How to convert old shipping crates into french provincial style flower boxes          

       My father loves the salvage yard- and occasionally I get to enjoy the spoils of his adventures. Last spring when he called and said he found small wood shipping crates for $2 each, I had him grab me 10. I’d planned on making planter boxes for months, but didn’t know where to start and prefab boxes were a great shortcut.

Shipping Crates like this can be easily turned into planters

They arrived HEAVIER than expected, with tons of hardware and bottoms nailed on with seemingly a thousand nails. So each shipping crate got stripped of lids and hardware. Each crate got about 6 1 inch diameter holes drilled through the bottom to provide really good drainage, which is really important for prolonging the life of wood planters.

I knew I wanted each to have “framing”, or whatever one calls the faux trim on this style of planter boxes, so I took measurements of the existing pieces that could be made to look like trim, and purchased wood in similar dimensions.

The next step was to prime everything with a high quality primer. I prefer Zinsser Bulls Eye, because sealing the wood is really important to making sure the wood planter boxes last longer than one or two seasons.  I primed my boxes inside and out to help them last as long as possible. I also went ahead and primed and painted the trim before attaching to the boxes, so I wouldn’t have to worry later about painting lots of corners and grooves and instead could just do one quick top coat.

Adding the faux trim to the shipping crates went much faster than expected and really did the trick to take these boxes from “Oh, is that a painted shipping crate?” to “Wow, nice planters!”. I also realized at this point they’d look better raised, so I backed up a bit and cut, primed, and painted some 4×4 “feet” for my planters. I liked the look and realized it would improve drainage. Although, if I thought the boxes were heavy before, I was REALLY wrestling with them by this point.

The short ends already had a sort of trim left from construction:

shipping crate being turned into a decorative planter


so I added trim to fill in and make the ends look finished:

Adding trim to a cheap shipping crate


Before adding trim to the plain sides, I took a bit to think about what trim would look best on my boxes. Google SketchUp was a perfect way to visualize different designs, while also calculating for me the lengths and angles I’d need to cut my trim at. I picked the center design for my planter boxes.


Use sketchup to plan your design in advance


Plain painted shipping crate:

shipping crate being turned into a decorative planter

With top and bottom trim:

shipping crate being turned into a decorative planter


Cutting two or three pieces of trim at a time helped speed the process:



Looking great with a basic frame. I think at this point I got frustrated fitting angles and forgot to take a photo when I the last section of trim finally started looking right. ha!

shipping crate being turned into a decorative planter


Nearly finished, the next step was to add caulking to all the exposed crevices and stapling a liner (cut from a thick tarp) in each, to provide an extra barrier between the wood sides and the wet soil. I hope all my steps to protect and prolong the life of the wood will mean I can enjoy my planters for many years to come.

As I was finishing the caulking and lining, I shut the front gate and let Deb out to graze the front yard. Apparently, however, she decided these qualified as buckets and came over and inspected each and every box before wandering off to eat.

I'm not sure if this is a bucket, but I'm going to check it anyway



It was a TON of work to prep 7 of these planters- even though I’d started with premade boxes. The priming and painting took longer than I care to admit or even like to remember but I do think the final result was worth it.

Finished planter boxes


7 large planter boxes for under $30


As much work as painting and prepping these boxes were- filling them with dirt might have been the toughest part! But the prep and the planting totally paid off when they spilled over with flower all summer. Placed in the shady spot in front of my store, where water runoff makes it impossible to do in-ground landscaping, these planter boxes provided great visual interest for the long porch.


Planter boxes in front of ranch style porch


salvaged shipping crate turned raised bed planter of mixed greenery & flowers
This salvaged shipping crate turned raised bed planter to house mixed greenery & flowers.

UPDATE: August 2016

These planter boxes I made in spring 2013 are still going strong, though they will probably need a fresh coat of paint this spring. They are are starting show show the beginnings of rotting wood on the inside but should have a few more years of life. I had a garage sale recently and several people asked if they were for sale, so I take that as a good indication they are still doing their job with style!

I've grown a mix of vegetables and flowers in this planter.
Tomato, squash, marigolds, & Creepy Jenny in a planter in front of my chicken coop.


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One thought on “How I Turned Shipping Crates into French Inspired Planter Boxes”

  1. Just an idea you might use on your next planter boxes (for fun). If you line the bottom with a plastic pan, and possibly place a plastic barrier on top overlaid with a porous plant netting, to keep most of the soil out of the pan, then drill drain holes right above the pan. This would create a self watering planter and possibly help the bottoms last a little longer.

    Feel free to email me if my instructions aren’t clear and you are interested. Just note what the email is about so I don’t delete it as spam!

    Thank you for all your fun ideas!!

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