Stepladder Tiered Planter

Upcycle an old stepladder into a tiered planter by adding shelves across the steps. Paint in a snazzy color, plant in vintage crates, and, presto, you have an eye-catching, space-saving feature.

, TIME IT RIGHT You can paint your stepladder

at any time of the year, but colder weather may slow drying time. Aim to plant containers with a mixture of seasonal plants and crops for year-round interest.


Take your stepladder and, starting at the second rung down from the top, measure and mark a piece of batten so that it will fit across the full width of the ladder inside the frame, directly opposite the rung. Cut the batten to size with a handsaw. Hold a bubble level against the top edge of the rung and mark this point on the opposite side of the frame.

чЛ—Project Steps

2 Position the batten so the top edge is level with the mark just made, then screw to either side of the frame. This provides a second supporting rung for a planting shelf.


Cut along the guidelines to remove the excess wood, then sand the cut ends smooth. Repeat steps 1-5 to make further planting shelves. Position the shelves on alternate rungs to allow enough growing space for plants.


Measure and cut to size 4-5 battens to create a slatted shelf. They should extend 734in (20cm) beyond each rung with an extra 1M-1%in (3-4cm) of excess wood on both sides; this excess will be cut off later for a finished look. Arrange the battens so that they are evenly spaced, then screw them in place to both rungs.


Once secured, measure and mark pencil guidelines along the battens at the point where they extend 734in (20cm) beyond each rung.


Paint the shelves and ladder with an exterior wood paint and leave to dry.

If preferred, paint your tiered planter with a final coat of clear marine varnish for extra protection against the elements. The vintage crates would also benefit from a coat of varnish.

TOOLS & equipment

2 vintage galvanized steel tubs or buckets, one small enough to fit inside the other and leaving ample planting space

electric drill & metal drill bits bricks

gravel or crocks multipurpose potting mix scissors trowel

watering can


apple mint (Mentha suaveolens) chocolate mint (Mentha x piperata f. citrata ‘Chocolate’) cucamelon (Melothria scabra) mint ‘Hilary’s Sweet Lemon’ strawberry ‘Elan’ strawberry ‘Rhapsody’ strawberry ‘Eversweet’


If they don’t already have them, drill several drainage holes in the bottom of each metal bath or bucket using an electric drill fitted with a metal drill bit.


Place the larger tub or bucket in its final position. Stack bricks in the center to create a stable platform for the smaller tub or bucket to set on.

чЛ—Project Steps


Add a thin layer of gravel or crocks at the base of both containers for additional drainage and to ensure air can circulate around the roots of the plants, keeping them healthy.


Since mint grows vigorously and could otherwise crowd out the strawberries, restrict growth by keeping each plant in its plastic pot and simply cutting off the base.


Position the smaller container on the raised platform, then start to plant them. Plant the lower tier with strawberries and mint, and the top tier with one or two cucamelon seedlings grown from seed (see General care).


Plant one side of the lower tier with mint and the other side with strawberries, leaving room for plants to spread. Make planting holes at a depth so the plants sit 34-1Min (2-3cm) below the rim of the bucket. Fill and firm in soil around the plants, then water thoroughly.

Care Advice

‘Where to site The strawberri es and cucamelon need good sun for crops to ripen, so place the planter in a sunny, sheltered site. Decide upon the final location before filling the planter because it will be heavy to lift.

Watering and feeding Water often

while plants are establishing and during the growing season. Add diluted liquid fertilizer 1-2 times a month in the growing season, but do not feed the mint or it may grow too much. Do not feed and reduce watering in winter.

General Care Remove any damaged, diseased, or dying foliage or fruit throughout the growing period. Keep mint plants in check by regular cropping and pruning back; remove plants if they get too big or invasive. Cut back strawberry plants after fruiting and plant any runners (plantlets at the end of an extended shoot) by pegging them in a separate pot then, once rooted, cutting them from the main plant. Sow cucamelon seeds indoors from early to mid-spring then plant out once danger of frost is over. Dig up the radishlike roots at the end of the season, cover lightly with potting mix and store in a cool, dry, frost-free place over winter; roots can be planted out again in mid-spring.



Updated: October 9, 2015 — 10:38 pm