How to make a pallet garden

What do you do when you suddenly find yourself with a stack of old pallets and a mob of employees with an insatiable hunger for cooking with fresh herbs? Well, you make a pallet garden, of course. Luckily for us we had some green-thumbed grad students who were keen as lima beans to get stuck into this project.

Pallet garden

While this may seem like an easy feat once you have a great blog to follow and a foolproof checklist, we discovered that trial and error plays a big role in the success of your vertical veg.

After bumping our collective heads a few times and having to go to the nursery on six separate occasions – we underestimated the size of the pallet (probably best to measure it first) and accidentally added a full bag of Bounce Back (instead of a few handfuls) – we were eventually ready to conquer this task.

So after many lessons learnt, here is a relatively solid guide to making your own pallet garden.

You will need:

An old pallet
5 bags of potting soil
Bounce Back – you only need about three handfuls
Landscaping sheeting, available from most nurseries
Staple gun and plenty of staples
36 x 6-packs of herbs or flowers (you need a lot more than you think!)
Gardening fork
Some willing hands

Step by step:

1. Get hold of an old pallet and measure it.
2. Research which herbs you would like to grow and whether they are suitable for a pallet garden. Bushy herbs and veg plants like chilli, parsley, rocket, basil, mint, sorrel and oregano work well. In our experience chamomile, chives and lettuce are less successful.

Basil for pallet garden

3. Head out to your nearest nursery (plants adapt best if bought from an area with the same climate and exposures to wind and rain) and buy the needed plants, soil and landscaping sheeting.

Herbs and flowers for pallet garden

4. Now to wrap your pallet up in the sheeting. You want the sheeting to fold up and over, around the sides, as though you were wrapping a present, except for the side where you are going to plant your herbs, veg and flowers and the very top of the pallet when it is stood upright. This may sound obvious but you are doing this so that your soil stays in the pallet. Buy enough sheeting to create a folded hem on the sides so that when you staple it down it won’t tear.
5. If you bought enough, you should be able to lay the sheeting out flat and place the pallet in the centre. When it comes to folding up the edges, tuck the sheeting in so that it forms an angled flap. Like wrapping a very large present.

Pallet garden back cover

6. Now add a sufficient amount of soil to the pallet, leaving room to add in the Bounce Back. Make sure you have some soil left over to fill in the empty spaces after the herbs are planted.
7. Bounce Back time. Grab about three handfuls of this high quality, organic fertiliser from the bag. Don’t use the whole bag (we learnt this the hard way by having to hand pick all the Bounce Back out of the soil, a rather smelly endeavour), and scatter this over the top of the soil.
8. Work it in with a gardening fork or your bare hands.

Planting herbs in rows

9. Create troughs, using your hands, in each strip of the pallet and pack your plants in tightly. We suggest using two 6-packs per section. If you feel that it still isn’t sufficiently packed, add more.

Filling pallet garden with soil

10. Fill any gaps with the remaining soil.
11. We left our newly planted pallet garden horizontal for two weeks to give the roots a chance to grow, thereby stabilising the soil. In hindsight, four weeks might have been a better bet, since much of the soil trickled out during the first cloud burst.

flowers for the top row

12. Water your newly potted pallet plants daily.
13. After the allotted time has passed, lift it up and stand it vertically against the wall. Nailing it against the wall, is your best bet. Be warned: pallet gardens become very heavy once all the soil and herbs are planted in it – you may well need to recruit some man power to lift it. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to have a forklift at our fingertips and a warehouse team (thank you!).

vertical pallet garden

14. Some soil will fall out when the garden is turned vertically, this is normal. As long as it’s not the majority. Thank gravity, not Murphy for that. Just scoop it back up and pack the fallen soil in the top of the pallet.

With any luck and a good measure of perseverance you will have a pretty pallet garden at the beck and call of your culinary whimsy. However, if you love the look of a vertical garden but would prefer to simply pay some clever, entrepreneurial folk to make one for you, then get in touch with the innovative team at Mooibos Gardens – their gardens are a sight to behold.

Clarence, our in-house landscaper and warehouse receiving champ, decided to experiment with some of his own pallet ingenuity and built a coffee table. Isn’t it a beauty?

Coffee table made from pallets

Have you made a pallet garden? Send us some of your snaps and helpful hints.

High five to Clarence, Nerina and Kylie for their hard work on this up-cycled, kitchen-friendly adventure.