Introduction: Outdoor Pallet Garden

Picture of Outdoor Pallet Garden

This instructable will show you how a pallet garden can be constructed. Super low cost, primarily recycled, materials and a little elbow grease create a oasis in your backyard that will supply you with produce all year round if you so choose.

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Picture of Tools and Materials

Tools:

Drill - various bits

Driver

Chop Saw/ Power Miter Saw

Shovel

Optional: Wheel Barrel & Rototiller

Materials:

Majority of this project came from other local gardeners who recycled or donated their extra supplies. Total cost outside of dirt and plants was approximately $80. Talk to people you know and local district organizations.

Pallets and Pallet Wood- as much as you can handle.

2X4s- used only where essential/structural, this will depend on your scope of build and sq. footage.

Screws- Tons and tons.

Liner Sheeting- for slat boxes

Outdoor Grade Wood Sheeting- To act as backstop for sloped beds and other construction that needed reinforcement.

Garden Supplies- plants, dirt, animal/bird mesh, straw, miscellaneous.

Optional: Water tank and hoses, composting setup, hammock (kind of essential), plastic sheeting to make a winter space/greenhouse.

Step 2: Pallet Talk

Picture of Pallet Talk

Pallets and pallet wood composed about 75% of construction. Pallets are great but they are not all sunshine and roses. You have to be careful of unexpected nails/staples. Also make sure the wood isn't split or knotted if you need it to support weight. We cut 2 slats for each bisected top section of pallet. We also use a lot of whole pallet.

When joining to pallets more screws never hurt.

Also:

Watch out for splinters!

Step 3: Constructive Thoughts

Picture of Constructive Thoughts

Everyone's garden will be different. We did a very straight forward perimeter box construction where we measured outer diameter and then created framing.

Grabbing some grid paper and doing a layout with measurements from your space will really help you figure out your cut list and may help figure out the assembly. We did everything low to the ground first with the exception of the beams which will support overhead trellis/possibly a winter greenhouse. The beams needed to be dug in so technically ground up construction all the way through. After laying out construction we did all the joining of different elements and built up from there. Then added dirt.

As long as the framing is square you can get away with uneven pallet wood cuts for slats as the ends will be hidden. Doing a small box first can give you a better sense of how well your dimensions work for your space.

Once your low elements and support structure is in place you can do sloped beds/upgrow structures, do a water tower, compost pile, and many other elements that require foundation.

Step 4: Slatted Border Boxes

Picture of Slatted Border Boxes

We started measuring and then cutting and screwing together framing.

We based the height of out boxes on our pallet slat height.

We did one box at a time then built the next box by joining to the previous.

The slats went into the framing one side at a time.

After the slats we added the black water liner to make sure the boxes wouldn't get destroyed by sitting water.

Then we filled with composted dirt with our handy dandy wheel barrel

The pictures are heavily commented if you want more specifics.

Keep the framing square and things will look really nice even if your wood is not super.

In theory you could seal the wood but we felt it was unnecessary.

Every part of the project is built off the stability of these boxes so really make sure to build with lots of screws and securely attach elements before moving on.

Step 5: Sloped Grow Pallet

Picture of Sloped Grow Pallet

To add variety and to allow for plants that may prefer to drape or creep or if you just want to make it easier to pick low growing plants sloped pallet beds are a great option.

If your pallet boxes are well built you can screw straight into them from their short end joining a normal used pallet at 45 degrees and then just do this in chain stringing as many pallets as desired.

Join to whatever you are using as the end stop and then screw in a back board with attached liner.

Fill with dirt and plant.

While all of this is straightforward construction take care to secure everything as the dirt will stress the structure especially when wet.

Pay special attention to joins and ends.

Step 6: Growing Up

Picture of Growing Up

Four different methods to give plants an opportunity to extend upwards.

The garden becomes so much more pleasant when broken up by these elements of the garden.

All methods required joining to the box structures then extending upwards.

The trellis privacy fence gives the strongest visual impression

The cord trellis to the water tower set at 45 degrees is still proving out.

The vertical palate walls are also new and this summer will show how effective they are at supporting vertical height.

The string pulls from above are effective but labor intensive and require adjustment.

You can always buy the semi conical tomato cages.

Step 7: A Door Able

Picture of A Door Able

A door to your garden gives the space a nice orientation and closes off the space when not in use.

Originally there was a pallet as a placeholder door. Then a pallet on hinges as a door.

These were not quite polished so a door was framed and screened in the center with mesh. Wood was from left over framing.

Slight ground clearance is nice to facilitate swing action but too much gap and the rabbits and chipmunks will invade.

A nice blackboard with chalk with messages for other housemates about what is in season is a nice touch.

