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what is a good, cheap wood to use for outdoor planter boxes? Answered

I live in Silicon Valley, CA and want to build a set of four 4'x1 1/2' planter boxes in my backyard that will have chicken wire underneath them to keep out gophers. I want to build them relatively cheaply, so I know that redwood is not really an option. Also, they will be growing food, so that removes pressure treated wood from the mix. However, I would still like them to last a few years. What kind of wood should I use instead? Is there some kind of paint or finish that I can use to increase the lifespan of the boxes without adding anything nasty to the soil (and by extension, my food)? Thanks for any help anyone can give me in this matter!



6 years ago

Ceder is ideal. It's not very expensive and it won't rot for a very long time.

Cypress or 'white cedar' will never rot. They dredge up trunks out of the bottoms of rivers that have been there for hundreds of years and they're still good. Other types of cedar will rot because the white cedar is actually a misnamed cypress. I don't know where you could find milled planks though. Maybe mail order


9 years ago

i have built a few last weeks, made form pallet wood stained with the proper product they last forever.

I use cedar fence pickets for many projects- they are inexpensive, will last for years outdoors and come in 5 or 6 foot lengths so are easy to transport in most vehicles. You need to get creative with configuring wide or long boards but many times this has led me to interesting designs that others find appealing. And the low cost helps reduce my anxiety over wasting material with mistakes. I used a cedar picket to help my daughter build the maquet for her latest sculpture, as an example.

Search "Wooden Pallet Planters" on this site. There are some great instructables on the subject. Check with your local warehouses or manufacturing plants, they normally have broken pallets that they are happy to give away.

but how long will they last before they rot away?

Maybe you could still use pressure treated but line the planter with something that will not leach back, pond liner material or cut up plastic bottles. You could use the standard large plastic or terra cotta planter box and then build a pressure treated wood frame around it for support and looks. Gang up the smaller boxes if needed. Or cast a custom concrete planter box. Use some wire mesh for reinforcement to embed in the cement. You could even tile or mosaic the outside. California home design magazines should have some good ideas. Good luck.

What about some cheap lumber with tin lining? I think that would look nice and tin isn't very expensive, I believe. Will the tin leech bad stuff into the soil though?

If you are using tin, it might just be plated steel, like tin cans or a galvanized steel which is used for water pipes. You might get a bit of rust in some spots but that should be ok for the plants. There are planters made from washtubs. You could line it with cut up aluminum cans from soft drinks and recycle at the same time.

Can you scavenge some old wine barrels? I've seen lots of planters made from cut barrels but they would have to be round or you need to take them apart and build something.

cedar is rot-resistant...