Pallet Gardening 101: Creating a Pallet Garden

wood pallets

This year I will be planting a large salad garden and I thought it would be fun to grow my lettuce and other greens in wood pallets to change things up a bit in the backyard.

All you really need to do a little pallet gardening is a wood pallet, some good soil, and a few seeds. Using a wood pallet to start a garden can be a great space saver, plus as a bonus, there is no soil to til or weed. This is exactly the kind of project young children would love, especially if they could have their own wood pallet to work with.

heat treated wood pallet

What to look for in a wood pallet:

If you live in the Tacoma area you can purchase new pallets from Girard Wood Products in Puyallup, Washington for about $9 each. We purchased our pallets here for this years wood pallet garden. The photo you see above is a picture of some recycled wood pallets we found behind buildings last year.

Personally, I suggest using a new, clean, fresh pallet.

But  if you like to live life on the edge, 

Here are a few pointers when looking for recycled pallets:

Look for a pallet that has HT stamped somewhere on the pallet. This means the pallet was heat treated, or kiln dried as opposed to chemically treated.

Because you can never be sure chemicals were stored on an old pallet, or that there is some sort of bacteria lurking inside the recycled pallets, I would scrub the wood down with some bleach and soapy water and let it dry out before using it to plant anything.

Also, watch out for old, rusty nails or staples.

how to make a pallet garden

When I first pictured my wood pallet garden, I thought I would only use 3 wood pallets. But every time I walked by something about it didn’t look right. So I decided to expand the pallet garden to include 6 wood pallets.

pallet garden

One of the cool things about gardening, is there are so many different ways to grow food. So many containers to chose from, and more growing methods than I care to imagine. Everybody has an opinion, and their own way of doing things and I think that’s the best part.

pallet garden DIY

No two gardens will ever been the same, or have the same growing conditions, but the desire to try new things is something we all have in common. Wouldn’t you agree?

DIY Wood Pallet Garden

So here we go. This is my new pallet gardening area.  I planted more lettuce seeds this morning, and I’m ready to get started. Next on the agenda is getting the area mulched so it looks a little more put together and like it belongs in a suburban backyard.

pallet garden lettuce

If you an apartment or condo dweller and want to “grow up” a vertical pallet garden might be the way to go instead. Anyway you look at it, garden is about the coolest hobby on the planet.

Will you be using any ultra-creative methods in your garden this year?

If so, please let us know in the comment section below.

~Mavis

Looking for a little more inspiration?  Small Space Container Gardening by Fern Richardson is a great place to start.  Amazon currently has Small-Space Container Gardens in stock and ready to ship.

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Comments

  1. Krista says

    hmm my neighbor has a pallet sitting in his backyard not using it at all i think i may go ask if i can have it this would be awesome for my smaller yard

        • Rose says

          Is the depth of the soil deep enough to grow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers. I have 3 big pallets about 3x8ft.. Each one has 8 squares. They are about 1ft square each. Nice for planting. Should I be digging the dirt under them to loosen the dirt, maybe add some compost, then put my pellets down and fill with dirt? I’ve also seen them with a square box frame under them with the pellets on top which gives you more depth. Which way do I go?

          • BillSF9c says

            1 sq ft is v small for a tomato, but Sq Ft Gardeners do that. I believe they do a bit as hydroponicists do, and prune to 1-2-3 or 4 leaders, and train vertically. It’s more labor intensive, but does produce more per sq ft of garden. And a board below will remove too much access to the soil, for tomatoes and most squash or melons; so yes, remove some lumber below. You might consider leaving the 2 end-most boards for stability of the pallet.
            BillSF9c

      • Judith lees says

        I had my husband staple the landscape fabric on the bottom and sides to prevent the dirt from falling out. I have two pallets this year and put my herbs, onions and a few peppers to see how they do. So far the herbs are doing great. Peppers are a little slow with all the rain we have had.

