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How to Make a Pallet Garden Bed in 6 Easy Steps

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated July 27, 2021
Pallet garden hung on fence
Oksana - stock.adobe.com

Building a pallet garden bed is an easy DIY project that gives you growing space for salad, herbs, flowers, and fruit in just a couple of hours

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Making a pallet garden bed is ridiculously easy and it's a nice, eco-friendly 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.

  • Difficulty: 2/5

  • Time needed to complete the project: 2 hours

  • Supplies: Pallet, nutrient-rich compost, landscape fabric, staples, staple gun, plants, watering can

1. Select a High-Quality Pallet

You might think that a pallet is a pallet, but you'd be wrong. Obviously, the first thing to look for is the general condition. Avoid rickety old pallets with broken, cracked, or thin planks, missing blocks, or splintered wood and lots of missing nails.

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. 

Next, skip painted pallets and those treated with pesticides, fungicides, and other chemicals. Paint and sealants contain chemicals that may harm your plants. Plus, 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.

Most pallets are marked or stamped with letters that tell you how they're treated. The safe ones are:

  • HT (heat treated)

  • DB (debarked)

  • KD (kiln dried)

2. Condition the Pallet

Woman smooths out pallet with sander
BUKET TOPAL / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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 half-way out, bent over, or otherwise in bad condition.

3. Cover the Bottom and Sides

Now you need to give the pallet a back and sides, otherwise 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.

4. 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.

5. 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 eco-friendliness!

6. Add Plants

Stacked pallet garden
Evgenii Dmitriev/ iStock/ Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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. 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 have a notoriously black thumb 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.

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