How To Build a Vinyl Square Foot Garden Box

A few weeks ago I posted this picture of my garden boxes to our Facebook Fan Page.
 

Needless to say any time people see my garden boxes they are dying to know where I got them or how I made them. Well the answer is … I have an amazing husband :) He has been sweet enough to make a tutorial for you to show how to make a simple 4×4 vinyl garden box. Feel free to watch the video below, but I have also tried to summarize his instructions if you don’t want to watch the whole thing.
 

How To Build a Vinyl Square Foot Garden Box

Materials Needed:
4″x4″ vinyl post jackets (found in either 72″ or 100″ lengths)
- You can also use 5″x5″ vinyl posts but they have holes pre-drilled in incorrect places)
Vinyl fence slats (found in 16′ lengths)
- You can make your boxes one slat high, but I prefer to do them double
Fence Post Caps (optional)
- You don’t NEED these but they make the boxes look so pretty!
Liquid Nails (optional)
- Can be used to glue the two layers of slats together if you are worried about stability

Tools Needed:
Tape Measure
Pencil
Straight Edge/Ruler
Table Saw or Sawzall or Circular Saw or Hacksaw (to cut vinyl into segments)
Jigsaw or Sawzall or Hacksaw Blade (to cut the post holes, jigsaw works best)

Posts
Measure post lengths to give you 1-2 inches of space at the top, and 4-6 inches of space at the bottom. Then give yourself either 5 1/2 or 11 inches for the slats (depending on whether you are doing one layer or two). Cut 4 equal segments. If you are doing a longer box, you will need to add 2 additional posts to give it more stability in the middle.

Side Slats
Determine the size of box you want to make. For a 4 foot square box you would ideally give yourself a few extra inches on each side since they will be stuck into the posts. However, since the slats come in 16 foot lengths we opted to just make our box a little smaller. Cut into 4 equal segments. Again if you are doing a longer box, make additional slats as necessary. Don’t make the slats longer than 4 or 5 feet in length.

Post Holes
Draw yourself a template for the holes. Start down 1-2 inches from the top of the post (depending on what you measured for). Make sure to mark the center of the post. Measure your fence slat (should be about 1 1/2 inches) and mark that width down the post starting from the center. So you will have 3/4″ on each side of the middle line. You can either measure 11″ and draw the lines, or simply trace around your fence slat to get a pretty good outline. Use a large drill bit to start a hole in the outline. Then using a jigsaw, cut out the hole. You will need two holes per post and they should be on sides right next to each other.

Assembly
If you glued your two layers of slats together, wait for them to dry. Then stick the fence slats into the holes you made in the posts and form your square foot garden box. Once you determine where your box will go, dig holes in the ground for the four post holes and stick your box in! We like to fill our posts with dirt after to make them more stable. Then stick on the post caps for a beautiful finishing touch.

Cost of a 4′x4′ Box (all parts from Home Depot)
72″ vinyl post jacket – $15.97
16′ vinyl slats x 2 – $29.94
Fence post caps x 4 – $6.68
TOTAL COST – $52.59

Time Required
A simple 4×4 box like the one we built can be done in an hour or so. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are with the measuring and cuts it could take a little longer. If you have a table saw and a jigsaw it could take a little shorter. To do a bigger box with more cuts and more complex measurements it will longer as well. Also if you choose to glue the slats together it’s best to let them dry overnight.

Hope this is helpful! If you or your spouse makes one of these boxes let us know in the comments how it works out for you.


  • http://www.facebook.com/michelle.minson.3 Michelle Minson

    So, if I’m doing my math right it looks like you need 3 16′ rails and 1.5 posts and 6 caps to do an 8′X4′ bed? Or if you do a 10′X4′ you’d need 4 rails correct?

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi and Julie

      That sounds right to me. My husband did most of that figuring but I think you are correct. Good luck!

  • skymiles

    how much space did you leave for your path in between beds, I know it is recommended to leave 3 feet but it looks like you have a little less…do you feel cramped when you weed? I am putting in some new beds and I would like to have smaller paths if it is not too inconvenient.

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi and Julie

      I used two 12″x12″ paver stones between my beds. I thought it was plenty of space!

