Pallet gardening involves using wooden pallets as handy containers for growing annual flowers, herbs, small vegetables or whatever else you fancy. The plants grow between the slats of regular wooden pallets. Selecting pallets that don't pose a safety risk is an important part of pallet gardening, and basic do-it-yourself skills are required to prepare the pallets for planting. Pallet gardens can lie flat on the ground, or they can stand and be used as vertical gardens.
Taking Safety Precautions
Good-quality wooden pallets are safest to use for pallet gardening, and ensure the pallets don't contain harmful substances. Sturdy, clean pallets are best if you can find them. Check them for stamps because wooden pallets are sometimes treated to prevent pest infestations. Treated pallets carry an International Plant Protection Convention or IPPC logo. Heat-treated pallets display the letters HT, and they are safe to use. Don't use pallets that bear the letters MB. They were treated with a toxic chemical called methyl bromide.
Wooden pallets can be used to transport hazardous chemicals and other dangerous substances. So try to find unused pallets or pallets that held safe products, such as food.
Preparing a Pallet
Preparing a pallet for planting involves making it clean and solid, and covering its open side with landscape fabric. Wash the pallet with hot, soapy water, and let it dry overnight. Nail down all loose slats and other areas where the joints seem weak, and sand rough wood with sandpaper until it's smooth.
In pallet gardening, plants grow between the wood slats that cover one side of the pallet. The back or open side of the pallet has no slats. Landscape fabric covering the open side holds in the potting soil.
- Lay a pallet on the ground with its slatted-side downward.
- Spread a double layer of landscape fabric over the back of the pallet and only one of its open ends if you want to use the pallet as a vertical garden. That open end will be the container's top. Cover the pallet's back and both of its open ends with a double layer of landscape fabric if your pallet garden will lie flat.
- Staple the landscape fabric securely to the pallet with a staple gun.
- Turn the pallet over, and place the plants that will grow from the top of a vertical pallet garden in the open end.
- Pour potting soil over the pallet slats, and push it between the slats with your fingers to fill the pallet. Push the potting soil carefully between the roots of plants at the open end of the pallet.
Planting a Pallet
Plant small, young plants in a pallet garden. As they grow, their roots will fill the potting soil and hold it in place.
- Make small holes in the potting soil with your fingers, and push plant root balls into the holes so that the root balls are at their original soil depth. Firm the soil gently around the plants.
- Water the plants by using a watering can fitted with a fine-rose spray and adding water until the soil is moist all through the pallet.
- Wait two to three weeks for the plant roots to fill the potting soil. Lift the pallet so it stands vertically if you desire after the roots have grown.
Watering a Pallet
Water a vertical pallet garden through the open end at its top, and water a horizontal pallet garden through the spaces between its slats.
Plants growing in a vertical or horizontal pallet garden need watering more frequently than plants growing in the ground. Water your pallet garden when its potting soil surface is dry. Check whether or not water reaches the deepest roots by pushing a screwdriver into the potting soil to the pallet's base. Gently work the screwdriver backward and forward to create a small hole, which prevents soil at the surface from clinging to the screwdriver when you pull it out. Remove the screwdriver. If its tip is damp, then the soil is moist to the pallet's base.
Small or trailing plants are best for growing in a pallet garden.
Creeping zinnia 'Classic' (Zinnia angustifolia 'Classic') and melampodium 'Derby' (Melampodium divaricatum 'Derby') are two annual flowering plants suitable for pallet gardening. 'Classic' features gold, orange, yellow and white, daisylike flowers and grows 9 to 12 inches tall and wide. 'Derby' grows 12 to 24 inches tall and 9 to 12 inches wide, and offers yellow flowers.
Two trailing perennials that are options for a vertical pallet garden are trailing snapdragon (Asarina procumbens), which is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, and livingstone daisy Mezoo Trailing Red (Dorotheanthus bellidiformis 'Mesbicla'), which is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 10. Bearing yellow-throated, pale-yellow flowers in summer, trailing snapdragon grows up to 4 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches long. Mezoo Trailing Red provides rose-red blooms and variegated, light-green leaves, and it grows 4 to 6 inches tall and 6 to 12 inches long.