PhotoThere are so many different types of containers to plant in. If you are looking to start your garden now and grow as many things as you can in a short time, pallet gardening might be just the thing for you. They’re the easiest raised garden beds available and are an eco-friendly, time-saving approach to growing flowers or vegetables at home. They cut down on the time spent weeding and make plant identification a breeze.

Begin by checking your local recycling center for information on where to find wood pallets to use as garden frames. When you locate wood pallets, make sure to choose ones that are in good, sturdy condition and have not been treated with pesticides.

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

Be sure to scrub down the wood with some bleach and soapy water. You can never be sure if there were chemicals stored on the pallet, and there is always a chance that some bacteria could be on it. Let it dry out before using it to plant anything, and be wary of any rusty nails or staples.

Setting up your pallets

There are two ways that you can set up your pallet garden after the pallets have been cleaned up: hanging vertically or horizontally. To hang it vertically, go ahead and position the pallets against the wall where you’ll want it mounted. Be sure to carefully mark the spots where you want the support brackets to be and make sure it is level. Install L brackets to the wall.

After you have planted the pallets, you will simply slide them into place on these brackets so that the wider openings are facing the wall. Setting up your pallets in this way is great if you are limited on space. With supports, the upward growth gives the vegetables the room they need for healthy vine growth without taking over the small pallet area.

If you would like to set up your pallets horizontally, then you will need to return them to a flat surface. Although you could plant out your pallet with it resting on the ground, placing it on a tabletop makes it easier because you can stand upright. Place the pallet so that the side with the widest openings is facing up. Lay out the landscape fabric or cloth to cover the back and bottom and cut them to size. Pull tautly and secure them with nails or staples.  Some pallets have wood covering the bottom of the pallet, which will help prevent soil from falling through. If not, you may choose to add another piece of wood, like a 2×4.

Either way, you should ensure that the fabric covers the bottom as well as the back to catch any soil that may otherwise fall out. It would probably help to add a thick layer of plastic or some other kind of waterproof barrier. Add a piece of plywood over the barrier.

Great for kids

After your soil has been put into the pallets, all you need to do is plant your seeds and put the pallets where you want them. If you’re keeping them on ground, you should mulch the area beforehand to make it more affable for growing.

This is a great project to get kids involved in gardening because you can give them their own pallet to garden with. Look for vegetable crops and varieties that grow in compact, bush, dwarf or miniature form and produce many fruits per plant. Suitable tomato varieties include "Tiny Tim," "Small Fry," "Patio Hybrid" and "Toy Boy". Bell peppers and eggplants are good choices as well. "Candlelight" hot peppers, bush beans, spinach, cabbage, and bush squash work well in container gardens too.

Be sure to choose pest and disease-resistant varieties of any vegetable you plant. Look for varieties marked as resistant to verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus. Because the pallets are confined to a small area, it makes conditions ripe for spreading disease or having bugs ruin your crop. It’s probably best to talk to a nursery about varieties that provide natural resistance to the most common pests in your area. 

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