  • sam

    For the people commenting on potential safety issues related to pvc pipes…how do you think the municipal water you have in your homes gets to your home…that’s right pvc pipes…

  • Carol

    Hi, my veggies are thriving. So far got spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and eggplant.  I think I got duds for zuchinni..planted in May and they are still tiny.  So, I bought some seeds and within two weeks they are bigger than the ones I planted in May.  I have a question about the tomatoes. I read that you can put one plant in a square foot. I thought that was too small so I put one in every other square….even that is too small of a space.  How far apart do you plant your tomatoes?  I planted beefsteak and another kind which was suppose to be fast producing.  

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi and Julie

      I usually plan for about 9 squares per tomato plant. They get huge and sprawling even with a good tomato cage.

  • Urmsbunny

    Did this make 2 box’s or 1

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi and Julie

      It made one 4×4 box

  • Ddesilva58

    Vinyl is Toxic
    by Annette Stelmack, GBA Advisor
    Helpful? 0 Sign in to vote
    AWESOME!! Thank you for a clear and concise reflection on the toxicity of vinyl products. For over a decade, I have been on my soapbox taking a stand against the use of vinyl products for interior finishes and furnishings of any kind. As Bill stated, PVC-products poison the air, water, and soil with dioxins – from birth to grave. Indoor air quality is profoundly affected by the out gassing of the hazardous chemicals during manufacturing and during/after installation of the products. If a fire should breakout, the fumes are deadly. Additionally, vinyl does not breath – moisture is trapped between the sub-flooring, wall board or upholstery leading to the macrobiotic formation of mold.In 2002, after viewing the movie ‘Blue Vinyl’ I went cold turkey and took a personal stand – no more vinyl for any of my projects and clients – why would we select a known carcinogen for the interior and exterior finishes when there are equal and superiors products that perform the same, or even better.I’d love to hear your comments – Annette Stelmack – Sustainable Interior Designer

  • Tre

    Ahhh…do your research on PVC drinking water pipes.  It is NOT considered safe and many countries do not allow such materials for drinking water.  Local medical personnel have gone so far as to buy water bottled in glass to protect their families.

  • Carol

    Well it has been a while since I was on this site. Finally got a 4′ x 16′ bed done. We put  4×4 posts every 4′ on the 16′ side and actually dividing the bed in half at 8′ with the rails.  So far so good. we put gravel in the post 10″ down from the top then made a hoop house and inserted them into each 4×4 posts. Hoping to extend the growing season by starting a bit earlier and growing longer with the hoop house.  We bought our fencing from a place that sells Penn Fencing at a steal. Got everything for about 50 bucks.  Also saved a ton on the Mel’s mix by going to the local green house that sells rebagged last years dirt which already had vermiculite and perlite in it.  We mixed it with peat and added extra vermiculite.  The vermiculite is so pricey 30 bucks for a 3.8 cf bag. The veggies are thriving…planted 2 weeks ago and already have two cauliflower heads starting.

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi and Julie

      That sounds AWESOME! Thanks for sharing Carol :)

  • Ms. Nancy

    Maybe I can my husband to buy some extra parts when we replace the next part of the wooden fence we are replacing with Vinyl.

  • Janette Burlette

    We have cinder blocks around our garden and always looking for new designs. I’ll have to check on the price around  and safety of the vinyl. The gardens look nice

  • Tavans

    Ummm…it *looks* really pretty… buuuut… I personally wouldn’t follow this design. I mean you’re growing vegetables–food–in these planters, right? I mean, PVC breaks down easily *especially* in heat and to have that kind of chemical breakdown mixing with your soil doesn’t sound very healthy to me. You’re always going to have some chemical off-gassing with whatever water barrier you use. But PVC is a well-known serious contaminant. Vanity isn’t worth the risk…to me, at least.

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

      These are a home-made version of the boxes sold by the creator of the
      Square Foot Garden system. You can view the kits for sale here:
      http://squarefootgardening.mybisi.com/product/mels-garden-box-kit-classic-vinyl-in-5-sizes
      The one I made cost less than half the price of this one! I’m not
      sure what research you have done in regards to the safety concerns,
      but I have seen many companies selling vinyl garden boxes so in making
      my decision it was not a matter of putting “vanity” over safety. It
      was a choice between two viable options for garden boxes that are
      readily available commercially. The wood boxes I made at my old house
      fell apart within two years and needed to be reconstructed. Vinyl was
      a better choice for us this time due to the durability AND I love the
      look of it and like it to match the other vinyl fencing we will be
      putting in my home.