Step 8: Drink Your Heart Out

Picture of Drink Your Heart Out

This is the only part of the project I would say is not for everyone. We used a very large water vessel as we had one and our garden was reasonably large. The support structure for that vessel will not be covered here. A very good alternative is a rain barrel (lots of instructions online through these wonderful diy websites). Drip lines are a great way to focus and conserve water. The straw cover also reduces evaporation. If you don't like straw home depot sells permeable sheeting that can be used to the same effect. I cannot stress enough the need to make sure your water supply is sealed from insects as they will ruin your garden experience if they get in. Fine mesh over downspout feed into your water receptacle will usually be adequate.

Step 9: Extra Extra - Read All About It

Picture of Extra Extra - Read All About It

There are lots of little extras and side projects possible.

A really simple one is building a four pallet box with a hinged coral for open air pile composting. If your garden is big though you may just do a giant compost mound. The pallet slats also have lots of fun uses from little signs to making boxes and pots. Really whatever your imagination so desires. You want to make a pallet bench, well, go make one (just make sure to sand so no splinters).

Step 10: Pallet Garden Thoughts

Picture of Pallet Garden Thoughts

This project is a nice introduction to what can be accomplished as a starter outdoor woodworking project if you are willing to put the time in. This is not a quick project and if you have been looking closely at the pictures you will see this was actually built and modified over multiple grow seasons. This is more like a work in progress than a finished project. The amount of produce you can produce with the structures shown is truly astounding. If you have the space I highly recommend taking on a constructed garden. Who knows maybe you will have chicken coup and a goat shed in a couple years. The experience of tending the garden and just appreciating its beauty really is its own reward. So get to it and start making!!!!

Comments

Slk_Stephane (author)2015-07-12

You can also build a square pallet underground to put sand so that kids can play in it

mdeloor (author)Slk_Stephane2016-07-19

Put another one on top with highs to keep the neighbourhood cats from using it as a giant later box! When you open it up it also makes for a fun platform. If you just make the top part a frame with corner braces, you can put one of those little blue wadding pools in it for a sun & surf spot. Pound a 2 inch wide PVC tube a foot or so into the ground leaving 2 feet or so above ground and you have an umbrella stand/holder for shade. Take some more PVC about 3 1/2 inches tall and wide enough to hold a beverage container of your choosing and use hose clamps to attach them to the umbrella stand. Too big a diameter for smaller cups? Just drill a small hole near the bottom and glue or friction fit a long galvinized nail through the hole. You can use a small cork or block of wood in the inside to nail into if the nail does not reach all the way across. That will prevent little hands from injury, as you just KNOW they're going to stick their hands in there!

mdeloor (author)mdeloor2016-07-19

I meant to say hinges in the first sentence. I really hate auto-correct at times. *Sigh*!

"If you will it, it is no dream." Make it so!

mdeloor (author)2016-07-19

What a great garden!! The only thing that I would consider changing for our area, is putting the 4 x4 posts to a height of 8 feet above ground (not sure how deep I'd have to dig the holes?) on the outside perimeter and adding deer netting to the top of my posts. We have a really bad problem with deer here, and they make planting a garden hopeless! I love them though, so a fence is my only option. My way the boxes would be on the inside and less accessible to Bambi & Thumper. They still would get anything that pokes through the mesh. I guess that makes it a win win for everybody. After all...we all gotta eat!?

BradysoBOT (author)2015-07-18

As a carpenter that does a lot of exterior work, I suggest you coat these with epoxy inside and out before calling it finished. Dry unpressure-treated wood at ground level will last 5 years max before it rots.

It has been almost that long and no rot in sight. Obviously your mileage will vary based on climate, pallets, and a host of other variables. Appreciate the feedback.

CementTruck (author)2015-07-17

I'm sure it's been said, but if not, many pallets are treated with very poisonous chemicals. Be careful that the ones you use do not contaminate the soil in which your edible plants grow in.

Good idea! I love raised gardens and will be doing one next year...or the year after that ...

appreciate the feedback. Hopefully liners will limited any leeching.

FN64 (author)2015-07-20

That's a very attractive gardening scheme and great 'ible of it's progress.

My wife & I have a 40 x 60 plot but we have the room to make that work... 50 acres +/-.

Something like that would be a nice compliment off our south deck and I do realize the time and effort you put into it!

With the cost of veggies continually going up it behooves anyone to get a garden going.. even if it's in buckets on a rooftop or windowsill.. Ya gotta eat.

Take a look at "upside down tomatoes" .. I'm trying it this year in a 5 gal bucket hung off the deck.. as an addition I planted a potato in the top of the bucket. Who knows at this point what will happen but they both seem to be doing well. I'll dump the bucket in the fall & see what we get..

..FN..

veryrealperson (author)FN642015-07-20

I actually wrote another instructable a while ago on a custom upsidedown pot concept that I built. Very simple.

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