Aloha Hawaii Home & Garden Network,
Ever since I started my home garden on the Big Island, I have been interested in organic pallet gardens. After years of collecting pallet garden photos for inspiration, I finally got to it and created my own for my own home garden. I will share how I did mine but know there are many different approaches out there. Maybe you will come up with an approach all your own.
Regardless of your prep approach, you will need a pallet. They are everywhere. Check behind home improvement and grocery stores. Our local newspaper sometimes advertises their free pallets. Once you locate your pallet, you need to acquire it. Please always ask permission to take a pallet. Take a moment to speak to a manager – they will most likely let you have one for free. If not, move on to another location. Don’t be tempted to grab one while no one is looking. Remember security cameras are now small, easy to install and are commonly used. Consider the embarrassment of being caught on camera procuring your pallet. Yikes!
The beauty of the pallet garden is that it is great for both a backyard or lanai home garden. Pallets come in all sizes. A larger pallet may be more appropriate for a backyard home garden as it requires more room and will not be so easy to move locations. Smaller pallets can be relocated once the pallet is planted and work well in either a backyard or lanai garden. I choose a smaller pallet (28” x 29”) for my backyard garden. Location should be considered regardless of size. Do the plants require full sun? Is the location ideal for watering? Watering can be somewhat messy at first as the water and soil will spill over the side as the plants settle.
Used pallets also come in different states of disrepair. Don’t worry if your pallet isn’t in such great shape. That’s part of the charm. You can work with what you have, or you can augment the pallet to increase functionality. It’s up to you. I added some wood pieces for support. I picked the wood up at a hardware store, but you might have some scraps lying around. It all works. I am not so great with wood – but I found it super easy to include wood with some Gorilla Glue. Hammer and nails work great too.
My biggest challenge was determining what was going to hold the plants and dirt in the pallet. There are many approaches. My research included one method of stapling plastic liner across the entire back of the pallet and pouring dirt throughout the pallet before planting. It seemed like that would be great for a horizontal pallet home garden. It would take time for the plants to take root well enough to stay put if the pallet became vertical.
I wanted a vertical pallet home garden, and I decided to use coco liners. Truly an organic product, coco liners are eco-friendly – made from actual coconut husks and tree sap. They are very strong and pliable, so it is easy to create planter liners to be placed within the shelves of the pallet. They hold dirt very well and allow for good irrigation. I found the coco liner at a local home improvement store. I purchased a large (21” long) rectangle piece designed for a trough planter. It was about $7 a piece; I used two for my pallet. I cut the pattern for one planter liner making sure it fit snuggly in the shelf. With a pattern, it was pretty easy to crank out the rest. I used glue to secure both ends. A fairly easy process.
After I was confident that the coco liners would work for my pallet home garden, I started to paint. It’s not necessary though, I’ve seen many pallets that look great without paint. But I like colors. I bought several cans of spray paint (about $4 each) and got to work. I used a vibrant purple with touches of lilac and turquoise. I painted several coats on both sides for rich colors. You’ll probably need some tape to section off certain areas for painting.
Herbs and flowers are ideal for a pallet home garden. Certain vegetables might work as well. Planting different varietals of lettuce in each shelf would be great for salad lovers. Vegetables like tomatoes and peppers typically need more space than found in most pallets.
I planted several types of organic herbs – thyme, mint, oregano and dill. These herbs tend to go wild and take over in a backyard home garden, so they are a good choice for containers. I put one type of herb in each shelf. I used two to three starters per shelf (about $2 each and found at local home improvement stores). Chose any herb you would like – consider herbs you use most frequently in your cooking.
You could experiment by using seeds – again there are many approaches to pallet gardening. Starters give you immediate satisfaction, and you can begin to harvest your home garden right away. If one of your starters doesn’t adapt well, it’s easy to replace it with another plant. Just pop out the coco liner and try another plant.
If you are planting herbs or vegetables in your home garden, know that you and your family will be eating them so no pesticides, please. Use an organic product, such as Neem oil, to get rid of any bugs you may find. Check out this article on Neem oil from the National Pesticide Information Center http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/neemgen.html.
When planting the starters, I began with a thin layer of inexpensive potting soil in the bottom of the prepped coco liners. I placed the starters in the liner. I then gently positioned the liners in the shelves of the pallet. I filled in the shelves with extra soil. I found this approach is more effective than planting the starters while the liner is in the pallet shelves. Once everything is planted, gently water. I used a watering can. Again, this is a messy process.
All in all, it was an easy and enjoyable process. I was happy with the results. And it was ok if it didn’t turn out like I wanted. I figured I could always repaint and replace any plants that didn’t quite work.
I recommend creating an organic pallet garden for your own home garden. It’s fun and you end up with a unique and functional container. Remember there is no right or wrong way to get the finished product. So get creative and know your home garden will be as individual as you and your pallet.