DIY Modern Planter Box Using Cheap Cedar Fence Pickets


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September 6, 2023
Zoe Hunt

Cedar makes for a great planter box because it’s naturally rot-resistant and can tolerate water. Cedar boards can get pricey, so for these DIY planters, we decided to cut down cheap cedar fence pickets to create our modern slat planter design. 

We made both planters for about $20 worth of wood. If you know a thing or two about planter boxes, that’s a steal! 

We decided to create these planter boxes for pots to sit in, but if you’d like to ditch the pot, that’s okay too! You’ll just want to line the inside of the planter with a tarp or landscape fabric to contain the soil in. 

Alright, let’s dive in and make these DIY planter boxes! 

DIY modern planters made from cedar sitting on dark deck

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We made two planters. The small square planter is 8.75” D x 8.75” W  x 7” H. The taller planter is 8” D x 10 1/4” W  x 18” H. 

How to Make a Wooden Planter Box 

Fair warning: I unfortunately do not have very many pictures in this post. If you’re curious to see more of the planter in process, check out this Instagram video.


Cedar fence pickets are generally a bit rough when you get them. Decide on the look you’re going for. If you would like your planters to have a little more texture, leave them as is and move onto step 1. 

If you would like the wood for your planters to be a little smoother, sand your fence pickets before cutting them down. The pieces will be small once cut, so it’s way easier to sand them first. 

We quickly sanded ours down with 80 grit sandpaper to knock down some of the texture. 


Using a table saw, rip your cedar fence pickets into the following sizes: 

  • Fence picket 1: (6) ⅝” strips, (1) ¾” strip
  • Fence picket 2: (1) 3.5 strip → we’ll use the remainder for bottom slats 
  • Fence picket 3: (1) 1.75” strip, (1) 1.25” strip, (2) 1” strips 
  • Fence picket 4: (1) 1.25” strips, (3) 1” strips
  • Fence picket 5: (2) 1” strips 

Fair warning: as you’re cutting, some of your cedar fence pickets might break if you end up cutting right around a knot.  If that’s the case, you can cut the extra you need from the remaining fence picket 5.

If you aren’t building the small square planter, you don’t need to cut cedar fence picket 1. 

Want to DIY buy don\'t know where to start? Click here to grab your free guide!


For these pieces, I set up a stop for my miter saw so that I could quickly get repeat cuts without needing to measure each piece. Click here for a visual breakdown of the cut list.

Cut the following pieces to create the small planter. 

Slat WidthSlat LengthQuantity 
3 ½”7 ⅛”2
¾”7 ½”4
¾”6 ¼”4

Cut the following pieces to create the large planter: 

Slat WidthSlat LengthQuantity 
~1 7/8* (this is the remainder piece from the fence picket that was cut to 3.5”8 ⅛”2
3 ½”18”2
1 ¼”18”4
1 ¾”18”2
1” 18”16
1” 7 ¾” 6
1” 6 ¾” 6


To assemble the sides, I’d recommend grabbing a scrap piece of wood that at least 9” wide, one or two ⅝” thick piece(s) of wood to use as a spacer (aka a 5/8″ slat or a cedar fence picket which is 5/8″ thick), and a clamp or two.

Before we assemble, let me just remind you that this doesn’t need to be perfect. The beauty of these planters is in the imperfections. Imperfect spacing and the slight variation between the thicknesses of the cedar fence pickets gives these planters a bohemian and organic feel. 

We’ll start by assembling the taller planter. 

Mark 9” on the scrap piece of wood to use as a guide on how wide the first side of your tall planter should be. Clamp a ⅝” wide piece of wood on the inside of your 9” marks. This will help you line up the support boards. 

The pattern for the first two sides goes 1”, 1.25”, 1”, 1.75”, 1”, 1.25”, and 1”. The gaps should be about ⅛” wide, but you can eyeball the spacing. 

Line the slats up between your 9” marks. Once you’re happy with the spacing, we’ll install the 3 side supports using glue and 1” nails. The supports should be placed ⅝” from either side, which is why I found it helpful to clamp to ⅝” pieces of wood to act as a guide.

nailing cedar fence pickets to create planter side

The supports will be placed ~¾” from the top and bottom, and then the top of one will be placed 5.75” from the top.

