A Pallet-able Earth Day

Looking for a creative and useful project in recognition of Earth Day? Building a planter box from a discarded wooden pallet is a great way to re-use the wood, add beauty to your yard, deck or balcony, and create a daily reminder to treat our planet with love and respect.

You can grow fresh herbs right outside your kitchen door, heirloom tomatoes or strawberries in the summertime; even garlic, onions and potatoes can make attractive and useful container plants. The multi-colored flowers of nasturtiums are both beautiful AND edible. If you’re in a warmer climate, succulents look fantastic year-round in these planters, and don’t take much water at all.

pallet tools croppedYou’ll only need a few simple tools:

  •  A trusty hammer
  • A rusty old handsaw
  • A wonder bar/pry bar
  • A staple gun
  • A sharp utility knife

Of course, you’ll also need a pallet. Big box stores and large businesses often employ pallet pickup services, so make friends with a smaller, local hardware or garden store. They are often up to their ears in extra pallets, and will gladly give you one (or more) just for the asking. But do ask before taking!

Depending on the size of your pallet, you can estimate the height you want for your planter box, but 8 or 9 inches seems to be a workable height.

Using the (trusty) hammer and pry bar, carefully remove the cross pieces of wood from the pallet—removing the screws can be challenging.

With the (rusty old) handsaw, cut six 8-inch pieces from the 2×4 pieces. Using either nails or 3-inch wood screws, join the 2×4 pieces together.

pallet step one cropped

Use the 2×4 (now 2×8) sections as the center and sides and nail the cross pieces back to the 2×8 sections. There may be a gap at the bottom of the container which will act as your drain.

Use an old (recycle, re-use!) window screen cut to size to line the bottom of the planter—this will keep the soil IN the planter. The utility knife works well for cutting the screen.

Line the interior of the container with a layer of plastic in order to maintain moisture—Blackwhite Poly works well for this.. Use the staple gun to attach the bag to the planter and trim away the excess plastic.

Poke a couple of 1” holes in the bottom of the liner for drainage. Add a layer of Plant!T clay pebbles to ensure good drainage, and top with potting soil appropriate for the plants you’ll be growing.

Adding a Thirsty Light will take the guesswork out of watering, and you’ll prevent over-watering, which can kill plants and wastes this valuable resource.

pallet finished 2finished pallet

Enjoy your planter box—but be forewarned: you’re pretty much guaranteed to have people asking you to make them one as soon as they see yours.

There are other configurations of planters made from old pallets, but this design is a simple and easy way to start.

Some other ideas are shown here:

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Whether you have acres of land on which to grow things, or you’re an urban gardener with limited space, upcycling wooden pallets is a fun project and a step towards creating sustainability in our daily lives.