Instructables

How to make a raised bed garden box from wood pallets.

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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 craigslist.org 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
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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.

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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.
 
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MoobL20 days ago

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!

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.

jbruns37 months ago
I dont want wood to rot can I grow veggies in them and paint it?....what paint do I use?
wargecko1 year ago
I made a huge 10' by 10' bed using reclaimed pallet wood. Photos and description here. Comments welcome! http://priyan.me/shipping-pallet-keyhole-bed/
ummm.....line it with plastic first?
Atom Farm2 years ago
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.
if you preserve the right they won't and most pallets are not heavy chemical most are not chemicals
survivalize (author)  Atom Farm2 years ago
There have also been studies that show that wood pallets carry 15% less bacteria than plastic pallets.

http://www.themhedajournal.org/blogs/Steve-Guglielmo/index.php/2010/11/what-the-fda-vote-means-for-wooden-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.
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.
depotdevoid2 years ago
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)  depotdevoid2 years ago
Nice. Thanks for the comment.
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.
survivalize (author)  northcalgreens2 years ago
Yeah that would be great. I'd love to see the idea about the fold up compost bin.