Introduction: Raised Bed Pallet Planter *Updated August 21st, 2015*

*Recently Updated, see Step 9 for our "In Progress" Instructable.

It's spring time in the Rockies and we are ready to grow. Ms. Zoid asked for a solution for a raised bed that we had to leave at the last house we lived in, so we put our heads together. I see a lot of discarded pallets in the alley near my new job and decided that it was time to reuse them. We sat down and drew up an idea for our raised bed and I scored the pallets the next morning. The idea was to have a raised bed that was easy to work around and that it would cost little to nothing to create. I didn't spend any money on our finished product as I had screws left over from our barn build.

Living in the Rockies provides some challenges weather wise. I built this bed to have a few options by having raised corners. The reasons for the elevated corners is as follows:

  • I can easily clamp a tarp to protect from snow, hail and bears.
  • The corners will also help to support our plants once they grow tall.
  • It will double as a workspace by adding a surface to the top.
  • I can fully enclose the planter to create a hothouse in early spring or to grow a winter crop.
  • It looks cool.

We decided that we needed some way to protect our plants, that is why I built up the corner pieces - to be able to cover the plants as needed. The raised sides will also come in handy for winter plants and to protect our starter plants next spring. Plants, plants & plants.

Tools Needed:

  • Chop Saw
  • Hammer
  • Pry Bar
  • Drill (I used 2 drills)
  • Tape Measure
  • Staple Gun
  • Drill Bits

Items Needed:

  • Table
  • 4 Wood Pallets
  • 2 1/2" Screws (I had lots leftover from ourBARN build)
  • 3" Wood Nails
  • Plastic Sheeting (optional)

Time Needed:

  • About 4 Hours

Skill Level:

  • Medium (power tool and conceptual skills)

Step 1: Gathering Your Supplies

Finding pallets is really easy, I just drive through the alleys of a local industrial area and grab the pallets next to dumpsters. If the are closer to the buildings, just ask the business associated and most of the time they are more than happy to have you take them. Screws and nails and easy to come by and relatively inexpensive. There are also a number of ways to build this planter with tools you probably already have in your collection.

Screws and Nails - I had the screws left over from our barn raising and the nails were left in our last yard from the messy builders next door.

Tools - I used a minimum of tools really. The hammer and pry bar were the most used items. I happen to have a chop saw and cutting the boards took very little time.

Step 2: Dismantling Your Pallets

Dismantling the pallets was actually the hardest part of this project. The most time-consuming, as well.

I used a hammer and a pry bar to do all of the dirty work.

  1. Locate any nails that are poking out a bit and use the hammer to pull them out.
  2. Hammer the boards from behind to force the board and nail out.
  3. Wedge the pry bar between pieces of wood and leverage them apart.
  4. Remove all nails from every viable board.

I then stack all like size pieces together to determine exactly what I am able to use. I ended up dismantling 3 1/2 pallets to get all the wood I needed for our raised bed.

I estimated the wood I needed from the pallets I dismantled.

  • 4 - 48" 2X4's
  • 4 - 32" 2X4's
  • 8 - 40" pallet slats
  • 38 - 16" pallet slats

Step 3: Cutting Your Pallet Boards

Since I already determined the most efficient sizes I could work with, I prepared to cut. I first pulled the 8 nicest slats that are going to be the corner pieces. Try to get the best pieces you can.

  1. Saw 4 of the frame 2X4's at 48". It is quite possible that they were already this size in pallet form.
  2. Now cut 4 2X4's to 32" in length.
  3. Cut 8 pallet slats at 40 inches for the ends of the raised bed.
  4. Cut 1 slat at 16 inches to use as your template for the next 37 cuts.
  5. Place the template board over the next slat, slide it to the saw blade, remove the temp board and cut. Repeat X 37.

Step 4: Building the Pallet Frame

I started out by stacking all of the wood I collected from the pallets to determine the size and shape I could build.

Based on the usable 2X4's, I figured that my frame could be 48 X 32 inches. Your sizes may differ depending on the wood you are able to reuse from your pallets.

I am building the base and top frame of the planter box..

  1. Cut your 2X4's boards to the desired length. In this case, 4 @ 48 inches and 4 @ 32 inches.
  2. Drill the ends of each 32" inch board so the can be nailed to the 48" pieces.
  3. Hammer (or screw) the boards together to create 2 identical frames.

