Build a Garden Cart

Lynn Coulter
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Difficulty: Advanced
Duration: 2-4 hours

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Introduction

This DIY garden cart is both functional and stylish. Use it for outdoor entertaining or keeping small garden tools at hand. Depending on the materials you choose, you can build the cart for $150 – $200. We painted ours glossy red, for a pop of color in the garden. Its shelves hold glasses, plates, and an ice bucket.

If you prefer, apply a stain for a more natural look. Attach hooks to the sides of the cart if you wish, so you can hang a hand trowel, garden fork, or weed cultivator.

Step 1

Build the frame of the garden cart. Take two of the 36-inch front/back frame pieces and two of the 15-inch side frame pieces, and measure down the face of each board 3/4 of an inch. Next use a square to draw a line along the face of each. This line should connect from one board to another along the inside of the frame. This line will be a guide for the lower shelf support. Screw the pieces together with 3″ screws. Make sure the 15″ sides are secured between the 36″ front/back pieces, giving a total depth of 18″ and a length of 36″. This frame section will make up the bottom frame of the cart.

Step 2

With the 32″ frame legs, measure down from the top and up from the bottom 3-1/2″, and draw a line straight across. You should now have a 3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″ square at the top and bottom of each leg.

Step 3

In the top section of a frame leg, measure along the line you created at 1-3/4″. Mark it, and use a square to draw a line to the top of the board. Measure up this line 1-1/2″ and mark the spot.

Step 4

At the bottom of the legs, measure across the drawn line at 1-3/4″. Mark it, and use a square to draw a line to the board bottom. Measure down this line 2″ and mark with a pencil or marker. These marks will be where you will eventually drill for the carriage bolts that hold the top and bottom frame to the frame legs.

Step 5

Use 4 of the legs to help make the shelf section. Taking 1 leg, measure up from the bottom of the leg 12-1/2″ and mark it. Using the square, draw a line straight across. Measure up another 10″ and mark it with a line. Repeat for the other 3 legs.

Step 6

Use a 3/8″ spade bit to drill all the marked carriage bolt holes in the frame legs.

Step 7

Take the top and bottom frames, and, working one side at a time, align each leg into its proper corner. Note: Make sure the legs marked for the shelf section are facing each other on the same side. Only 2 are used at this point. Secure them with a clamp. The legs should be flush with the upper edge of the top frame and the lower edge of the bottom frame.

Step 8

When you’re happy with the alignment, working one corner at a time, remove the clamp and use the existing hole in the leg as a guide to drill the hole through the frame. Place a 3/8″ bolt through the frame, adding a washer and nut.

Step 9

With the cart in front of you, measure from the outer edge of the shelf section 12″ along the top and bottom frame and mark. Using the marks you just made, align the outer edge of one of the remaining 2 shelf-section legs and clamp and drill as you did when securing the other legs in step 7. Repeat for opposite side.

Step 10

Starting with the bottom frame and using the 3/4″ border you made in step 1 as a guide, mount the shelf supports using 1-1/2″ wood screws. The 12″ supports mount along the cart sides, and the 5″ supports mount between the shelf section legs. Mount the 17-1/2″ support along the remaining length. Note: Pre-drill holes on these pieces so the wood doesn’t split.

Step 11

The last four 12″ shelf supports mount at the guide marks we made for the shelf support section in step five.

Step 12

Build the top and shelves. To make the cart more functional, we embedded a cutting board and herb jar holders. The area you need to route out depends on the size of your cutting board. We used a 13 x 9-1/2 x  3/4 inch cutting board. Start by creating a border for the cutting board on the 36″ x 18″ plywood top. Measure and mark a 2″ border along the short and long sides. Place the cutting board against this border, and trace its shape onto the plywood. With the outline in place, select a straight bit, set the route depth to 1/2″, and clear out the area inside the outline. Get as close as you can without going over. Use a “guide” for the router, like a scrap piece of 2×4, for the straight edge.

