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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Build a Planter Box with a View

R. L. Rhodes
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There’s plenty of subtle drama in your landscape, from the unfolding of leaves to the struggle against weeds, but half of the story takes place out of view, hidden beneath the soil.

Layering different planting materials adds aesthetic appeal.


This planter has a transparent, Plexiglas window to allow a peak into the subterranean goings-on. It’s perfect for illustrating to children what goes on beneath the soil when plants grow. You can give it extra appeal by layering different planting materials.

Skill Level:





Step 1: Assemble the panels

Glue two of the 1×8” planks together to form each side panel. Use your clamps to hold the pieces flush together until the adhesive dries. Repeat this process, creating a total of three panels.


Step 2: Brace the back panel

Place one panel flat on a work surface.  Measure 5/8” in from the outside edge and screw one 2x2x14” board flush against the mark. The top end of the board should be level with the top of the panel, leaving some space at the bottom. Use the 2” screws to secure the board to the panel, leaving at least 2″ at the bottom of the brace. Attach another brace to the other side of the panel using the same steps.


Step 3: Attach the sides

Attach the remaining 2×2’s to the outside edges of the two side panels — flush to the edges. Join those two panels to the back panel by screwing them into the 2×2 supports previously installed in step 2. You should now have a three-sided box.

Step 4: Add the bottom

Turn the box over and apply wood glue on the ends of the braces. Drop the plywood panel inside the box, resting it on the top of the 2×2’s. Secure the base to the 2×2’s with more 2” screws.

Step 5: Frame the Window

Nail the 1x3x171/8” boards to the top and bottom of the opening and 11” side boards to the outside edges.


Step 4: Finishing touches

To make a framed ledge for the top of the planter, cut a 45° mitered angle from the inside measurement of each of 4 1x2x16” boards. Add some wood glue to the top edge of the front, back and side panels and press the frame into place. Secure it in place with finishing nails.

If you want to stain or paint your planter, now’s the time to do so.

After the stain or paint is dry, install the clear panel to the inside of the window frame. Use clear silicone sealant to apply a ¼” bead around the inside of the opening.  Drop the clear panel in place and press firmly into the silicone. You may also want to apply silicone to the inside joints and seams of the planter.

Finally, drill several 3/8” holes through the bottom of the planter to allow for water drainage.

Fill the finished planter with different planting materials to create a layered effect visible through the planter window.  You might try:

  • Lava rocks
  • White marble chips
  • Mulch
  • River pebbles
  • Soil

Layer the front of the planter with your ingredients and back fill with soil, leaving room for plants.


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