  2. Amber Knight says

    Mavis,
    I enjoy following your gardening journey. Just came in after taking pictures of my potatoes growing in sacks and strawberry pallet. And here you are with 6 pallets pictures. I put plastic on the front of my pallet so I could plant it upright. Planted 40 bare root plants 2 weeks ago and they are starting to grow. Also have a winter garden of 20 straw bales that I planted in September. Want pictures ?

    Amber

    • Sue in NC says

      Send pictures! I want to see! We just got a free futon bunk bed thing off of Craigslist. We are going to use the wood for framing rabbit cages. After looking over the metal frame part we decided we are going to bury it in the ground a few feet and use it as a trellis to grow cucumbers.

      • lisa says

        Rabbits should be kept indoors. Not outside in a cage. Don’t get one if you don’t plan to care for it the way a rabbit should be cared for.

        • P says

          WHAT???????
          Hmmm, rabbits eat grass, other weeds and berries. they love to run and I see them in the headlights at night on the side of the road and in my driveway. And I believe they are a natual creature.
          You can keep your cat inside all of the time but not rabbits. I had 2 rabbits and after they grew a little, I put them in a pen with a rabbit hutch and that still wasn’t good enough they chewed their way out of the fence. I’d see the just about daily running through the yard to get the food that I put out for them and then they stopped coming altogether, guessing that they went off and made a family life of their own. I never bought another one since. I keep chickens (fenced) 4 dogs inside and outside and 1 cat inside only.

        • Simona says

          That depends if they are food or not. You don’t dais chicken inside your house, do you? Rabbits were food long before someone thought to make pets out of them. And they are delicious, high in protein and very low in fat!

        • wayne says

          sorry lisa
          your wrong ….by a mile rabbits are food first pets second …taste great
          and as a child i had rabbit skin mittens …
          wayne

        • BillSF9c says

          My rabbits (owned just 1 at a time) came inside but also had a warm house ourdoors on the porch. It’s not cold nor warm In San Francisco. OTHERS’ Mileage, May Vary. ;>) We didn’t eat these, as they were pets, and interacted with out cats. Otherwise I’ve eaten my share of wild rabbit & etc. Rabbit fert is good for a garden and very mild in N-strength and odor & carries v lil disease. A “cage” of pallets (with wire) might add to the pallet-theme of a garden, offering SOME wind & sun shelter, for not overbearing weather, if they have a good house also. Plant 1 upright side with strawberries???

          Spring, commeth; traditionally anyway. Weather has been a bit… inconsistant? Fruit trees sure hate that. I got BEES in 2013. There’s JUST barely time to locate some, if you are interested! We’ve had some bad drought in Calif for a couple-3 years, So I’m not taking honey. I mostly just want the foragers to pollinate. They are v mellow. I own no bee suit and had no experience, but especially bought a v calm bee. I used to sit 1 ft away on a bucket and watch them for an hour.
          Best !
          BillSF9c

    • Cynthia says

      Amber, strawberries growing in a pallet – what a great idea! I was just thinking last night about wanting to move my strawberries to a new idea, and thinking the original regular bed I was doing to move them to won’t be great. I like the idea of growing them in guttering, but watering is a problem here. A pallet sounds great, as the fruit could be on or over the wood and not getting dirty. Has it worked well for you?

    • lucille small says

      Interested in how you made your strawberry pallet. Maybe you could send me a little more information and a picture! I love this idea and wanted to try this last year but wasn’t sure how. Thanks

  3. Chelsea says

    Do you know if giards delivers wood pallets? If not do you know of any other wood places maybe in Tacoma?

  4. Lori says

    Thanks for the pallet tutorial and the one on blueberries. I just scored the container gardening book – new – on Amazon from a third party vendor, more than $6 off the Amazon new price. There are a few more. Love a bargain!

  5. Mari says

    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but they are not worth the time and energy.

    I am an experienced gardener (40+ yrs) and decided to plant two pallets last spring as a trial. One with strawberries and one with dwarf beans. I was very disappointed with the system. I did get a few strawberries, but the rest curled up and died and the beans grew well initially, but turned yellow and died at the flowering stage. I have decided they are not worth using and have changed to raised gardens the same size and and getting so much more produce in the same area..

