Archive for May, 2011

How to Turn a Pallet into a Garden

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Good news and bad news. I had planned to film a short video showing you how to make a pallet garden, but the weather didn’t cooperate. I was stapling the landscape fabric onto the pallet when it started drizzling and got really windy. That’s the bad news. But I know I promised a tutorial today, so I took photos and have kept my word to share how to make the pallet garden. I tried to be as detailed as possible. That’s the good news.

So keep reading my pallet loving friends, instructions on how to make your own pallet garden are just a few lines away…

Find a Pallet

The first thing you need to do is–obviously–find a pallet. I’ve had good luck finding them in dumpsters behind supermarkets. No need to be squeamish. It doesn’t smell. At least, it doesn’t smell that bad.  Don’t just take the first pallet you find. You’re looking for one with all the boards in good condition, no nails sticking out, no rotting, etc. If you intend to put edibles in your pallet, be sure to find one that was heat treated as opposed to fumigated with pesticides.

Collect Your Supplies

For this project, you’ll need the pallet you found, 2 large bags of potting soil, 16 six packs of annual flowers (one six pack per opening on the face of the pallet, and two six packs per opening on the top of the completed pallet garden), a small roll of landscape fabric, a staple gun, staples, and sand paper.

Get Your Pallet into Shape

Once you’ve dragged your pallet home, give it a once over. Are any of the boards a little loose? Is the wood chipping in places? Nail down any loose boards, and use sand paper to smooth down any rough spots.

Let the Stapling Begin!

Decide which side of the pallet will be the bottom when the pallet garden is completed and leaning against the wall. You are going to be covering the bottom, back, and sides with landscape fabric, leaving  the spaces between the slats and the top uncovered (you’ll be planting flowers in the uncovered spaces).

Lay the pallet face down. Roll the landscape fabric over the back. Cut two identically sized pieces that are long enough to go from the top edge of the back of the pallet and wrap all the way around the bottom, plus a few extra inches.

Hold the two pieces of landscape fabric together as if they were one piece of fabric. Fold over the top edge by one inch and center it on the top board of the back of the pallet. Staple the fabric into place near the top edge of the top board. Smooth the fabric out to the left and right and pull it taut. Staple the fabric down on the top, right edge of the top board. Repeat on the left side. Fill in between those three staples with one staple every two inches along the top edge of the top board.

When the top of the landscape fabric is securely attached to the top, back board, smooth the fabric down, and repeat the process along the bottom edge of the bottom board, except don’t fold the fabric under, leave a long flap on the bottom.

Pulling the fabric tautly along the bottom, fold the cut edge under, and staple the fabric down along the front edge of the bottom. Smooth the fabric out to the left and right and staple every two inches along the front edge of the bottom.

Now for the sides. Start near the bottom and fold the excess fabric inwards as if you were wrapping a present. Fold the cut edge of the fabric under and staple it down near the front, bottom edge of the side facade. Smooth the fabric out and place a staple every two inches along the front edge of the side of the pallet. The fabric should be taut but not in danger of tearing. Repeat on the other side of the pallet.

You should now have a pallet with landscape fabric wrapped around the sides, back, and bottom. Place more staples along the spine of the back side of the pallet, and anywhere else you think the fabric needs to be held down so that soil can’t creep into places you don’t want it to go.

Now for the Fun Part–Planting!

Bring the pallet close to wherever it’s final spot will be and lay it down face up. You’re going to plant it while it’s laying flat on the ground.

First slide the plants into what will be the top. Plant everything very tightly, you should have to practically shoe horn the last plant into place. Now that you have capped the top, pour the entire first bag of potting soil on top of the pallet. Push the soil into the pallet between the slats and smooth it out so that the soil is level. Repeat with the second bag of potting soil.

Push potting soil into the bottom cavity, so that there is a trench directly below one of the bottom openings. Plant six plants in the trench, so that they are very tightly fitted into the opening. Repeat with the other bottom opening. Now push the potting soil up against those flowers you just planted, making a trench beneath one of the openings in the second row. Plant your flowers tightly in that opening. Repeat for all the remaining openings.

When you’re done planting, you should have plants that are completely covering every opening (i.e. there shouldn’t be any place for soil to fall out). There should also be soil firmly pushed into every part of the pallet where there aren’t plants.

Caring For your Pallet

Now, I’m going to tell you what you should do, and I what I always end up doing (which is what you should not do). You should leave the pallet flat on the ground for a couple of weeks (watering when needed), so that the roots can start to grow in and hold all the plants in place. I can never wait though, so I always tip the pallet upright a few days after planting. Some soil does fall out, but it seems to be okay. But I think it would be better if you left it to settle and only tipped it upright after a few weeks. Do as I say, not as I do.

Water your pallet regularly, they dry out quickly. Pay special attention to the bottom two openings, they seem to be the driest. Fertilize with water soluble fertilizer added to your watering can (follow package instructions for amount and frequency).

Basic Four Square Rotation Garden Design

 

Divide your garden square into four by drawing a cross inside it. You now have a diagram of four square beds that you’ll use as a plan for your very own vegetable garden design. The four beds are for the four main groups of vegetable crops. The plants are divided into four categories based on the amount of nutrients that they need to flourish. Below is an example of these categories.

 Heavy feeders: These heavy feeders demand a lot of nitrogen. Examples of these are the large leafed plants like lettuce, corn, and even the vine crops like squash.

Middle Feeders: These middle-of-the-road feeders are the mid sized leafed plants with above-ground fruits like tomatoes and peppers.

Light Feeders: These feeders include the root crops like turnips and carrots. They like potash in the soil.

Soil Builders: These types leave more nitrogen in the soil than they take out. Examples of these are the legumes like peas and beans.

 How to Rotate

Vegetable garden design

Vegetable Garden Crop Rotation Plan

 

  • Each of the four types mentioned above goes into one of squares that you’ve diagrammed, called beds. 
  • From top-left and counter-clockwise; Heavy Feeders, Middle Feeders, Light Feeders and the Soil Builders. 
  • After every harvest and when replanting each season, you rotate each group to the next square, to reduce pests and soil problems. 
  • Make sure that when you rotate these four types, they always follow the same order given here. 
  • This means, that when you move the Heavy Feeders, they go to the Soil Builder’s previous position. 
  • The Middle Feeders move up to the Heavy Feeders’ former position, etc.Try to imagine a baseball game where in your players occupy bases. Each year you move the location of each plant group by one space, changing the location of your plant types.

    Another benefit of this kind of rotation is that the Heavy Feeders will grow better by transferring to the Soil Builder’s former spot which gives them more of the nutrients they require to flourish.

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