How to Build Planters With Landscape Timbers

Written by henri bauholz
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How to Build Planters With Landscape Timbers
Material like this can be used to make a rectangular planter. (timbers image by Andrii Oleksiienko from

With a little bit of rustic cutting, chopping and notching, an attractive four-sided outdoor planter can be made from rounded landscape timbers. Height and size is up to the builder and once the unit is put together, it can be placed anywhere around the house or garden, such as next to a set of stairs or scatter several planters around the garden.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Landscape timbers
  • #20 galvanised spikes (large nails)
  • 567gr framing hammer
  • Old hand saw
  • 1-inch flat wood chisel
  • Tape measure
  • Planting soil
  • Saw crossbucks (one pair)

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    Cutting End Lap Joints

  1. 1

    Examine the wood stock to be sure that the timbers are not warped or cracked.

  2. 2

    Determine the overall width and length of the planter. For this example, a planter that is two feet wide and four feet long is used. The depth is 24 inches, which means the planter requires four layers of six-inch-thick logs.

  3. 3

    Set a timber in the crossbuck and cut all the pieces to length. For this planter, each layer needs two pieces at a length of two feet and two pieces at a length of four feet. Since each piece gets an end-lap joint at each end, there is no reason to adjust the length of any of the pieces. Overall, you need 16 pieces, eight that are two feet long and eight that are four feet long.

  4. 4

    Mark six inches from each end of the timbers to begin the notching.

  5. 5

    Cut at the mark with a crosscut saw. Cut across the timber at a 90-degree angle. Cut until the saw incision is halfway through the timber.

  6. 6

    Move the saw 1/2-inch closer to the end of the log and start another cut. Cut until it proceeds halfway through the thickness of the timber. Cutting making cuts until the end of the timber is filled with saw cuts that go halfway through the log. You should have 12 cuts over the course of six inches.

  7. 7

    Chop out the wood between the saw cuts with a wood chisel and a hammer. Smooth out the flat part of the notch with the chisel and hammer.

  8. 8

    Repeat the process so every piece has a notch at each end that is six inches long and continues halfway through the round timber.

    Building the Planter

  1. 1

    Choose a level and smooth place on good soil to place your planter. Place two short pieces on the ground with notches facing up. Complete the rectangle by placing two more long pieces with notches facing down at right angles.

  2. 2

    Nail the first layer together with #20 galvanised nails. Drive the nails through the corners where the notched ends overlap at right angles. This joint is called an end half lap.

  3. 3

    Put the second layer on top of the first in the same manner. Nail the second layer to the first layer with the galvanised nails. Toenailing may be necessary.

  4. 4

    Add the 3rd and 4th layers. Be sure each layer is nailed tightly.

  5. 5

    Fill with top soil and plant.

Tips and warnings

  • Square timbers or modified round logs can be used instead of round timbers.
  • Many landscape timbers are pressure treated or dipped in creosote. For that reason the ends of each log should be cut with hand tools, so airborne sawdust does not become a problem.
  • Make sure the wood is treated or naturally rot resistant like cedar, cypress or redwood.

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