Use these step-by-step instructions and build your own vertical pallet garden, perfect for growing your own food in small spaces.
Groundbreaking Food Gardens (Storey Publishing, 2014) by Niki Jabbour is a stellar collection of unique food garden plans from some of the best gardeners and designers in North America. Choose from 73 plans, each with its own theme and detailed illustration. In this excerpt, learn how to construct a kitchen garden from used pallets that won’t take up much space.
You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: Groundbreaking Food Gardens.
Pallet gardening is popular, and for good reason! With a little time and even less money, gardeners can turn an old pallet into a handy vertical garden. An upcycled pallet, mounted on a wall or fence — preferably just outside the kitchen—makes a handy planter for compact crops like curly parsley, leaf lettuce, and Swiss chard, and even dwarf tomatoes and nasturtiums.
Joe Lamp’l is passionate about getting people to grow more food—even in tiny urban lots and concrete balconies—and he has embraced the concept of a pallet garden for its incredible versatility. Pioneered by Fern Richardson in her blog Life on the Balcony, pallet gardens are typically mounted to a wall, fence, or other structure, but handy gardeners can also make “feet” or a stand so that pallets can be freestanding on decks and patios. Plus, an edible pallet garden is very low-maintenance, requiring little ongoing care aside from regular watering and an occasional dose of liquid organic fertilizer.
A pallet garden is a great project for do-it-yourself types, as well as those on a tight budget. Two people can assemble and plant a pallet garden in about an hour if all materials are gathered beforehand.
Picking the right pallet. Sourcing a pallet should be easy—many businesses are happy to share their used pallets at little to no cost—but Joe says to “look for pallets made of untreated wood and also seek out pallets marked HT, which stands for heat treated, as a safe alternative for treating pests.” He also suggests inspecting the pallet for splintered wood or stray nails. Once you’ve found one that makes the grade, give it a good hosing off to remove dirt and grime.
The best plants for a pallet. When choosing plants for an edible pallet garden, Joe advises looking for dwarf or bush types of vegetables and herbs, as well as compact fruits like strawberries. In his plan he includes a wide selection of favorite edibles: salad greens, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. “Peppers and tomatoes will need to go in the top section because they are the tallest and will need room to grow and possibly staking,” says Joe. “The big thing is to work with compact and determinate tomato varieties wherever possible.” He also suggests tucking nasturtium seedlings throughout the pallet garden for a “punch of edible color.” Other options include a pallet filled with culinary herbs or salad greens.