Raised Planter Stand

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This is a solution I came up with for planting a garden above my septic system leach field. I didn't want to plant directly on the field, or even create a raised bed. I had access to 55 gallon juice drums and thought I would make use of 3 of them. The stand features the 3 drums cut in half lengthwise, supported by a series of assemblies connected by 2x4 stringers. A good solution for the leach field issue, plus it's easier on my back.

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Step 1: Assemble the Assemblies

To begin, I created the 4 support assemblies that will be connected by the 2x4 stringers later on. For simplicity, I made them all identical and symmetrical. The two legs are made from 4x6 pressure treated (PT) lumber, and in my case, they measured 26-1/4" long (high). The cross members that connect each leg are 2x4 PT and connect to the legs via dadoes cut in the legs. To create the dadoes, I carefully laid them out and hogged out the material using my table saw with the blade set to 1-1/2" high and the miter gauge. With a series of kerfs cut, I turned to my chisel and hammer and cleaned the dadoes up, making sure a 2x4 would fit in snugly. Note that the legs are connected by 2 cross members. Structurally, 1 would be sufficient, but I like the symmetry of using 2 (plus I had the material handy). When the dadoes are done, cut a couple of cross members to length (31" in my case, which produces a perfect fit for the drums later on), lay on some construction adhesive and put a couple screws in each connection point. For my 6 half drums, I needed 4 assemblies. There is one more thing each assembly needs: a couple of pieces of wood that will straddle the longitudinal 2x4 that supports the underside of the drums. The inside of each piece go 3/4" off the centerline of the cross members, so as to create a 1-1/2" pocket that will hold the longitudinal piece.

Step 2: String Them Together

With the assemblies constructed, it's time to connect them. I started by placing the first one where it needed to be, and temporarily staked it to the ground so it wouldn't move. Using 2 string lines and precise measurements, I established the correct location for the last assembly. With the end assemblies in place, I used a string line so the intermediate assemblies would line up. Now place the intermediate assemblies and level them all up. Next lay a 2x4 on the tops of the legs longitudinally, and screw them down. When 1 side is done, proceed to do the other side. Lastly, lay a 2x4 in the straddles that are on the leg assembly cross members and screw them into place.  I didn't use any construction adhesive in the field just in case I ever have to move it.

Step 3: Create a Snug Fit

The next step is to screw on some 2' lengths of 2x4's to the inside of the 2x4's you attached to the tops of the legs. These are designed to hold the half drums snugly so they don't roll. Just lay out the mid point of each drum and center the 2x4 on each mark. Two screws on each is enough.

Now it is time to cut the drums. Just carefully lay out the lines, and use a circular saw with a sharp carbide tipped blade. They cut very easily. Wash out the barrels, and lay them in place. I then drilled a few holes in the bottom of each one (slightly off centerline because of the 2x4 stringer that supports the drums), and then it's time to fill with soil.

June 2013 Update:
It has been a few months since I finished construction.  I liked this project so much that I built another - this time for a 7' long plastic culvert that was 24" in diameter.  The plants are growing well, and I'm experimenting with different ones since this is my first attempt at vegetable gardening.  One benefit to this design that I hadn't planned on was the ability to easily add a trellis anywhere you need it.  The 2x4 stringers that run along the top of the leg structures provide plenty of options for adding a trellis.  I also added a planter box at the end of one, made from a pallet I salvaged and took apart.

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22 Discussions

I realize this is an old Instructable, I just thought I would mention that I linked it in a new one.
I made some similar planters when I read this Instructable a few years ago. This year I made water barrel holders with the same design. Thanks for the inspiration. My new project is here https://www.instructables.com/id/Preparing-to-Water-the-Garden/

I had drawn up plans similar to this, only it was a rectangular box lined w/ 2 inch foam board to insulate soil in winter. This is GENIUS!...& less costly. I am adding gravity drip irrigation w/ a reservoir on each end. Inexpensive drip irrigation, w/ all connectors/parts can be obtained from http://www.chapinlivingwaters.org/. I can alter your plans a bit to include hoop plastic/shading cloth for increasing or decreasing the temperature. Plastic hoop early in cool weather; shade cloth for summer sun. Alterations would allow for permanent trellis to come up one side. Just rotate the crops from barrel to barrel instead of having a moveable trellis. I can definitely see a 4 season planting & harvest from this design's potential. Read Elliott Coleman's book entitled "Four Season Harvest" for year-round gardening & other ideas. KUDOS! Remarkably well done for someone relatively new to gardening!

2 replies

I like your modifications... do you have a picture or the steps you took?

Thank you! I like the sound of your modifications - they should work well. I am still using my setup, it has really worked out well. I did add irrigation, which is just a couple spray heads attached to the garden hose connection. I also added a couple trellises running down the middle, lengthwise (I used bamboo). This works really well for supporting those plants!

Does anyone have any idea how many bags of soil each barrel takes?

Nice idea, I am going to get one started today. would it be good enough omit the last step and just lay out two 2x4 s across the length of the stand? I am not very good at using the saw, it's not a table saw. So I would like to use as few cuts as possible. Thanks.

Im in the process of making these right now. I have horrible crabgrass, last years garden, dismal failure. LOL! This seems the perfect solution, Thank you. Im doing 4 rows, each row with 4 halves, so 12' long. 1 will have cattle panel hoop for peas. 1 will have a set up I saw for tomatoes. I bought a 275 gallon tote that will catch rainwater off the roof of greenhouse an will water everything. Gotta be better than last years attempt.

great idea. will be modifying the length to 2 halves, and the with to eliminate the added 2x4's in step 3.

adding the changes proposed by ksbracken, and mainah,

this way i can use my tractor to move the planter if it is ever in the way.

In step 3, you put 2x4s in the insides to heek the drums from rolling.

Was there any particular reason why you chose that over just making the whole thing narrower so the sides that go from one end to the other would do the same?

Thanks.

Give this rig the Larry Hall treatment by moving the center bottom support to one side 2.5 inches and adding another one the same distance from the center. Screw enough ten foot lengths of rain gutter to these supports to span the distance. make sure everything is water tight and bore a 1/2 inch hole just down from the top of the rain gutter.(overflow holes). Use a hole saw to bore three 3" holes in the bottom of each drum half and Another 1/2 half inch hole in the end cap to put a Float valve in,attach a water source to the float valve and you have a self watering barrel planter. Go to Larry Hall on you tube for more great tips on container gardening.

Give this rig the Larry Hall treatment by moving the center bottom support to one side 2.5 inches and adding another one the same distance from the center. Screw enough ten foot lengths of rain gutter to these supports to span the distance. make sure everything is water tight and bore a 1/2 inch hole just down from the top of the rain gutter.(overflow holes). Use a hole saw to bore three 3" holes in the bottom of each drum half and Another 1/2 half inch hole in the end cap to put a Float valve in,attach a water source to the float valve and you have a self watering barrel planter. Go to Larry Hall on you tube for more great tips on container gardening.

Once the barrels were cut in half, I used hot water with some dish soap. These particular ones were used for aloe.

Thanks! I also have a 7' length of 24" diameter corrugated plastic drainage pipe that I am doing the same thing for.

Awesome! When the barrels are filled with soil they will be quite heavy. But your framing is so stout, the barrels aren't going anywhere! Way to go!