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I have bought a number of used wooden containers that I would like to grow Thuja trees and various vegetables in:

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they are about 1 foot wide, 2 feet long, and 1 foot tall.

Being an amateur in these things, I naively assumed I'd just put the soil in there and the chinks between the planks would drain any excess water. However, I've since learned that you need some sort of isolation to keep the wood from rotting.

How do I create such an isolation while making sure that excess water can still find its way out of the container? I thought of just wrapping the inner area with plastic and putting holes in it for draining, but I guess that would damage the wood as well. Is there a "canonical" way of doing this?

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The wood will rot eventually, but with the thickness you have I think it will probably last at least a couple of seasons. –  bstpierre Apr 26 '12 at 18:01
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1 Answer

First option: Treat the wood to stop it from rotting and just proceed as you intend to. The downside to this is soil contamination if you intend to grow edible plants.

Second option: The cheaters way; buy a secondary inner container and just keep the box as decorative. You could even go for cheap plastic pots on the inside. Add some rocks / pebbles if you need to stabalise or hide the inner pot.

Third option: Buy some slow degrading sheet plastic, the kind that is used to keep weeds from growing and use a staple gun to staple to the inside of your boxes. You should have a layer of crushed tile / rocks / pebbles as your base so that water drains freely from the bottom of your containers and not pool at the side. Before putting your rocky base in, put holes in the plastic that line up with gaps in the wood. If these are not large enough then I suggest drilling larger draining holes. The aim is to stop water pooling at the base and draining freely where it is supposed to.

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The landscape fabrics (what I assume you mean by "skeet plastic to keep weeds from growing") are water permeable. I think your second option is the best. If building a new one in future, cedar might be considered, or cedar inside a treated decorative wood. –  winwaed Apr 26 '12 at 12:36
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