Two years ago, I decided it was beyond time to work on my garden, and turned a bland space into...well, not exactly a showplace, but the beginnings of a showplace. I laid out flower beds, added borders and plants, did some sprucing up here and there, and even freshened up the front porch. I'll post those pictures another time.
A little more than two months ago, I found a posting on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. Here's a link to the original post: "Make a Pallet Garden in 7 Easy Steps." I do recommend reading over the directions, but I will admit that I didn't follow them to the letter on this project.
I started with the pallet. If you check around, you should be able to get one for free at garden centers, home improvement stores, or just about anywhere. Go ahead and ask - they may be glad to get rid of them! We ordered a portable dishwasher about six months ago which was delivered on a pallet. I kept the pallet just in case I found a use for it. When I found the Pinterest posting, I knew I had found it. I was doubly lucky because one end of the pallet has a block of wood blocking off one open end. If you go hunting for one, try to look for that feature.
The Brightnest/Hometalk web sites (the origins of my idea) show the pallets in their natural state. I, however, wanted something colorful, so I spray-painted the slats different colors. I had all of these colors already, except the blue, which I found on clearance at Wal-Mart.
Because the wood was so weathered, it wouldn't absorb the paint evenly. That bothered me at first, but the more I looked at it, the more I decided I liked the somewhat antique-y/weathered look, so I moved on to the next step, which was to let the paint dry overnight.
The next day, I took the pallet out into the yard, closer to where I would eventually install it. I laid it face down on the ground and began to cover the back with landscape fabric. I had some left over from some work I had done two years earlier and was glad to have found something to do with the remainder.
Using a staple gun, I secured the fabric to the top, stretched it to the bottom, and began stapling. I made the fabric taut but not tight since the fabric can tear, and stapled every inch or so. I wanted to make sure the fabric stayed in place. (One commenter in the original posting suggested nailing plywood to the back to keep soil in, which is a good idea, but I didn't read that until after I finished the project, so I didn't do that.) The fabric was maybe four inches too short to cover the entire back from side to side, so there are two layers to make sure both edges are covered. Then, for good measure, I did a third layer going in the top/bottom direction (which, of course, was the perfect width).
I trimmed the edges with a utility knife and turned it over. I purchased three bags of garden soil from my local garden center and poured two of them onto the pallet. I gently brushed the soil into the open space between the fabric and the painted slats. This left the top two slats with no soil. I would take care of that in a bit.
I did not pack the soil tightly for several reasons: one, I only bought three bags of soil: two, I was afraid packing the soil tightly might cause the fabric to bulge and perhaps tear on the backside: three, I reasoned that water will travel easier through lightly packed soil. That final reason may come back to haunt me as the weeks go by--watering will pack the soil somewhat so I may have to add more later on.
I stood the pallet up and positioned it along the back fence. (Um, okay, I'll admit, I positioned the pallet before adding soil, took this picture, then laid the pallet back down on the ground to start filling it. But this is where the pallet went when once the soil was added. I apologize for not taking more pictures, but once I got into it, I just couldn't seem to stop until I was done!)
With the soil in place, I started adding plants. I went with a variety of pansy called Viola in solid blue, solid yellow, purple and orange, and purple and white. I wanted the flowers' colors to stand out against the pallets' colors, so the solid yellow went into the gap between the green and blue boards.The next gap got the purple and orange violas. For the next slat, I decided to mix up the solids, so I mixed the solid yellows and blues. The next slat got the purple and white violas.
At this point, I started adding soil from the third bag to fill in the rest of the pallet. I added enough to reach the final slat, then added the blue violas. On top of that, I added the remaining soil. In the gap at the top, I planted the final six violas.
I did end up "borrowing" soil from one of the empty flower pots currently in my garden, so four bags of soil would have been optimal. An extra bag would have filled that gap and allowed me to pack the soil a little bit tighter, with soil left over for other plantings in my garden. I just didn't feel like going out to purchase that fourth bag.
And that's it!
Breakdown of Costs:
Landscape Fabric: $0.00
Garden Soil: $6.99/bag x 3 = $20.97
Violas: 1 flat (3 plants per cell, 12 cells per flat) = $26.99
Total cost: $48.87 plus tax.
Yes, I could have held costs down a bit by waiting for soil and flowers to go on sale, or go to one of the national home improvement/garden centers. However, I like to support local businesses when I can, and my locally-owned garden center carries a huge variety of plants and vegetables, so that's where I like to shop.
I like the results so much, I may make another. I have another spot in my back yard where a pallet would look nice, but it will wait until a bit later in spring. The area in front of this area has bulbs blooming, and I do not want to damage any of them by trying to muscle a soil-heavy pallet over them. If I do it, I'll definitely post pictures.