Now that I have some touches of fall inside the house, it was time to turn my attention to the exterior. When I started thinking about my fall front porch decor, I knew I wanted two things: lanterns and mums. I love the pop of whimsical colour that mums add to a front porch for the fall, but I also know they’re a little short which can leave your front porch looking kind of flat. This year I decided I would build a planter to prop up my mums and add a little more height dimension to the overall look of my front step.
Disclosure: this planter project was sponsored by Kent Building Supplies as part of their Fall DIY Challenge. Design choices, ideas, descriptions, and images are purely mine. Kent Building Supplies encourages creators to come up with any project idea we like.
I had the idea to build a simple frame and cover it with walnut wood slats to bring warmth to my front porch but also fit in with the modern appearance of our exterior. I love how it turned out so I’m excited to share with you here on the blog. When I shared this project on Instagram, everyone seemed to really like it and I thought a complete “how-to” would be in order! I already have plans to make larger versions of these to bookend our driveway next spring. I might even put our house number on them!
I’m not a woodworker by trade, but something excites me about the sound of a saw, the smell of wood dust, and the feeling of untapped potential when I hold a piece of lumber.
Does that sound intimidating (or bananas) to you? Don’t worry – I felt the same way once! But now, when I see a nice-looking wooden garden table, candle holder, shelf, or cookbook stand, I usually don’t think, “That would look nice in my house.” Instead, I think, “I can make that!” This slatted planter project is an excellent beginner DIY project that uses simple measurements, assembly methods, and tools.
To build this planter, you will need the following supplies and tools:
- Pressure treated 2×2’s
- Furring strips (see notes)
- 2 1/2″ deck screws
- Plant pot
- Exterior wood sealer/stain
- Sanding block
- Saw (I used a miter saw, but you could also use a table saw or circular saw)
- Rafter square (aka, speed square)
- Tape measure
Note about furring strips: I made the best find at Kent Building Supplies (which, for you non-Maritimers out there, is Atlantic Canada’s leading home improvement store): FREE pressure-treated furring strips! Furring strips are long, slender strips of wood (or metal) that are used in construction to level surfaces or create air space between two different materials. You can buy them at lumber stores in different dimensions. However, in this case, the furring strips I found were being used to separate bundles of pressure treated wood on pallets in the lumber yard at Kent. The folks at Kent bundle them up at the end of each lumber aisle into scrap wood piles, and they let me take a bunch of them for my project for free! To see where I found mine, check out these highlights. Poke around at your own local store, and you’ll probably be able to find the same deal. Look for the pieces that are layered between groups of boards and talk to the people working in the lumber yard. They might have even more in their scrap wood disposal containers.
How to build the planter
For this planter project, we’re going to keep it very simple from a construction perspective.
Measure the width of your desired plant pot (aka, the vessel that will go in your planter) and measure the thickness of the building material you’re using (in our case here, 1.5″ is the thickness of a nominal 2×2). Add the two numbers together and this will be the length you need for 8 equal pieces of lumber.
My plant pot was 8.5″ at the widest part. My 2×2’s are 1.5″ thick. Those two combined equals 10″, so I cut 8 pieces of my 2×2 that were all equal to 10″ in total length.
I made my cuts by measuring one piece and then using that piece as a guide for all remaining cuts. This ensures that even if I’m a little bit off, the pieces will all match regardless.
Take 4 pieces of your cut lumber and overlap them at each corner only once, making a square frame. You’ll connect them with deck screws that must be long enough to penetrate both pieces of lumber by at least 1/2 inch. For my 1.5 inch thick 2×2’s, I went with 2 1/2 inch brown deck screws.
Before drilling pilot holes or attempting assembly, I found it helpful to number each piece and make a mark with my pencil where I would drill a pilot hole. Numbering them kept me organized later when it came time to assemble, and marking where my pilot hole belonged just ensured I drilled them into the right places.
You will go through this process twice to make two equal frames. Next you need to cut legs equal to the height of your plant pot. Use the legs to attach your two identical frames to make a cube.
Do you want a taller planter? Easy – just repeat that same process. I added one more frame with one more set of legs to double the height of the plant pot. This is one of the simplest things we can build: all straight cuts and only two measurements! You could add a third and fourth cube to the planter frame to keep elevating the height. Note: I would recommend inserting some cinder blocks for stability if you build a very tall planter, otherwise it will be top-heavy and could topple over in the wind.