    When I dismantled the beans bed, I found everything was root bound. The root size exceeded the tops size. It was beautifully moist, but I lost a whole bean crop. My strawberries never grew like they should have… producing hard fruit. Again they are rootbound. The 4 or 5′” of soil the pallet allows is not deep enough for most crops.

    I thought the idea was wonderful, but it has been a disappointment. You have to really pack the soil in and under the slats to fill them. Just raking the soil over is not sufficient as it settles down with watering. I suspect the wood slats increase the soil temperature and put the warmth into root production.

    I think it might work for fast turn around things like lettuce and radishes, but not for long term things like beans, peppers, tomatoes or cabbages. It is also no good for root veges.

    • Cynthia says

      Mari, I’m wondering what did you have underneath your pallets? Were they straight on top of the ground (dirt)? Or did they have landscape cloth or a solid surface underneath? I’m wondering if putting them right on dirt would allow the roots to keep growing as much as needed.

    • BillSF9c says

      Well Mari, I was thinking that (you need to pack the soil, some, esp under the top slats,) as I looked at the pics. I’ll go further – I might pull a slat or two 0ff the bottom, opening the roots to go downward, even more, and add them to the ends, which are open… and could lead to soil drying & soil loss. Some copper around the side and you roughly have a snail resistant raised 4×4 bed. (See also, Sq Ft. I’m not a total advocate of them, but take ideas from here and there.)

      Sq Ft advocates 4×4 is a size for 1 salad for 1 person, daily. Slats keep strawberries off the soil but do limit soil access, IF you wanted to follow Sq Ft’s v dense planting of lettuce. Cute idea, as it gives lil kids a place to walk when the cannot merely reach. Perfect? No… but ok. Clean- if the pallets are. Caution in sourcing them as they are considered valuable. many stores return them or have to pay for then if “missing.”

  6. Looby says

    I’ve not done it yet but found an article about growing strawberries in a pallet – plastic (from an old compost sack or similar) was tacked onto the back and one side of the pallet, the pallet was then stood up (plastic covered side down) and held upright with posts and cascading strawberries grown out of the slats – using it on the side means it takes up next to no space!

  7. M.A. White says

    Please explain 2 things to a new Gulf coast gardener.
    Is that cardboard or paper under your pallets?
    Also I read the comment about turning the pallets
    upright for strawberries. Is there soil in them? If so,
    how did they keep it in?
    I am a relative new comer to gardening, so I need all
    the help I can get!!!! Thanks, M.A.

    • BillSF9c says

      More “space???” More depth than lettuce needs. Or strawberries, & harder to infill and infill is already an issue with which to deal. You *can* make a patchwork football with a sow’s ear, but I’d skip the purse… Esp if DEEP pockets are not the “requirement.” Because you can do a thing, does not make it wise. The shoe doesn’t fit, in my eyes. But 2 pallets side by side, or 2 feet apart…

  8. Trina says

    You’re near Tacoma? Sweet! Lacey gal here :) Do you know what type of wood that company uses for the pallets? We built two more raised garden beds (6′ x3′ ) this year for a total of four beds. Hubby uses cedar proclaiming it lasts a really long time. I love the look of the pallets.
    It’s tough living in-city. I had to run outside yesterday to make sure that the chemicals my neighbor was spraying didn’t accidentally land on my herb garden. We have an open wire fence between us, so it probably did. Then there’s run off when it rains. Oh well. I have the same problem with the neighbor behind us. I have four blueberry bushes on that fence and he is always out there spraying- not a single weed in his yard. *sigh* I can’t wait to until we buy some real land…

  9. Elyse says

    I just made my first pallet garden yesterday. We’ve been getting a lot of rain where I live, and the ground is too wet to till, yet. A coworker suggested I try using a pallet, and I”m in love with the idea! I planted cauliflower, cabbages, eggplant, and the smaller peppers in the pallets. Looking for tips to make sure I do things correctly, I found your webpage and am really excited to learn from it :) If things go well, I may invest in more pallets for next year!

