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
Drill - various bits
Chop Saw/ Power Miter Saw
Optional: Wheel Barrel & Rototiller
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
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.
Watch out for splinters!
Step 3: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!!!!