Food & Swine

DIY container for deck gardening Part I

DIY container for deck gardening

With 2.5 hours of time and less than $60 we built a container for easy access, no bending, critter free gardening that will provide food for us all summer and it was fun! This past weekend I discovered the cutest elevated container for gardening in a magazine that I regularly get. After one long look at my husband he agreed to build one for me ‘from scratch’.  To me, this was a big deal. I was wrong.

It seemed like it may be confusing or tough to do.  It really was a breeze for my husband, who is quite handy.  We had no plan whatsoever. We stared at the magazine photo of the $250+shipping not-so-sturdy magazine-container, scribbled a bit and headed to the lumberyard and hardware store to make our own.  Here’s what WE came up with. *When I say WE, I mean HE … and when I bring a pie or dinner rolls to your potluck and say here’s what WE made to bring… I mean I. Get it?  That’s confusing.  Moving on…

*The full materials list for building this container is located at the end of the post.

This fun project won “Grand Champion” in the DIY Division in the Country Fair Blog party over at Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom.  Such a fun competition!

Country Fair Blog Part

To learn how I filled my container with a mixture of soil, compost, sand and lime click here. Let’s go!

DIY container for deck gardening

We started out by heading to the lumberyard, check to make sure your lumber is straight and relatively knot-free for the most part.


Learning how to load lumber was fun for our daughter.


A little elbow grease to get those bigger pieces into the truck.


Teaching her how to grab in the middle of the board so she could balance it.  My husband is the best at letting our kids try and potentially fail so they can figure it out themselves.  Instinctively as a Mom I am more ‘to the rescue’ and it is great when I can stand back (behind my lens in this case) and observe.


Speaking of another person observing today… one cherry Twizzler pull-apart and the car seat was all he saw in the lumberyard.


This just breaks my heart. Does she have to go to kindergarten this fall? She was so helpful all day.


Daddy’s girl.


Home and getting set up.  Lumber, garden mat, stain and tools.  Oil for the inside of the container is in my kitchen!


I knew I had to marry a handy-guy. I literally came up with this idea after seeing a gardener’s catalog with a similar product in it that cost $249 + lots of shipping $.  The product looked flimsy and wasn’t the size I needed.  I asked him to look at it, we talked, scribbled on an old envelope and headed to the hardware store and lumberyard.  It was the perfect Saturday.


Give little boy a power tool to play with (yes, supervised) so he will stay out of the way a bit. Nice shoes buddy!


Boys and their tools… and their annoying dog!  (I think I threw that ball for her 100 times on Saturday, so much my shoulder was sore on Sunday!)




Everyone gets a turn.


Going into this we decided that the unit should be 4 feet long for sure.  It was easy to decide that because 8 feet would have made this too heavy to move and certainly too heavy to move around once on our deck filled with the compost/soil/etc mixture and the bushels of veggies we intend on harvesting from this all summer. (haha, kidding)  If I really like the container, we’ll build another one of the same size.  It is easy to split the lumber in half.  Less waste.  Score.

First we built the frame.  I was concerned with using treated lumber for any parts that would be close to touching the food.  The large 4″x4″s are treated, the 2″x6″s in the photo are not.  The inside dimensions of the box are 24×48 inches.


Next we had grape popsicles and put some other 2″x4″s on the frame as you can see here.  These will be the support pieces for the base of the container.  (We’re going to purchase some bolts to secure this a bit better mostly because the deck screws we used, while large are probably not enough to secure the container with all of the weight of soil and the unit itself.  Bolts will go on soon before it gets filled.)


The build continues.


Lots of measuring and cutting.  (We had no plans so we just winged it!)


That’s what the angle pieces which will support the unit itself.  These connections will probably get bolts too.


All done with the ‘frame’ part.  We decided later (remember we had no plan) that the angle pieces, since they won’t be in direct contact with the soil, could be treated lumber.  FYI.


The next step was to take the rest of our 4′ cut 2″x4″ pieces of untreated lumber and line them up with about 1/4″ gap between each for proper drainage.  Secure with deck screws.  This is better than a play set!


Take a nap in container before it is finished.  Cousin A. came over and dropped off some plants that she started and gave us a rad photo bomb moment!


That sun was luxurious.  All I kept singing was “Awaaaaaay in a Manger….” all day.  This thing reminds me of a feed bunk/manger.  My Dad even asked why we had a sheep/goat feeder on our deck… jokingly.


