DIYdiy projects

DIY Kitchen Garden Planter

by Grace Bonney

With Brimfield around the corner, I’m starting to feel a familiar itch again. The itch that means wooden boxes are near. The first year I went to Brimfield I came home with about a dozen old wooden boxes. I collect them in all sizes: big, little, ginormous. You name it, I’ve got an old wooden box that could hold it. So when I decided to make a little kitchen garden for our office, I thought it would be nice to make use of some of the smaller wooden boxes I’ve collected at flea markets. So I picked up an old drawer and turned it into the perfect place for us to grow rosemary, parsley and dill at the office. We’re all on a major health kick around here, so the herbs will be a nice addition to team lunch salads and drinks (we love to make rosemary and lemon spa water). I hope this will inspire anyone reading to grow a few extra green things around the house! xo, grace

The full how-to continues after the jump…


-Old Wooden box or drawer (preferably one with wider or split slats in the bottom so there’s some drainage)
-Moss (optional)
-Plastic liner (optional)


1. Clean the wooden box with a damp cloth.

2. Pour about 1 inch of rocks into the bottom of the box and spread them evenly. *

3. Add 2 inches of soil and mark with your finger where you plan to place each plant, leaving at least a few inches between each one.

4. Dig a small divot for the first plant and place it in, adding soil around the sides.

5. Repeat for each plant and then fill with soil until each plant is well supported and covered.

6. I added a moss layer on top of my soil, tearing pieces to fit around each plant, leaving room for me to water around the center of each plant.

7. Once you’ve finished planting, water each plant directly at the base of the stems. If you over water, be sure to let the planter dry out before adding more. Place in a sunny spot and you’re done!

*If you water your plants carefully (directly on the plants themselves, rather than the full planter size) and let the planter drain and dry out properly, you shouldn’t have a mold problem. But if you’re uncomfortable not having a layer over the wood, you can add a plastic liner under the rocks like this one (in whatever size best fits your wooden box).

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  • Thank yo SO much for this! As someone who has NO green thumb (every plant that dares enter my house never lives past a week or so), I ‘m so excited about this. I’ve been wanting to grow my own herbs but didn’t know how. This is great!!

  • Grace; I am just wondering how much sunlight the herbs need? I love having them around, but my apartment faces North East. I only get a bit of morning sun & they tend not to do well.
    Any suggestions?
    The rosemary, lemon spa water sounds fabulous. I do infused cinnamon water (with cinnamon sticks), as well as mint & lemon, but have never tried rosemary.

    • Hi Ashley!

      They need a good amount of sun- so if you’re able to put them in another part of the house during the day, you could move them into the kitchen (or just snip and bring the stems in) when you need to cook? I agree, it’s tough to grow things like this in low light.


  • so cute, simple, and stylish! i always buy the herb plants from the supermarket and they can be a real challenge to keep alive (only got the chives left and they need pruning all the time!) i’m definitely going to try this soon :)

  • My only wish for my future home is that it has a sunny kitchen. It’d be so easy to care for and remember to water herbs if they are right there by the kitchen sink, and not up in the one tiny corner that gets a bit of light at 2 in the afternoon. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • My only request for my future house is that it have a sunny kitchen. It would be so much easier to water and care for herbs if they are right by the kitchen sink, and not up in the one corner of the house that gets a bit of sun only at 2 in the afternoon… Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Very pretty, love the moss covering! If I had enough light in my Philadelphia row home, I would absolutely bring our herbs inside. Little critters seem to help themselves to the herbs we grow in our backyard!

  • I’m wondering how you let a planter (like the one pictured) drain properly. esp if you’re setting it inside…suggestions? :) Thanks!

  • Not wanting to bust bubbles- this is really cute and I’m never one to argue with more greenery- but have you had success growing these herbs this way? Rosemary is a deep-rooting plant that requires a much larger container and light, sandy soil. Both dill and parsley need really rich soil to thrive, so adding compost for these two is a good idea. Overall, they’re not great plants to grow together and the drawer, while super cute, is way too small!

    I’d like to see something really inspired on the plant design side. I don’t think sub-irrigated planters have been covered on design sponge and are an incredible example of awesome design and functionality! Often the plant tutorials found on design sites are all about looks and not very practical for the plants. Fodder for thought!

