Raised beds have a number of benefits for your garden, but they can be expensive and labour intensive to build. On the other hand, you can often get pallets for relatively cheap or even free, and they make exceptional raised beds.
Start by preparing the ground where you want a new raised bed. Next, lay pallets in the prepared space and cover any gaps or holes along their sides. Fill them with garden soil or your preferred growing medium, and you are ready to plant.
Keep reading for instructions to build raised garden beds from recycled pallets in 4 easy steps.
All About Raised Pallet Beds
There are a number of advantages to building raised beds from old pallets, such as:
- Good Drainage: Like any raised bed, pallets will help improve the soil’s drainage.
- Warm Up Early In Spring: Raised pallet beds warm up earlier in the spring than soil-level beds.
- Reduces Weeds: The boards on top of the pallet significantly improve weeding by covering a large percentage of the soil and smothering out the weeds.
- Row Markers: The boards also keep your seeds planted in nice straight rows, making weeding around tender seedlings easy.
- Bring Life to Barren Ground: We used them as garden beds on top of our mulched areas. Whenever we want to expand our garden, we cover the proposed area with old tarps or plywood for a year or two to choke out the grass. Thanks to the pallet garden beds, we are able to turn these otherwise unproductive areas into temporary garden plots with minimal weed interference.
- Environmentally Friendly: Many pallets end up in dumpsters, so repurposing them as garden beds is a great way to keep them out of the landfill.
- Portable Garden: You cannot move the pallets while they are growing, but at the end of the growing season you can pick up the pallets, shake out the soil, and move them to another location in the garden. Of course, you can also leave them in the same spot for years.
- Cheap: You can get pallets for really cheap or even free.
- Easy: Building raised beds from old pallets is very easy, and can be done with basic tools.
Pallets can also be used to make vertical garden planters.
There are, however, a few disadvantages to using pallets as raised beds:
- Lack of Aesthetics: While pallets can be made into very pretty planters, they might not be as aesthetically pleasing as some other options for raised beds.
- Dries Out Quickly: While good drainage is important for many vegetables, you might find your raised pallet beds dry out very quickly, especially in hot dry weather. Make sure to monitor your plants and water them as needed.
- Will Rot Over Time: Since pallets are untreated wood, they will rot out under constant exposure to dirt and moisture. However, we have been using ours for several growing seasons and they are still in excellent condition. To extend their life, consider emptying out the soil at the end of the year to let them dry out before the next planting season.
- Shallow: Pallets are only about 15cm (6 inches) tall, so they might be too shallow for many deep-rooted crops. In some cases, the taproots can grow into the soil below, but the bottom boards may inhibit stunt growth.
Best Plants To Grow In Pallets
Pallet garden beds are versatile and you can grow a number of crops, including:
- Bok Choi
- Mustard greens
- Radishes (make sure to harvest before they out grow the pallets)
- Beets (choose a cylindrical variety so it will fit between the top boards)
- Scallions (or green onions)
- Beans (works best if the bottom is open to the soil below)
- Strawberries (plan on leaving your pallets in that space for a few years)
Where To Get Free (Or Cheap) Pallets
Many stores have mountains of pallets stacked out back, as do construction sites. Ask the person in charge and they will often give you a few. Small businesses in particular might be thankful to get rid of extra pallets because they do not have enough space to store them. Never take empty pallets that you see laying around: they probably belong to someone and many stores have to return them or they will be charged a fee.
Make sure to avoid any pallets that are stained by unknown substances as they could be contaminated with harmful chemicals. Some pallets are treated with a wood preservative so they last longer but do not use these as they will leach dangerous chemicals into the soil and your food.
What Sizes Of Pallets: The most common size of pallets is 48”x40” but they also come in different sizes such as but 42”x42” or 48”x48”. Most pallets weigh about 15kgs (35lbs), though heavy-duty ones can be quite cumbersome.
Ready to give raised pallet beds a try? Follow these simple steps to get planting right away.
1. Prepare the Location
The first step is to choose where you want your new raised beds in your garden, and get it ready for your pallets. You can either set the pallets directly on the soil, or put down a layer of mulch underneath to suppress weeds. Good mulches for underneath the beds include cardboard, straw, old plywood, or tarps.
2. Lay Out The Pallets
We generally put our pallets end to end but you can put them in a row, side by side, or in whatever pattern works best for your garden.
Once they are in position, make sure they are stable so they do not rock or wiggle. You can either dig down any high spots, or brace the corners of the pallets with dirt, rocks, or wood.
3. Cover The Holes
Pallets have openings on the ends and sides so pallet jacks and forklifts can pick them up. You want to fill in these gaps to keep your soil from spilling out.
We used scraps of 1x4 and 1x6, but you can use:
- Scrap lumber
- Metal flashing
At this point, you can also re-attach any top boards that have come loose.
4. Fill Them Up
You can fill the pallets with garden soil, compost, or your preferred growing medium. It takes about 2 large wheelbarrows to fill each pallet. Here is a great article that discusses the best soil for raised bed gardening.
Make sure to really pack the soil into all the corners with your hands, to keep it from sinking as it settles.
Now your raised pallet beds are ready to plant.
Don’t pick up the pallets or all the dirt will fall out. While this might seem obvious, some of us have to learn things the hard way.
Upcycling Pallets Around The Homestead
The internet is saturated with brilliant uses of old pallets. Because we are able to get large quantities of them for free from a local hardware store, we use them in a variety of ways around the farm. We use pallets as gates, animal pens, portable fence sections, and hay feeders; we put them on the ground around our hydrants to keep from walking on mud and ice; and to keep feed from sitting directly on the ground. I have read they make really beautiful deck furniture, but that's a project for another year.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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