Introduction: Maison Grenouille Et Chez Crapaud - Vegetable Planter Built From Reclaimed Pallets

Picture of Maison Grenouille Et Chez Crapaud - Vegetable Planter Built From Reclaimed Pallets

2008 is the year of the frog. At present 50% of 6000 described amphibian species are threatened with extinction.

Amphibians play a vital role in the ecosystem and because of their sensitivity to pollutants and environmental change they can be considered primary environmental indicators - a bit like the canaries employed in coal mines as advance indication of gases toxic to miners. The effects that environmental conditions are having on amphibian populations around the world can be extrapolated to the effects these worsening conditions will have on our own health and wellbeing. You can find out more about the Amphibian Ark Global Campaign and their efforts to redress the amphibian extinction crisis at

This is a project that will not only prevent viable timber going to landfill, but will create two frog or toad shelters and a sizeable trough in which to establish a veritable mini potager (and not a English oak turned wooden string holder, or vintage terracotta pot in sight! luvly jubbly. )


Step 1: Checklist

Picture of Checklist

You will need:
Materials for one planter:
1. two wooden pallets
2. twelve timber angle brackets
3. optional: two pieces 6mm thick plywood offcut approximately 21cm x 30cm
4. self tapping screws & round wire nails of various lengths . I found the 50 & 75mm to be the most useful lengths, go to your local builders' merchant, rather than a DIY store, where you can purchase a bag of mixed sizes per weight. My favourite builder's merchant sells nails by the scoop, screws by the piece and parcels them up in newspaper doing away with all the point of sale PVC packaging.
5. wood glue
6. acrylic paint, white spirit

1. eye protectors
2. protective gloves (your choice whether it is more sensible for you to work with or without wearing them.)
3. hammer
4. chisel
5. vice grips
6. hand saw
7. fret saw
8. measuring tape & pencil
9. fine guage paint brush

Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once

Picture of Measure Twice, Cut Once

Following the schematic below, assess how you are going to break up your pallets keeping in mind that you need to build the four side panels and the floor of the trough with minimal effort and wastage.

Step 3: Breaking Down the Pallets

Picture of Breaking Down the Pallets

I found that if I sawed one pallet down the middle I could use the matching halves as the long sides of the trough.

Using a hammer and cold chisel (and wearing eye protectors else here's where the horror of a domestic DIY injury has the potential to take on biblical proportions) I then broke down the second pallet into individual planks. I found that I had to snap through the nails with the tip of the chisel (using sheer brute force). It was no good simply wedging the chisel between two planks and trying to prise them apart because inevitably the planks sheered and splintered along the wood grain.

It will probably take your more time to dismantle the pallets than construct the trough however, persist - and think of the Kizhi Pogost (the two large wooden churches and bell tower were constructed without using a single nail or screw!)

Step 4: Construction of the Planter: Step1

Picture of Construction of the Planter: Step1

After meticulously ripping out every last protruding rusty nail with the aid of a pair of vice grips, use the single planks to cover the gaps between the slats in the long side panels and to construct the floor panel. The next step illustrates how I chiselled out the the notches in the floor panel to fit snugly to the contour of the side panels.

Step 5: Construction of the Planter: Step2

Picture of Construction of the Planter: Step2

Image 1: Offer up the floor panel to the wrong side of each floor panel and pencil in any notches that need to be cut away to allow a flush fit.

Image2: Saw the perpendicular cuts into the notch. Then using a wood chisel slowly chisel away the wood to be removed. The cutting edge works best if you hold the tool at an extremely shallow angle to the wood and then allow it to glide along as you tap it with the hammer taking thin slivers of wood off as it goes. Remember the chisel is that sharp that it could for instance sever a finger so be mindful of where your fingers are at all times in relation to the cutting edge. NEVER CHISEL TOWARDS YOURSELF (you made me say it!)

Step 6: Pimp My Panache

Picture of Pimp My Panache

I decide to add a bit of bling to les châteaux des amphibies by applying decorative fretwork and painted motif to the entrances.

You can print out the pdf of the decoration I used or you can customise your own blinged-out portico.

I used the pedestrian method of transfering the motif to the wood by first holding the paper against a window and tracing the motif on the reverse of the page with a soft pencil . Then I laid the sheet on the wood and traced the outline again transferring the pencil lead from the reverse of the page onto the wood.

The plywood fretwork was attached using both wood glue and picture nail tacks.

I painted the motif using black floor paint as I have a half used tin knocking about.

Step 7: The Assembly - Et Voila!

