From Office to Garden: Filing Cabinet to Garden Planter

9 Materials
I totally snagged this wonderful project from Carole in Australia who posted her version last week. I loved this so much I went right to work with my own planter. Here's what I came up with...
The hunt for a filing cabinet took me to my nearby Habitat Restore. I found several orphaned filing cabinets, one of which was older, made of thicker gauge metal, and (most importantly) had a bottom. It cost me $15. They probably would have taken $10 but it’s the restore. They need that $5.
Step 1: Remove the drawers.

Most filing cabinet drawers are removed by fully extending the drawer and then lifting up. The drawer is then detached from the extension mechanism.
If you pull the extension mechanism out, you will notice that it stops at some point. Look for a tab on the mechanism. By lifting this tab, the drawer extension will slide completely out of the cabinet.
Step 2: Sand loose paint and rust spots.

Using 180 grit sandpaper, sand areas with loose paint or rust spots. Sand lightly over the entire cabinet with a 220 grit paper. This will help your paint to adhere to the metal. Wipe down the cabinet with a damp rag to remove all the dust.
Step 3: Prime and paint.

I used spray paint and primer found at any home improvement or hardware store. Even though the paint I used has a primer in it, I chose to use a self etching primer because I wanted to make sure my paint stuck to the metal and withstood the weather.

I also wanted a planter that looked like copper. In order to achieve this, I painted the cabinet with two coats of Forged Hammered ‘Chestnut’ and one topcoat of Metallic ‘Aged Copper.’ I thought the copper alone was too bright.
Step 4: Install some casters.

Casters are optional, however if you want to be able to move the planter easily, I recommend them. I purchased casters, stainless steel bolts, washers, and locking nuts. Each caster is rated for 90 pounds and the stainless steel hardware won’t rust. You will have to guess what size of caster is best for the size of cabinet you use.

Be sure to drill some drainage holes in the bottom of the planter before turning it upright.
Step 5: Fill the planter with soil.

Most plants used in containers do not require more that a few inches of soil. Since 12 inches of soil was really all I needed, I placed old kitty litter containers in the bottom of the planter to take up space without adding excessive weight.
The planter is now ready to fill with good container soil and plants.
Check in on my blog for additional details. Thank you Carole for your inspiration! ~Julie
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 23 questions
  • Rhonda Rhonda on Jul 11, 2019

    what about holes in the bottom for drainage and inside rusting?

    Looks so nice though, great idea!

  • Essie Craig Essie Craig on Feb 06, 2020

    Bottom of file cabinet is open what should I do , to cover it so that soil will not come out. Want it to use for vegetables. Please.

  • Nhe49162707 Nhe49162707 on Jun 13, 2020

    Do metal planters get too hot in sun for plant roots?

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  • Sonja Horn Sonja Horn on Jun 25, 2020

    Love this great idea! I have been wanting some of this type of planters and could not afford them. Thank you so very much for these fabulous ideas ! Mt. Solon, VA

  • Lynne de Bie Lynne de Bie on Jan 03, 2021

    Ours turned out great! We used matching filing cabinets and secured them end to end--creating doubles. Used the "Hugelkultur" method of layering--logs, fertilizer, compost, soil--to fill the units. Drilled holes in bottom for draining, installed pipes for watering system. Winter veggies are thriving.