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Boxed In: Part 2

Boom! Flower boxes are complete and planted! (See part 1 right here.) We couldn’t be happier with the results. Feast your eyes on this:

…But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Here’s a quick reminder of the sad state of our patio just a couple short weekends ago. We like natural wood tones as much as the next person, but this is a little drab, no?

And here’s how it looks – on the outside of the railings at least – with two 4′ planters and one 2′ planter (for our baby herb garden) right about now:

As you can see, we still have a lot of work ahead of ourselves. Notice the sad, empty hanging basket on the hook over there? It’ll be dripping with lush greenery in no time (well, we hope). We’ve also got a table to lightly refinish, some chairs to source, a rug to lay down and a few pillows to cover. And a few more plant surprises on the way.

Now, enough about the future. Back to the boxes.

We do have a couple of construction changes to mention. First, we nixed the idea of covering them in a final coat of polycrylic, since the semi-gloss paint we chose was meant to withstand the elements. Second, we returned over $30 worth of “L” brackets and modified our design to include a simple, sturdy french cleat. This also helped us achieve our goal of keeping the project under $100. Yay for budgets!

If you’re not familiar with a french cleat, here’s a simple photo to show how it works. The top piece mounts to the box, the bottom piece mounts to the wall (or railings in our case) and gravity holds them together.

We purchased one pressure treated 8 foot deck board and I ripped it long ways on a 45 degree angle with my circular saw. I then cut the pieces down to fit inside the trim of the box backs. I then simply screwed the bottom part of the cleats on to our railings with two coarse thread screws per railing for security.

After all the cleats were mounted to the deck, I made sure to caulk all of the gaps and unsightly joints on the trim and panels of the flower boxes. Just remember to buy paintable caulk suited for outdoor use.

Check out our sweet hot pink spray-painted drop cloth. (Remember this sexy fella?) The next step was a simple application of about a coat-and-a-half of Zinnser primer.

After the primer had thoroughly dried, we moved on to Behr exterior semi-gloss paint in ultra pure white – straight from the shelves (no tinting or white-color-picking. Easy!).

This is also pretty straight forward. We made sure that all of the narrow gaps were filled, and painted about one brush stroke down the inside to seal up the area above where our plastic lining was going to hit.

The plastic then got stapled to the insides of the boxes to prolong the life and keep them from rotting from the inside out. It’s a little tough to see in the photo, but before we laid the plastic on to the bottoms, we circled each drainage hole with caulk to keep the plastic from shifting and to seal up the gaps.


Then, holes were poked. Remember, too much water can be just as bad as not enough water.

As we mentioned over in part 1 of this tutorial, these big honkers – 9″ deep x 9″ tall – turned out a little larger than we had initially envisioned. We decided to lighten the load a bit by taking up some space in the bottoms before we filled them with potting soil. We used aluminum cans, plastic soda bottles and the plastic cups that the flowers came potted in to aid in drainage and to allow us to utilize less soil.

Then just fill ‘er up! We like Miracle Gro Potting Mix, as our plants seem to grow like gangbusters with it. Our deck gets a combination of partial sun and filtered sun over the course of the day, so we try to plant accordingly.

We also moved in the edible direction this year. Our small box got planted with Mint, Rosemary, and Sweet Basil. Here’s to tasty mojitos soon!

All said and done, we couldn’t be happier with how things worked out. The plants are already growing, and we’re looking forward to cooking with the herbs.

Things are also working out to be very water-tight (in addition to the rain fall we’ve already had), and the drainage holes are working just as we planned. The above photo is the view from outside our bedroom window. Not a bad way to wake up in the morning, eh?

As we said, we’ve got a few more improvements up our sleeves, but enough about us. How are all of your patios and outdoor spaces turning out so far?

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  • Jimmy5.24.12 - 7:51 AM

    Love it guys, nice work. The combination of corner trim, plywood construction and French cleats make for a great look that is relatively easy to pull off.

    FYI: There is a good chance that your mint will start to grow like crazy very soon. They can really take over a planter if you arent careful. It might be worth separating the soil between the mint and the rest of the herbs somehow? Otherwise it might strangle out the others’ roots. Either way, the mint juleps and mojitos are totally worth your effort.ReplyCancel

  • Amelia @ House Pretty5.24.12 - 9:07 AM

    The planters look great – I love the simple design and bright white paint! Can’t wait to see the rest of the changes you have planned for the porch.ReplyCancel

  • Kim5.24.12 - 9:44 AM

    Jimmy, thanks for the tip! Yup, we’re totally looking forward to a summer filled with mojitos.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanna5.24.12 - 11:35 AM