Picture of The Assembly - Et Voila!

Okay here a number of steps are covered.
1. Attach the side panels to one another to form a rectangular trough using 8 timber angle brackets (2 at each corner, top & bottom).

2. Using 4 angle brackets, attach the back panels of the frog house at a distance that will accomodate the roof tile or slate (as per schematic). The floor of the trough will rest on the tops of these panels so check to see the finished depth of the trough is sufficient (for instance) to grow carrots. I used 2.5cm x 2.5 cm wooden batons to attatch these as I had run out of angle brackets. Step 8 will illustrate the frog shelter in more detail.

3. Attach 2 grips to the top side of the floor panel. This will allow you to lift the floor panel out of the trough with ease. You will need to make some final trimmings to the floor panel to allow it to slide down the walls of the trough and come to rest on the back panels of the frog shelters. I screwed on some extra bits along this level to create ledges to further support the floor panel.

Step 8: Enfin

Picture of Enfin

Here you can clearly see the components & construction of the frog shelter : the entrance, the back panel and the roof slate sandwiched at an angle between the back panel and the wall of the trough. I screwed 2 screws into the backpanel just under the tip of the slate and left them standing proud of the surface to support the slate and to prevent it from ever slipping down should the pallet wood distort.

I actually cut the roof slate to size as it is of natural slate and I was able to cut it using a hacksaw , keeping the blade doused with water as I sawed to prevent it from heating up due to friction and loosing its edge.



diy_bloke (author)2014-05-09

I am never really sure abt the preservatives in Pallets, but I actually have some that have no imprint on them whatsoever. Still, I will be lining them with the plastic of the bags that contain the soil for the plantbox.

Recently, the gardens in our neighbourhood were all taken out coz of some ground sanitation. I always used to have masses of wildlife in my garden. lots of frogs bees birds etc and suddenly i was left with a bare patch of soil. Unlike my neighbours who had their gardens ll redone with tiles everywhere, I just left it go wild while punting back my planter boxes. Don’t ask me where they came from but suddenly I see frogs again :-)

Suffice to say that all my neat neighbours criticize my garden coz it isn't 'neat'

Gareth0123 (author)2013-04-11

A proper Pallet Dismantling Bar would not only be safer, but would also be quicker and much more efficient to use when stripping the pallets to reclaim the timbers for future use.

CementTruck (author)2008-06-09

Great idea. Please be aware that some pallets are treated with toxic chemicals to keep them from rotting in the elements. If you see a "P" branded (burned) into the bottom of a skid or pallet, do not use it for this project, or any project where it can come into contact with bare skin. Pallets from supermarkets, or food distributors will probably be your best bet.

fake_faux (author)CementTruck2008-06-09

Oh good point! My supply of pallets come from a local fruit and veg street market - you have to get there about 6am to pick them up before the rubbish trucks take them away. Here in my neighbourhood in London there seems to be more robust pallets in use but they are sprayed blue and indeed belong to a company that hire them out to distributors of palletised goods. The pallets therefore remain the property of the company for rehire & I guess the blue paint is some kind of chemical preservative.

Master Beorn (author)fake_faux2012-04-06

They are. They belong to a co-operative called "CHEP" and they are the best maintained pallets out there. But the blue paint IS kinda iffy.

whitedem0n (author)2008-12-12

where can i find a pallet at? whene ever i go looking for some it feels like i would be stealing it.

yoga_beyotch (author)whitedem0n2011-10-20


soundmotor (author)2008-07-20

I love this instructable but I don't think I would use pallets in anyway towards food production. If you look up "ISPM 15" it details the regs for pallets used for international shipping and the techniques used to kill hitchiking pests.

Chard (author)soundmotor2008-07-31

if you were that worried you could allways line the boxes with some plastic, like from a grow bag so as not so waste packaging. i know, i know, its not as eco-awesome if u use plastic but u get to eat the foods without worrying!

rjcortez (author)Chard2010-06-04

I line mine with 6 mill black plastic. Various Garden Boxes From Recycled Wood Materials

soundmotor (author)Chard2008-07-31

I hear that. The instructable is very cool and makes sense when you see the number of pallets out there free for the taking. The nice thing about building a raised bed (or raised bed + amphibian palace) is that is all you need to start growing. You don't need to line it with anything which makes it simple.

fake_faux (author)soundmotor2008-07-31

Thank you for posting the link, the page is most informative and I absolutely agree and reiterate your concerns about not using chemical impregnated wooden pallets as containers for growing vegetables for consumption.

