Three Tier Planter


As soon as March begins, many people start to experience the restlessness of spring fever. It doesn’t help that a lot of places are still getting pounded with snow! If you have had just about enough winter, I’ve got a project to assure you that spring is right around the corner: the Three Tier Planter.

I designed this to be an easy, stress-free project that you can make with limited tools and budget. If it’s still cold where you live, this is a great way to transition back into your workshop.

three tier planter 02

Tools you’ll need:

  • Miter saw. You could use a circular saw or jigsaw, but it will be much easier to cut angles with a miter saw.
  • Drill.  All the pieces are glued and screwed together.
  • Bar clamp. Not absolutely necessary, but it will make assembly easier.


You will need eight, 8 foot long 1×4’s. (These are actually 3 1/2″ wide by 3/4″ thick.) Metric: 244cm long, 19mm thick, 89mm wide.

These boards cost me $2.28 each at Home Depot. Note that these are not the “good” pine boards, but are cheap furring strips. Take the time to pick through the stack to find ones that aren’t too mangled. A few knots and imperfections are fine for an outdoor planter. In fact, they even look better a little rustic!

Cutting the boards

Cut the two long supports, (the front legs) at 25° angles. The other pieces for the two sides are cut at 10° angles. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to get everything perfect. I really designed this project with a lot of leeway. Remember, it’s a rustic outdoor planter!




To help me line up the legs and supports, I clamped a 2×4 to my workbench. This acted as the floor to that the legs would be on the same plane. The trickiest part here was repeating the assembly on the left side because it needs to be done flipped. I printed out a flipped view of this side to help me set it up. If you have good spatial awareness and can flip things around in your head, you have my respect!



Everything gets glued and screwed together.


The crates, or planter boxes are easy. The two long sides and the three bottom boards are all the same lengths Cut these all at the same time, as well as the shorter end pieces. Glue and screw these together.



Finishing the three tier planter

The best protection from the elements would be a coat of paint. I decided to use a transparent redwood deck stain for the stand. Deck stain is quick and easy to use because it only requires one coat, you don’t have to wipe off excess, it dries quickly, and you don’t need any further clear coat protection.

I decided to stain the planter boxed with a dark color to look like rustic old crates. After the wood stain dries, it needs a top coat. I like to use Spar Urethane on outdoor projects.




Free Plans


three tier planter



  1. Nice project once again.
    One thought, for the bottom of the planter boxes…. is to put holes near the front of the box (through the bottom)

    That way excess rain will drain well, and also you can set up drip watering, that will cascade down from the top box to the next.
    I usually put a square of landscape fabric in the bottom, to prevent the dirt from coming out the bottom and making a mess.

  2. Steve. Thanks for now including metric in
    your plans. It is a valued enhancement to
    your site here in New Zealand.

  3. Hi Steve…
    What a great project…
    Sorry but I’ve made a simple observation :
    Have you think about putting “stop-blocks” under the crates if you have a windy weather, in order to blocks crates on the plantier ?

  4. This could be made for even cheaper by using old pallets. Wood is the perfect size. Just need some warmer weather to get started. Lol

  5. I still have a foot of snow on the ground so it was great to see the flowers and green grass in your video this week, I just can’t wait until spring. Thanks for view of spring and the great woodworking video!

  6. There is a small error in the PDF for US dimensions. The boards that make up the short side of the planter boxes should be cut to 9″ not 7.5″.

    Did all of the cutting today and found this. No big deal as I could just rip one of the bottom 1X4’s down to the right width. I really like how the sides are put together, it’s really easy to lay out and assemble. Thanks Steve!

  7. A great project. Living in upstate NY I still have over 3 feet of snow, on the ground. But when spring does show up I’m going to give them a try, and maybe put a tomato plant in each box. Always follow what you do, and enjoy them.

  8. Hi Steve, thanks for another great project.
    I’m having some dimensional problems with the 7 1/2 inches for the side of the boxes. I came up a little short. I used the pdf plan and printed and cut and didn’t realize the problem until I went to try to assemble the boxes. Shouldn’t it be 9 inches? Or am I completely overlooking something?

  9. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for another great project.
    Printed the PDF plans and when it comes to the measurement for the small pieces for the sides of the crates…I find that I need more like 9 inches instead of the 7 1/2 that are in the plans.

    • It is designed for the short side of the “crates” to go between the rails. not overlapping. Either way will work.
      hope this helps

  10. Really terrific and simple project to kick off my spring. Thanks for sharing. I do have a couple of really quick and kind of dumb questions:

    1) I’m guessing treated lumber wouldn’t work for the planter boxes, especially; not looking for something that will last 20 years, but does the stain you applied – to the frame and boxes – offer weather protection?

    2) Along those lines, I always seem to screw up projects by using the wrong fasteners so I was wondering what you used for screws? Would those have to be treated and would 1.25″ be too long for two 1×4 boards? (Knowing they’re actually .75″ thick).

    Thanks. Heading back to the Woodworking Show tomorrow and Sunday for seminars and Monday – temperature in the 60s – will be the first Project Day of the year.

    • I used treated lumber for my raised beds and haven’t had any problems with stuff growing, but it might be different on small boxes. As for screws, I think stainless steel will last the longest.

  11. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong when it comes to posting so if a bunch of these show up down the road … my apologies.

    My two quick questions (again)

    1) Does the deck stain and urethane topcoat eliminate the need for pressure treated lumber? I’ve never been sure whether or not you can use PT lumber for gardening projects. Living in Wisconsin, the elements can get kind of funky but for a simple, quick project … not expecting it to last 20 years anyway!

    2) What kind of fasteners did you use? Looks like one-inch screws, but do they need to be specially-treated or coated? Also, would using the nailer on the boxes lead to any issues down the road in terms of separation or anything like that? I know, a million thoughts for something that’s supposed to be quick, simple and hassle-free!

    Thanks, Steve, for posting these. Nice to know woodworking doesn’t have to be rocket science … and frustrating.

  12. Making one this weekend. I’m going to use pocket holes for the boxes because I just nought a kreg jig and need to use it

  13. Um, you missed taping off the Porter Cable name tag on the trunion table on the bottom of the saw. LOL.

    Hey I am making this with some left over Western Cedar that found its way to Florida. I was given a bunch of 2x8s and 2×10 drops that are nearly 6 feet in length. I built a large rocking bench with most of it. Fall is approaching here and that means flowers. Today the heat index is to reach 110*. Time to work in the driveway making sawdust. Thanks for the plans and the great videos. I always enjoy that which you do and support.
    Take Care

  14. The PDF has the wrong deminsions for the boxes end boards. It shows these to be 7.5″ when in fact should be 9″. Three 1 X 4’s (3.5″) + thickness of two side pieces (1.5″) means the 7.5″ pieces of the box needs to be 9″.

    I’m putting two slip fit cleats on bottom of boxes parallel with step boards so they will 1- stay in place in the winds and 2- for easy to remove when needed, like in the fall.


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