  10. Jen says

    I first saw these at the 4-H State Day here in Vermont and thought it was a great idea! My husband got a pallet for me, but it does not have the heat treated stamp. He says he will prime it which will seal it. Would this be equivalent to having the HE stamp? thanks!

  11. Wendy says

    You ask about creative methods in gardening this year….I found, on pinterest, an idea to use a canoe. Well, my husband put an add in a local swap and sell magazine and we got a call from a man just wanting to get his leaky canoe off his property. Well we went and got it, free, and put it in front of our deck. (Drilled 6 wholes about 2 inches up the sides for drainage) We went to a friends and got manure to fill it 3/4 of the way, again free. Then I got some soil from the store for cover and to keep the smell of the manure away. 8 – $6 bags. Now with an old canoe that has moss on the side, in front of the house, it has added a lot of character and the plants I chose (3 tomato 3 lettuce 3 cuke 3 pumpkin two rows of peas approx 3 feet long and an area approx 6 sq ft for carrots) are thriving. My children have always enjoyed our little raised bed and eating veggies straight from the garden but this one is so much cooler! No weeds growing up from under, tall enough so my back doesn’t hurt when I work on it, narrow enough that the children can work on it from both sides, adds character to my front yard and best of all Cheap!!

  12. Kathy Hobelman says

    I planted my onions and garlic in a pallet this year. We removed the top slats and I put heavy paper underneath. So far they are doing wonderfully. I thought about doing strawberries the same way but now maybe I won’t.

  13. BillSF9c says

    An extra pallet can be disassembled for wood to close the ends of a few pallets. Placing them one next to thew other also works, except for the 1st & last. I live creative ideas – But the difficulty in packing the soil in, (normally undesireable, but somewhat needed w/these,) & the other issues makes it an idea that can be non-intuitive for beginner gardeners. For pallet gardeneing, I’d say it falls into the catagory of; “Just because you can do a thing, does not mean that you ought.” Or in this case, ought not try, if you have other venues. $9 for a pallet will buy enough 2×6 for a similar sized raised bed.

    Edison tried over 400 filaments before he settled on a decent one. (Filaments – light bulbs – remember? BTW, these vanish by law, VERY shortly. Show one to your kids.) Edison said, “Genius is 99% inspiration & 1% perspiration.” Pallets were a good idea. A GREAT idea. Not a perfect idea for everyone, or every crop. They DO give a lightweight kid something to step onto to reach the center. In “Sq Ft,” kids’ raised beds are made not 4×4 but 3×3 or less. 2×3 works nicely. Grow On!
    BillSF9c

  14. Michelle says

    That’s a great idea!! I live in south Georgia, so lettuce is out for me I think. I could try growing other vegetables this way…have any ideas anybody??

  15. Robi says

    Mavis! You are an inspiration! And this post solved my problem. I live Off Grid in Slab-City (desert) so the pallet garden will greatly reduce the amount of dirt I would have to buy to start a garden! Thanks so much! Come check out my blog in a couple months to see how I faired!

    • BillSF9c says

      Cute idea for fun, but to grow a bit more for the space I find that the wood atop is constraining. But then, I am thinking leaf lettuce or mesculin mixes. head lettuce needs more space so they might serve well to separate the heads. I find that a shower pan is nearly idea if on a slab. A wooden border can add depth, but they are ~4″… JUST adequate. At 4×4 feet (if large) they are gre4at for area and “4×4″ (sq ft) planting. (Some are smaller. Check Craigs List & FreeCycle.) If lined inside with landscape or shade fabric and fitted with a simple homemade drip system, vertical planting becomes possible.

  16. Paul O'Hanlon says

    This is cool….

    I was doing some research on getting rid of mold in my basement, and bleach will only treat the surface of wood, the chlorine molecules won’t enter the wood….. so mold or anything growing inside the wood, would not be killed by bleach.