Step 13

Starting on the same side as the cutting board, measure across 28-1/2″ and use the square to draw a line across the cart’s top. Place marks along the line at 4-1/2″, 9″, and 13-1/2″. These marks indicate the center of the holes for the herb jars. Drill the holes through the plywood with a 3-1/4″ hole saw. Place the top aside for now.

Step 14

The bottom shelves require some edits before putting them in place. The shelves will need to be notched to fit around the legs of the garden cart. Starting with the 21 x 15″ shelf, measure and mark in 3-1/2″, and use a square to place a line parallel with the 15″ side of the shelf. Measure in from each edge 1-1/2″ and use the square to lay a line from the board edge to the line we drew just before. Use a jigsaw to cut out the resulting corners.

Step 15

The corners of the 12 x 15 shelves need to be similarly notched. Working from the 12″ sides, measure in from each corner 3-1/2″, and into the board by 1-1/2″. Remove the resulting corner with the jigsaw. Repeat for the other two 12 x 15 shelves. Note: The general shape of the shelf matches the inside contours of the lower frame. If you are not sure of something, always check against this.

Step 16

While the cabinet grade plywood has an excellent-looking surface, the edges are rough and need to be covered. Place the shelves working from the bottom up. Attach the cart’s top to the frame using the 1-1/2″ screws, one at each corner and one along the length of the plywood on each side.

Step 17

To hide the edge of the top, use the 2″ lattice. The lattice will be flush with the top of the plywood, hiding the plywood edge as well as the seam where it meets the frame. The longer 36-1/2″ trim needs to overlap the cart corners by 1/4″ on each side, with the shorter 15″ trim sandwiched in between. Repeat for the bottom of the cart, as well as the 2 shelves held within the legs. Secure all trim with wood glue and/or finishing nails.

Step 18

Attach the casters at the corners. The 2 rigid casters need to be on the end opposite the leg shelves. This will give more control when pushing the cart and help prevent tipping. With the cart now on its wheels, you can place decorative hooks to hold utensils or tools. Place the hooks along the frame just below the trim to keep them in easy reach.

Step 19

Finally, add a handle to push the garden cart. We re-purposed some curtain brackets and a wooden dowel. The brackets are mounted 1″ in from the cart edge on the side opposite the rigid wheels. The dowel is 18″ long, so it fits flush with the width of the cart. Lock the dowel in place using the Replacement Universal Brackets.

Step 20

Since this garden cart will be used outdoors, you may want to paint or stain it. You can also opt to keep a more natural look.

Materials

4 2-inch x 4-inch x 10-ft studs, with the following cuts:

4 36-inch for the front and back frame

4 15-inch for the side frame

6 32-inch for the legs

12 feet of 1-inch x 2-inch poplar board with the following cuts:

6 12-inch for shelf supports

2 5-inch for shelf supports

2 17 1/2-inch for shelf supports

1 4-foot x 8-foot cabinet grade plywood with the following cuts:

1 36-inch x 18-inch for the cart top

1 21-inch x 15-inch for the lower shelf

3 12-inch x 15-inch for the small shelves

29 feet of 2-inch lattice with the following cuts:

4 36 1/2-inch for trim

4 18-inch for trim

4 15-inch for trim

4 12 1/2-inch for trim

  • 18 inches 1-inch diameter wooden dowel
  • 2 3/8-inch flat washers
  • 12 3/8-inch nuts
  • 1 box 3-inch wood screws
  • 1 box 1 1/2-inch wood screws
  • 2 2 1/2-inch rigid casters
  • 1 2 1/2-inch swivel caster
  • 1 2 1/2-inch swivel caster with brake
  • 2 Levelor 1-inch Replacement Universal Brackets

Tools

Square

Measuring tape

Table saw or circular saw

Drill

3/8-inch spade bit

Hammer

Jigsaw

Wood glue

Hole saw

Pencil or marker

Work gloves

Safety glasses

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