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DIY Teak Tomato Planter Box

Jul 18, 2014
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I've made quite a few outdoor projects using cedar lately, and I thought it was high time to switch up my building materials. So when I came across an outdoor teak table that was in desperate need of repurposing, I jumped at the chance to reinvent it as a planter box for my newest gardening venture: tomatoes!

Teak is a fantastic material for outdoor projects ranging from furniture to boats, due to its naturally water-, termite- and pest-resistant nature. Additionally, its high oil content, tight wood grain and high tensile strength make teak an ideal selection for outdoor planters. And although annual treatment with a sealant keeps teak in tip-top condition aesthetically, when left untreated and exposed to sunlight over time, teak develops a beautiful silver-grey patina.

But back to the veritable star of today's show: the tomatoes. Not only are they packed with vitamins and nutrients, but they're also a very versatile food item.

Cubed tomatoes (and whole cherry tomatoes) provide the perfect bite of acidity to salads. When sliced, they enhance sandwiches and burgers alike. After all, what's a BLT without the T?

And speaking of sliced, down here in Charleston, South Carolina, we specialize in a little gem called fried green tomatoes, which means you don't even have to wait until they're fully ripe before you can enjoy their tomato-ey goodness.

However, in order to enjoy the myriad options presented by tomatoes, you need to construct a habitat for them. Here's how you can make a planter box just like mine.

Cut pieces of the teak in the following dimensions:

  • 4 pieces @ 14 ¼ in. wide x 12 ½ in. tall for the sides (these are ¼ in. thick)
  • 1 piece @ 14 in. square for the internal base
  • 4 pieces @ 14 ¾ in. x 1 ¼ in. for one aspect of the edges (this will make sense momentarily)
  • 4 pieces @ 14 ¾ in. x 1 ½ in. for the other aspect of the edges (all 8 side edges are ½ in. thick)

You'll also need a power drill with a large drill bit to create drain holes in the bottom of the box. You can do this before or after the box is assembled -- whichever method you prefer.

To secure the sides, I used a brad nailer with stainless steel brad nails that are acceptable for exterior use (stainless steel won't rust).

Carefully attach the base to all four sides and work your way around the box in a pinwheel pattern. In other words, because the sides are ¼ in. longer than the base's 14 in. square measurements, and the wood is ¼ in. thick, if you start with the first side perpendicular and flush to the base, it will extend an additional ¼ in. past the opposite side of the base. When you attach the second side, it will butt up against the ¼ in. overhang while still situating itself flush against the base. In this way, each side overlaps the other like a pinwheel.

Once the basic box is constructed, it's time to add the sides. Because the strips are about 2 ¼ in. taller than the sides of the box, attach the strips so that the tops are flush and there is an additional 2 ¼ in. of space at the bottom of the box. This elevates the box off of the ground, enhancing its appearance as well as its drainage.

For the sides, you will also be attaching them in the pinwheel fashion, but alternate the widths all the way around the box. For example, for each of the four corners you will use two strips of the 14 ¾ in. tall teak wood (for eight pieces total): One half of the corner will be secured with the 1 ¼ in. wide strip and the other half of the corner will be secured with the 1 ½ in. strip. Make sure to overlap these as well.

Now that the box is completed, you have two options for your tomato plant. On the one hand, you could simply drop in a pre-potted container and use the box as a decorative housing for the container. Alternatively, fill the box with potting soil and plant the tomato according to the packaging.

Either way, you're going to need two more elements in order for your tomato plant to thrive. First, you will need some sort of support structure to carry the weight of your climbing tomatoes as they grow. You may opt for a wire or plastic cage with concentric circles or you might prefer the lovely look of a lattice trellis.

Finally, place your plant in a sunny spot that receives at least six full hours of sunlight daily. My back patio is just perfect for my newest garden addition and I can't wait until it starts to sprout some 'maters!

What type of tomatoes do you plan to plant in your DIY planter box?

Rheney Williams writes about her DIY backyard projects for Home Depot. Rheney's outdoor planters have been sprucing up her Charleston, S.C., home since spring, and she's been busy using all sorts of power tools to help her build the containers. You can view Home Depot's complete power tool selection online.

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