes and supports will need at least an extra coat to the rest of the clock to make the colour match better.

Step 9: Thyme to Garden

Put the clock back together - if you are using the original door, wait until you have your shelves/planter boxes in before putting it on!


Put in your new shelves.

Place your potted plants/nicknacks on the shelves!

Base and Planter Boxes

Line the planting area with plastic. I used reasonably heavy plastic bags I already had - the plastic bag our of the Cheerios box for example!

Poke holes in the plastic through the drainage hole.

Layer pebbles in the bottom for drainage (and stability in the base)

Fill with potting mix as required.

Plant your plants!


When choosing the plants be cognisant of the environment you are putting them into. My plants are (from bottom to top) basil, oregano, thyme and creeping rosemary. The rosemary and the oregano will both hang down out of the clock and will get plenty of sun. The thyme (and the rosemary!) is quite hardy and should do fine too. The basil has the most light and soil so I'm hoping it will be fine in the long run too.

Water as necessary - the plants should come with recommendations on what they like best.

There is space under this clock to position a saucer to catch water so I will be moving it in doors over winter/inclement weather.

Step 10: Possible Future Modifications...

I am interested to see how the plants get on in this planter. I think they will grow out to meet the sun, but I do have concerns about how much soil they are in while they are in the pots. If the plants do not thrive I'm going to try:

- Cutting holes in the shelves to sink deeper pots in

- Cutting windows in the rear panel so the plants get light from both sides.

When the battery clock mechanism gives out (inevitable!) I'm going to swap it for an outdoor clock!

Planter Challenge

Participated in the
Planter Challenge