Introduction: A 55 GALLON PLANTER

About: I have always enjoyed woodworking from when I was a child watching my father and brothers make or fix things up until present. I am now retired and last year (2017) I added a small CNC router/engraver, to my a…

We recently moved into another home and I’m still planning some landscaping ideas for the partially completed back yard. I intend to build raised beds for a vegetable garden; however I am not yet sure where I want to place them or how I want to construct them.

Wanting to get a veggie garden going before it was too late in the season; I decided to build some planters large enough to provide a good root system for my tomato plants. Another factor was to make them mobile so I could arrange them in different ways and to also relocate them for the proper amount of sun exposure if required. I saw some 55 gallon storage totes at a big box building supply store and considered different ways to make them work. I knew that they would be heavy once filled, so a substantial platform and heavy duty casters were required as well as reasonable support underneath. Also, a frame around the rim would be necessary to restrict the outward forces of the soil at the top. This Is my under $50.00 solution. A drawing in pdf format and two animated videos are available for download.

Step 1:


I chose to use douglas fir for this project since it will be painted and none of the wood will be in contact with the soil mixture.

  • 3 each 2x4x8 feet long
  • 3 each 1x4x6 feet long
  • 1 each 55 gallon tote
  • 4 each 2 1/2 inch swivel casters with 175 pound or greater load capacity
  • 16 each carriage bolt, 5/16-18 thread
  • 16 each hex nut, 5/16-18 thread
  • 24 each deck screw #8x2 inches long
  • 16 each deck screw #10x3 1/2 inches long
  • 1 quart of exterior deck paint (optional)
  • 4 each #10 biscuits or wooden dowels

Step 2:

Tools I used:

  • Table saw for the dados
  • Radial Arm saw for cross cuts
  • Dado blade set
  • Drill Press
  • Drill Driver
  • Biscuit slot cutter
  • Orbital sander
  • 3/4 inch forstner bit
  • 5/16 inch drill bit
  • 5/32 inch drill bit
  • Clamps
  • Crescent wrench
  • Phillips driver bit
  • Paint brush

Step 3:

Cut the parts to size: Please refer to the downloadable documentation zip file.

I generally check lumber ends for squareness and make a minimal end cut if required. Be sure to check for and remove any staples from the ends.

From one 2x4x8’, cut one platform side and one top frame side.

Repeat with a second 2x4x8’.

From the third 2x4x8’, cut the platform and top frame ends.

Cut the dados on the two platform side pieces. Adjust the dado width as necessary to allow the 1x4 tote supports to slide without binding. (I put the dados on the worst appearing side of each board as they will not be in view after assembly).

Using the 5/32” drill bit, pre drill the deck screw holes 3/4” in from the ends of the platform sides on each side of the dado.

From one 1x4x6’, cut one top frame side cap and one top frame end cap.

Repeat with a second 2x4x6’.

From the third 1x4x6’, cut the four bottom tote supports.

Before drilling for and mounting the casters, I suggest you partially assemble the bottom platform leaving one end open using 3 1/2” deck screws.

Slide a tote support into the dados down towards the closed end.

Place a caster in place on the tote support such that the wheel is swiveled towards a side and about 3/16” away. Mark the position on the tote support. Use the mark as a reference for all four wheels.

Mark the locations of the caster mounting holes at each end of two tote supports according to the reference position.

Drill the 3/4” diameter by 1/8” deep counter bores central to the marks. Then drill the 5/16" diameter holes through to the other side in the center of the counter bores.

Step 4:


One caster at a time, tap the carriage bolts through the tote support such that the head rests in the counter bore. Place the caster on the other side and secure in place using the hex nuts. Try not to over tighten causing the wood to split.

Once the casters are attached, slide the tote supports into
place and install the other end piece.

With the caster facing up, position the two supports with casters about 1 inch away from the inside edge of the bottom platform ends.


Drive a 2” deck screw through the bottom of the side 2x4s about 4” from each end clear through the dado and tote supports. This will keep the casters from shifting if moving across most rough surfaces.

The top frame is assembled by first attaching the 2x4s
together using 3 1/2” deck screws as shown in the drawings.

The 1x4s are dimensioned such that they will overlap the 2x4s by 1/4” all around.

Place a top frame side cap in place over a top frame side and adjust its position to create an equal overlap on each end and one side about 1/4”. Clamp in place.

Pre drill seven holes just through the cap. Do not install screws until all biscuit slots are cut.

Place the top frame end caps and the other side cap in place and mark the centers for biscuit slots in both the side caps and the end caps. Cut the biscuit slots in all pieces where marked.

Secure all pieces in place with #8 deck screws after pre drilling as mentioned above and biscuits are in place( the biscuits are not glued).

I used the orbital sander to round over all sharp edges and corners and then painted both upper and lower assemblies with non glossy deck paint to protect them from the elements.

With the tote upside down, place the bottom platform in place over the bottom of the tote. Slide the two loose supports to form three equal spaces between the supports. Drill drain holes as you feel are required within the spaces using the 3/16” diameter drill.

After flipping back upright and putting the top frame in place, I placed about 3/4” of rocks across the entire bottom inside the tote. These were covered with landscape cloth before filling with the growing medium.

Step 5:


Wear safety glasses and use all reasonable precautions while working with power tools.

Right now, the plants seem to be happy

Thanks for looking

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    5 Discussions


    2 years ago on Step 4

    They are a good size and came out very nice looking too. They would also make wonderful small water gardens for the small sized water lilies or other small pond plants.


    2 years ago

    Such a clever idea! The added wood makes them look so nice, too. :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you, you're tutorial on how to write an instructable was very helpful on my first two attempts. Future projects will hopefully be better photographed.


    Question 2 years ago on Introduction

    Can you tell who sells this tote?

    Thx john


    Answer 2 years ago

    I found mine at Home Depot