However the article makes it pretty clear that each individual board of a treated pallet should be marked. Therefore it should be fairly easy to trace the origin of manufacture of the pallet and avoid those that have been treated by chemical pressure impregnation or fumigation with methyl bromide. I should imagine that those that have been heat treated (put through a kiln to prevent the import of wood borne pests) shouldn’t pose any threat.

This project is more about the concepts of using reclaimed timber, incorporating wild life friendly corners into the domestic environment and growing your own fresh produce. Any reclaimed timber can be used, you'd be amazed the off cuts that builders throw into skips or the number of unvarnished cheap futon bed frames and the like that are put out for refuse collection (have these people not heard of Salvation Army furniture shops or Freecycle { } ?). Anyhow, maybe it's just the neighbourhood I happen to live in?

niquattx (author)2009-04-09


fake_faux (author)niquattx2009-04-09

No need to shout niquattx, I am listening. I think it's a matter of horses for courses really, whatever workssafely and efficiently for you by all means. You'll notice that I have listed both eye protectors and gloves in my tool list. I have used a chold chisel (this tool is not hardened and tempered so won't shatter) to snap nails quickly and easily while building a number of pellet projects and have found that one or two sharp, controlled blows on the same spot snaps the nails exactly where I want them - I suppose it is a technique. The problem with a hacksaw is that the frame tensioning the blade is not very deep so limits the access and angle you have to getting at the nails. I find the hack saw blade attached to a pistol grip handle is just a bit too flexible to put any "elbow" into sawing. All the best with your project.

Deadpunk (author)2008-08-26

This is the the rasied vegetable bed I made from a pallet I salvaged from the cronstruction of the new McDonalds next door it was actualy already in the shape of a box I just had to add the midle slats on the sides and some extra slats in the bottum for support my neighbor dose alot of gardening and has extra cloth you put on the bottum of flower/vegetable bed's and as soon as Iget some from her I'll put up pictures of that in the bed and pictures of when i fill it with fresh compost.

fake_faux (author)Deadpunk2008-08-26

Wow, neat! Your raised vegetable bed looks large enough for you to section it into quarters and do crop rotation: peas,beans > onions > carrots , tomatoes > cabbages, kale, broccoli. Each year you move the planting one section on so that you don't have the same plants in the same spot year after year. That way you can control the nutrition in the growing medium and minimise crop diseases.

Deadpunk (author)fake_faux2008-08-27

That's a realy great idea! And I have enough extra building materials that I can do it fairly easily.

Chard (author)2008-07-19

This instructible is lacking one thing and one thing only. a nice pic of a frog or toad :D other than that ... great instructible. where do you find unwanted pallettes?

fake_faux (author)Chard2008-07-19

Heya Chard, Since you mentioned it, here is a picture of our resident toads that I took on March the 15th of this year. I accidentally disturbed them whilst trying to excavate the entire root ball of a 2m wide bush that I eventually transplanted to a neighbour's garden as I was making room to build a pond. The picture was a bit rushed as I had to trapse mud through the house to go get my camera & return just in time to catch them before they went under cover of one of the many piled brick hideyholes I have stationed around the garden. I got the pallets from our local street market off one of the fruit and veg stallholders.

fake_faux (author)fake_faux2008-07-19

Hmmm it didn't seem to immediately upload and attach the image to my reply (??!!) so, here goes again now that I have uploaded the image to my library...

Chard (author)fake_faux2008-07-20

wow you have out done yourself. there was me hoping for a pic of a frog and u managed to get 2 mid love session!!! cheers for the info i might check out the local market next week!

fake_faux (author)Chard2008-07-31

Hey Chard, Yes, yes... actually this reminds me of a Gary Larson cartoon I saw some years back which went something like this: hubby vole comfortably ensconced in armchair in front of the telly (to wife): "Hey Marge, come here quickly, the Hendersons are on telly" Title screen on telly in the background "Nature Documentary, The Sex Life Of The Common Vole" splashed across a background picture of a little vole couple - or something to that effect. No disrespect intended to the resident toads, I grew up in the countryside and so don't bat an eyelid at Nature doing its thing. This is in fact the only pic I have of them in daylight & together as I usually bump into either one at them after nightfall as they are nocturnal.

stncilr (author)2008-07-02

be careful when using pallets, some are treated with harmful chemicals so they don't rot easily and stuff, and those chemicals can contaminate the plants you grow in the planter.

fake_faux (author)stncilr2008-07-03

Do You have any specifics about the treated pallets to avoid where you are? I also refer you to CementTruck's earlier comment below : "If you see a "P" branded (burned) into the bottom of a skid or pallet, do not use it for this project, or any project where it can come into contact with bare skin. Pallets from supermarkets, or food distributors will probably be your best bet."

stncilr (author)fake_faux2008-07-08

I have no clue, i just know that most palettes are treated.