Step 5: Creating Your Planter Pallet Box

Now that the 2 frames are completed, let's create our pallet box.

  1. Collect the 8 - 40" pallet slats and lay them out so you can mix or match the different boards to your desired look (photo 1).
  2. Screw 2 40" boards to the bottom frame so the are flush to the ground and that they overlap joints with the frame pieces (photo 3).
  3. Continue until all 8 slats are attached with 2 screws apiece (photo 4).
  4. Place the second (top) frame inside to box so that it sits directly on top of the other frame.
  5. Now to figure how tall the top will be. I figured that I could get the most out of my slats by cutting 16" inch pieces, so let's make the top of the frame 15 inches.
  6. Mark your 40" end pieces at 15 inches from the ground, this will set where the top of the top frame will sit.
  7. Screw 1 screw into the top frame and prop up the other end with a section of 2X4 (photo 6) to hold it in place.
  8. Once the top frame is in place, screw the remaining 7 screws into place - securing both frames.

Step 6: Attaching Side Slats to the Pallet Planter

I laid the side slats around the planter box to get a rough idea of how many pieces I needed and to see how the looked and fit. Because I used 4 different types of pallets, I wanted to randomly set the slats so that they pleased me visually. I could not get an exact fit so I left random spaces between the boards.

  1. Lay out your slat pieces to get an idea of size, pattern and fit.
  2. Screw each piece to the top and bottom frames - 1 screw for each. That equals 76 screws.

Because the top frame piece was set to a height of 15", the 16" side slats come an inch over to obscure the 2X4 frame a bit.

Step 7: Plastic Liner Inside of the Raised Pallet Bed

Plastic liner helps to keep the soil inside of the raised bed and to keep some moisture off of the wood so that they might last a few years. I just happened to have a roll of large, thick trashbags that worked perfectly.

  1. Cut your plastic to size to line the entire inside of your planter box.
  2. Using a staple gun (or tacks), attach your liner to the sides of the 2X4's. Do not cover the bottom, we want the water to drain.
  3. Overlap each new piece of plastic.

Step 8: Planting Your Pallet Planter

  1. First, decide where in your yard you want your new planter. Does it get enough light for the plants you are planting? Is it in the way of anything? Is the dog gonna pee on it?
  2. Next, have your lovely assistant prepare the ground by tilling it.
  3. Now place your raised bed
  4. Fill your pallet planter with rich soil. We used 3 bags of organic plant soil, 3 pots of soil I found in the alley behind a marijuana grow operation (we live in Denver, BTW) and some top soil I removed from our barn build.
  5. We also fertilized with egg shells and coffee grounds the we had saved for a few months (photo 3).
  6. Plant your grown-from-seed-with-lots-of-love tomatoes.

Step 9: In Progress Raised Bed Pallet Garden

I thought I would go ahead and create a page of our tomatoes growing this season. I will post a new photo every week or so to demonstrate how well my planter bed worked. I did this with a previous Instructable to great success and had a great time documenting it. You can view my "in progress" Recycling Butter Lettuce 'ible HERE.

  • Photo 1 - May 23rd - The first day
  • Photo 2 - May 25th - Unexpected hail storm. We failed to cover them.
  • Photo 3 - June 3rd - Another hailstorm.
  • Photo 4 - June 10th - Watered well before our 5 day vacation.
  • Photo 5 - June 17th - We've had great rain and our tomatoes thrived in our absence.
  • Photo 6 - June 21st - We added a store bought tomato to speed up our score.
  • Photo 7 - July 4th - Got great rainfall last night. They are getting big and a few flowers are popping out.
  • Photo 8 - July 12th - Not much rain in the last 4 days but we have a bunch of flowers and small fruit showing.
  • Photo 9 - July 19th - The plants are surprisingly healthy despite their close quarters. No bugs or tomato worms. We used organic soil and no pesticides or fertilizer.
  • Photo 10 & 11 - July 26th - Lots of new growth and the babies are getting big.
  • Photo 12 - August 7th. We wrapped the uprights with hemp rope to give the plants support. The tomatoes are getting heavy.
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