The Pallet Planter

Reusing is better than recycling.

One of the things I wanted at my new home was a nice, neat garden. And there’s nothing that keeps a garden neater than raised beds for the plants.

But what to make them out of? A friend offered me railroad ties stacked up in his backyard, but they’re ugly and dirty and I was worried about tar or other nasty stuff they could have been treated with.

And then I thought of pallets.

I’ve got this thing about pallets. There’s something about a nice, clean, well-designed pallet that just makes me very happy. Come to think of it, it gives me almost the same feeling I get from unused paper. Is it the wood?

As I wrote the other day, my chicken coop was made, in part, with three pallets. My beehives are kept off the ground on pallets. And, in the past, I’ve made a “porch” for my RV with pallets and a deck for my poor man’s hot tub with pallets. To me, pallets are the ultimate free building material and I’m always on the lookout for good ones.

I hit the jackpot yesterday morning when I attended a “surplus sale” at the local school. Not only did I score two really nice media carts that’ll be perfect for my shop ($15 each), but I also bought a 4×10 foot magnetic white board in mint condition ($20) and a Sony boom box with AM/FM/CD/dual cassette ($5). And stacked outside were about 2 dozen of the nicest pallets I’d ever seen. I picked 7 of those and took them home for free.

Pallets in a Truck
I have a truck for a reason: I haul stuff.

Figuring out how to use them to create raised garden beds was a bit of a challenge until I took the time to see how they were configured. Then it was just a matter of cutting them in half and standing the pieces up in a square, partially buried in my garden. These photos and captions pretty much tell the story.

Pallet Garden
I started by digging a trench just wide enough to stand up the pallet halves. I used a level to keep them relatively level on sloped ground.

Pallet Garden
I needed something to prevent the dirt from coming out through between the slats. Because I have no shortage of straw, it was the logical choice. I really packed it in.

Pallet Garden
Because the dirt at the base (inside and out) would do most of the work holding the pallet halves together, I only needed four screws — one in each corner — at the top.

Pallet Garden
I filled in the straw all around.

Pallet Garden
Then I lined the inside with chicken wire to “discourage” moles (or voles or gophers or whatever the hell keeps digging on my property) from coming up through the bottom.

Pallet Garden
I filled the inside with the dirt from the trenches, some leftover compost, some leftover topsoil, and a big bag of Miracle Gro potting soil. before planting 18 strawberry plants.

Pallet Garden
For a finishing touch, I cut some scrap 2×4 lengths and set them into the groove at the top of the planter, hiding most of that messy straw.

Someone mentioned rabbits — they’d have to be pretty tall to reach these planters. And they’d have to get past my faithful garden watchdog, Penny. I’m more worried about birds. I’ll be making a chicken wire cover to keep the birds out before the plants begin to show fruit.

I’m very happy with the way this turned out. It took about 2 hours to build. The hardest part was digging the trench — which was actually quite easy because there are few rocks in my garden. The most costly part was filling the planter with dirt; I probably put about $15 worth of store-bought materials in there.

I’ll be building more of these. My goal is to eventually have three rows of six of them in my garden area.

What do you think?

11 thoughts on “The Pallet Planter

  1. Very clever use of materials, Maria. Seems like it would work out great for your needs. Homegrown strawberries will be the best, too. Yum!

    What about keeping it watered? Doing anything automated? Seems like you’re so often taking off somewhere…

    • Thanks!

      Right now, I’m using a hose. When I get more beds in, I’ll set up irrigation on a timer. Not worth it for just this bed, especially since I’m not going anywhere until cherry season is over in August.

    • Yeah, the irrigation on a timer makes good sense for later.

      As I’ve already stated elsewhere, it’s so much fun watching your property develop and truly become a wonderful home. :-)

    • I’m glad other folks are enjoying it, possibly as much as I am. Being here to watch it unfold in front of my eyes is amazing. The builders are doing a ton of work very quickly, but I’m certainly doing my share. I think I’ll build another planter today. Bought soil to fill one; was hoping to plant beans.

    • VERY nice. You know, with the right pallet, you can really make some decent furniture. I got a very good one the other day — clean and well constructed. I’m saving it for something special; a table like that might be a good project. I need a coffee table (and two end tables) for my living room.

  2. It’s amazing Maria, the amount of recycling you can do. Here are the shutters that Nadine built, installed on her house. I guess the town of Safety Harbor, Fl. appreciated her efforts There are definitely different quality pallets, for sure. Many are oak.

    • Wow! Those really look great.

      I’m really seriously thinking about taking that nice pallet I got the other day and turning it into a coffee table for my home. I think it has a lot of possibility if I can keep it in good condition until I’m ready to work with it.

  3. Pallets aren’t for free here in Chicago, and people put them behind lock and key. I agree they’re great, I used to keep my washer and dryer in the basement on pallets for the occasional inch or so of water that a heavy storm brought to that part of the basement. (since fixed).

    This article is perfect for Mother Earth News, do you know that magazine? I used to subscribe (you’re living out one of my Walter Mitty daydreams) … seriously. Pitch it. You could be a regular columnist over there with this home building adventure, too.

    • Me write for something like Mother Earth News? That’s pretty funny. But I’ll check it out. What the heck? I’m doing a ton of stuff with used lumber, etc.

      As for pallets, not everyone gives them away. But there are thousands of them around here and if you poke around enough, you can find someone eager to unload the ones they have. I might have a lead on some single-use pallets from a friend who works at the local hospital. Really hoping I can get my mitts on them.

What do you think?