    • BillSF9c says

      Somewhat true about bleach. It also degrades the wood. Beekeepers often use a torch. Very loose newsopapaer stuffed inside it can be set abalze. Hose it after all the papser is burned. (Don’t if sparks or wind occur!) You don’t need much temp to kill mold. 140F will penetrate 1mm deep in a minute. That’s enough for this purpose. As soon as wood touches unsterilized soil, it reinnoculates it. Bleach as a surface fungicidal then becomes ok, again. Spray on, wait 5-10 minutes, rinse. Allow wood to dry.

      Rotted wood in a garden is akin to a method of burying wood, (usually logs,) called hugelkultur. “Log culture?” Anyway, rotted wood is good for a garden. pallets will last long enough for some fun. Try to remove the nails when the pallet starts to go. Good for soil but bad for fingers. (Had a tetnus shot in the last 10 years? It’s not the nail or the glass. It’s a puncture or cut. The germ is common in soil.)

  17. Dana Saxton says

    Few years ago I planted potatoes in recycled tires. I put landscape fabric on the bottom, filled the tires with dirt, and put the potatoes in. Got a great crop, and no weeds. I put them in a honeycomb pattern, and got lots of potatoes in a small area.

    • BillSF9c says

      Part of a garden, might be bees. This isn’t my website, but it shows an old way to raise bees. pallets are used for the lu,ber, sometimes. An Abby Warré tested ~500 hives & designed this as “The People’s hive,” rather as a “Folks-Wagon,” was created for the masses for their shoestring budget. Scrap 2×4 can be used, similat to pallet cross-support lumber. (Many prefer thicker lumber for cold areas.) So if you tore pallets apart to cover ends of your pallet garden, this may be a use for your scraps.

    • Lea says

      My grandfather grew sustenance crops in tires for as long as I can remember. We were in the Appalachian Mountains (coal miners, SW Virginia) and a lot of the land was very steep, he would take re-bar or similar scrap metal , drive it deep to hold the tires against the slopes, and stack them 2 or three high. He got so many different things from those tires, cucumbers and potatoes and even pumpkins and sometimes he would use them to start trees, so they could root firmly and not slide down the hill. Tires with mulch can save a plant in a hard frost, too.

  18. Lea says

    I plan to stack some pallets two high, and remove the inner pieces of wood and every other rung on the top. I have not done this before but I think it might work. I will try to send pics as I go.

    Also, I am going to get to use two raised beds, complete with fencing from a Boyscout project last year – I wonder how many of those are just going to waste, if you knew where to ask???

  19. Elaine Brown says

    I have read with great interest all the comments about pallet gardening. I have seen several mentions of using landscape fabric under the pallets. A few years ago, my daughter had such a severe reaction to some landscape fabric that she was sick for weeks. Are there different kinds? If that fabric made her sick just from being close to it, what would it do to plants we plan to eat? Any help?

  20. Stacey says

    Pallets make great beds for growing melons and cukes and squashes, things that you don’t want sitting on the ground. Plant the plants in the openings and as they grow lay them over the wood. The melons/cukes/squashes grow well and don’t get that ‘ground rot’ (I don’t know what it is, but I would always lose a % to it) and I found far fewer bugs (don’t know why, didn’t really care lol)

  21. Rose says

    Can you use any type of vegetable in these. I do not eat most of what people use in them. I like corn,cucumbers,crook neck squash,beans. If i make a trellis and attach it to the pallet will that work for the vine veggies? And if you staked one top of each other making it a bit taller,would that hinder the growth of the veggies if the garden fabric is put on the pallet that holds the veggies?

  22. Jodie Sissons says

    I know this is a dumb question but how does the soil stay in the pallet – especially if you are doing a vertical one?

