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a post on posts

Hello and welcome to a post on posts – renter-friendly posts for string lights that double as planters, that is. Did you get all that? It’s okay if you didn’t, because I’m probably going to write another 800 words on it. That’s how this works.

So, backing up: the Blue Door House has a lovely little 10′ x 12′ concrete grill pad that we wanted to utilize as a patio with seating for loungin and cocktailin and watching Finn sniff every square inch of the backyard. But all the cute patio furniture in the world couldn’t change the cold, hard truth of the matter: our lone tiny patio light just wasn’t gonna cut it. After the sun set, the backyard just wasn’t usable – it was too dark.

blue door house patio before

And honestly, what is a patio without string lights? But because we rent, we couldn’t just dig three feet down into the yard to set up posts for lights the way normal people do. So after some Pinterest perusing on how to build temporary posts (inspired by this post, and this one, and this one), we set off for Home Depot with a dream in our hearts and a willingness to ignore the heat index for the day. 

I kind of Frankensteined all of the how-to’s I read because none of them fit exactly what we were looking for. Here’s what we wanted: sturdy wood posts about 8′ high, planters big enough to hold the post as well as to be used for actual planting, and enough stability that we won’t worry about the whole thing coming down during a windy storm. Here’s how we did it:

temporary string light posts for renters

How to Build Temporary Posts for String Lights

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 8′ landscape timbers (We used two, one for each post.)
  • Medium terra cotta pots (One for each post. We used these 10″ ones.)
  • Large planters (One for each post. We used the white version of these, which are 18″ h x 22″ w)
  • 60 lb bags of Quikrete (One for each post. We used this fast-setting option.)
  • 60 lb bags of sand (1.5 for each post. We used this one.)
  • Painters tape
  • Cup hooks
  • Gloves
  • String lights (We used these.)
  • Potting soil and plants

Okay so right off the bat, this picture is confusing. That’s because we greatly, greatly, underestimated the size our largest pot needed to be. We thought we could get away with a 16″ terra cotta pot and all I can say is: nope. It was way too small and we could tell right away that it’d be easy to knock over. So, pretend that the large pot in the below photo is much larger. If you’re me, then the actual first step of this project is to get your butt back in the car and head to Home Depot for your second trip of the day to find a larger pot. My dad says the the true greatness of your project can be measured in how many trips to Home Depot it takes you to finish it, so I tried to see this as a good thing. 

temporary posts in planters

  1. Nestle your 10″ terra cotta pot into your large pot. 
  2. Then, nestle your 8′ landscape timber vertically into the 10″ pot.
  3. Position your post so that it is standing nice and straight.
  4. Put on your gloves before pouring the concrete.
  5. Pour half of the concrete bag into the terra cotta pot.
  6. Pour the second half of the concrete bag into the bottom of the large pot, around the base of your smaller pot.
  7. Add water to the concrete according to the bag’s instructions.
  8. Use painters tape around the post to hold it steady while the concrete dries.
  9. Allow the concrete to dry as long as necessary. We quadrupled the drying time because it was super humid the day we worked on this. Fun!
    temporary posts in planters
  10. After the concrete is dry, pour a bag and a half of sand into the bottom of the large planter, completely covering the small pot. temporary posts in planters
  11. Add potting soil and plants. Our patio gets full afternoon sun, so I chose plants that do well in our hot, sunny Austin weather.temporary string light posts for renters
  12. Screw your cup hooks into the top of the posts.
  13. Hang your string lights, leaving room for the bulbs to hang freely as it can be a fire hazard if the bulb rests against something.

That’s it! We are so thrilled with how these came out and how they’ve held up in an uncommonly wet Austin summer. They feel super sturdy and the posts are still nice and straight. Landscape timber isn’t meant for structural use, so we probably won’t hang anything much heavier than lights on them, but for this application we really like them. They were a fraction of the price of the cedar 4×4’s we were considering, and we also really like their rounded edges instead of the square edges of the 4×4’s..

temporary posts in planters for string lights

I’m also pretty obsessed with the lights we chose. (Found here.) They put off SO much light, but it’s warm and not blindingly bright. The shape of the Edison bulb is so pretty and I don’t worry about these getting rained on or hanging out in the hot sun as they are rated for outdoor/commercial use. They also came packed so nicely and with a few extra bulbs in case one breaks at some point. A not-at-all pro tip: hang your light string first, then screw in the bulbs to avoid unnecessarily breaking bulbs. 

DIY posts for string lights

Stay tuned for a full patio reveal soon, and let me know if you have any questions or if you’re working on anything fun over at your house. What’s your record for trips to Home Depot per project? 

Instructions on how to make string light posts with planters. Great for renters!

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4 Comments

  1. Jonna Mendez Jonna Mendez

    Hey Molly – This is so cool. I would never, ever, have thought of doing this and I love not only your creative mind but the end result is just terrific. If I only had a concrete pad I would ask you to stop by and give advice. But alas – right now I only have a balcony. And there are so many rules that we don’t do much. Nice job here…

    • Thank you very much, Jonna! I totally understand the restrictive balcony thing. Our apartment’s “patio” was a glorified balcony. Having some plants out there to tend to made me happy, but that and the occasional cocktail was about all we used it for. Better than no outdoor space, though! And if I know you, it’s probably stunning. šŸ™‚

  2. Carolyn Tolley Carolyn Tolley

    You are so clever and creative! This is a perfect solution to a dark outdoor area. Beautiful too!

    • Thank you, Carolyn! Matt was with me every step of the way on this one! It was fun to work on it together, despite the whole being sick/working in the heat of the day thing. šŸ™‚

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