Hint: This a good time to determine the number of slats you’ll be using and the spacing between them. This should help you determine the length of the additional legs you add to your planter. See below for photos of how I laid mine out on my work table. I laid out slats on my workbench that would cover the planter, then added more until I got to a desired height. This let me measure the distance between my internal bases (the squares) and the bottom of the slats, which would be my measurement for legs. Excuse the somewhat poor photos on this, as I snapped screenshots of a video I recorded. To see the video version, head to my Instagram highlight about this planter!
The next step is to cut a few scrap pieces of wood and secure them to the bottom of the interior frame. This will ensure your planter doesn’t fall to the bottom of the structure when you slip it inside. Now we have a place for our plant pot to sit inside of our planter.
Finally, it’s time to cut our slats. The number of slats you cut, along with length, will depend on the width and height of your planter structure. I recommend the following:
– front pieces = the width of the planter structure plus the thickness of 2 furring strips. For example, if your furring strips are 1/2″ thick and your planter structure is 10″ wide, the front pieces would be 11″ in length. This will allow them to hang over the sides at the front, hiding the cut ends of the side slats.
– side pieces = the width of the planter structure plus the thickness of 1 furring strip. (This was 10.5″ for mine!) This will allow them to hang over the side at the back, reducing the appearance of cut pieces on the sides.
– back pieces = the width of the planter (10″ for me!)
The last bit of measuring and saw work we need to do is creating some trim for the top of our planter. Cut furring strips for the top of the planter on 45 degree angles to make a frame. That will hide all of our ugly cuts and screws. Ensure the frame is just slightly wider than the top of the planter structure so it hangs over just a little bit. (This will later give you a nice straight place to align your first set of slats.) You can attach them to the planter structure right away, but I recommend staining them separately, including the cut edges, to minimize the appearance of seams.
Sealing, staining, and assembling the slatted planter
While the pressure treated lumber looks and performs fine on its own, I decided I wanted to seal and stain mine. Sealing was important to me because this is going to hold plants, I’m going to water them, and it’s going to get wet on the inside where it won’t be exposed to much sunlight. Since I want this to last a long time, I decided I should seal it with exterior wood sealer. I also wanted to create some dimension in colour, with the interior structure darker than the slats so it would look very shadowy. After chatting it over with the fine folks at the paint desk at Kent, I landed on SICO Exterior Wood Stain, which is a combination stain and sealant that has a tintable base! I had one can tinted in the shade Slate and a second one tinted in Walnut.
Before staining, I gave my slats and top trim edges a light sanding to tidy any jagged spots. I stained everything inside with good ventilation, but you could certainly do this outside or in your garage. You just want to let the stain dry/seal for at least 24 hours before applying a second coat and assembling.
I used the black Slate stain for the internal structure and top trim pieces. The contrast with a warmer stain on the external slats gives the planter a nice sense of depth and dimension, but you could use the same stain if you wanted more of a monochromatic look.
The last step after everything is dry is assembly. I used my brad nailer to attach all the slats to the structure, starting with the top trim as the frame. When attaching the slats around the planter itself, I kept it simple and used a spare slat as my spacer. To see a video version of how to use one of the slats as a spacer, check out my Instagram reel about this project — toward the end, I demonstrate exactly this!
After you’re done attaching the slats, you’re ready to insert a plant! I built this planter for my fall mums, but it could have so many other uses. I may repurpose it over the holidays for a small Christmas tree. I can also see this planter elevating some lovely flowers on a back deck or maybe even holding a bucket of ice for an evening of wine and laughter!
For the fall, I added white mums and placed the planter outside of my front door. I dressed up the rest of the front porch with a few lanterns with candles, and a pretty rocking chair, blanket, and pillow.
I had fun creating this planter and I’m already getting lots of compliments from my neighbours. If you love it, or would love to try it, I would love to hear from you either in the comments below or in the comments on my Instagram reel about this project. Let me know that plant you would showcase in this beautiful planter! And don’t miss my previous post about adding cozy and subtle fall decor to the inside of your home for fall.