By Mike Thayer
So I live in an apartment, I like to garden and I do have a patio where I do some container gardening, but it's ground level and it's asphalt. That means it gets REALLY hot.... When it's 90 degrees out in the summer, add another 10 degrees to that temp because that dark asphalt absorbs all that sun and radiates.
Hot temps + hot asphalt = unhappy plant roots. The first year in my apartment, I just did pots directly on the asphalt patio.... Oooopppsss! No matter how often I watered, conditions just weren't good for most of my plants. My plants were always too hot and too dry. In the second season of patio container gardening, I went with pallets, lining my fenceline with them, separating my pots from the asphalt. While that was a very practical and economical solution to the heat problem that my patio garden plants appreciated, it was a bit unsightly. The cheap plastic containers I typically buy are easily faded by the sun in one season and pallets just aren't sexy at all, so this year, I gave my patio garden a makeover.
Enter, corrugated metal and cedar planter containers
After looking for planter ideas online, in seed catalogs and gardening magazines, I really got to liking the corrugated metal and cedar look. What I decided on are raised bed planters designed to put garden soil directly in the planter, but given my patio setting, that's not an option. What I could do, I thought to myself, was build the raised beds, and prop my containers up on the pallets inside. A "window dressing" if you will, there would be a lot of downsizing and custom cutting of those pallets involved, but the raised garden planter look would really dress the patio up and I could do such a project far cheaper than buying a bunch of big, ornate, clay pots.
Cedar wood can be expensive, but a top finish board isn't needed for a garden setting, a rustic look and rough cut boards is perfect for this project. I went with cedar fence pickets, they're cheap - less that $2 a picket - easy to cut, drill and secure in place with wood screws. The corrugated metal is also cheap, with 2' x 8 ' panels costing about $15 each. Measuring about 6 feet long by 24 inches deep and about 25 inches tall, these planters cost me about $40 per planter to build. The pallets, which I already had on hand, cost me nothing.
This project was fun and fairly easy to do. The only tools needed really was a saw, tape measure, some tin snips for the corrugated metal and a drill to secure everything in place with screws.
If you're looking to upgrade your container garden, don't think new, expensive pots, think corrugated metal and cedar wood to dress up what you already have.