The last thing to do was to put the ‘triangle’ cut pieces on the end of the container to fully enclose it, the easy part.  Just a few quick measures and cuts away from finished.


Here’s the finished product… now I’ll give  you ONE guess as to what our next spring clean-up project is.  Yes, you guessed correctly!  Power washing and staining the deck.  (Why didn’t we spring for the more expensive, less maintenance deck honey?)


All done and ready to be ‘finished’ with a coat of vegetable oil.  WHAAAAAA?  Yes.  A few coats of cheap old vegetable oil will keep this bad boy sealed up until next  year.  After the oil goes on, then we’ll be lining the container with garden mat and filling it.  Stay tuned for another post on filling the container that will be coming up ASAP (whenever our rain stops!)


Materials list and method:

For exact measurements (I will go out and measure piece by piece for you if you’d like!) email me at  Chances are if you are this handy, the project will come together for you like it did for us!

DIY 4” Deck Container Garden

Total Cost: $60 or less for container, oil for finishing, mat for lining.  (Soils, composts, sands, seeds/plants are additional $.)

Materials, Tools, etc.

Lumber: $45 total of the following

2 – 4”x4”x6’ treated lumber

2 – 2”x4”x8’ treated lumber (This is what you should get, we didn’t get that and should have because these pieces won’t touch the soil.)

4 – 2”x6”x8’ untreated lumber

4 – 2”x4”x8’ untreated lumber

Gardening Mat: $6 for an entire roll, this project will use about $1.50 worth

1 QT Vegetable or Canola Oil: $1.25 (You can use Raw Pure Linseed Oil too, for an additional cost.)

Screws (Approximately 80 = 1 lb. of 2 ½ inch deck screws): $5 per pound

6” bolt or 3” lag: 4 of each: $1.50 ea. ($6)

Tools/Etc. Supplies: DeWalt Miter Saw, DeWalt 14.4V cordless screwdriver w/ star bit, tape measure, pencil for marking

2.5 hours of labor

Finished Inside Dimension of the top: 24”x48”

Greatest Depth of center of container: 22.5”

Height of unit: 36 inches

Finished weight: Sturdy (kinda heavy!) and it has yet to be filled with soil.

Casters for feet if desired: 4 swivel casters

Filling: Black dirt, compost, sand, gravel and readily available lime from the garden store.

Container Building Method: *See above pictures. 

For a detailed list of steps and measurements, email me at  Here are the basics, you can measure and fill in as needed if you want to try to make it on your own as we did.  The 4″x4″ treated pieces are cut in half to make the legs, the long sides of the box (2″x6″) are 4′.

Filling Method:

Black Dirt, Compost, Sand, Gravel and readily available lime for filling container.  We have most of this on our place so I don’t have prices.  Layers in the lined container shall be:
Layer 1 at bottom: Gravel 3 inches (1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket)

Layer 2 from bottom: Sand 3 inches (1/2 of a 5 gallon bucket)

Layer 3 to fill to top: MIX: Five 5 gallon buckets of rich black topsoil, Two 5 gallon buckets of quality compost, 1 5 gallon bucket of sand, 3/4 5 gallon bucket of readily available lime 10%.  The lime and sand are vital for our soil we’re using but the sand even more so because the carrots and leeks I’m planting enjoy this environment and it will be quicker drying.  PLUS: my Uncle B., gardening ninja said so.  That should be the only reason I need!

Plants and Herbs Of Interest:

For this container I’ve chosen to include a small amount of the following:

Shallow edges:

Swiss Chard: (Rainbow Chard: Bright Lights Variety)

Short Carrot Varieties (Short n Sweet Variety)

White Radishes (these are mild and hardy: White Icicle)

Green onions (White Lisbon Bunching)

Baby Beets (Detroit Dark Red Medium Top)

Garlic Chives

Spinach (Double Choice)

Lettuces (Paris White and Simpson)

Deeper Center:

Small Cherry Tomato Hybrid (Purple Bumblebee)

Leeks (Where I mix sand in, I’ll plant American Flag Variety Leeks)

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  • Reply Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids May 6, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Your container garden looks great and I love that it is elevated! Plus I love the step by step photos with the kids. Thanks for adding your post to my Linky party!

    • Reply Cristen May 7, 2014 at 3:45 am

      I LOVE your linky party! Fun!

  • Reply soycaitlin June 5, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Ahhh I love this! I’ve been container gardening in my backyard, and someday when I don’t have a city house, I’d love to do a project like this one! :)

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