The One Thing You Need to Know If You’re Considering a Pallet Garden

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Susanna Hopler/Irina Vaneeva)

If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest lately, you may have noticed the ever-growing pallet garden trend. They seem like a good idea in theory: Pallets are used (in great quantities!) to ship boxes, cargo, and lumber, and are often discarded in heaps outside big-box stores, making them fairly easy to scrounge up. Plus, they’re a good solution for small-space gardening, as they take advantage of vertical space and fit on even the smallest balconies.

There’s just one thing you should know before you start planting.

Some industrial pallets may contain chemicals, which can then leach into the herbs or vegetables you later plan on eating. (Just how much can leach into a plant is questionable, but even the smallest amount may turn you off if you’re an organic-only kind of eater.)

That’s not to say pallet gardening can’t be done. Here are some tips.

If You Want a True Pallet Garden

Don’t nab any with oil marks or broken pieces, as those can be signs of age and use; ideally you’ll find one with fresh, clean wood. I prefer picking up pallets from the local lumberyard, as the ones found there have typically only ever transported nice, clean wood. Ultimately, you want to look for a stamp of “HT,” which means it’s a heat-treated wood pallet (versus one treated with chemicals) and is the best option to use as a planter.

When it comes to planting, herbs and greens make an excellent choice for an edible pallet garden, as they are mostly compact plants. Fill in the planter with various herbs and leafy greens (arugula is an especially good option), tuck in some edible flowers for added color (nasturtiums will cascade down), and make sure you water regularly, starting at the top row and working your way down.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If You’re Willing to Get Creative

Let’s say all the pallets you can find happen to be filthy or you’re really worried they’re lousy with chemicals. No big deal — you can still use one of them as a garden, you just need to modify your plan a little bit. Maybe you can just grow succulents and other plants that you don’t intend to eat? Or instead of growing herbs and produce directly inside the pallet, you can consider hanging or nailing (clean) window boxes to the the slats like the garden above.

(Image credit: Pink When)

Or just grow the plants in some pots and set them inside the pallet. How cute is this example from Jen, the blogger behind Pink When? I love how neat and orderly the herbs look.

Get her instructions: How to Make an Herb Garden From a Pallet at Pink When

Do you have a pallet garden? Would you build one?

(Image credit: Amy Pennington)

About me: I’m a cook and urban farmer. And I wrote a book called Apartment Gardening. I believe that growing your own food is a natural extension of eating healthy and eating well — and that anyone can do it, no matter how little space you have.