    • Erin

      I actually have. I learned to make a similar planter at a Saipua plant class years ago that thrived for a long time, so I think these are ok if you keep an eye on them and make sure they’re not outgrowing the space.


  • I sometimes go a while without checking Design Sponge and, every time I do I realize how much I’ve missed. Love this idea and the photos are gorgeous, btw. Will look fabulous in my teeny tiny kitchen. Yep, my next project :)

  • This is really clever…. Love the drawer/box, they could be used outside too. One other suggestion, pinch off the small new leaves when an herb plant is new so the plant does not get too tall and leggy. Grace, how about a post on brimfield, would llove some tips on finding interesting art there, it can be so overwhelming. Thanks

  • Oh I love this! I tried making an outdoor herb garden planter a couple years ago, but the heat and wind were just too harsh and it didn’t go over well. I’m very tempted to give this project a try and take my garden planter indoors. Thanks Grace!

  • I tried this once but forgot the plastic liner.. The little garden of herbs was fine, until the bottom finally rotted out.. Oh well I should have read your posts earlier..

  • I have had trouble figuring out what herbs can be grown indoors in a small container. I tried dill which was a disaster but kinda funny. The plant grew to be taller than me. The apartment smelled like a giant pickle and then it got powdery mildew and died. Mildew killed the camomile plant as well. I went to a garden store and they basically said other than tropical plants or succulents you really can’t grow anything indoors.

    • Vivi

      Well that garden store wasn’t being very helpful- or accurate. I grew kitchen herbs in my old Park Slope apartment like no one’s business- and lettuce, too! But the key was to be very careful about not over-watering. Make sure you’re buying high-quality plants with no existing conditions and be vigilant about watching the roots for rot or mildew and keeping them in direct sunlight.


  • I’m already into it. I was working on 3 wooden boxes, like the kind, since this morning. Your tips made my day. Thanks for sharing, Grace.

  • Not to be a scrooge, but I worry about not knowing the paint/stain/wood treatment history this box may have had. I would definitely be potting in a food safe container, then placing in the box for if I was growing edibles. Non-edible plants I wouldn’t care so much about. At the very least, lead test.

  • I just bought a very lovely old wooden box but was wondering what to use it for (I tend to buy things first then find the use later) and LOVE this idea!! Thanks so much for sharing x

  • Awh, just missed this post! One of your last posts (the gardening tips one) inspired me to plant an herb garden in my apartment this past weekend. My cat is EVER determined to eat any and ALL plants he ever see’s or smells. This may sound sort of “janky” but in a last ditch attempt, I bought a basket that had handles so that I could nail it to the top of my windowsill. He fortunately hasn’t been able to reach it yet but that cat has been known to knock heavy pottery off from tables…

  • This is great, and timely too! I’ve been planning to use my parents’ old sheep feeder (an old wooden trough that was, well, used for feeding sheep!) as a planter, although I was thinking of doing it outdoors. I wasn’t sure if I needed to drill holes in the bottom of it, but it sounds like if there are cracks/spaces in the wood, it should be okay? Thanks for this!

  • Erin, I think you are right about the rosemary, so maybe as a footnote: if one or more of the plants start to look sad and aren’t quickly cheered up, planting it/them in an outdoor spot and replacing the indoor one(s) would be a good move (if you have an outdoor spot). This way you get to enjoy the herbs indoors for a few months and then give them a good chance at longevity outside (I have outdoor rosemary and tarragon that come back every year and needs almost no attention, lovely).

  • Thanks for the great idea for some of my wooden box collection. I am also gonna make this for our kitchen. And you have opened my eyes to other possibilities for my wooden boxes.

  • Sooo easy yet so effective, thanks for sharing this idea! Brings a little life to the kitchen too :)

  • It would be nice to have our own herb garden. The wooden box in these pictures is pretty, so it would be fun to have it be a part of our house. Building it would be a fun challenge.

  • Dear Grace,

    I am from Virginia Beach and am friends with Jean and Mac Rawls and your parents. I am currently in Maine helping to make a cottage garden and revive landscaping for my son and his wife. What a nice surprise to be directed to your site and fine good gardening tips.

    I’m in Brooklin, Maine which is on Blue Hill Bay. It’s beautiful here.