In our temperate Seattle weather, strawberries are a great plant to start in the winter as a bare-root plant that will come alive in spring. You can also wait to plant until late spring when the weather has warmed up to accommodate growth. This strawberry planter is a great way to start a small crop of berries without taking up too much space. For more information about planting and growing strawberries, talk to your local nursery, or take a look at this great article from the Seattle Times.
Step 1: Make your cuts
Gather your tools and materials. With a circular saw or a handsaw and miter box, cut your wood according to the diagram.
Step 2: Sand each piece
We sanded the edges to remove the especially big splinters. Sanding has become such second nature that sometimes I do it without even thinking. Cedar fencing is cut pretty rough, and it's totally fine that way—this step is just there to remove some of those splintery ends, and really, it's totally optional. The beautiful thing about building something that uses rough lumber and will sit in your backyard is that you don’t need to sand it! So feel free to skip.
Step 3: Assemble your base
Next, assemble the base. Attach the 22 3/4" hemlock to the 22 7/8" board, 3/4" from the bottom. Pre-drill to prevent the hemlock from splitting and secure with 1 1/4" screws. You can use the hemlock as a measuring guide to mark the 3/4". Then, skip down to step 4 and assemble the four fence board pieces into a square as directed. Slide the remaining two hemlock pieces inside the square, lining up with the other hemlock pieces, then attach with screws. (Note: we updated this post, so the photos won't line up perfectly with the instructions!)
Step 4: Pre-drill
Attach the four longest boards for the bottom of the planter. Sandwich the shorter boards inside of the longer ones, then pre-drill two holes in each corner at least 1/2" away from the sides of the boards. Secure with 1 1/4" screws. A long clamp or an extra pair of hands will make this step easier.
Step 5: Attach plywood base
Next, turn the square over and lay the piece of plywood on top of the hemlock square. Attach it using glue and 1" screws.
Step 6: Drill drainage holes
While you have the bottom facing you, attach a 1/4" bit and drill a grid of holes for drainage.
Step 7: Assemble additional squares
Now you’ll be assembling the additional squares in the same way you did the first. Sandwich the smaller sides in between the longer ones and pre-drill two holes in each corner 1/2" away from the sides of the boards. Attach with screws. By the end, you'll have five different sized squares.
Step 8: Prep your nails
Once you’ve assembled all the squares it’s time to prep your nails. Use a pair of cutting pliers to remove the head of the nails. This is a little trick that turns a one-way nail into a two-way nail and will help you attach all the pieces together. You will need a total of 16 nails cut. This will take a little bit of elbow grease.
Step 9: Assemble the planter
Beginning at the bottom, measure and mark the halfway point on each side of the box. Place the next tiered box diagonally on the first, trying to match each corner to the pencil mark. This is surprisingly tricky and may not be quite what you planned due to slight variations in wood and measurements. Once lined up, get an idea of how much overlap there is. With this in mind, pre-drill with a 1/16" bit in each corner in preparation for the nail that will go there.
Fit the nails into the pre-drilled holes in each corner and hammer them partway down.
Step 10: Continue assembly
Apply a tiny amount of glue to the base of the upper box right around the nail (careful now: Gorilla Glue goes a long way and it expands, so use less than you think you need). Flip it over and reposition on the bottom box. Press down the nails in the tier below and use a hammer and a block of wood to pound into place.
Repeat steps 9 and 10 for the remaining three tiers.
Step 11: Create your irrigation system
Next, it’s time to build your high-tech irrigation system. This will help water all the strawberries, on all the levels, evenly. Grab the PVC pipe and measure it to size. It should be flush with the top of your strawberry planter. Use a handsaw to cut your PVC pipe to length.
Step 12: Create holes in your PVC pipe
Now for the holes. Using a 1/8" drill bit, drill holes that will serve as your watering system. Drill more holes toward the top—this will help distribute water more evenly. Fill the pipe with gravel or small rocks (this also helps with water distribution).
Now it's time to plant your strawberries! Place the plastic tube so the open end will be exposed at the top in the center of the planter. Working from the bottom, fill each layer with dirt. Next, plant your strawberries within the triangular spaces in each corner. For watering, use the PVC pipe and pour your water into the opening. It will ensure your plants receive equal amounts of water. We'll post pictures of our planter when it's ready to grow! For more tips, here's a helpful guide to growing strawberries in the Pacific Northwest.