These pallet gardens are leaning up against the fence in my little urban backyard. I use the inside space in between the 2x4's and staple gardening fabric to the wood to create an almost hidden, rustic-looking planter to my outside space.
I use the hashtag #suburbangardening on Instagram to make the garden sound cooler than it is, but the reality is that I live in an urban area with a "normal" sized backyard for the area.
I learned so many things on how to make these gardens, and one of the things I most proud of is that my children are able to eat food that their mom grew herself and look at the flowers with their help, as they like to water the plants with me and occasionally take interest in what's growing.
In the first step of this instructable, I go over my average-urban backyard, and the plants we choose to grow. I am by no-means a farmer, but I do consider gardening one of my hobbies, and many others on Instructables, I'm a real person just sharing my knowledge with the world.
I hope this Instructable helps somebody else feel like they can grow food in their back yard.
Step 1: My Backyard & Experience
I'm your typical urban gardener.
We live in a sprawling City of just over 500,000 people in California, and have a backyard that's about a 60-ft x 20-ft area.
We have children and dogs, so most of the yard has sod, a small swing set, and a 10-ft x 10-ft gazebo with a table to eat at when we can.
My planters include a pre-existing area where I've planted tomatoes in years past, shown in two photos. We have a dwarf peach tree, and we put in a raised garden bed where we grow strawberries, carrots, and pumpkins. We're trying watermelons this year in a raised planter, and have a blackberry bush that we eat the blackberries off as soon as they can be harvested.
Last year I tried my hand at container gardening cherry tomatoes. It was successful, but we didn't need as many tomatoes as we got, and we're only planning on container gardening three cherry tomato plants this year.
I've never used a pallet to garden before, but that didn't stop me from trying it this year. We've planned the garden since last year, and my mom-in-law was generous enough to keep old pallets in her backyard until I was able to use them.
As a family, we decided to grow zucchini. I've been successful at growing them before and know they can be grown in containers. However, I learned after we planted them that they probably need more soil space than I gave them, and I will ensure to update this instructable with the final products.
Step 2: Materials & Tools
For this project, I used:
- two (2) different sized pallets (more on that below)
- landscaping fabric
- staple gun with staples
- sanding sponge or other sanding tool (if needed)
- gardening soil
- seeds of your choice; we used zucchini and mixed flower seeds (note on zucchini below)
- possibly a hammer, crowbar and nails, if the pallet needs to be fixed or modified
Notes on the pallets -
I got all my pallets for free from work. They were the "throw aways" meaning that the company I work for couldn't get money for them as they were beaten up and couldn't be sold back to the supplier.
The first pallet (smaller one) shown in this Instructable is 40.5-inches tall by 35.5-inches wide with three openings in each row. The openings are each 12" long by 5.5" deep by about 4" wide. There are a total of nine openings.
The second pallet shown (taller one) in this Instructable is 46-inches tall by 40-inches wide with two openings in each row. The openings are each 20" long by 6.5" deep by about 4" wide. There are a total of six openings.
I specifically planted flower seeds in the bottom row, as we have dogs and they do not care what they relieve themselves on. I didn't want any food to be overly urinated on by our pets, so I purposely did not choose to plant food in the bottom rows.
Notes on the zucchini -
I talk more about the fact that zucchini may not have been the best choice to be planted in the smaller pallet in Step 5. As of the original date of this Instructable, the plants seem to be growing, but I will have to update whether or not the zucchini actually grow from the small area of soil.
Step 3: My First Pallet Garden
The task was much simpler than I may make it look in the photos. It took me a while to get a hang of the process, but after the first two, I was able to make a pocket of landscaping fabric for each space in less than ten-minutes.
HOWEVER, there were nine-spaces, thus - this one pallet took me about one-and-one half hour.
The idea behind the upright garden is that each pre-existing divided space is a container for whatever you're planting. For the pallet shown here, that is equal to nine-separate containers. Each space has it's own stapled-to-the-wood landscaping fabric.
I started with the first (smaller) pallet mainly because I didn't have to remove any pieces of wood on it. The pallet didn't need any additional hammering or removing of pieces of wood from one side or the other. Please see the photos for the best description.
Here's the general process to create the pocket for the soil:
I cut each piece of landscaping fabric about two (2) to three (3) inches beyond either side of the individual space.
I used the entire length, and folded it over itself to "double-up" the amount of landscaping fabric for one space.
I stapled the folded piece of fabric to one side initially. At first, I started with the back side, but quickly realized that working from the front-to-back was much cleaner looking.
For each end of the pocket, I folded the material over, as if wrapping an imaginary present inside the area between the two pieces of wood. I stapled that side material to the side and folded the opposite side of the fabric to make a doubled over side. In essence, there are four-layers of landscaping fabric on each side of the pocket.
After both side were stapled and complete, I finished with stapling the fabric to the backside of the pallet. I got really good at this in the end, as you can see of the photos shows the pallet completely upside down and the remaining landscaping fabric is stapled to the back of the pallet.
Step 4: My Second Pallet Garden
Lessons learned from the first pallet garden were applied to this one.
The first thing I did was sand the pallet pieces. I didn't do this until the end on the last one....
This pallet also needed to be built-up to hold the landscaping fabric. One of the boards was almost off the pallet completely from wood rot. One of the aspects of making this garden was using the "vintage" or "rustic" look of the old pallets I gathered from work.
My husband helped me harvest other boards from a third pallet I had gotten. He used a simple crowbar/hammer method of removing the boards and hammered them back in with new nails.
We added two boards onto the second pallet, and in one of the photos, you can see that the board is misaligned. We didn't remove it and re-nail it, as I wanted to keep the quirkiness of the original pallet.
I stapled the landscaping fabric pocket into the pallet like a pro now. See Step 3 to review the method I used to staple the landscaping fabric.
This pallet has six-separate openings.
Step 5: Planting
The original intent for creating these upright gardens were to plant zucchini.
You might notice that I did not name this instructable as a "zucchini" pallet planter, and that is because I think many things that can be grown with little soil can be included here. I think I'll try carrots next!
My oldest got cub scout credit for helping me plant and document the growth of the plants.
We had our own mulch/soil mix that we've been using for our garden and out of the three seeds my son planted in the top row, two of them grew.
Although the frost had been done for a while where we live, I planted twelve seeds in small containers and sprouted them inside the house before planting them outside.
I used paper lunch-size bags to plant the seeds into, as I knew I could plant the seedlings directly into the landscaping fabric.
I lined the bottom of the bag with newspaper, which just helps the transfer process when the time came to put them in the pallet garden.
My children helped me fill the bags with soil, place the seeds and cover them with soil.
I read online (after the fact) that zucchini needs at least 1-cubic foot of soil area to grow. The area in the smaller pallet is certainly less than that, and I have every intent of updating this Instructable to let you know how it went.
Step 6: Growing Food and Flowers....
The Instructable was first published on April 30, 2016. I've dated the photos so you can see the progress of the zucchini and flowers.
So far, so good.
The zucchini is supposed to have a 52-day harvest time, so that will put the veggie ready to pick around the middle of May sometime.
Even as I originally wrote this, I can see the buds of the future flowers starting on the zucchini and the flowers in the bottom rows.
Growing our own food brings me so much joy! I haven't been able to grow flowers very successfully and there are herbs that don't seem to care for me, but the fruits and veggies in our little garden can be used as gifts for friends, and the best part is that I know exactly what goes into them to grow them.
Happy growing & harvesting my friends! Thanks for reading.