Living pallet garden provides hours of enjoyment
Naval historian Capt. Jed Suddeth (Retired) tells us that if you want something done and done right leave it to the U.S. Navy. While sending supplies thousands of miles across the Pacific, a Navy Supply Corps officer named Norman Cahners invented the “four-way pallet.” He cut notches in the sides of wooden pallets so that forklifts could pick up pallets from any direction, and with this simple refinement he doubled productivity. Today there are over 2 billion pallets floating around the USA and some of them can be used in your garden. A wooden pallet planted with flowers or vegetables becomes a veritable living wall.
Check carefully that your wooden pallet has “HT” stamped somewhere on the pallet. The “HT” stamp means the pallet was heat treated, or kiln dried instead of chemically treated. This is important if you plant vegetables, because chemically treated wood can leach chemicals into the soil.
Next, clean up the pallet. To kill any lingering bacteria, wash down the entire pallet with bleach and soapy water. Rinse well and let it dry completely.
Choose the least attractive side of the pallet for the bottom. Cover the bottom, back, and sides of the pallet with landscape fabric. Be sure to leave the spaces between the slats and the top uncovered because this is where you will be setting your plants. Once your pallet is covered on the sides, back and bottom, lay it flat on the ground for planting. Gently slide your transplants into the top rung. Set the plants very close together so there are no empty spaces between the plants. Next add the plants.
Try herbs, vegetables and flowers, and don’t be afraid to mix them up. Don’t be afraid to pack them in. Position the plants so their root balls are securely placed between the slats and tuck them in firmly. Don’t use ordinary garden soil because it is too heavy and doesn’t drain well.
Keep planting until every opening is filled with plants. Pour potting soil in and around the plants.
Let your pallet garden sit flat on the ground for a few days so things settle in. Keep it well watered, which will not only keep the plants healthy, but eliminate any air bubbles or loose soil. Now tip the pallet on its side and brace it against a strong wall or fenceposts. Because your pallet garden is exposed to air on all sides, it may dry out quickly so keep it watered and mist the plants to prevent them drying out.
Your living pallet garden will provide hours of enjoyment and if planted with vegetables or herbs can serve as a hanging garden. Thanks to a clever Navy officer we have a sea full of pallets to plant. In naval shorthand for “well done” that is Bravo Zulu!