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Raised bed garden planter with a self-watering feature

Building a raised bed planter
Getting started

By Mike Thayer

Why break ground, till, clear grass, and work to amend the soil when you can put together a couple of raised bed gardens instead?  Besides, harvesting veggies and cutting flowers from a raised garden is MUCH easier on the knees and I love the concept of adding a self-watering feature to the raised beds! 

This was a project motivated by a friend of mine, she found the planter box plans and solicited my help to get it built.  After going over the plans from Family Handyman, finding the right spot to place it in her backyard, and purchasing materials, the thought process was to build the first box exactly as directed per the instructions.  It's a pretty basic, straightforward plan, a box with a false floor, a liner to extend the life of the wood, and some tubing to create a watering system.   In building future planter boxes, the plans will be tweaked, editing what wasn't liked in the original plan as well as putting in some add-ons, such as shelves on the end pieces to make working in the bed easier.  It would be nice to have a place to set a flat of new plants, set down the hand trowel when not in use, and of course, you have to have a place for your beverage!

Here's the materials list:

  • Six 12' 2x6s
  • Three 12' deck boards
  • Two 10' 2x4s
  • One 8' 2x4
  • Four 8' 2x2s
  • 24' of 4" diameter perforated drain pipe with sleeve
  • Pond liner
  • Exterior screws
  • Potting mix
  • 1/2' vinyl tubing for drainage
  • 1" CPVC (fill tube)
Planter end pieces
End pieces are done

A couple of nice benefits to having the raised beds will be the ability to easily cover the bed with an old fitted sheet if there is a frost warning in the forecast and that self-watering feature - watering the roots of the plants rather than from above cuts down on diseases like blight and mildew.  In addition, watering time is reduced and because it's more efficient, you save on the water bill.  

The price of wood has really gone up since these guidelines were first released.  Costing a little over $400 in materials, the planter took roughly 16 hours to construct, fill with dirt, and plant.  Overall, the Family Handyman instructions were pretty easy to follow and included a materials list, a cut list, decent illustrations, and a recommended plant list.  This was a fun project and after putting the first box together and getting it planted, here are a few changes to suggest.

  • Rather than just two, 2"x2" vertical cleats on the long side pieces, go with three to prevent board warp.
  • Go with 1-1/2" CPVC pipe instead of the 1" pipe listed in the instructions.  A garden hose won't fit down a 1" pipe when filling.
  • Use 2-3/4" exterior screws. 
  • The instructions recommend four separate sections of tubing going from end piece to end piece.  I recommend one piece of tubing to allow for faster filling and you won't have to use as much water.
  • This is a heavy planter, try to construct where you'll be placing it.

Customizing future planter boxes will be both fun and functional, putting shelves on the end pieces, along with the installation of vertical 4"x4" posts for a trellis and vertical growing.  My friend also came up with the great thought of creating a box half this size and equipping it with heavy-duty casters for mobility.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Planter pieces
Pieces, ready to assemble
Planter box
Assembled pieces, ready to line with pond liner
Planter with liner
Liner stapled in
Planter with socked tubing
Tubing and fill tube in place
Planter with plants
Trimming the top while planting
Planter lined with brick
Just about finished!











Related: Lowe's vs. Home Depot vs. Menard's vs. Sutherland's

Related: Building a self-watering raised planter bed

Related: Building Planter Containers on the Cheap

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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