Flex your DIY muscles.Time to complete
2 hours per pallet garden bed.
DIY with what you have.
Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.
What you'll need:
- Nutrient-rich compost
- Landscape fabric
Making a pallet garden bed is ridiculously easy, and it's a feel-good kind of container gardening, too, as you're upcycling old pallets. Pallet garden beds also reduce how much time and effort you'll have to spend weeding, and there's no digging or tilling involved either.
Plus, you can leave them flat on the ground, stack them to create raised beds, or even stand them upright to create vertical vegetable (or flower) gardens.
Prepping to Make Your Own Pallet Garden Bed
Simply put, not all pallets are created equally—so you may need to do a little leg work first to secure a high-quality pallet for your garden beds. For example, you should avoid rickety old pallets with broken, cracked, or thin planks, missing blocks, or splintered wood and lots of missing nails.
Most pallets are marked or stamped with letters that tell you how they're treated. The safe ones to use in a garden bed DIY build are:
HT (heat treated)
KD (kiln dried)
If you're planning to grow fruit or vegetables in your pallet garden bed, it's not advisable to use a chemically treated pallet. If you do, you could contaminate your soil, the plants, and the food you intend to eat.
Go for one that's solid and sturdy and has some weight to it. Remember to check the back and sides of the pallets. Avoid any that have obvious oil spills or evidence of rot or mold growth. You’ll also want to wash the pallet thoroughly with hot, soapy water before use.
Condition the Pallet
After you've chosen the pallet, you need to condition it. Simply cleaning it with a cloth and a little mild detergent is sufficient in most cases. Leave the pallet to dry in a sunny spot.
You may also need to sand down rough or sharp, splintered edges to avoid injury. It's a good idea to replace any missing nails or any that are halfway out, bent over, or otherwise in bad condition.
Cover the Bottom and Sides
Now you need to give the pallet a back and sides or the compost you add will fall straight out again. Take two layers of thick, strong landscaping fabric and staple it to the back and sides. Remember to staple along all the planks, not just around the outside, for added stability.
Move to Final Location
Now that you've got your frame ready, it's time to move it. Make sure you do this before you fill it or it'll simply be too heavy to move. If you don't want to bend too far, stack several pallets on top of one another, then add the pallet bed on the top. Just secure the stack with cable ties or nail planks of wood diagonally down each side to hold them steady.
Fill With Compost
Once your pallet garden bed is in the right spot, fill it to the brim with high-quality compost that has plenty of nutrients and organic matter for drainage. You can also add in a little well-rotted manure or another type of mulch for a nutrient boost.
If you've made your own compost, that's a big plus for the planet since you’re keeping organic matter out of landfills. It also adds nutrients to the soil and encourages the growth of beneficial microorganisms, worms, and insects.
You're finally ready to add plants to the "rows." Keep in mind that there are some serious health hazards associated with mixing pallets with potential foods. Pallets could have been treated with chemicals in the past or have previously carried food that transferred bacteria.
The College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences says to avoid any pallets that have been treated with methyl bromide. As a precaution, check for the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) logo on the pallet. On the logo will either be heat treated (HT) or kiln dried, or methyl bromide (MB).
If in any doubt about the safety of your pallets, err on the side of caution. For a colorful and safe garden, grow flowers instead of herbs.
Small annuals like pansies, violets, and marigolds work well for floral beds. If you want an edible garden, salad vegetables, strawberries, and herbs are all top contenders to thrive in a pallet garden bed. Once planted, give the pallet a deep watering to help the plants establish themselves.
Looking After Your Pallet Garden Bed
Pallet gardens are a great way to grow food or flowers in a small space. Whether you're growing fruit and veg or a riot of colorful flowers, to get the most from your pallet garden bed, keep it well fed and regularly watered.
Try to get on a regular watering schedule so you don't inadvertently kill off your plants with a drought and drown cycle. If you are notoriously bad with plants or don't have the best of luck with container gardening, you can always hire a local gardener to take care of your pallet beds and the rest of your yard for you.
How much soil is needed for pallet gardens?
You'll need roughly two bags of topsoil (1 cubic foot sized) for each pallet garden you build. This, of course, assumes they are standard pallet sizes of 48-by-40 inches. Larger pallets may need an extra bag.
What are the best vegetables to plant in a pallet garden?
Veggies that grow vertically are a perfect fit for pallet gardens, as you can easily insert a stake or trellis into the foundation to help promote growth. Cucumbers, beans, peas, swiss chard, tomatoes, and eggplant are all good options.
How long do pallet gardens last?
If you take good care of your pallet and clean it thoroughly before turning it into a garden bed, you can expect to get two or three good years out of it. It's better to replace pallet garden beds over time instead of letting staples or nails get rusty or letting the wood start to deteriorate—as much for aesthetic purposes as for health reasons and for the overall vitality of your plants.