Using wooded containers and planters in your garden can be a very attractive addition to your garden. But over time, usually one season, if not properly conditioned, the wood can deteriorate and loose its attractiveness. Here’s some easy steps to preparing your wooden containers for planting outdoors.
First and foremost, decided on what type of weather proofing and wood conditioner you will use. There are plant safe, low chemical wood sealers that can be found at your local garden center, but they must be re-applied regularly about every three to four months. Commercial type sealers last longer, but you will have to line your planter to protect the soil from the chemicals. I use a commercial type sealer like Thompson’s Water Seal.
Next, and probably the easiest part, is applying the sealer. Make sure you cover every part of the planter that has wood, including the inside and bottom. Make sure you get pockets and knots in the wood well. This will prevent leaks into the wood, and help make the sealer last longer. One good coat is usually enough. Let the sealer dry completely for 24 hours. Once it is dry, test a small area to make sure it is water tight by throwing a few drops of water onto the wood. Wait just a few minutes to make sure it does not soak into the wood.
If you used a plant safe sealer, than your planter is now ready to use. Just remember to repeat the first few steps every few months. Using a liner with this type of sealer will help you remove your plants easily if you need to re-apply before the season is over.
If you opted to use a commercial type wood conditioner, putting a liner on is important to keep the chemicals from getting into your soil over time. You can buy plastic plant liners from your local garden center, and these are usually a little easier to use and last longer. But if your wanting to save a little bit, you can use heavy duty plastic paint drop cloths to line your pots. One large roll is enough for most of my garden projects and only costs about $4 at the most. Cut enough from the roll to line the planter. Use office staples or binder clips to hold it in place. You don’t need to hold the plastic in place permanently, since the soil will hold it in place once you plant it.
Trim off the excess lining. Make sure you cut a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Line the bottom with stones or, in my case, I used broken coffee mugs. This will help keep the drainage holes from getting clogged and keep dirt from getting under the lining.
Your planter is now ready to use! Once you put the soil in, it will hold the lining in place. The lining will also help you remove the soil easily when you need to re-condition the wood or re-plant, since all you have to do is lift it out. Keep the level of your soil at least an inch below the liner, to keep water and soil from spilling over. It is best to re-seal your wooden containers at the beginning of every season, but commercial sealers will last two seasons if you choose not to do this.