    • Amy-personal.ark

      @Tavans:disqus , I was also wondering about the safety of the Vinyl Fencing.  The info I found was that the Vinyl was a NON-TOXIC material, whereas PVC is TOXIC.  If you have any info showing that the vinyl is unsafe I would love to know the source before I build one.  Thank you for putting the comment about the PVC as prior comments mentioned they would use it for a trellis, maybe not a good idea.
      @foodstorage:disqus Keep up the great work, I have only known about your site for a few months and am loving it.

    • Carol

       They use PVC in new construction for the water pipes. I imagine it would be safe for your veggie garden if it is safe to drink water out of it.

  • Tavans

    Ummm…it *looks* really pretty… buuuut… I personally wouldn’t follow this design. I mean you’re growing vegetables–food–in these planters, right? I mean, PVC breaks down easily *especially* in heat and to have that kind of chemical breakdown mixing with your soil doesn’t sound very healthy to me. You’re always going to have some chemical off-gassing with whatever water barrier you use. But PVC is a well-known serious contaminant. Vanity isn’t worth the risk…to me, at least.

  • Mike

    What is the mesurements of the vinyl slats?? and I cant find them at Home Depot or Lowes… are they called vinyl slats or boards or somthing else??

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

      They are 16 ft fence slats. I think that is what they are called. If you
      can’t find them you could possibly by one piece of fence and break it apart
      into the individual slats. Or maybe you could ask if they could order some
      in for you. Hope that helps a bit.

  • Carol

    I searched the net for vinyl raised garden beds. I was psyched when I found this tutorial. Thank you, thank you thank you!! I was thinking of making 4×8 foot beds. I was going to do the corners like you did but on the 8 foot length I was going to put a post in the middle at 4 feet and make the holes for the rails opposite each other and slide the 8 foot rail straight through the post. Then I was going to divide the bed right in half with one four foot length which would be inserted into the middle posts. I think this would prevent the 8 foot sides from buldging out. I’d be having 8 four foot sections and 8 posts by doing two 4×4 boxes. By making one 4×8 box I’d be having 2 eight foot sections (same as 4 four foot sections) 3 four foot sections and 6 posts. This should save some money for the posts and rails and some time on the cutting.

    • Carol

      I just thought of this. I might make the end posts taller so I can make a trellis with them rather than adding something additional to the bed. I could put PVC piping through holes drilled in the posts and add netting to it. Don’t know if this would work but I might try it. What do you think of that idea?

      • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

        Carol, I made mine about 4×10 and didn’t put any piece across the
        middle and it has been working just fine for me. I’m sure it wouldn’t
        hurt to do it though. That would be really neat if you could do some
        sort of built in trellis. I have trellis issues … lol.

        • diane

          Jodi, love these boxes, plan on starting one as soon as the weather permits. I would like to build one 4+16. For the sides cant i just slide the entire 16′ slat through the side post or will i need additional post on the sides for support

          • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

            I have seen ones that look about 4×8 without an additional post in the
            middle. I liked the look of the post plus I sit on them as I am weeding. I
            would maybe worry about the lack of support by doing a full 4×16 without a
            middle support. I would at least do one post in the middle and cut the
            slats in half. Hope that helps!

          • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

            I have seen ones that look about 4×8 without an additional post in the
            middle. I liked the look of the post plus I sit on them as I am weeding. I
            would maybe worry about the lack of support by doing a full 4×16 without a
            middle support. I would at least do one post in the middle and cut the
            slats in half. Hope that helps!

  • Donnella Looger

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. Using the vinyl fencing is ingenuous and looks so nice. I can’t wait to make several of these.

  • jordan

    Hi, I LOVE the look of the vinyl fence for these boxes! Thanks so much for posting this! I do have a question…..the picture at the top of the post of your garden…..are those double boxes?? 4′x8′ ??

    Thanks!
    Jordan
    jorjohnson43@gmail.com

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

      I actually wanted them slightly longer so we did about 4 x 10. I LOVE my garden boxes!

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

      I actually wanted them slightly longer so we did about 4 x 10. I LOVE my garden boxes!

  • http://www.plasticblinds.net Plastic Blinds

    I’ll post the same information to my blog, thanks for ideas and great article.

