Here are three simple and inexpensive garden planter designs requiring minimal carpentry skills. Each of these designs can be built using recycled or easily located second-hand materials.
Pallet Planter Boxes
For the more adventurous, you can build a great planter box using an old pallet, which can often be found free for the taking, or at least very inexpensive to pick up on Craigslist or at local warehouse supply houses. Take a drive through your local commercial or agricultural shipping area and ask around if you don’t find them on Craigslist.
You can design your own pallet planter or follow simple steps for building a pallet planter box at Instructables here.
If you plan to have the pallet planter box on a patio, be sure to fix wheels on the bottom before you fill it with soil. You can pick up wheel sets for large pots at home depot for about $10. You’ll want two sets of the flat square four wheel type. Screw them to the underside of the planter box evenly spaced from the two ends of the box about one quarter of the total length of the box from the ends. That way it is easy to move the planter box around on the patio.
You may choose to line the bottom of the pallet planter box with burlap, or with a heavy sheet of cardboard, to keep soil in (the pallet planter box does have gaps between the slats when finished), plastic will retain water and should not be used unless you’ve used a vertical slat space design that allows drainage to the bottom of the pallet planter through the sides.
Planter boxes are great for just about any veggie – and all kinds of herbs. You can easily grow carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, beans, all types of greens and even summer squash in these boxes; winter squashes and sprawling melons don’t do as well as they tend to drape down and can break their stems, but upright squash such as zucchini and yellow straight necks do fine.
You can also do more mixing and matching in the larger area of a pallet planter box, so experiment with carrots, lettuce and tomatoes, some basil, rosemary, or chamomile and a few other greens. Once the tomato is established, you and continue to add greens even in mid-summer as they’ll stay cool in the shade of the tomato. At the end of the summer you can even go back to cool weather greens such as spinach and kale after the tomatoes are finished and have another whole garden in the same planter box.
Table Top Salad Garden
Another great option is the table top salad garden. This is a small to medium sized table, 2 by 3 feet is just about perfect, with four inch sides attached to the top.
Drill 1/4 to 1/2 inch holes along the bottom edge of the four inch sides to allow for drainage – two or three per side.
Fill the table top with your soil mixture following the rules listed above, and plant your salad greens, along with a few herbs for a great summer long salad garden.
If you are using an old table, consider either covering the top with a 6mil sheet of plastic, if it is finished wood, to keep that finish away from your vegetables, or covering it with a sheet of plywood before assembling. Because your drainage holes are in the bottom of the sides of the table top garden, you do not have to avoid plastic along the bottom.
Tip: An old Formica or countertop material table is excellent for a table top salad garden – you do not have to prepare the surface or cover it in plastic, just attach your sides with drainage holes drilled and you’re ready to go!
For a quick and easy tub garden, pick up a used 55 gallon plastic food-grade barrel and use a jig saw to cut it in half.
Be sure to get the type with the two small openings on the top so you can use both ends as tubs and there you go – instant tub garden containers!
Just rinse them out with a hose, and put in your compost and planting mix and you are good to go.
One thing we’ve done for years is to toss a few earthworms into the planter boxes and tubs, along with some nice kitchen scraps, right at the bottom of the container before putting in the rest of the finished compost and soil, so we give the plants the benefits of worms even if they are not in the ground.
Including a few herbs in the container garden is another excellent way to increase veggie production, especially if you use basil, pennyroyal, lavender or chamomile and don’t pinch off all the flowers on the basil when it starts to bolt – the flowers will attract bees and that will mean more pollination of the vegetables and more produce for you.
Pallet Planter Box: http://www.instructables.com/id/Planter-from-pallets-no-nail-pull-method/
Tabletop Salad Garden: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/a-terrific-tabletop-garden.aspx