    • says

      I was wondering the same about keeping the soil in unless you remove some slats and hammer them around the outsides of the pallet? I bought 4 pallets for a dollar each yesterday and do plan to use them for lettuces and herbs but would never try corn or anything larger, or tomatoes either. I do think this is a great idea and here in the south, these pallets should keep the local armadillos from rooting my plants out, grrrrr!

  23. says

    Hooray! I did find my own way of doing these pallets and have already started planting my first one! I was amazed at how much space one has in these to grow and also to fill. I lay 4′ x 8′ landscape timbers around the exteriors and two pallets fit nicely into them! Thanks so much for giving us all such a wonderful idea for gardening and being disabled, this is a very easy way for me to garden.

    Mo Hoyal

  24. Cheryl Good says

    I am a VPK (Voluntary Pre Kindergarten) teacher (4 & 5 year olds). We have begun creating a class garden using containers and hanging plants. I would like to expand it with wooden pallets. We have three ready to use. Looking at the pics above I do not see that you use any type of lining in the pallet to help retain the soil. I am wondering how to keep the soil from flowing out during rain/watering if there are no sides or any bottom. I had considered lining the pallets with weed barrier to retain the soil and allow proper drainage but is this an unnecessary step? We will plant lettuces, radishes, baby carrots, possibly some beans on an upright frame in one pallet. We are in Florida on the Gulf coast, lot’s of sun, very warm now leading into hot months toward the end of school in June. We will begin again in September. Thanks for any and all ideas!!

    • BillSF9c says

      Being on the ground, there’s no great need for the bottom. Make the ground sorta level… (*I* would loosen the top 4″ of that soil, somewhat. Push the pallet down ONTO the soil surface. If it simnks in a lot, consider removing it and then releveling and slight tamping of the loosened soil, then replace the pallet. Only when satisfied, add the extra soil.) The ends I would largely block. Ideally, you’d have a spare pallet to use a board from, saw or simply split to the width needed to fit. It need not be perfect.

      Maybe Mavis or others would comment on a thought that I just had.
      That is to bury the pallet to 1/4 of it’s depth. It will rot sooner, but the soil removed can be added to the ends to create a berm with which to hold the soil that would potentially escape from the ends.

      Also, teach, consider 2 – 2x4s carefully and firmly pounded into the soil vertically, to block the open ends I’m mentioning. carefully line the pallet with weed barrier and make it upright. Determine some pattern of small holes to plant through. Run the pallet N-S. No compass? http://www.sunrisesunset.com/calendar.asp Use Solar Noon. At noon, the sun makes N-S shadows. If you are on DLST, that’s at 1PM, now. (Some states don’t use DLST.) And since a sundial is right just 4x a year, the siderial loop is compensated for, so Solar Noon for me in San Francisco is at 1:17 today… (as if your helper is going to place your 2×4’s that accurately.)

      Now plant kid-loving strawberries or such, if you dare. Setting the crown depth is semi-critical, compounded by shifting soil etc, so make holes small and pack the soil-mix into this vertical garden. OR face less N-S and put fruits to the south and greens on the north. Send a note home for ideas from parents who garden.
      BillSF9c

  25. shasha says

    After reading many of the posts I’m wondering if removing the the boards from the side of the pallets being set to the ground might solve the rootbound issue. This way the roots can spread diectly to the ground if necessary. The top boards and frame make a nice seperation at the surface to prevent weeds and make harvesting the crops easier. Just a thought.

  26. Whiterabbit says

    To the poster asking about tomatoes: I do believe you could do tomatoes in a pallet garden. To get the depth you likely require, simply use two pallets. The bottom one turn upside down, as there are few slats on a pallet bottom then put the top pallet slat side up. this will double your depth. You may have to remove any pesky slats on the bottom pallet that get in the way of the spaces of the top one, but other than that it should be good. I also think this would be a great way to grow carrots or any other veggie that requires some added depth…

  27. ann daniel says

    I have just gad my yard dug up to repair a water line. I have set 2 rock gardens using the leftover rocks from the dig and as most of my lovely soil ended up in the trench, I will be trying this. I will send pictures if it worke!

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