  • http://www.moldremoval.com Mold Removal Irvine

    This was a great video..thanks

  • Baileetena-fb

    How come I can only see some of the pictures in your posts? Some of them show up as only empty boxes with an some sort of icon in a small box in in the upper left-hand corner.

  • Baileetena-fb

    How come I can only see some of the pictures in your posts? Some of them show up as only empty boxes with an some sort of icon in a small box in in the upper left-hand corner.

  • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

    Mike, we try to get a snug fit. Then when you dig the corner posts into the ground once you have the whole thing in place fill up the posts with dirt. This will make it super solid. I have seen other people try to hold them in place with re-bar and my dirt filled posts have held mine together perfectly for three years now. Just do it nice and tightly together when you put it in the ground. Hope that helps!

  • Guest

    On another website I saw that they drilled holes wide enough for a PVC pipe to slide down all the layers of slats before putting on the cap. That would certainly keep it secure!

  • Mike

    Jodi,

    This was a great video. I'm building one of these — and I'm trying to figure out how to secure the pieces inside the posts. Do you just rely on a snug fit or do you screw or glue the slats into the posts?

  • Mike

    Jodi,

    This was a great video. I’m building one of these — and I’m trying to figure out how to secure the pieces inside the posts. Do you just rely on a snug fit or do you screw or glue the slats into the posts?

    • Guest

      On another website I saw that they drilled holes wide enough for a PVC pipe to slide down all the layers of slats before putting on the cap. That would certainly keep it secure!

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

      Mike, we try to get a snug fit. Then when you dig the corner posts into the ground once you have the whole thing in place fill up the posts with dirt. This will make it super solid. I have seen other people try to hold them in place with re-bar and my dirt filled posts have held mine together perfectly for three years now. Just do it nice and tightly together when you put it in the ground. Hope that helps!

  • http://www.plasticblinds.net Plastic Blinds

    I have not much time, but I've got many useful things here, love it!

  • http://www.plasticblinds.net Plastic Blinds

    I have not much time, but I’ve got many useful things here, love it!

  • Nancy

    I have now also found them at Lowes.
    Thanks
    Nancy

  • http://www.boxescrates.net Boxes Crates

    That's the great article! I just pass 'n read it, two thumbs up! ;)

  • Nancy McLain

    Thank you. I will visit a larger Home Depot.

  • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

    We bought it at Home Depot this year. When we first built our boxes I remember we had to get some parts from Lowe's and some from Home Depot. But between the two we found whatever we needed. I'm not sure where else to recommend if yours aren't stocking them …

  • Nanny

    Where did you get your railing?? Home Depot and Lowes isn't carrying the railing. Thanks

  • Nanny

    Where did you get your railing?? Home Depot and Lowes isn’t carrying the railing. Thanks

    • http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net Jodi – Food Storage Made Easy

      We bought it at Home Depot this year. When we first built our boxes I remember we had to get some parts from Lowe’s and some from Home Depot. But between the two we found whatever we needed. I’m not sure where else to recommend if yours aren’t stocking them …

      • Nancy McLain

        Thank you. I will visit a larger Home Depot.

        • Nancy

          I have now also found them at Lowes.
          Thanks
          Nancy

  • http://www.facebook.com Malinda Watts

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My husband has been wanting to make these, I'm excited to see how they turn out.

  • http://www.facebook.com Malinda Watts

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My husband has been wanting to make these, I'm excited to see how they turn out.

  • http://www.facebook.com Lisa Hoppman

    This is great! You DO have a fantastin husband. But don't let it go to his head.

  • http://www.facebook.com Lisa Hoppman

    This is great! You DO have a fantastin husband. But don't let it go to his head.

  • http://www.facebook.com Sandi Lynn Field Brower

    That is fantastic! Thanks for sharing. If only our yard wasn't covered with shade 90• of the day (I live in a extremely wooded area,) I would definately do these boxes! I loved my raised beds i had before and this design is so stylish!

  • http://www.facebook.com Sandi Lynn Field Brower

    That is fantastic! Thanks for sharing. If only our yard wasn't covered with shade 90• of the day (I live in a extremely wooded area,) I would definately do these boxes! I loved my raised beds i had before and this design is so stylish!

  • http://www.facebook.com Denise M. Cozzitorto

    Awesome!! :D

  • http://www.facebook.com Denise M. Cozzitorto

    Awesome!! :D