The ¾” placement for the top and bottom doesn’t need to be exact. The final board is going to be the support that holds up the pot, so be sure to measure the height of your pot. This placement was designed for a 4.75- 5” pot, since you need to account for the ⅝” slats that we’ll add at the end.

Once you have two sides following this pattern, it’s time to move onto the remaining two sides. Adjust your 9” mark so that it’s only 8” wide instead and move your ⅝” guides. 

The pattern for this side is 1”, 1”, 3.5”, 1”, 1”. Space them between the 8” marks and then install the supports using glue and 1” nails at the same heights that you installed them on the other sides. 

Repeat with the final side. 

The scrap piece of wood where you marked the distance of the sides is also helpful because it keeps your slats lined up along the bottom. Make sure to press the ends of the slats against the scrap piece of wood as you nail the supports into them.

Now for the smaller planter. Clamp your scrap piece of wood to the table so that it can be used as a guide to keep the slats all lined up when installing. 

Grab 9 of your 7” slats and (2) of your 7.5” pieces. Space out your 9 slats so that your 7.5” pieces overhang the outside pieces by approximately 11/16” on each side.

There should be less than a 1/16” gap between each slat, so again, embrace the imperfection and just eyeball the spacing. 

Once you’re happy with the spacing, secure the 7.5” pieces to the slats using glue and 1” nails. We placed these pieces ¾” from the top and bottom of the slats. This allows for a pot that is about 5” tall. 

Make another side exactly like this. 

Then make the next 2 sides. This time, you’ll use 9 slats and your 6.25” pieces. The outside slats should be flush with the ends of the 6.25” pieces. The 6.25” pieces should be placed ¾” from the top and bottom of the slats. 

Secure the 6.25” pieces using glue and 1” nails. 

Free download wood sizing cheatsheet


Now that all of the sides are assembled, it’s time to turn them into a box! Let’s start with the taller planter again. 

Place one of the 9” sides on your work surface, with the supports facing up towards the ceiling. Apply glue where the 8” side will touch it. Secure the 8” side using 1” nails. 

Repeat with the second 8” side. Then, place your second 9” side and nail it in place. As you’re nailing the sides in place, make sure that the middle support is lined up around each of the sides.

assembling planter box with nails

Now for attaching the smaller planter together. This one is slightly more complex to assemble. 

Start by attaching the 7.5” side to the 6.25” supports. First apply glue to the end grains of the 6.25” pieces and then secure the 7.5” support to the 6.25” support using 1” nails. Yes, you will have some gaps at this point, but we’ll use the leftover slats to fix this in a moment. 

Attach each of the supports together until you have a box. 

Use glue and nails to secure another slat to each end of the 7.5” piece, covering up the nail that you used to secure the supports together. Be careful as you add these nails to not hit the nails that are already in the support pieces. 

Grab 2 slats and secure them together using 1” nails. Repeat 3 more times so that you have (4) of these double pieces. These will be the corner pieces. 

Line the corner pieces up so that they are lined up with the slats on the 7.5” side of the planter. Secure to the support boards using glue and 1” nails. 

cedar planter boxes sitting on table prepared to be stained


In the larger planter, place your (2) 8 ⅛” inside of the middle supports. You can just place them next to each with a gap, no need to be precise or even to secure them to the supports. 

For the smaller planter, place your (3) 7 ⅛” slats inside of the planter so that they’re resting on the bottom supports. 


Using the outdoor finish of your choosing, finish your planters. If you want to fill the nail holes that are visible from attaching the sides, you can do that first. 

We chose to finish our planters with Cabot Timber Oil in Honey Teak. It’s super easy to apply–just brush on one coat and you’re done. 

DIY wood planter sitting on outdoor table

There you have it! Now you have your very own wooden planter boxes! Despite the low-cost of the cedar fence pickets, these modern planters will add some style to your home! 

If you’re interested in more planter tutorials, be sure to check out these 50+ DIY planter ideas!

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