How To: A Living-Wall Planter from Old Pallets

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How To: A Living-Wall Planter from Old Pallets

Most of us have a place in our outdoor space, be it a yard, garden, balcony or porch, that's… well. .. a little ugly.

A quick trawl of the interweb and you'll discover the beautiful idea of putting up a 'living wall'.

Basically, it's a system of growing plants vertically to enhance any space and conceal those ugly bits!

You will also see just how many kits are available and how expensive some of them can be.

Wouldn't it be cool if you could make one for almost nothing?

Have a look around any business that receives heavy goods. Notice the piles of wooden pallets outside?

Wooden pallets

Remember, whatever wall or fence the planter is going against MUST to be strong enough to support the weight. You can sink fence posts into concrete, but that involves cost, and this is about landscaping on the cheap!

Let's presume we're after a one pallet high, one wide, planter, about a meter by a meter in size. (Any other shape - simply join the pallets together.)

My first go at this and I spent a lot of time sanding the whole pallet down… beautiful job… Erm, then I realized I had to remove half the spars and the rear was against a wall so wouldn't be seen or touched.

So look at the thing first. It may help to lay them side by side and mark the spars that need to be removed. Most pallets have five spars across the front and three at the rear, usually nailed into chunky spacers at the corners, with two internal spars to strengthen. So ten good bits of wood to use.

With a bit of effort, the nails can be straightened from the inside and the spars knocked out. Be prepared for some damaged bits (these things are nailed together very, very well).

Don't waste time totally dismantling the whole thing. If you look at the depth, it's roughly the ideal size for a planter (about 6 inches).

Wooden pallets

Take the front middle spar off, and the two thinner spars either side, the rough shape will now resemble two open troughs held together by the side pieces.

Obviously we will need a back and bottom for our plants. The middle spars we've just taken off will do for one.

You will need to dismantle a second pallet to get enough spars to complete the troughs. Depending on your design, this can be achieved with little wastage. (any leftover wood is great for making simple box planters!)

Screw the rear spars into place, using the chunky corners as the ends, then the bottom. Don't worry about small gaps in the bottom, as your planter will need drainage holes anyway. Drill small holes into the bottom spars to allow excess water to drain away.

We should now have a square frame with a U-shaped trough at the top and bottom. These will be your planters!

Wooden pallets

Depending on your preferred plants, flowers, or even veg, the troughs can be deepened by simply using two spar depths instead of one. Or leave the middle spar in and have three shallow troughs. (pictured here) Just remember, the deeper the planters, the less light will get to the bottom.

Line the inside of your troughs, you can use old carpet, plastic bin liners, whatever you have to hand. This will keep the soil and damp away from the wood, retain moisture and stop your soil from washing away through the holes.

Wooden pallets

Now is the time to fix the planter to the wall or fence. Choose a suitable fixing depending on where it's going.

We've left the edges off so we can get into any fixings, now is the time to tidy the edges if desired, another two spars will cover the gap if required. Obviously you can leave them open or if it's being joined to another planter they won't be seen anyway. Give any rough edges a good sanding.

Firmly anchor any further planters, making sure that any vertical structure is solid and safe. These things are quite heavy, so if you're not sure, leave them low!

If you're painting or staining your planters, do it now and let it dry.

Fill the troughs with soil and/or compost and allow to settle: top up if necessary.

Wooden pallets

Then simply plant up your chosen greenery. Trailing and hanging plants look great as they develop, use ground covering flowers to fill the gaps, strawberries, small veg, a(n) herb garden, the choice is down to you.

So is the watering! Enjoy.

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