Introduction: Pallet-Wood Garden Fence
I've been wanting to expand my vegetable garden for a couple of years now, but I wasn't about to put in the extra shovel-time just to have my efforts reduced to compost overnight by a band of rabbits. I needed a fence and not just a green-stake chicken-wire fence...I wanted it to look nice, be a sufficient barricade to those little critters, and be cost effective. I started looking around at different ideas that people had done with pallets, but it seemed like they still all looked like pallets. I didn't want that. Here's what I did.
Step 1: Start Gathering Pallets
Go get yourself some pallets--like these... It's important that if you plan on using it around a vegetable garden that you do your due diligence in determining safe pallets. I happened to find some "national" (one-time use) pallets that are not treated with chemicals.
Step 2: Tear Down
Now you need to get the pallets apart. You could use a Sawz-All and just cut the nails, but this leaves nail pieces in both sections of wood which could end up abusing your saw blades when you rip and cut the boards. So I opted to pry each board off and remove all nails from both sides. By the way, this was much harder than I had anticipated and it was difficult to get some apart without splitting boards. Be patient...or go the Sawz-All route. Anyhow, I ended with this.
Step 3: Optional: Rip Boards Down to Common Width
I had thought about not doing this step, but after I laid out a couple of sections to see what it might look like I decided to rip them down. After a couple of test pieces I ended up deciding on using two widths 2" and 3". So I selectively took the boards that were a part of the top and bottom of the pallet. Those that either had bad sections beyond 2" or that weren't even 3" wide were ripped down to 2". The rest were ripped down to 3". You end up with lot of sawdust and kindling.
Step 4: Cut the Boards to Common Lengths
For my example in the previous step I ended up with 2" and 3" slats. I cut the 3" boards down to 23 1/4" and the 2" wide boards I cut down to 21 1/4". No particular reason, I just wanted to maximize the height of my fence as close to 2 feet as I could. I was limited by some of the pallets I had found to having 23 1/4 lengths.
The different lengths again were a design choice I made based on what I thought looked nice and what materials I had available. Experiment with your boards and figure out what you like.
Step 5: Dig a Trench
Of course you should call Diggers Hotline before digging any holes in your yard. But we all know that, right?
Since one of my primary purposes was to fend off bunnies, I needed a trench around the entire perimeter of my garden. This is so that I can bury chicken wire 6-8 inches in the ground to keep them from burrowing under the fence.
Using stakes and string make an outline of your area. Dig a trench along the line about 8-10" wide and about 6" deep. In the corners dig a hole about 18" deep to provide some extra stability to your posts.
Step 6: Space Your Posts and Put Up the Rails
I didn't use treated lumber for the posts since it's so close to the veggies. I also didn't use cement since I anticipate having to do some repair in a few years. For the posts I had to purchase some cheap pine 2x3's since I didn't have enough left over pieces from the pallets.
It so happens that I got a number of identically-sized pallets and the cross-members on the pallets were all 42" long. So I decided to use those at their raw length for the rails. Just work your way around the garden screwing the rails to the posts. As I worked around I dug postholes about 8 inches deep wherever the posts ended up landing (based on the rail length) and just back-filled the hole with dirt after I leveled the post and screwed on the rails.
I kept my lines up (the ones from the trench) during this process to both keep posts in line and to bring my bottom rails to a common distance from the ground. I had a couple 11" blocks of wood that I used to space the top and bottom rails. I just screwed the bottom rail on, leveled the post, then used the 11" blocks to hold up the top rail as I screwed it on.
I didn't worry about spacing my posts perfectly end-to-end. The last section just ended up a little shorter than the rest.
Step 7: Staple Up the Chicken Wire
I bought 36" high chicken wire. Cut it into 4 sections that will slightly overlap the full length of each side of the garden. In my case I had 2 sections 24' long and 2 sections 14' long.
PRO TIP: If you are planning on putting in the optional gate, make sure you skip the section between two posts where you plan on putting the gate.
Working along the top rail only, leave 6" of overlap at the corner and staple it along the inside of the fence. You'll keep the top of the chicken wire at the same (or slightly below) the top of the top rail. Staple it to the posts and rail as you go along the top. After you've gotten across the top, pull down to put some slight tension in the chicken wire and start stapling it to the bottom rail. Push the remainder of the chicken wire down into the trench making sure it's down to the bottom. You can fold the left-over chicken wire pretty easily into the bottom of the trench. Do this on all 4 sides and make sure the over lap is proper to prevent any gaps.
Backfill the trench making sure to push the chicken wire to the bottom as you go along.
Step 8: Optional: Cut a Gate
I chose to make one of the sections between the posts into a gate. I simply unscrewed the top and bottom rail and cut them in half. Then cut 4 pieces of 11" long chunks from another piece of wood and screw them all together so you end up with two squares. Cover the backside of the squares with chicken wire and re-attach the "rails" (which are now your gate doors) to the fence using hinges. Find yourself a nice latch (which you should attach AFTER you have put up the slats at the end of this instructable).
I had to take my belt sander to the "inside" of the gate doors (where they meet when you close it) to add a little space to allow them to open and close without rubbing on each other.
Also, you can see that I put brick under the gate. Under the bricks I also buried some chicken wire to keep critters from burrowing under that section.
Step 9: Put Up the Slats
Tie a string between the corner posts about 5" above the top rail. This will be the height that you'll want to keep your taller wider slats all the way across.
I started at one side of my gate and worked toward the corner. Put up the slats and alternate between the two sizes. For the taller boards always try to make sure the top of it lines up with the string you stretched between the corners. For the shorter boards, I just held them flush with the bottom of the bottom rail. For my design I used a spacer that was 2" wide to evenly space all the slats. I had a pneumatic construction stapler and just popped one staple in the top and one in the bottom.
Every 5 boards or so, check with a level to make sure you aren't getting too far out of level and adjust as needed.
For the gate section, you probably won't be able to use a 2" spacing and have it match up nicely. I just did some trial and error and got a spacing that looked nice and made the gate symmetrical and then attached the slats with a slightly smaller spacing.
Cut off the posts so they are flush with the top of the top rail. We left the two posts that flanked the gate so my wife could decorate with some solar lighting. If you want to leave them just remember to cut them the same height from the top rail.
Hope you enjoyed it. It was a lot of work, but so worth it. We've been able to plant now without worry of the bunnies, and it looks nice to boot. And,oh yeah it's (almost) all reclaimed pallet wood.