    They look great!ReplyCancel

  • Alexis5.24.12 - 11:39 AM

    This turned out beautiful! Can’t wait to see the rest. You should grow some mint and make Moscow Mules this summer :)ReplyCancel

  • Love them! Great work Kim and Scott! And they should last for years. Even better. :)ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie5.24.12 - 3:27 PM

    I love the coleus you planted – it is such a beautiful plant (we have about a bazillion of them that we started from seed – I’ve been giving them away as gifts). We also have a little deck herb/lettuce garden and it’s been so nice to hop out to the deck for fresh additions to our meals. Have you thought about planting lettuce? It grows super easily and looks BEAUTIFUL in planters!ReplyCancel

  • Meghan5.24.12 - 4:09 PM

    They look GREAT! Did you go with a small box and big box on one side because of the length of the rail? Just curious – that’d make me crazy having a small one and big one on the long rail and a big one on the short rail. I’m crazy like that. :-) But it looks really, really nice!ReplyCancel

  • ann5.24.12 - 7:32 PM

    Excellent job! And when that grape ivy begins to cascade over the boxes it will look even better.ReplyCancel

  • Kim5.24.12 - 7:48 PM

    Thanks, everyone!

    Emily – lettuce! Now there’s a new one to try!

    Meghan, you’re right – we made one box smaller due to the size of the rail. We wanted to have more flowers, so we planted flowers in the longer box and went with herbs for the smaller one. As crazy as I can be, it surprisingly doesn’t bother me one bit!ReplyCancel

  • Emma5.29.12 - 9:33 AM

    Great job! Those look wonderful.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda5.30.12 - 8:35 AM

    I love it! They look wonderful … I’m trying to figure out how I’d be able to hang them on my metal railing, maybe some over-the-door type hooks?

    That won’t happen this season though … I should really buy a kitchen table and paint my apartment first, you know, before venturing out onto my small balcony. Haha!ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.30.12 - 9:36 AM

      Hey Amanda! We actually dabbled in the idea of over-the-door hooks for ours, too. They’re actually pretty heavy, so we felt better securing them directly to the railing. I bet if you made yours smaller (we’ve seen them as small as 6″ deep x 6″ tall – and that can be made for much cheaper!) you could get away with hooks. Next year!ReplyCancel

  • caroline5.31.12 - 7:43 PM

    nice! I’ve always been a fan of flowerboxes and love the white against the wood!ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn1.29.13 - 3:57 PM

    Love this! I’m *hoping* to put my house on the market this spring, and this will add perfect curb appeal! I do have a question, my front porch has a vinyl (somewhat flimsy) railing, do you have any suggestions for how to work with/around that? Do you think it’s possible to stabilize the railing in some way, to accommodate the weight of the flower box? I’d prefer to not have to significantly downsize on the flower box size, but you are the expert :-)ReplyCancel

  • Kim1.29.13 - 9:09 PM

    Hi Carolyn! Hmm, to be honest, the weight of the flower box is pretty significant, so we wouldn’t recommend having too wide/large of boxes, only to find out that your railing won’t support the weight! Perhaps you could build them as large as you’d like, and you could use them as floor planters on the porch itself. Or if you’re still unsure, shoot us a photo of your porch and we’ll take a closer look!ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn1.31.13 - 10:10 AM

    Yeah, I had a feeling I was a little out of luck with not having a wooden railing. As soon as I can find a day where I can get home from work with some daylight left, I’ll shoot you a picture, thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Kim1.31.13 - 10:35 AM

    Carolyn, sounds good!ReplyCancel

  • Andy Gold6.16.19 - 2:46 PM

    I know this is many years old, but I’ve got some safety comments for those who might be thinking of using the French Cleats.  As the author stated the French Cleats are strong, but I’m not so sure it is a good idea for something holding a lot of weight that’s got people walking underneath it.  It appears this deck is elevated and not on the ground floor.  Even with substantial weight, if it got bumped from underneath, it’s coming down on whatever bumped it.  Also, in my experience (French Cleats all around workshop on the walls to hold tools), I’d opt for a plywood over a standard non-plywood due to the grain structure in the wood the author used running lengthwise along the cleat.  Over time, the layers (rings) of the wood can come apart, and that box is on the ground.  With an exterior grade ply that’s been sealed, there’s less of a chance of failure.  But to be honest, for the safety of those below, metal fasteners and brackets are the safest way to go!  If that box comes down on someone’s head, their dead, and you lose your house due to the lawsuit.ReplyCancel

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We’re Kim + Scott, Chicago based content creators behind the Home + Lifestyle brand Yellow Brick Home.

Join us as we renovate and nurture vintage homes across Chicago + SW Michigan!

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