DIYdiy projectsmatt pierce

diy project: outdoor planting table

by Kate Pruitt

With the arrival of spring, I’ve been thinking that I could use some extra outdoor workspace, so I started drawing up plans for a simple table. I figured I could model it after a planting table, but I also wanted a metal surface to set my tabletop grill on for easier outdoor cooking. I used cedar boards for some extra wet-weather protection, but you can use any wood you like and add a sealant for protection against the elements. Enjoy! — Matt

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CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • corner brackets
  • 2ʼ x 2ʼ x 1/2” plywood
  • 36” square sheet metal — thin aluminum
  • (2) 8ft length 2ʼ x 3ʼ cedar boards
  • (4) 8ft length 2ʼ x 2ʼ cedar boards
  • (9) 5ft length 5” x 1/2” cedar fence boards
  • 1 1/2” decking screws
  • 2 1/2” pocket screws
  • wood sealant (I prefer Thompson’s water seal) + brush


  • saw
  • mallet
  • drill
  • tape measure
  • pocket screw guide


Somewhat piggybacking on the construction methods I used for the oak and leather stool project, I used pocket screws for the joint assembly. Since I was covering some longer spans and using a softer wood, I also put some angled corner brackets into the inside. Using 2 x 3s for the top spans makes for a sturdy table, but if you want it even tougher, just substitute these for some 2 x 4s. If your outdoor parties get really crazy, then maybe think about a center brace!

The overall tabletop dimension is 2ʼ deep and 5ʼ wide. The metal surface takes 2ʼ x 2ʼ of that but can easily be left out for a full wood-plank top. Again, if you want a heavier-duty table, you can use thicker planks on all surfaces, as well.

1. Cut your wood. You can either cut it yourself or have it cut at a lumberyard or hardware store. Here is the sawing list:

  • cut 4 legs to 30″ each from the 2 x 2s
  • cut lower spans from two of the 2 x 2s (each board will produce one 21” short and one 57” long)
  • cut upper spans from two of the 2 x 3s (again, each board will produce one 21” short and one 57” long)
  • cut all of your fence planks to 24”. Some of these might need to be ripped on a table saw for narrow pieces, depending on your board-width calculations.

2. Once all your boards have been cut, itʼs time to assemble. I used pocket screws to attach the spans to the legs and then added inside corner brackets for more strength. There are also some elaborate deck brackets that can be purchased, if you want to forgo the pocket screws. Check your hardware store for some options.

3. After assembling the frame, ensure that itʼs square by measuring from opposite corners of the top, then adjust accordingly before attaching your top planks. When screwing in the top planks, make sure your screws are about an inch in from the edge to prevent the end of the board from splitting. Cedar is nice and soft, but if youʼre too close to the edge, itʼll make an unsightly split.

4. To create the metal top portion, use a thin sheet of aluminum and trim it to a few inches larger than the plywood board.

5. Using gloves (the metal is sharp) and a mallet, form the metal around the piece. Be extra careful where the corner seams are, and make sure you hammer them smooth to prevent any snags. The metal should be soft enough to easily form.

6. Secure the metal portion to the top of the frame using decking screws. If you donʼt want screws through the top surface, you can attach them from the underside, as well. Make sure to choose screws that are not too long, to prevent them from poking through the top.


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  • Wow, thanks for the inspiration. My boyfriend and I have been thinking about getting a table like this–it would be more of a “work bench” (for his occasional soldering/audio projects). But building one doesn’t look all too difficult. We might have to try this out!

  • Tricia, the cost as built was about $70, but the sheet metal was $20 of that. Also, if you optioned Pine over Cedar, your cost would be much, much less.

  • Have been wanting a potting table a lot lately – this one looks nice and fairly easy to make (or at least you’ve made it look easy). And cheap!
    Thanks for sharing your design, Matt.

  • Amazing! I need a potting table and still have workers renovating my house who can help me with this… should be easy enough to get done! Thanks!

  • This is really great I’ve always wanted to build my own garden table! Thank you!

  • SO cool. Love the metal work surface. I made a table that’s totally identical to this in design, except not in cedar – I used some scrap wood that I recycled when I demo’ed part of my basement. It’s gorgeous in cedar though, and I love how it’s displayed outside. I’ll have to make another one to live outdoors like this someday.

  • Really like the post, particularly the metal section.
    I plan on one of these in due course however, due to finance and space constraints an alternative that I have been employing is a collapsable workmate and clamping a wooden board to the top to create a large, flat, easily cleanable potting bench. An unwitting bonus is that the clamps allow things to be hung from them, such as dustpan and brush, trowel, etc.

  • I was wondering what to do with my leftover cedar fence ends, this is perfect!
    I may adjust the size a bit and add some hooks to the side for tools.

  • I love simple and easy! Great job with that bracket support on the legs, the pocket hole jig would have held ok, but the brackets will extend the life of the table.

  • I can’t find cedar lumber in 2 X 2 anywhere. Where is the best place to find it?

  • I’d love some tips on getting a nice edge. I would like to cover an old dining table in one sheet of metal and I’m not sure how difficult it would be to get nice neat edges. Do you by any chance have a source?
    Beautiful job!

  • I just made this table this weekend. I absolutely love it! I added casters to the legs since I have a brick patio. I can now wheel it to different spots on the patio or even roll it through my garage and use it in my front yard. I love it!