I have some wooden wine boxes that I am going to use for lettuces. I am using Danish Oil to finish the boxes (two coats) so they can be a bit waterproofed. I might also add some corner reinforcements.

Should I line the boxes with something, so the wood is separated from the soil? I could use a heavy felt or burlap perhaps. I am asking out of concern for both the wood rotting, as well as contaminating the soil by bringing it into contact with the Danish Oil (even though to my knowledge this is a fairly weak varnish).


Wood will last longer when it is not wet. Lining the boxes with thick plastic or even pool liner will extend the life of the boxes. You must have drainage holes in the bottom for the water to go somewhere. Felt or burlap will break down. If your project is only expected to last a few years then they are good choices.

Soil is heavy, wet soil even more so. Please give thought to where you put them as the weight, when wet, can be more than you anticipated.

I looked up Danish varnish. There are numerous formulations. Here is one which specifically says "Food safe". If the manufacturer chooses to add other ingredients they can still call it Danish Varnish but it might not be food safe.

Edit: Becky asks about what size of drainage holes. The larger they are the more you need a screen of piece of landscape fabric to prevent the soil from washing out. You could make four x one inch diameter holes with a spade bit and an electric drill or make eight x half inch diameter with a regular bit and drill or sixteen x one quarter inch.....

A piece of geotextile or landscape fabric which covers the holes is a small investment of great utility.

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  • How many and how large do you think the drainage holes need to be? These boxes are about 19 X 13 X 7. And I'm assuming I would make the hole go through the liner and the wood directly below it? – Becky Sep 11 '14 at 22:05

Kevinsky is correct, you'll need to line them to extend their lives. And they still need drainage. I think using varnish will help in any case, but what I'd do is a little different. I'd plant the plants in other pots, and place them in the wine box, so that it looks like they are growing from the box. This will make the result a lot lighter to lift, as well.

That way, you can use a few bigger plants, or more smaller ones. You can arrange them, and remove individual plants if necessary (say, if one gets a disease). You can also use straw or Spanish moss or something similar to fill in between the pots, making it look like a single planting. That'll also help with stability.

But you will still want it lined, to keep anything damp from remaining in contact with the wood. This will help even varnished wood last longer.

You could also find a close-fitting insert pot, if you want one large pot. Usually, all though it's attractive, wood isn't the ideal pot material. It's a popular style, though, and although there are alternatives, people always seem to want wood. You could make your own wine box from heart redwood (very rot resistant), and varnish that. That would last a long time.

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