published Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Pallet planting: Pinterest idea gains ground with gardeners in greater Chattanooga area

The Barn Nursery shows another way to make a planter out of a pallet. Lean one on its side and plant herbs within the slats.
The Barn Nursery shows another way to make a planter out of a pallet. Lean one on its side and plant herbs within the slats.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
  • photo
    Fiddleheads Gardening Center in Dalton, Ga., has a raised bed made from pallets on display.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

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    A pallet planted with herbs at The Barn Nursery costs $50 to $60.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

What you need

• A pallet

• Enough soil or potting mix to fill it

• Landscaping fabric or burlap

• Stapler or staple gun

• Plants

Looking for a cheap, ready-to-use garden bed that can sit flat on the ground or stand upright and act as a vertical, plant-covered wall?

Since someone posted the idea on Pinterest months ago, the idea of using recycled wooden pallets as planters has become a popular trend for people who don’t have a lot of space — or money — or who have an unusual space that needs decorating. Plants are put in the spaces between the pallet’s slats, so it can lay flat or stand on its end.

And, since you can grow flowers, herbs and/or vegetables, these beds can literally take seeds from pallet to palette to palate.

“We had a lady who did a small one that she put between two garage doors,” says Donald Coker, co-owner of Deep Springs Nursery in Dalton, Ga. “It looked pretty good, and she was tickled to death with it.”

Maureen Bryant, co-owner of Bryant’s Garden Center in Cleveland, Tenn., says she has also seen pallets used as potting tables and even as decoration for a wedding. Using them as a planter works well for succulents and ivy, especially when placed vertically, she says.

Pallets have become a source of inspiration, including as planters, at Fiddleheads Garden Center in Dalton, according to Sam Brown, co-owner and landscape architect. Last Christmas, they used pallets to create a 12-foot Christmas tree, he says, and recently he made three vegetable pallet gardens that he keeps at the center because he doesn’t have enough sun at his house.

“I also used a pallet as the base so we can move them around the store with a forklift,” he says. “It works great, and it’s producing very well.”

The process for creating pallet gardens is pretty OVERSET FOLLOWS:straightforward, according to Sara Melton at The Barn Nursery in Chattanooga. First, of course, you need a pallet. They’re cheap — sometimes free — at a variety of places. You probably drive by a stack of them near a garbage bin every day. You should definitely ask before taking them, but some places are happy to get rid of them.

The Barn has some and sells them for around $5 or $6 each, Melton says. If they create a ready-to-go planter, it’s around $50 or $60 because of the plants and labor involved, she says.

Look for clean pallets without broken wood or rusty nails or metal staples sticking out. Some pallets have been heavily treated with chemicals, so the folks at local garden centers suggest getting ones stamped “HT” for heated treated, or older pallets that have been weathered. You can also steer clear of planting vegetables and other edibles if you are not sure.

To start, use a stapler t0 apply landscaping fabric or burlap to the bottom and sides of the pallet to keep the soil in place. In some cases, you can simply staple the fabric to the underside of the pallet. You can also staple it inside the pallet between the slats.

If you plan to just leave it flat on the ground, you might be able to skip the fabric step, but you might need to add boards on the bottom of the pallet to prevent the dirt from washing away.

Now fill the pallet with dirt, working it between the slats, pressing it in fairly tightly. Clean off the excess, and begin placing plants in the grooves. Place the plants tightly together because, as they grow, their roots will help hold the soil together.

Leave it flat on the ground for a couple of weeks to allow the plants to root. Once that has happened, you can stand it up and lean it against a wall if you want.

If you want to use the pallet as a vertical planter immediately, one option is to staple fabric inside of the face-up side of the pallet and also to the underside, creating a fabric sandwich that leaves the top slats exposed. Fill it with dirt, then cut holes into the fabric between the boards and insert your plants into the holes.

“Vertical gardening in general is really popular right now,” Melton says. “Most of the systems are fairly expensive, so this a good alternative.”

Melton says depending on the number of slats in the pallet and the type of plants you choose, the cost can also add up.

“But, in the fall, for example, you can plant annuals or pansies or violas and a flat or two will fill it up.”

If you want a true pallet planter, you can use a few one-by-four pieces of lumber. Cut 12 pieces, each about 12 inches long, and attach eight of them in upright positions at all four corners of the pallet, one on each side to form a “V.” Attach the remaining four pieces halfway along each side. Take the remaining one-by-fours and cut them to fit as the four walls of the planter.

Like the simpler pallet planters, you can staple landscaping fabric on the bottom of the pallet to hold the dirt, but these planters are much deeper and will take a lot more dirt to fill.

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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