FireBAT (author)2008-06-09

Very nice work! Our garden has 5'x5' raised beds made out of old shipping crates, from the big ceramic electrical insulators used in high-voltage transmission. These are much prettier! We only fertilise organically, using a mix of rabbit, chicken, guinea pig, and bat droppings. I've noticed that of the few frogs I've seen in the past 4 years, many seem to have some sort of hip disorder- their pelvis sticks up at a strange angle. Chemical pollution causing birth defects? I'll keep an eye on the tadpoles developing in our pond, and build them some houses.

fake_faux (author)FireBAT2008-06-09

I saw this short article and think it might explain your frogs' hip disorders.

It seems that the deformities might be caused by a parasite that is harboured by water snails. Pond water with elevated phosphorous & nitrogen levels promotes aquatic plant growth, which in turn provides an environment for an increase in the population of water snails. This appears to be remedied by introducing crayfish which predate snails.

However I'd do a bit of research before introducing anything new to a pond. The Signal Crayfish was introduced to the UK in the 1970's to be farmed, it escaped and is now creating havoc amongst native crayfish populations.

FireBAT (author)fake_faux2008-06-10

I netted some of the tadpoles and put them in a clear jug, so I could see them. In the 5 net scoops, there were at least 6-8 snails, too. The tadpoles seem healthy and vigorous, even though the water is "tea-coloured" from dead leaves. Thanks for the info on the snails- I'll see what I can do to remove them. At least the pond is only 6 feet across. It used to be a water feature, until the pump broke, and I was going to empty it when I noticed all the tadpoles.

fake_faux (author)FireBAT2008-06-10

I guess you could naturalise your water feature and convert it into a wildlife pond and bog garden. I'm in the process of planning a pond - I have to build a retaining wall as the garden slopes before I can even begin digging the pond. We hope that eventually newts will migrate to our garden from a local pond. We have a resident toad that probably took up home in our grey water drain long before we moved in four years ago.

FireBAT (author)fake_faux2008-06-14

I emptied the nasty brown water out of the pond and got the 100+ pounds of dead leaves out of it. I found 12 snails, which were not invited to return to the pond. I also found 8 Dragonfly larvae, and estimated the taddie population at around 300. I slowly refilled the pond with spring water, so it wouldn't temperature shock the critters. Yesterday morning they were doing great, with no casualties. I have friends that have a 2/3 acre pond, so maybe some of our 'poles will be happy out there. Their pond doesn't get Ag runoff, either. My parents live in the center of town, far away from any other water, but Fred Frog moved into their pond 3 years ago. No idea where he came from.

fake_faux (author)FireBAT2008-06-16

Your efforts are inspirational, I'll have to get on with laying the retaining wall so that I can dig that pond. 300 taddies!! You've got your work cut out giving them all names. All the best with your brood (er...colony).

AndyGadget (author)fake_faux2008-06-10

Yep - red signal crayfish, here in the Cotswolds where we used to have the native white clawed. I found this guy in the drainage pipes under our lawn, which go into a small stream at the bottom of the garden.

fake_faux (author)AndyGadget2008-06-10

Yes that's the beastie!

ysabet (author)2008-06-09

Great piece of work! Very nice details, and I love the addition of the havens. I live in the desert (Arizona, USA) and have a decent raised-bed garden in my backyard; it's about the only way to retain moisture out here, what with the 100-degree-F-plus temps and so forth. I used discarded lumber for mine, but I think I'll try for pallet-wood for the next log. Thanks!

cheezstake (author)2008-06-09

Excellent instructable. I have wanted to do this for some time. I always see pallets laying around not being reused. Hopefully when I move to somewhere where I can do this, I will try out your 'able. thanks.

AndyGadget (author)2008-06-09

I like this, and would second your point about not using slug pellets. If you want to kill off half the wildlife in your garden (not just the slugs), slug pellets are a good way to do it. They wreak havoc with the food chain. Encourage frogs, toads and hedgehogs and you have animated, self propelled slug destroyers working for you.

Mr. Rig It (author)2008-06-09

Very well done. Great use of pallets/matrials. Well written,nice schematics, and photos.

Good Job!

If you like you are welcome to add this project to my group Home Repair, Refurbishment, and Projects It would be a great addition, and again good job.

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