Introduction: How to Make a Raised Bed Garden Box From Wood Pallets.

Picture of How to Make a Raised Bed Garden Box From Wood Pallets.

Have you ever wanted to build or buy a garden box?  The cost of pre-built boxes and lumber itself is extremely expensive.  Fortunately you can build one for just a few dollars in nails and tools if you use wood pallets. 

Let's get started. 

Step 1: Gather Your Materials.

Picture of Gather Your Materials.

First, you will need to find a pallet or two, depending on how large you want your box.  A good source is to check in your area under the free section and search for pallets or wood.   A lot of times people give away the pallets that the pallet recyclers won't pay for. 

Step 2: Assemble Your Workspace and Tools

Picture of Assemble Your Workspace and Tools

For this project I just did it on my backyard.  It might help if you had access to a workbench for cutting the wood.  These are the tools and supplies you need:

1. A hammer, preferably a claw type.

2. A handsaw of some type.  Here I'm using a hack saw but it would probably be better to use a fine toothed wood saw. 

3. A pencil for marking.

4. A screwdriver or crowbar for preparing the wood.

5. Nails.  You will probably need some short (about 2 inch) and some longer (3+ inch) nails. 

6. A pair of pliers to help pull nails. 

Step 3: Prepare Your Wood.

Picture of Prepare Your Wood.

Start by taking apart the pallets with the hammer and the screwdriver/crowbar.  If there are a lot of staples in the wood, you can simply hammer them flat in most cases.  Be aware that they are still sharp and may interfere with your nails as you're hammering them in, depending on placement.

You want to make sure you have enough of the right size of planks for this.  Separate them into piles.  I used 4 planks per side along with enough wood to nail at each end. 

Step 4: Assemble the Planks Into Sides.

Picture of Assemble the Planks Into Sides.

Take the planks and line them up for each board.  Use the small pieces and the awkward ones to make the side pieces.  Hammer 2 nails for each plank on each side. 

Do this 4 times and you should get something that looks like this.

Step 5: Assemble the Finished Box.

Picture of Assemble the Finished Box.

Stand the boards perpendicular to each other and hammer them together with your longer 3 inch or so nails.  Make sure you line the nails up to the most solid part of the wood on the thin side.  Use at least 3 nails for these one on each side and in the middle.   The final result should look like this.

That's it!  Enjoy your new raised bed garden.


vikasb7 (author)2017-05-28

I find detailing to be practically very useful for learning by knowing.

jbruns3 (author)2014-02-24

I dont want wood to rot can I grow veggies in them and paint it?....what paint do I use?

PatriciaIsidro (author)jbruns32015-05-26

Helmsman Indoor/Outdoor Spar Urethane

PatriciaIsidro (author)jbruns32015-05-26

How about wood protective varnish. Like the one used to protect decks from the elements.

chrissy.teeters (author)2015-04-12 this is a good site that tells you which pallets are safe to use

hubkap28 (author)chrissy.teeters2015-05-14

Thank you for sharing that link! I'm planning on building a raised garden bed and now i can go check the pallets I've collected for the stamps. I didn't think some were treated with formaldehyde. You saved our vegetable garden, thank you! :)

wargecko (author)2013-03-06

I made a huge 10' by 10' bed using reclaimed pallet wood. Photos and description here. Comments welcome!

dreamboxbeauty (author)wargecko2015-04-10

i am trying to view your link and its not working please help

wargecko (author)dreamboxbeauty2015-04-10

try it again? Seems to work on my end.

eileen.dooley.7 (author)2015-04-06

Use heat treated pallets, no chemicals in the wood, safe for veggies. Look for pallets marked HT.

MoobL (author)2014-09-30

This is fantastic, Thank you! I am homesteading on a budget and the costs of a pallet for me is $3.50.

Do you know how many beds I can make with one pallet? Thank you!

originalcyn84 (author)2012-02-08

this is a great project! i've done this myself for years now and had great results! while it is true that wooden pallets may have bacteria and other dangerous substances in or on them there's an easy way to combat this... i simply store the pallets outside in the elements for a few months before i use them. also, if you are still concerned you can always paint them with an outdoor acrylic paint or clear sealant. this will also extend the life of your raised planter bed for several more years. thanks for the instructable-happy gardening :)

I lined mine with plastic after a good bleach wipe scrub down. I feel okay with it.

bundaberg_kid (author)2012-06-30

ummm.....line it with plastic first?

Atom Farm (author)2012-01-04

The construction and simplicity of design is pretty stellar, however, if you're intention is to plant edible food in this, I would highly suggest against it.

And here's why:
Wood pallets are like sponges - they’re porous and readily absorb water and other fluids. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and Listeria that can cross-contaminate food. Wood pallets are so unhygienic that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they must not be used in connection with food preparation because of the risk of Listeria contamination. Instead, the FDA advocates the use of stainless steel and plastic.

The FDA doesn't even use them for food preparation, much less direct contact and propegation of what would be "organic" produce. Kinda defeats the purpose of knowing where your food comes from.

Aside from government regulation, there are all kinds of chemicals in heavily processed wood like pallets. Same reason you're not supposed to burn plywood due for risk of inhaling the glue and chemicals like formaldehyde.

Just something to think about.

the doctor who (author)Atom Farm2012-02-02

if you preserve the right they won't and most pallets are not heavy chemical most are not chemicals

survivalize (author)Atom Farm2012-01-05

There have also been studies that show that wood pallets carry 15% less bacteria than plastic pallets.

Also, the study that showed the high bacterial count was done by a competitor to the wood pallet industry, showing that it was heavily biased.

The FDA also approves such substances as Aspartame for human consumption, which essentially breaks down in the human digestions system into formaldehyde and methanol. To me this just seems like a big push from the plastic pallet industry.

Wood pallets could perhaps be cleaned up as an industry when it comes to chemical treatments. They are however easier to recycle in projects such as these.

Atom Farm (author)survivalize2012-01-05

Sure, studies are biased.

To clarify, I'm not arguing against re-using pallets in general or in favor of plastic for that matter, just against chemicals and bacteria in a planter bed.

You can't ignore the fact that pallets like these see very active service and are incredibly porous - soaking in anything that they come in contact with including sitting next to dumpsters or stagnant water in an alley. And that's just what we assume happens in the life of a pallet. Shipping ports are havens of disease.

Try something else for the pallets, because people with less knowledge will do this instructable and consequently be consuming the chemicals they are trying to get away from by growing their own food.

I'm not knocking you for the project, it's really great - and very accessible to those with less know how. All I'm saying is I think these could be re-purposed for something that you won't eat.

depotdevoid (author)2011-12-22

Cool, I love reclaimed wood projects . . . in fact I built a bunch of similar planter boxes from my old fence! Thanks for sharing!

survivalize (author)depotdevoid2011-12-26

Nice. Thanks for the comment.

northcalgreens (author)2011-12-24

these are pretty small,i put old windows on top of these(hinged with pieces of tire rubber) ive built a bunch of these but i call them cold frames-they arew used to start plants early to extend the growing season here in the pacific northwest. great to see people practicing -reduce reuse recycle rethink. i have made some compost bins with pallets that work very well --lay out 4 pallets end to end and staple chicken wire to them -they will now fold up into a nice box that can be wired at the last corner to keep it closed and opened up again easily to deal with the compost. i just found this site and joined -i guess i should get my camera out and make and share some of my stuff too.
one more comment--- if you can find the pallets with the 4x4 0r 3x4 on them if you use those on the inside corners to nail to they really strengthen the boxes.

Yeah that would be great. I'd love to see the idea about the fold up compost bin.

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